Sufferin’ Summits 2015

Sufferin Summits Bicycle Ride

Two years ago, I did a ride named Passport 2 Pain, which is a ride around Vashon Island that goes down to the water and back up on pretty much every hill on the island. A series of 300-500’ climbs, over and over again, for 82 miles and darn near 10,000’ of climbing. I liked it.

P2P is a what some people call a “challenge” ride. I tend to call them “stupid rides”, as in, “you have to be very stupid to choose to do a ride like this”. P2P calls their full ride route “the Idiot”, so I think they agree.

This spring, I was musing about P2P and another challenge ride that’s been around for a few years in Portland, and I thought, “Self, there a lot of hills in the south end of Bellevue and Issaquah, and you know them pretty well. I bet you could put together a route that was at least as that”.

After a bit of design, a bit of riding to check out new routes, and a bit more design, I came up with a design I was happy with. It’s 55 miles in length (though the last few miles is downhill/flat) and features 8200’ of climbing.

And – in keeping with the challenge theme – it not only goes up a lot of hills, the route is designed to go up them in the worst ways. Why climb the top section of a hill one way when you can do it three separate ways?

After I showed it to a few people – and quietly hinted that I might be putting it on as an organized ride – there was sufficient interest that I decided to make it official, and Sufferin’ Summits was born.

Stupid? Yes. And sadistic.

Anyway, I had a route, I picked a date, built a very simple website, and did a very limited amount of advertising. If you knew me – or perhaps knew somebody who knew me – you might find out about the ride. This was deliberate; I wanted to this year to be a beta test of the route and approach.

I need to do a bit of level setting before I continue.

In the context of this writeup, a 10% hill is a moderate hill, and if I say “steep”, I mean something around 15%. Or more.

The official motto is, after all , “a special kind of stupid”.

The Ride

I wake up at 6:30 in the morning, have a bit of cereal to eat, and then go to get dressed. I put some chamois crème on my chamois (improves comfort on long rides), put on the shorts and jersey, and walk out to the kitchen. Only to find that instead of grabbing my Pearl Izumi Elite shorts of the basket, I grabbed a different pair of Pearl Izumi shorts that a) were not “Elite” and b) belonged to my wife.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. The intended gender of your shorts is your own business.

A short shorts change, and I’m heading out to the starting point so that I can get there at 8:30. The published start time is 9AM, but there is no official start line so I’ve decided to be early.

I get there at 8:15, and there’s nobody there. A couple of people show up, drop off donations (the ride is raising money/food for Northwest Harvest), and head out to start the ride. Others show up and leave, and then at around 9AM, two of my riding friends (Mike and Jeanne) roll in, having parked in the opposite parking place. They ask me if they can ride with me because the route is a bit confusing (they’re right, it is). Which presents a dilemma…

Back when I was younger and less experienced, I started a long hilly ride (at the time, probably the hardest ride I had done, but not even close to as long and hilly as this stupid ride, which means I’ve either gotten better or stupider still then) with a group of faster friends, cooked myself on the first two hills, and then had a bunch of not fun the rest of the ride. Since then, I generally do climbs on my own.  I know that both Mike and Jeanne can climb quite a bit faster than me.

<Okay, so, I’m not quite being honest.

To be honest, this whole thing started as a bit of a lark, but as I stand waiting to start, I realize that I have a problem. I know exactly what is in store for me, I know how bad the ride is, and I’m really not sure if I’m up for it, and more not sure if I’m up for riding it with others. >

But I say “yes” anyway, and we head out to do the first climb, Grand Ridge. The bottom part is uneventful; Mike and Jeanne pull ahead of me as they climb, then they wait for me, and then we keep climbing. We hit the first steep pitch – College Drive, a 17-18% gradient – and grind our way up.

I’ve been working on lower back issues – and upper back issues – well, let’s just leave it at the generic “back issues” the past 6 months. Lots of PT, lots of exercises, lots of stretching. It’s been getting better, but on our week in Hawaii, instead of stretching seriously 3 or 4 times in a week, I managed to stretch 0 times per week. That – and some perhaps overexuberant and not-great-form stretching since – have left my lower back in a condition that the medical profession refers to as “a bit wonky”.

Anyway, the good news is that my back feels okay. It’s a little sore, but only a little and I can deal with that.

