Tag Archives: big hill

Table Rock Weekend, 2012, The Rides

The weekend was foremost about the rides, and we had a lot to choose from. My goal was to ride and climb as much as possible. This would be my last big training weekend before buckling down and getting set for Mitchell. This was also my weekend to complete the Strava Climbing Challenge (which I did – woohoo!).

People arrived at different times on Friday, so the idea was to split up the group rides into short loops at different times of day. I arrived early enough for the first loop, which would head up Caesar’s Head Mountain. On the way back we stopped at Bald Rock, somewhere I had passed curiously multiple times without stopping. It was cool to finally see what the big deal was. This was a vast slab of rock that curves downward. A few of us took off our cleats and walked carefully in bare feet towards the rocky edge. The view was startling scary — almost straight down. It looked like streets below the rock, but it was just more rock. The entire slab had spray-paint graffiti everywhere. Wherever the eye traveled, it would learn about some young couple’s love for each other.

The Lumberton crew arrived in the afternoon. They wanted to ride Caesar’s Head, so we did it again. Why not, eh? I needed the climbing anyway. For the first loop I rode up casually. The second time I pushed a little more, talking about mountain adventures with Matt from Lumberton. We didn’t stop on the way down. When I noticed that Jim of CruzBike had a recumbent, I was at first nervous. Would that thing be able to climb, and more importantly, could it safely descend? He assured me not to worry, and I was surprised by how well he did. He was just behind me on the climb and the descent. I couldn’t help but notice how he powered over the rolling hills below the mountain, the same ones that stopped the rest of us in our tracks.

On day two I was off to Walhalla for Issaqueena’s Last Ride. The rest of them did a monster ride from Table Rock that went into Rosman, up 215 to the Blue Ridge Parkway, back down 276 to Brevard, and then back to Table Rock. It sounded glorious. I wish I had enough time and legs to do both. You can read John’s summary of that ride at his blog.

The group was not yet back after I returned from Issaqueena. As a coincidence, I saw Tom riding while I was entering the park. He was just swinging by to say hello. Since I wanted a little more riding, we did a little loop around the rolling hills up towards Caesar’s Head. He had to ride home to Greenville, so we parted ways about mid-way and I followed Highway 11 back to the park.

On all three loops to that point, I had taken the hard way back into Table Rock. From the lodge entrance are some tough climbs, some of which reach grades toward the high teens. They all hurt after riding up a mountain. Having not learned my lesson, I chose to take the hard way after my loop with Tom. It was excruciating and I swore not to do it again. The back entrance was far easier, with just a couple moderate climbs.

Sunday was another big loop. This one took us up Highway 178 into Rosman, along the gorgeous East Fork Road and then the backside of Caesar’s Head. Everyone was spent for this ride. We practically grunted and groaned our way up the 178 climbs. I was so committed to riding recovery pace that I didn’t even wear my heart rate monitor. I just took it easy the entire way, spinning at a comfortable and not too painful cadence.

At the Rosman store stop someone mentioned we were going to ride up something called ‘Big Hill.’ They asked if I had been there. I’ve been on lots of big hills, I joked. Which one were they talking about? As Neil put it, I would remember it had I been there. As always, Neil was right as rain.

We traveled down the scenic East Fork Road, which followed a river stream to our right. We encountered a number of fishermen along the way. There was one instance where John yelled “Road Kill!” real loud to alert us of a carcass in the road. Right as he said that, we passed a father and son, who immediately turned. I saw the poor kid’s face turn to fear, as he thought John was calling him road kill. It was sad and funny at the same time. Poor kid.

East Fork was a peaceful, flat ride. I could have sworn I had been on that road before. I still think I had, but clearly not to the very end. I had not been on big hill.

