Posted: June 30, 2010 at 12:48 am
Sulphur Mountain is one of those climbs that you really have to hunt for to find. With only a couple of passing mentions on bikeforums and virtually nothing on google (aside from a few pages about mountain biking portions of it), this climb is easily overlooked. Even the road itself is plain looking at its turnoff from route 150 just outside of Ojai – you’d never guess it goes anywhere special. This is a shame. Sulphur Mountain Rd is a great climb. While relatively short (only 1240 ft in elevation gain total), the first couple of miles average 8.8%..and the first mile averages 10%! Needless to say, this is a challenging little climb.
A few important stats:
First 0.7 Miles (the steepest section): 10.5% average
First Mile: 10% average (525 ft elevation gain)
Main Climbing Section (2.05 miles and 945 ft elevation gain): 8.8% average
Overall Climb (3.42 miles and 1240 ft elevation gain): 6.9%
Overall Ride (bottom of climbing section to end of Sulphur Mountain Rd): 4.3 miles
If you only look at the overall climb numbers, 6.9% doesn’t sound too bad. This is deceptive. The first 2 miles climb steeply up to the ridge line while the following 1.5 miles meander gently (with a few steep portions thrown in) along the ridge. Basically, if you can get up those 2 steep miles, you are good to go.
Anyway, on to the pictures!
A nice place to start is near The Summit roadside food stand:
The name refers to the fact that this is the summit of route 150 between Ojai and Santa Paula (at just over 1560 ft in elevation). In fact, this is the highest point along all of route 150 (the other high point along the Casitas Pass section tops out at under 1200 ft). 150 itself is a great road to ride on as well, so starting in either Ojai or Santa Paula and riding up 150 to Sulphur Mountain would be great as well. However, if you are pressed for time, as I was, the streets around The Summit provide the best relatively secure, close parking area for this ride. From here, you gradually descend a couple of miles along 150 towards Ojai before turning left on Sulphur Mountain Rd. Watch for this intersection as it is not well marked.
The first part of Sulphur Mountain Rd is relatively flat with some houses along the road:
The hill in the background is what you are about to climb up. Very quickly, the climbing starts:
Some of this steep climbing is shaded:
Some is not well shaded:
Sections like this will test you:
Steep (10%+), exposed and sun-drenched (the sun just bounces off those rock walls). Luckily, you do get a lot of shaded sections:
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Posted: June 24, 2010 at 1:49 am
Mt. Baldy is always an epic adventure. Previously, I wrote a report on the climb up to Mt. Baldy ski lifts via Glendora Mountain Road and Glendora Ridge Road. If you are unfamiliar with that route, I would highly recommend reading up on it: Glendora Mountain Rd, Glendora Ridge Rd & Mt Baldy Rd (to the Ski Lifts!). It is arguably the most scenic, incredible ride in the area. This post, however, is about the more direct way up. First, a few stats:
Total Ride: 12.6 miles at 7% with over 4600 feet of elevation gain
2 separate 2 mile long sections at greater than 9% grade
Multiple 15% ramps
8.1% average grade for the 7.2 mile long section above the tunnels
8.8% average grade for the final 4 miles above the village (almost 1900 feet in elevation gain)
9.2% average grade for the 2 mile Hogsback section (last tunnel to just before Mt. Baldy Village)
10.0% average grade for the 1.9 mile section from Icehouse Canyon through the switchbacks to Manker Flats (1000 feet in <2 miles!)
14-15% average grade for the final .3 mile section to the ski lifts (230 feet elevation gain)
Needless to say, this is a stout climb. It is definitely one of the hardest climbs in southern California. It is long enough that you can’t just power up it (unlike many of the Santa Monica climbs) and it gets progressively harder (just as your legs get tired and the elevation starts robbing you of oxygen).
For more stats and an excellent elevation profile (broken down into lots of sections and with landmarks noted), check out SoCalVelo’s Mt. Baldy Road Page.
Anyway, despite all the riding and climbing I do, I had never actually ridden the portion of Mt. Baldy Rd from Claremont to Mt. Baldy Village (generally opting to ride Glendora Mountain Rd and Glendora Ridge Rd). Given how famous this climb is, I was long overdue. I started my ride today at Padua Avenue Park:
You can also start from the intersection of Mt. Baldy Rd and Mills Ave (the most common starting point). Either way, they are close to each other and both provide quick access to the climb. After turning onto Mt. Baldy Rd, the first part of the climb is easy as you pass through the last of Claremont’s residential neighborhoods:
The climbing then ramps up a little bit (but at a still moderate grade):
Very quickly, the scenery becomes very nice:
Yup, one other cyclist braving the near 90 degree heat of the bottom section. While a slight breeze kept things almost tolerable, I would recommend an early start in the summer as the climb to the village can get rather hot. I was hoping to pace him for a while, but, sadly, he turned off onto Mountain Ave a short while later:
At this point, the mountains really start surrounding you:
Impressive canyon to be riding up:
Still some nice color along the way:
Keep in mind that some of the peaks you see as you go up hit 10,000 feet in elevation:
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Posted: June 14, 2010 at 5:27 am
This climb is one of the best sustained climbs in southern California. Starting from 1600 feet elevation, 39 climbs continuously to its high point where it intersects with Angeles Crest Highway at an elevation of 6800 feet. From here, the climb continues up Angeles Crest to its high point at Dawson Saddle – elevation 7901 feet! Yes, that’s right – about 6300 feet of climbing without a single descent. In southern California, no less.