<See what I did there? Now that you know that, you will be much more sympathetic if I need to use the excuse in the future>

We get to the nice park in the middle of Grand Ridge, work our way through to the east, and then climb up. We make the first turn, and then Mike turns left. This feels wrong, but this is a confusing section and I follow Mike as he descends to the North. I know after 15 seconds that it’s wrong, but he’s a ways ahead.

<okay, so, it’s the first hill of *my* ride and I already don’t know which way to go….>

No real foul – there’s an easy alternate route – except that my Strava will not be the official route.

We ride up through the cool custom homes at the top of Grand ride (pick a style, from cape code to craftsman to northwest contemporary to castle, you’ll find them all here), and crest at the top. Usually there is a great view, but there’s so much smoke in the air that we can just barely tell where Seattle is if you look  closely. With the wandering around, the 1000’ climb took me about 30 minutes.

The descent is fast and fun, and they have thoughtfully repaved the bumpy section, so we make it back down to Issaquah, and head across to our next hill, Squak. The first part of the climb rolls up the hill, with 13-15% sections followed by sections of lesser gradient. I stand up now and then to let my back work out a bit, which kindof sortof helps. At the saddle of the climb, Mike continues to follow his GPS directions and rides on past the turn, demonstrating that his Garmin is a few bits short of a byte today. He returns, and we head up to the top part of Squak. With the exception of a steep section at the beginning, the gradient isn’t too bad. However, the pavement is really rough, which makes it a lot harder to climb, as we lose a lot more power to friction. After a while, we hit the top loop and ride around it to the true top of the climb. I spent 24 minutes to get the second 1000 feet. This looks promising; the trend suggests I will climb the third 1000’ in 18 minutes.

A quick discussion and we decided that we were okay on water to the next water stop (two hills later), so we skipped refilling. I decided that I wasn’t drinking enough (the weather was cool but I was still sweating a lot on the climbs), so I made an effort to rehydrate.

The top part of the Squak descent is not fun. The rough pavement makes the bike shake a lot and the corners a bit treacherous. We hit the lower, more-populated part, the road flattens and improves, and we speed up. It would have been a very nice descent except for having to slow down because of the Prius in front of me. At the bottom I swallow a couple of Ibuprofen tablets to see if it will help with my back.

Back in Issaquah and right at the starting point, we head to hill #3, Talus. Talus is a recent discovery of mine; I hadn’t climbed it before because it doesn’t have the elevation of its taller neighbors and it only has a single way up (I try to avoid up and back climbs). But a little research showed me that there is a road that isn’t open to cars but can be biked, and that’s where we are headed. The road is brutal; it kicks up steeply to like 18% at the start, and holds there for quite a while. It’s a nice climb though the woods usually, but they’re using it for construction access higher up the hill, so there’s gravel off to the sides.

Which is probably a good point to introduce “tacking”. If you are on a steep hill, you can ease the gradient by riding diagonally back and forth across the hill – cutting it down from maybe 20% to 14% or so, assuming you have a whole road to use. You can get less if there is less room. It’s also sometimes known as “paperboying”.

I would generally tack a bit on a hill like this, and get maybe a 1% reduction, but the gravel is in the way so I gut it out. We pull out of the first section back onto a normal road, turn right, and the take another right to take another connector, which is an honest 20%. I stand for that because it’s short, and then there’s another right, and more steep climbing to the top. Not quite 500 feet in about 9 minutes. The rest of Talus is nearly flat ride to the south to get a little more elevation and get out the road exit. We descend back down, and head out towards the next hill. We are right behind one of the other groups, which makes me happy, because we were about 10 minutes behind them at the top of Grand Ridge.

Hill #4 is Zoo hill, probably the most notorious of the hills. After a short flat portion – which feels very strange to ride – we turn up and start climbing, and soon pass the zoo. This section feels like you are out in the country; there are no houses and the tree canopy covers the road. We climb and soon hit the hairpin, which is probably 15% at the center line. I ride the center line, and Jeanne rides near the inside, which is the steepest part, at 25% or more.

<as we got near the to the hairpin, I suggested that riding the center line was a good idea, but she chose the harder line. She’s a bit of an animal.>

The road opens up a bit after, and we hit the turn at the end of the first section of the climb.  My stats say that I climbed it in 13:11 at 223 watts and heartrate of 148 bpm. Translated, it means that, despite having 2700’ of climbing in my legs, I’m climbing pretty fast for me and my heartrate is high but not to high – I can ride a long time at that heart rate.

