Monday, September 14, 2009

A kid, his bike and a long climb...

I love climbing. I need to get that out now - just so you can understand where I am coming from. I love climbing on my bike (road or mountain). It's on the climb that I experience the true joy of riding. While climbing is great even in a pack, it's absolutely best when it is just me, my bike and (preferably) a long climb up the mountain.

Labor day, my mom came in town. Family always trumps anything else, so I did not join either of two P3C3 rides on that Day. The larger group, led by Tedd, did an epic ride from Furman up to the back side of Ceaser's Head. They got in something over 6000' of climbing in a route just under 80 miles.

The other group was made up of my P3C3 team-mates Jeni, Ed and Perry. They left from Ed's place on an epic 107 mile route with over 7000' of climbing. Jeni texted me later that day to say 'my ass hurts'. I was jealous as that might be the biggest ride they will do before we depart for Austin next month.

I was fortunate to be able to get out for a great ride on thursday from Oakview. A great group for sure. At that time, I didn't know the plans for the weekend other than what Tedd had posted about Walnut Grove and the Little House on the Prairie. I knew they would get some climbing in, but they were leaving from Simpsonville and while there are some hills, I was fairly sure I needed something more sustained.

Thursday night, Courtney, Gavin and I talked about riding together. It wasn't until friday night (about 9pm) that we had a plan together. That plan was to meet at Tigerville Elementary at 630am on Saturday morning. I spent a few minutes reviewing routes I had ridden in the past from that location and made my decision.

The route we would take included: Packs Mt, Callahan Mt, The Saluda Watershed, Mine Mountain road and down to Pearson's falls road, up the Saluda grade (on 176) to a break at the Bakery. Also to be included was a loop I had read about on the other side of I-26 from Saluda. I had read this loop was about 20 miles. It included Holbert Cove Road and Green River Cove Road. On the map, Green River Cove Road had a series of switchbacks that I knew would satisfy any craving I had for a nice climb!

From the elementary school, we headed south on 253 to pick up some roads that would take us to the south side of Packs Mountain. I had never done Packs, so I was in for a surprise! It was dark when we left at about 645am so we were all running with lights. The fog was pretty thick in spots, but the traffic was very thin. As we rode through the beautiful countryside near tigerville, the sun was coming up. It really was an incredible morning.

There was no need for our headlamps any longer as we made the turn on to Bramlett Road and then the left onto Bomar Road. As we came around a turn, what a sight! It looked like the road went straight up! At first, I thought it was someone's driveway, but soon I realized that was our ascent up Packs Mountain. There was a time or two I was unsure if I was actually going to be able to ride up that road! It was tough!

All three of us were able to make that climb - thankfully it was quite short. We had a little more climbing to make it to the actual summit of Packs Mt but it was quite easy in comparison. The downhill on the other side was fast and fun, but ended at a stop sign that seemed to sneak up on us a little. Thankfully, there was actually enough road to get a full stop safely.

From there, we headed along South and North Packs Mountain road to tie us in to N. Barton road. We skipped back over to Tigerville road and headed towards Callahan Mt. I selected this route because I wanted to take them over Callahan mt, but I wanted to get that short climb that is to the right on old Hwy 11. The climb up Callahan Mt is always fun and I think everyone enjoyed it. Rocketing down the other side makes it worth it.

We took the right to make the climb up through the watershed. What a great morning. Very little traffic, still a little cool as the morning progressed. This is the climb I really needed - something that went on for a nice sustained distance. There are certainly more difficult and longer climbs in the upstate, but I really enjoy this ride through the watershed. As I climbed I really started to feel great - I wasn't sure I could feel much better after Packs and Calahan, but this climb really put me into a good place.

After crossing the state line, we made the right turn on Mine Mountain road. This is a fun road as well and has a couple of nice climbs and one killer descent as you make your way towards Hwy 176. This is a really nice climb that drops you right into the town of Saluda. I enjoy this climb and met Kip who had done a cross country bike ride with his wife last year. Great guy. He and I talked about the Austin trip a little before I went on ahead.

We made a quick stop at the Bakery for a raspberry thing (very tasty!) and to refill our bottles. We talked a little about the loop I had heard about. We decided to head under the interstate and see what Green River Cove Road was all about.

It was all about switchbacks for the first 2.5 miles! Unfortunately, we descended these switchbacks first, but as I rounded the first and saw the second, I knew I had to climb this road. We re-grouped at the bottom and decided to head down the road (which paralleled the river) until we felt like turning around. It's a beautiful road and it was a great relaxing ride for about 9 miles or so before we turned around.

We rode together most of the way back up the road until we got to the switchbacks. I think everyone was as excited as I was to do this climb. It was beautiful! As the road would make a right hand switchback, I would attack the very steep section in the middle of the turn. I had a great time on this climb. I'll have to go scout the route for the full loop that ends with this climb. That will be really fun to do.

Once again, we re-grouped at the top and rode back to the Bakery to top off the bottles. We decided to take the 'classic' Bakery route back to the Elementary school. It was great just riding along, chatting with my friends - very relaxing.

I as started this blog earlier this week, I had to get the route up on
Map my ride. The distance is a little off as we went out Green River Cove Road and turned around - in my map, I didn't quite get the turn-around quite right. I marked what I think is pretty close to the Bakery, but it could introduce some error as well. None the less, the route described is pretty much what we did on Saturday.

Unfortunately, I'm a bit disappointed with total climbing on the route. It turns out that the walnut grove ride had about the same (maybe even more!) climbing on it. I was pretty sure we would have more altitude gain than 4200 feet! That said, I did get what I needed and that is some longer sustained climbing. The climb up the watershed is a true classic and it is about 7 miles or so of decent climbing. The other hills we hit were fun, but not quite as sustained. The real gem in this route is the switchbacks coming up Green River Cove Road.

Next time I do this route, I'll add some more into it. Coming up the back side (next to camp old indian) of Callahan mountain is a nice climb, plus there are a couple of other places I can add in some more altitude.

In the end it really was about 3 kids, their bikes and some really nice climbing - you really can't ask for a better day.


  1. Hell yea it was fun! I could have sworn it was at least 8000' of climbing, but maybe that was just my legs talking...

    You can plot the route anyday JD!

  2. Don't forget about five-peats of Paris Mt - there's some climbing for ya! 445am on sunday morning.

    Not sure of what the plan is if it is raining....forecast is calling for 50% chance of rain all weekend.


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