Actually, in the interest of technical accuracy, there are a couple of descents tilting just barely down that do last for a couple dozen feet. For all intents and purposes though, there are no descents for this 22.5 mile long climb. The whole climb averages just over 5.3%, with the majority section along 39 averaging about 5.6%. There is nothing here that is tough with respect to grade – it is only tough because of the rather large amount of climbing involved.
This alone should be enough to entice those riders who enjoy long, sustained climbs. If not though, there are two other good reasons to try this out. First, it is very scenic – especially late spring/early summer when the mountains are nice and green (this year was probably particularly good since we had a fair amount of precipitation). Second, most of this climb is free from traffic. Yes, all traffic. Due to road damage higher up, most of the road is completely closed to vehicles. Of course, this means, for most of the climb, you are entirely isolated from civilization. Bring more water/nutrition than usual to be safe (a camelback is not a bad idea for this ride). A riding partner would also be a good idea. This situation may change relatively soon though. Word is the road to Crystal Lake, at the very least, is hoped to be opened sometime later this summer. When that happens, there will likely be a snack bar open at Crystal Lake itself, so you will have access to water and food there. For now though, err on the side of caution and pack extras.
This time, I parked just above the OHV area along 39 – about 10 miles north of Azusa. You can also park in Azusa and add those 10 miles to your ride. The 10 mile stretch is scenic, rolling hills that gradually climb upwards (starting elevation ~800ft, finishing elevation ~1600ft). You get nice views of Morris Reservoir and San Gabriel Reservoir along the way, including ~1 mile long descents next to each one. However, traffic is heavy (especially on weekends) along these sections and the shoulder is often narrow, so I find it to be not so pleasant. I rode this section the first time I did this climb, and would still semi-recommend it as the scenery is pretty cool. However, if you want to skip this warm-up and start right at the point that the traffic dies down and the climb actually starts in earnest, park where I parked. There are a couple of large parking areas right after the OHV area. They are easy to spot – right after the OHV area and the first true parking lots that you see. There are a few lots – all right below and above West Fork (West Fork, by the way, is a paved road that is also closed to vehicles and is a popular hiking and cycling road…about 15 miles round trip for that section…I haven’t tried it but plan on adding it in next time). On this Sunday, there were probably a hundred or so cars parked around this area – quite popular! Note that you will need a Forest Service Adventure Pass to park anywhere around here – $5 for a day pass and $30 for an annual pass. Worth the money, in my opinion, to support areas like this.
Starting from this parking area, the scenery is immediately beautiful:
Cloud cover provided shade for much of the first part of the climb (nice to have given an 80 degree starting temperature):
There are a few stretches that stay straight as an arrow for longer than expected given the ruggedness of the mountains:
Looking up the canyon:
Beautiful pavement here:
Truly a beautiful valley:
Right after the last shot:
Talk about a scenic backdrop for this road! Even better, the permanent closure for cars is just slightly ahead. The previous section is also often closed to cars – but, at least on this June Sunday, was open to cars (although the traffic level was very light). Just after the gate that closes the road to vehicles (duck under or around with your bike):
Amazing. A road like this, in scenery like this, all to your self.
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Posted: June 8, 2010 at 3:52 am
It’s been too long since I hit the Santa Monica Mountains, so it was about time for me to get back out there. Tuna Canyon was high on my list from reading about it on bikeforums and from having driven down it, so that was on the must-do list. The community of Fernwood is up there as well and, having driven through Fernwood, I knew a super steep climb there that I wanted to do as well (Grand View, specifically). This road is even tough in a car – I saw an SUV almost eat it coming down around a corner and almost going off the side. Finally, to round out the climbing, I found some threads on bikeforums mentioning Corral Canyon as a really tough climb in the area. With this in mind, I figured I could get in a 40-50 mile ride with 4-5k of climbing.
Starting out, you can either park near Tuna Canyon (lots of roadside parking) as I did, or you can park at Malibu Bluffs Park (at the intersection of Malibu Canyon Rd and PCH). I would actually recommend parking at Malibu Bluffs Park as this will give you some relatively flat warm-up before starting to really climb. The rest of this assumes Malibu Bluffs as the starting point (by the way, there are water fountains at the park for those needing water). From here, you head east along PCH for just under 7 miles until hitting Tuna Canyon. Note that it will be easy to miss the turn. Tuna Canyon is one-way downhill, so there are few markings for the road from PCH.
Important Note: As mentioned in the comments section, there is concern about descending cyclists running into ascending cyclists around the blind curves (as you might not be able to hear them). If you do decide you must climb Tuna, please keep this in mind and stay as far right as possible on the curves. And, if you descend Tuna (or any other road, for that matter), don’t assume a blind curve is free from obstacles.
Anyway, moving on. The intersection:
The start of Tuna Canyon:
Do note that this is technically one-way downhill, so I cannot really recommend that you ride up this. However, if you do decide to ride Tuna, keep a couple of things in mind. First, downhill traffic (very light, thankfully) will not be expecting to see you. Ride as far right as you can and try not to zig-zag. Second, traffic is light – and audible. You will be able to hear any approaching cars or motorcycles. If coming to a blind corner, exercise caution if you hear a vehicle. This might involve pausing for a few seconds until the vehicle has passed. Basically, use some common sense and put yourself in the shoes of a driver not expecting uphill traffic. With that said, traffic is extremely light (expect anywhere from a couple of vehicles to a dozen on your ride).
Anyway, the first part is very skinny, rather sheltered and easy:
This quickly changes and the climbing really ramps up:
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