We turn right on the middle section, which is a set of rollers that get steeper and steeper. Today, however, we take a trail to drop down to the top of the Montreux climb. We do that, pick up a slightly-lost rider, and descend down to pick up the next climb.

I am not looking forward to this. This section is only 4 tenths of a mile long, but it’s going to take me nearly 6 minutes to climb it. Because it is a wall, at 18, 19, even 20% gradient. If I look online, the fastest person I found could not even reach 8 MPH on this climb. Today I ride it at 4.1 MPH, weaving back and forth, and now my back is really, really unhappy. I’m distracted enough that I miss the turnoff I want, but luckily I catch my mistake. I catch my breath a bit, eat a few cheez-its, and decide that I will try the next section.

<there is always a time during a ride when I have “the downs”. Generally, it goes something like this:

“Why do I bother doing this? It starts out being okay, but then something like this happens. And I paid to do it”

This time, of course, I didn’t pay for it. I also know that if I keep riding, it will go away and I’ll feel better>

I also decide that, at the next water stop, I’m going to ride back to the start.

Yes, this whole thing was my idea.

We first climb up the classic top of the zoo climb. At 12-13%, it’s a lot flatter than what we have been riding, and Jeanne and I talk as we climb up. My back has recovered a bit.  Mike is, as usual, off ahead of us. We hit the false summit on the road, continue on, and catch the small drive that takes us up to the water towers. At this point, we’ve caught the group that started just a bit ahead of us, which makes me feel pretty good; despite my back hurting, I’m still climbing okay.

Then, it’s a short descent, and we climb up Pinacle which goes to nearly the same summit, and then Belvedere, also to nearly the same summit. Neither is notable; I ride slowly, sometimes tacking back in forth, standing to try and stretch my back and working to keep my legs turning over. I think I’m maybe a bit dehydrated, so I drink as much as I can.

We descend down to Lakemont, and turn right to do a short climb to the park. It’s a 4% climb, but it honestly feels like it is flat. There are probably 10 of us there, filling our water bottles, using the bathroom, having a snack, complaining about the route (that’s mostly me). One of the guys tells me two of the guys in his group hate me, which makes me happy. That group decides they are insufficiently caffeinated, so they head over to the Starbucks and we continue on. I look at the online Strava flyby  later and can see that at least some of them continued the ride, but it looked like they got a bit confused on the route.

Standing around, my back feels a little better, so I decide that I’m going to try the next section. On the map, this section looks pretty unassuming, just three little climbs next to each other. Two of them are up and down, and then third takes us to the top.

We descend quickly down to the turnoff, and then turn to start the climb, which is about 500’. It starts off steep, turns steeper, flattens out a bit, gets steep, and then turns nasty, where nasty is something like 25%. You can tack back and forth on some of it, but some of the corners are blind and you have to be wary of cars. There are, if you need them, a few roads and driveways you can pull in to take a break, but I do not need to avail myself of them, and turn the corner where it flattens out and keep going to the actual crest.

I am inordinately smug that I didn’t have to stop on the climb.

Then it’s back down to repeat on the next climb to the east, but this one only tops out at around 15% and is much shorter at 262’ of elevation gain. That one doesn’t hurt that much.

Then, finally, we have a short but steep kicker and the final climb up to the appropriately named “Summit”. About 350’ of up, it starts at 15%, backs off a little, kicks up to 17%, backs off a bit, then finally up to 19% to the false flat and then a final short push to the summit. It is unpleasant, but I make it up to the others.

I am well and truly cooked – so cooked that I don’t even both looking at the view to the north. It’s generally worth a few minutes, as the view is properly described as “territorial” – on a clear day, you can see Bellevue, Seattle, the Olympics, the water, the Cascades, Mt. Baker, and beyond. We wait for another rider so that I can lead the group.

In case you are wondering, the entry fee for the cheapest of these homes is right about $1M, though you can pay more than double that if you’d like.  The Belvedere and Pinacle houses are in the same range.

