Bicycling Magazine just published The 30 Hardest Hill Climbs in the World. I have always been more enthusiastic than talented but let me see about this list. Some I have done. Some I will never do (logistics mostly). And some I would like to do or do again.
- Mount Evans, Colorado
- Mount Lemmon, Arizona
- Onion Valley, California
- Whiteface Mountain, New York
- Mount Mitchell, North Carolina
- Mount Washington, New Hampshire
- Le Mauna Kea, Hawaii
- Passo Del Mortirolo, Italy
- Mont Ventoux, France
- Rila, Bulgaria
- Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
- Passo Gavia, Italy
- Alto de Letras, Columbia
- Alto de l’Angliru, Spain
- Col du Galibier, France*
- Mount Baldy, California
- Haleakala, Hawaii
- Col du Tourmalet, France
- Alto de la Lenia, Columbia
- Hardknott Pass, United Kingdom
- Alpe d’Huez, France
- Powder Mountain, Utah
- Pico el Aguila, Venezuela
- Wuling Mountain, Taiwan
- Tong La Pass, Tibet
- Grimsel Pass, Switzerland
- EL Teide, Canary Islands
- Monte Zoncolan, Italy
- Grossglockner, Austria
- Muro di Sormano, Italy
The ones I’ve summited:
1, 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 18, 21
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Mount Lemmon, Arizona. Absolutely beautiful. Just make sure you carry enough water. Camelbaks work.
Mount Washington, New Hampshire. The hardest of them all. I have ridden it seven times; once without changing my gearing. I won’t make that mistake again. Heck, I won’t ride it again.
Mont Ventoux, France. Became rainy and very windy but I had one chance to get to the summit so I did.
Passo Stelvio, Italy. Her 48 switchbacks are calling me back. First rode it in 2014 and planned a side trip while in Switzerland in 2017 but warm turned to cold and sun turned to rain and snow on the beautiful pass.
Passo Gavia, Italy. A cold, wet day in June, 2014, my iconic image is seeing a bunch a teenage boys pushing their bikes up the climb where we rode.
Col du Tourmalet, France. In 2011 I went up and over the summit and back up again to watch the Tour de France. In 2010 I climbed it from both sides but was stopped 4km from the summit by the police for the Tour de France. It’s tough.
L’Alpe d’Huez, France. Another iconic climb. Probably the second most one I would repeat (after Stelvio).
The ones I’ll never do:
13, 19, 23, 24, 25
South America, Asia. Probably include Bulgaria (10). Doubt that I ever get to those places with or without a bike and none are calling me.
Most likely will:
Mount Mitchell isn’t that far from Virginia. Why not make a road trip for the climb? And Mount Baldy is an iconic climb in southern California. It’s doable (from a logistics standpoint).
So what’s left? Doubtful I get to Hawaii to climb although it would be fun. I could drive to Whiteface, NY. Mortirolo was high on my list in 2014 but we were rained out (couldn’t get the support vans up there) and really never felt the need to get there. I should look at Grimsel Pass in Switzerland and Grossglockner in Austria. Plus there are a ton of climbs in France. I’ll keep climbing as long as I am able.
*And a special mention to Galibier. On July 19, 2011, I left LaGrave in a light rain and 50 degrees. The forecast called for heavier rain but I thought I was ahead of it. I wasn’t. It was seven miles to the pass at the Col du Lautaret. When I reached it, it was snowing. I did not have winter cycling apparel. It was another seven miles to the summit of Galibier but I wisely turned around. Probably a one-time attempt but wisely abandoned. Later I read that 200 British cyclists had to be rescued off Galibier.
EDIT/EPILOGUE – Since I made this post, I was able to ride up Mount Baldy, California (16) in 2018. The next day I rode up Gibraltor Road in Santa Barbara, California for the 2018 Hillclimb Championships Worlds. If I was serious about it, I would not have ridden up Mount Baldy the day before. DFL.
On November 4, 2020, I rode up Mount Mitchell (5).
The list is subjective and in my list, I would find a place for St. Gotthard Pass in Switzerland and its cobbled eight-mile climb. I rode that in July 2019. And I want to ride it again.