2011 Climbs of the Year

I have already covered my personal year in review for 2011. Now is a good opportunity to live up to the website name and talk about specific climbs. I’m often asked if a certain climb is longer or more difficult than another, so it seems the best way to highlight climbs is to list them by both length and difficulty. That is exactly what I have done here. Note that a lot of the distances vary based on GPS readings. I used Strava segment pages to estimate most of them. A couple of those are split into two segments, so they will be two links for the same climb. I have also linked the titles to the corresponding blog posts where I accomplished the climb.

Climbing the Blue Ridge Parkway

2011 Longest Climbs of the Year

1. Mt Mitchell – 27 miles. The actual distance of the climb is arguable since the pitch first begins a few miles from Marion, plus there is a short descent midway through the parkway climb. If you ask my legs for the 4 hours it took to cover this mileage, they’ll say it is a single climb. Strava

2. Lake Logan to Blue Ridge Parkway – 11.1 miles. This may have been a relatively easy grade, but it was lengthy and kicked up at the end. It was one of the more enjoyable climbs because of the scenic lake and waterfalls on the way up, plus I had some good company. Strava

3. Full 181 Climb – 10.7 miles. The first major climb of the Bridge to Bridge ride was a beast. It was not terribly steep, but seemed to go on forever. Strava

4. Waterrock Knob – 7.2 miles. This was almost 6-8% the entire way, which isn’t tough on it’s own, but can take a toll over a long period of time. This took awhile. I think it may have been closer to 9 miles after the climb was finished. Strava

5. Watershed – 6.5 miles. I have said often here that this is my favorite climb. That hasn’t changed almost a year later. I climbed this a number of times and enjoyed each one more than the last. Strava

6. Caesar’s Head Mountain – 6.4. This was my first major climb without stopping. Let me tell you, it was a beast. Strava

7. Sam’s Gap – 6.3 miles. I think this may have been slightly longer than the Strava reading. Again, I had some good company, so this didn’t feel as tough as it might have been. Strava

8. Walnut Creek Road – 5.4 miles. This was the last major climb of the Tour de Cashiers. Spray painted at the very top were the words ‘Well Done!’. Indeed. Strava 1. Strava 2.

9. Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway – 5.3 miles. I was surprised by the length of this climb when reviewing the ride in hindsight. It seemed a lot shorter. This was on my return from climbing Linn Cove Viaduct. Strava

10. Hogback Mountain – 4.8 miles. This is one of the two ways to go up Hogback Mountain and is slightly longer than the School Street climb. Strava

Last climb of Grandfather.

2011 Toughest Climbs of the Year

1. Grandfather Mountain – 2.1. It may seem surprising to rate a relatively short climb at the top. Trust me, Grandfather is a beast. The entire climb has a grade in the upper teens, some of which pushing 20%. The very end of the climb, as you can sort of tell from the image above, is almost straight up at 20%. Strava

2. Mt Mitchell – 27 miles. This is a close second to Grandfather, almost a tie. The only thing that keeps Mitchell at second is that it doesn’t have a very steep grade except for certain sections of Mount Mitchell park. It is just a long, arduous grind to the top. Strava

3. Skyuka Mountain Rd / White Oak Mountain – 3.8 miles. While this isn’t as steep as Grandfather, it isn’t too far behind. The lower part of the climb gets to the upper teens and the upper section ‘levels off’ at around 10%. Strava

4. Howard Gap – 1.1 miles. Short and steep. The climb kicks up from about 8% to 15% and doesn’t let up until the top. I failed the first time and barely succeeded the second. Strava

5. Full 181 Climb – 10.7 miles. What this climb lacks in steepness, it makes up in length. It just keeps going and going at close to a 10% grade for miles and miles. Strava

Cullowhee Mountain

6. Tilly Creek / Ellijay – 3.7 miles. This was the first big climb of the Tour de Cashiers and in my opinion the toughest. It is like a longer and less intense Howard Gap. It stays at around the same pitch and has long stretches that play mind tricks with you. Strava 1. Strava 2

7. Waterrock Knob – 7.2 miles. Most Parkway climbs are not terribly difficult, but this one turned out to be a lot tougher than I expected. This was partly due to the length, and also the 8-9% grade. Strava

8. Caesar’s Head – 6.4. Caesar’s Head is a combination of lengthy and brutal. What makes it more difficult is that it does not have the same grade the entire time. Just when you get comfortable, it kicks up a few percentage points and makes you sweat even more. Strava

9. Lake Logan to Blue Ridge Parkway – 11.1 miles. Again, the length is the tricky part here even though the beginning of the climb is relatively modest. It gets really challenging towards the end, just short of the parkway when you are ready to be finished. Strava

10. Walnut Creek Road – 5.4 miles. This is the last major climb of the Tour de Cashiers and many will argue that it is the most difficult. It is no cakewalk, to be sure, but I thought it was a lot easier than Tilly Creek. There are breaks and leveling off points to allow you to recover during the climb. Strava 1. Strava 2

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