We work our way around to the emergency access gate; there are two of these that block off the Summit from the roads to the north so that cars can’t get in that way, but we just have to get off our bikes and carry them around a wall, and then it’s down a wonderfully-repaved section of road to the food stop. We have about 800’ to lose, and we do it in about 4 minutes, taking us to the unofficial food stop at a gas station food mart. I buy a Coke Zero, drink all 20oz of it and eat some Cheez-its. Once again, I feel pretty good at the food stop, but I know what is coming up and how I felt, so it’s time to cut my losses. I decide to cut the difference; I’ll ride the first climb of the next section, which will conveniently put me back on Newport way. Turn left, and it will be back to the start; turn right, and it will be back up to the Summit, but a more painful route than we came down.

<there really is no chance at this point that I will continue. I spent one night earlier this summer quivering on the floor with back spasms, and I have no desire to repeat that>

But first, we need to descend more, dropping all the way down to the shores of Lake Sammamish at Vasa park, which at 37’ of altitude is probably the low point of the ride, though downtown Issaquah is close. Then it’s a right turn into the “Forty One Point Five” development, and another 250’ of pain. We connect through a little path at the top, take the ped/bike bridge over I-90, and I depart to head back to the starting line. I have pretty good energy and I feel okay, but the back won’t let me continue.

<see? Don’t you feel bad for me? Eric would have keep riding except for his back. He had *no choice*>

So, I speed back along the road and got back to the finish line (well, place where we started), put the bike in the truck, and headed home.

A few statistics:

42.3 miles
6637’ of climbing
10.1 mi/hour average speed
2247 kJ (read as “calories”)

As a comparison, the last time I did RAMROD (150 miles, 9200’ of climbing), I completed it with an average speed of 15.2 MPH. 10.1 MPH is pretty darn slow.


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #8: Somerset & Traverse

Highland/Somerset <= Somerset & Traverse => (mostly) down to the finish!

Breaking news!

I came up with a new climb that takes the bottom and tops of “The Zoo” and stuffs the ugly Montreux => cutoff right in the middle, and I have used it to replace the existing Montreux-Zooma climb in Hill #4. The change adds 14’ in elevation and cuts 0.2 miles off of the entire route.

I’m calling the new climb “ZooMonZoo”. I’ve updated the description for hill #4 to the new route and included a brief discussion of why I chose it.

Anyway, onto the description of hill #8, the last one in the ride.

+++++++++

For many years, I thought that “Somerset” meant climbing up the road we just descended, because that was the only route I had ridden. At about 450’ and a nice section of about 16%, this is certainly a challenge. And then, one day, I was looking at maps (because I lead a Tue/Thu night ride and like new routes), and I realized that there was a route from the west that I had never heard about.

So, I went and rode it, and found out why I had never heard about it.

The route is mostly easy to follow, though there are a couple of places where you need to pay attention. Start up the first pitch, and when the road ends, turn right. Take the first left and continue climbing, following the road as it curves around. After the big curve, you are looking for the first turn to the left – 136th Pl NE. If you miss it and you run into Highlands drive, turn around and come back.

After the turn, there is about a half mile section that will end at Somerset Blvd – the one we descended down earlier. We turn right, then right again on 139th Ave, and a final left on SE 47th. This section is easy to navigate; just keep turning on the streets that go up. At the top, turn around, and enjoy the last great view of the ride.  We don’t have the altitude we had at the earlier climbs, but there is nothing in front to block our view.

Now, it’s time to traverse to the east towards the finish.

We descend back down to Somerset Blvd and turn right. The first pitch is a steep descent with a stop sign at the bottom. Turn right, and then take the first left on SE 49th. Continue straight until it ends at 151st Avenue, which we travelled earlier on the Summit climbs. Turn left and take the first right on SE 48th. This will curve around and change names a couple of times, and finally end at 159th Pl SE.

Turn left, and then take the first right on SE 48th drive. This will take you to a short bike/ped section and then a steep descent down to 164th with the usual stop sign at the bottom. Turn right on 164th, ride up to the stop sign, turn left, and then after a quarter mile, turn right into the shopping center.

Go inside the market and buy yourself something cool to drink and maybe something to snack on. You have made it; all that is remaining is a 3.5 mile ride back to the starting line, which features a 1 mile screamer of a descent (with, unfortunately, we need to turn off of in the middle) and a whopping 39’ of additional climbing.