It started with a bang, probably around 16-18%. On my tired legs, that felt like 30%. I stood up and tried to power through it, using my upper body strength to pull on the handlebars and relieve pressure on my legs. It leveled off a little bit to a more manageable 6-8% grade. Phew. I could handle this. Right about the time I started to get comfortable, Neil looked at me and said “this is where it makes you think you’ve done something.” Uh oh. He was right. After we turned the corner, it pitched up again to the high teens and stayed there. I slowly tried to make my way up. In the last 50 feet there looked to be a docile dog on the left side of the road. As I got closer, he showed his fangs and started to chase, forcing me to pick up the pace. Oww. I gunned it and was at the top before I knew it. The dog didn’t chase.

When I got to the top, I saw why they call it ‘Big Hill.’ At the top is the entrance to the Big Hill subdivision.

As we climbed Caesar’s Head, the easy way (ha!), I just tried to keep a decent pace and get through it. John was behind me for part of that climb and he thought I was trying to drop him. Nope. I was just trying to hang on myself.

What a weekend. In total I rode 248 miles and climbed 22,000 feet in the three days. Thanks again Neil for putting it all together. We had a fantastic time.

Strava links:
Friday Caesar’s Head loops
Saturday evening Table Rock ride
Sunday Table Rock to Rosman Loop


Pinnacle Mountain: The Beautiful Beast

The main attraction of our Saturday ride was Pinnacle Mountain. This was by far the toughest climb I have ever attempted. That was the group’s consensus as well, and we had some experienced cyclists. One of them had 30 years of experience and once had participated in the race across America. We all agreed that this was a beast.

We turned onto Pinnacle Mountain Road from Highway 225 and started out immediately with a steep climb. After we got over the first hump, it leveled off and we climbed approximately a mile to the Sky Top Orchard. We regrouped at the top and someone commented how that wasn’t nearly as bad as we expected. Tom, who had been here before, chuckled. “This is a false summit if I’ve ever seen one.”

As it turned out Pinnacle Mountain is quite a lengthy stretch of mountainous road. In it’s entirety is spans around 17 miles. We covered maybe a dozen, including the toughest part. Aside from the peak, the entire road is up in the sky. We pushed along at between 2,800-3,000 feet, with gentle, rolling hills. Most of the way we could see residential roads to the left that led to gated, expensive houses. To the right we caught glimpses of a vast valley and larger mountains off in the distance. If my bearings were correct, those were the big ‘Southern Sixers’ behind Asheville (edit: a reader points out that it was likely Mt. Pisgah in the distance).

The route was gorgeous and serene. We took our time, absorbed the scenery, took some pictures and enjoyed the conversation. It was not challenging, but we knew that would end in time. We were making our way to the Grandaddy of all the climbs, Pinnacle Mountain.

After riding a ways, we saw the peak up ahead. As you can see in the image above, it did not look too menacing. It was not too much higher in elevation than we were already. The problem is, we kept getting closer and were not climbing. We even descended right before reaching the base of the peak.

The climb began with moderate steepness, probably about the same grade as Howard Gap or Pot Shoals, nothing insurmountable. We rode by a small house with a couple doing yardwork. They greeted us warmly. The climb was still not too bad.

After turning a corner, we faced a wall. The pictures below hardly do it justice. I was a little bit behind some of the riders and I could see many of them stopped in the middle. A couple of them were walking their bikes. These were strong riders. This thing was no joke.

I started up and the grade was instantly punishing. It started in the 20% range and got steeper from there. I’m not sure the exact grade, but after looking at some mapping software, I believe it was between 25-30%. It was insane.

I made it about halfway up and had to stop. The problem was, I could not clip in at such a steep incline. I tried and failed a number of times. Finally I got it by going sideways and slightly downhill, and made my way up. I got to the top of the wall. I was almost to the top and wanted to get some pictures looking down. That is when I saw Neil huffing and puffing up. He was breathing like a locomotive, but did not stop. I got some pictures of him, one of which is below.

The summit was nothing special. It was just a road with a lot of trees around that mostly obscured the view. We gathered together, amazed at the difficulty of what we had just climbed. The entire climb was about 1,000 feet in less than a mile, the majority of which came in the last few hundred yards.