So, that’s the course. Unless I change it.

4.6 miles, 861’

image



Sufferin’ Summits: Hill #7–Highland/Somerset

#6 Summit North <= Highland/Somerset => ?

This section is mostly a portage from our last descent to where we will start section #8, but there is no reason that a portage can’t be fun.

We find ourselves back on Forest Drive. After just over half a mile, we turn right on Highland Drive. This climb goes steep/flat/steep/downhill/steep/flat, and will take us into a notch between Somerset hill to the west and Summit to the east. After a short 1/4 mile rest, we turn left on Somerset Blvd, hit the crest, and then continue down to the North. Nice views here, but at 15-16% you will be needing to use your brakes.

We eventually come to an exit where you can see a traffic light to the left. Turn left to the light, and then turn left to get onto Newport Way. Once again, we have a descent that we are going to be turning off of, so watch your speed. After half a mile on Newport, the road will curve right but we turn left on 130th Place SE, then left on 130th Ave SE. Continue straight on this road; you’ll know when you’ve reached the start of the next hill.

3.9 miles, 359’ of climbing

image

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #6 – The Summit Strikes Back: from the north

#5 Summit South <= #6 Summit North => #7 Highland/Somerset

*************************************

Note: I hadn’t ridden the section on Squak for a while when I wrote it. I rode it last weekend and re-wrote that section. You should go read it now so that you understand what the descent is going to be like and don’t ride your bike off the road.

*************************************

After the nice descent down from Summit and replenishing our food and water supplies, we’re going head west and do something a little different and easier.

Ha ha! I make joke! We’re actually going to climb right back up the hill that we just came down. This is a climb I do fairly often; it’s near my house, the roads are good, traffic is light, and there’s a surprising amount of up. And there are a few different routes to take.

We, of course, are going to take the hardest way up. It’s a bit convoluted, so you’ll need to pay attention.

Starting way down near the water, we turn right on East Lake Sammamish, and then turn right into the Forty-One Point Five development. Follow the road as it turns right and then – you guessed it – starts going up steeply. After a couple of left turns, it will top out. As the road turns left, look for a path on the right; I *highly* suggest getting off your bike and walking it as there’s a tight turn and it can be mossy. Turn left on the path and descend down to the bridge, and ride over it the other side, and turn right on Newport Way.

After a easy 1.2 mile climb – enjoy it because it’s pretty much the only one all day – the road flattens, and we turn left on 155th Pl SE. Just look for the very steep hill. Follow the road as it winds up; when it flattens, turn left, and when it flattens again, turn right. When the road ends at SE 46th, we turn right. That road ends on 150th, where we turn left and climb up on the road we descended recently. Keep climbing until you reach the park:

IMG_6913

and then follow the road to the left. Take the first left, and that road will lead you back to the gate you climbed over earlier.

IMG_6916

Cross it again. Turn right when you hit the main road, work your way around, and descend down the south side. Watch your speed as there is a stop sign at the bottom.

Turn right at the bottom, and follow the road down until you hit Forest Drive.

It isn’t the most continuous climb around, but this section nets us 1100’ over 5.9 miles. That is our 4th climb over 1000’ in elevation gain.

Route and climb info. Click to view.

image

 

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #5–Summit South Complex

#4 ZooMonZoo Complex <= #5 Summit South Complex => #6 Summit from the north

 

As we continue to work our way to the west, our next hill is the very uncreatively-named “Summit”. We will continue the theme of climbing the same damn hill three times, but there will be a nice descent when we’re finished.

Turning left out of Lewis Creek Part, we descend for about half a mile and turn right on Forest Drive. This road is a great descent, but pay attention; we need to turn right after 1 mile onto 142nd Ave SE. The road will wind around as it climbs and oscillates from steep to really damn steep. It will eventually turn right and the gradient will ease. Continue straight until the road ends, take the connector path, then turn right at your next opportunity and descend back down. At the stop sign, turn left.

Turn left into “West Summit”, and climb straight up, follow the road as it turns right and loops back down. Turn left and exit down the way we came in, and turn left at the entrance.

After a short steep section, turn left at the entrance shack into “Summit”. This road is undulating; hard/easier, harder/easier, hardest/easier. When you hit the stop sign, turn right and climb up until the road crests. There are some decent views to the north here, but they aren’t as good as Pinacles or Belvedere. Ho Hum.

IMG_6920IMG_6921

Continue straight and take the first right, then look for a “Dead end” emergency vehicle access road on the left.

IMG_6922

This will take you to a gate that you’ll need to carry your bike around. Turn right at the next two intersections and you’ll be on a nice straight descent to the north. The Sufferin’ Summits road crews have been hard at work repaving this section, so the pavement is exquisite.

Before the road hooks to the right, turn left on SE 46th, and then right on 148th. At the second stoplight, you’ll be in eastgate, with a gas station (food & water) on the right. There’s also an Albertsons in the same complex. You will definitely want food and water for the next section.

Turn right onto 148th (well, 150th now), and immediately turn right on SE 37th. This will take you under the freeway, through a stop sign , and then right again onto 164th Pl SE, which takes you all the way down to the shores of Lake Sammamish, the lowest point of the ride and the perfect spot to start our next climb.

1105’, 8.6 miles.

 

image

image imageimage


Sufferin’ Summit Hill #4 – ZooMonZoo Complex

#3 Talus <- #4 ZooMonZoo –> #5 Summit South Complex

This section presented me with a real quandry.

For a long time, “The Zoo” was the king of the climbs – and with good reason: it was the hardest/tallest/closest climb around, and it had a nice fast descent. Just down the road was little brother Montreux, also a hard climb but only about half the total elevation.

I made an attempt at melding the two of them together using a cut-through path on this route, but not really successfully; the cut through was gravel – deep gravel – and it didn’t really make the climb any harder. I did it once, but never went back.

Then, something unexpected happened – the City of Bellevue paved a path that connected the developments above Montreux to the Zoo route, and Montreux-Zooma’s revenge was born.

Which returns me to the quandry. Which route should I choose? It seems wrong, just wrong, to have a hard ride and not climb the granddaddy of hard climbs…

But, in the end, I decided I had to go with the difficulty, and so we’re doing Montreux-Zooma…

And that’s how the original description for this section went. But, I got to thinking about it a bit. The reason that Zoo was dethroned was not because of Monteux, it was because of the climb that connects the top of Montreux to Zoo. And there’s a way to combine the first half of zoo with that part – using the cut through I had abandoned before – into a new climb, which I’ve named “ZooMonZoo”. it looks good for the ride on paper, with a tiny elevation gain and an overall reduction in ride length of 0.2 miles.

So, I went out and rode the new part to see what is was like. I hadn’t done Zoo yet this year – mapping out this ride generally put me elsewhere – and I’d forgotten what it was like. Montreux is a hard and painful climb through a nice and boring development, while the lower part of Zoo is a hard and painful climb past a zoo and through a delightful forest that reminds me of the Mt. Constitution climb on Orcas island. And the cut through is easier to ride than it was previously.

So… we’ll be doing ZooMonZoo instead of Montreux-Zooma.

This is the hardest section so far, and it’s easy to miss turns, so pay attention…

The entrance is easy to find; there is a “Zoo” sign on the right.

IMG_6905

and another zoo sign on the left:
IMG_6906

We turn left and immediately hit a steep pitch. After a bit of back and forth and steeper and less steep sections, we near the hairpin. If you look closely, you will see that the sign says it is a 15 MPH turn, which is pretty tight.  And you can see why I call the climb “delightful”.

IMG_6907

We continue on a bit, and the 15 MPH turn morphs into a 10 MPH turn.


IMG_6909

It doesn’t show in the picture, but the inside of the hairpin is really, really steep. Like 20%+ steep. It is also a bit torn up from car traffic. You will be much happier if you stay out near the center line, where the gradient is less and the pavement is a bit better.

Soon after the hairpin, the gradient eases, the lower part of the Zoo ends, and we turn right onto the middle section. We ride straight for 0.5 miles, and just when we can glimpse the steep rollers that finish the middle section, we see our turn-off on the right. Don’t worry, we have something more fun than the steep rollers in store.

IMG_6910

The cut-through is in pretty good shape; it’s easy to ride in the first section but the gravel gets a little bit deeper near the other side; I didn’t have any trouble on my 25mm tires but I suggest paying attention. We take the first left, and that will take us down to Village Park Drive – the top of the Montreux climb.

We turn left, and start to descend. After half a mile, we will be turning left in “Findley Court”. The entrance looks like this, and there is a “please drive safely” sign on right side at the turn, though it may be hidden in the trees.

IMG_6876IMG_6877

The road starts steep and then just gets steeper. After it flattens out and we turn left on 169th:

IMG_6879

 

and the road will kick up again. After a short section, we take the second left:

IMG_6880

to a small driveway/pathway which will kick us out onto SE 60th. We turn left, and then take the first right:

IMG_6881

to continue the climb to the summit. When this road flattens out and starts to descend, keep going and take the first driveway to the right:

IMG_6882

This will take you all the way up to water towers at the top of the hill:

IMG_6883

Turn around, and it looks like this. You can just barely make out Mt. Baker on the horizon.

IMG_6884

Descend back down to the main road, turn left, and start the descent. After a short straight section, the road turns right, and we continue straight (ie turn left) into Pinacles:

IMG_6885

Unfortunately you can’t see the sign when descending. This takes us up a steep climb that flattens. Turn left into the cul-de-sac to get the last little bit of elevation. On the way down, stop to take in the best view of the day:

IMG_6887_stitch

On the left, Newcastle Golf Course with Lake Washington beyond, to the right is “Summit” with Seattle peaking in the distance.

Once we hit the main road again, we turn left and again start looking for a left turn, this time on 166th Way.

IMG_6889

This will go straight for a while, then we will turn left to climb up through Belvedere:

This is the last climb of the complex. This takes us to pretty much the same height as Pinacles, just a bit to the south.

IMG_6891_stitch

To the left there’s a pocket view of Lake Washington with Newport Golf Course in the middle and the lake beyond, and then Seattle in the distance on the right. Plus, some hay bales and a very pretty truck.

Finally, we descend down, once again turn left, and descend until we hit Lakemont. Turn right and a short climb brings us to Lewis Creek Park, which has water and bathrooms.

That section was 10.4 miles and a healthy 2030’ of elevation gain.

image

 

Montreux-Zooma

image

Pinnacles

image

Belvedere

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #3–Talus

(2) Squak     <=  (3) Talus    => (4) Montreux Zooma

Talus is a development on the east side of Cougar mountain, named after a bone in the ankle. Or maybe a rock deposit on the hill. At least it’s not “Summer Bluff”, or “Raccoon Forest” (thanks to the excellent Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator for those), or my development’s name, “Malibu Vista”.

Anyway, Talus is a climb that I’d never done until recently, because it was a one-road “up and back down” sort of climb. At least, that’s what I thought, but a bit more research and a test ride showed that I was mistaken, and there’s a nice hidden climb there.

After leaving the starting point, we turn left onto Renton-Issaquah road, and then turn right onto James Bush Rd. The sign says, “no Talus access”, but that’s just for cars, not for us. The road immediately kicks up, climbs a bit, and then kicks up some more as it narrows to a single lane climbing up through the trees. Make sure to start this climb slowly; if you hit it too hard it will be difficult to recover. Please pay attention so that you don’t slow down other cyclists on this section. After a bit, you’ll come to a cable gate that you will either need to ride around on a very thin path to the left or dismount and go over. If you dismount, clipping in will be interesting because of the thinness of the road, so be prepared.

Eventually, you’ll come to some posts, and the climb will spit you out into the development. Turn right and continue to climb, then bear right towards the park and take the 20% cut-through to keep climbing. This will spit you out again on the road, and you can continue to climb until you top out.

We then traverse to the south to grab a few more feet of climbing and make our way to the exit. The route that is shown is guaranteed; the city is doing some construction at the top right now, so the actual route may go a little farther up.The overall Talus total should be at least 550’.

The descent has a stoplight at the bottom, so watch your speed. We turn left and ride towards the park.

image

 

 

The gradients here feel pretty close to me.

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #2–Squak

(1) Grand Ridge <=      (2) Squak    => (3) Talus

This one will be of little surprise to anyone. The mountain known as “Squak” is an obvious choice, and since we are coming from the east, there isn’t even any suspense about which side we will climb. This is conveniently the harder way up.

I first climbed this back in 2006, as the last climb the Seattle Randonneur’s “Mountain Populaire”, a 100 kilometer ride that started on Zoo hill and finished on the first half of this climb up Squak. At the time, that was hardest ride that I had ever done. Little did I know that a few years later I would be putting together a ride that was worse.

After going through Issaquah on Sunset, we continue straight as the road turns into Mountain Park Blvd. The first section is a series of rollers, but not in the usual “up and down” sense of rollers; these are of the “up and upper” variety. Just as the road flattens out, we turn left on Mountainside Drive to continue the climb. Don’t worry if it looks flat; it will kick up steeply after a short bit.  After a bit, we leave the houses behind and hit the upper section, a switchbacky road of crappy pavement. Eventually, we hit a stop sign at the entrance to the Forest Rim Development. Turn right or left, and you will top out a full 1000’ from the start.

It is your choice. Just as doing this stupid ride was your choice.

The descent of the top section is the same way we came up. But the crappy pavement and tight turns that were merely annoying on the way up are a bit treacherous on the way down, so it’s essential to control your speed well. When we reach the intersection, we turn left, descend 0.7 miles, and turn left again where the arterial turns on Mt. Olympus Drive. This is a fun curvy section that will take us down to the bottom, but note that there is a really steep section with a stoplight at the bottom, so, once again, watch your speed.

This takes us all the way down to the base, where we come out right next to our starting point. At the light, we turn left. Bathrooms and water are available at the starting point, and I recommend filling up; there are two hills before the next opportunity.

Here’s the map. Click to view online.

image

And here’s the color-coded map for the climb. Gradients are estimated; your gradient experience will vary. See a doctor for climbs lasting longer than 4 hours.

Click to go to the BicycleClimbs.com source page.

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #1–Grand Ridge

(1) Grand Ridge => (2) Squak

With Sufferin’ Summits only a few short months away, I thought it would be fun to do a climb-by-climb reveal of the route.

But first, a little philosophy about the route.

I’ve tried to make the route as hard as possible, which means lots of elevation gain and as much steepness as I can find, but I’ve also worked hard to keep it as short as possible. Those two are obviously in tension; I could easily add a very painful 2000’ more of climbing, but I’m happy with the overall distance as it is.

I have also tried to make the route flow. That means limiting the number of “up and down the same road” sections, and not climbing up the same section of road more than once.

And finally, I’ve tried to make it worthwhile. That means climbing to places where there’s a nice view.

If you are purely interesting in elevation, I recommend the Zoo Hill Century instead.

****

I’ve done the Highlands climb up from Issaquah a number of times, first on the Eastside Tours Ride that Per Sunde used to lead (and now I lead), and then on my own. I never really liked the climb very much; the bike path is fine but not really very pretty, but it is a decent way to get up onto the plateau.

Then, a couple of years ago, I decided to climb up into Grand Ridge. My first ascent was up the main street – Park Drive – and was a bit of a slog, though if you go all the way to the top, it’s worth it.

Then I found a nice way to skip the busy part of the development, with a no-cars section off of Black Nugget road and the seriously steep College Drive, and now I like the trip much better. It does not have the pure challenge of some of the later climbs, but it has some cool houses near the top (watch for the castle on the right side near the top), a very nice view, and a couple of fast descents.

I give it a 4, it’s got a pretty good beat, and it’s easy to dance to.

Here’s a picture of the route, click on it to see it in RideWithGPS.com. Clocks in at 1061’ of up.

 

This is not, in fact, the hardest route up this particular hill; the bottom part climbs up Issaquah – Fall City road, when there is a steeper route up Black Nugget road nearby. Alas, Black Nugget road is a single lane without a good shoulder, so while it might be okay for a solo climb, it’s not good for a group. If you *really* want to make sure everything is as hard as possible, you can do Black Nugget from the bottom.

At the top of Grand Ridge there is a short bit of driveway that you can climb if you’d like an extra 30’ of elevation gain.

The descent through the development is nice, and then the descent down Highlands is a bit of a screamer and the pavement isn’t perfect, so I recommend paying some extra attention.

We end up back in Issaquah heading west on Sunset.

I will leave you in suspense, eagerly awaiting the next hill, assuming that you haven’t followed Sunset drive to the west and seen the exceedingly obvious climb #2.

Here’s the gradient view. Due to road grading, some slopes may not be accurate. Actual steepness may be lower.

image


Pages:1234567...21