Climbing Hwy 39 to Hwy 2

This weekend was my turn to visit my dad in LA, and coincidentally, I got an invite to do a ride, starting at Encanto Park, going up Hwy 39 up to Hwy 2, then back. Now how I got the invite is quite interesting. Ken Mathis sent the email. He got my name originally from a ride invite from Teresa Beck, who I know from Facebook, and who I met once at the Awards Breakfast for Ca Triple Crown. Now how did I get Teresa’s name via Facebook … well, who else …. Lynn. She knows everyone!

Anyways, there were 4 of us to go on this epic journey (epic for me at least). There was Mike, Ron Hanson, Ken, and I. As we went out on the bike trail, we were greeted by fierce headwinds. It seems like everytime I head out on the bike trail, I am greeted with headwinds.

Ken and Ron

Once we got on Hwy 39, the headwinds weren’t that much of an issue. We could concentrate on climbing, which is really what we’re here for. At 7 am, it is a bit crisp and just barely requires a light jacket. However, the sun came out pretty early. I didn’t want to stop either, and lose my momentum. One thing I did notice though, is there was plenty of bathroom stops along the highway. So I didn’t have to worry about finding a bush somewhere.

The pace leading out was not the usual pace I’m used to when I ride with Ramon, or Chris … I was in the middle of the pack, climbing-wise. However, perhaps it’s because Ron and Ken were pacing themselves. This is 6000 feet up … straight up, after all.

Heading out, my Garmin kept turning itself off … oops … low battery … damn.  I guess I’m going to have to ride this the old fashioned way … by feel.

East Fork Road

Previously, when I climb Hwy 39, I usually hang a right on East Fork Road.  Usually it’s because I am on my way to either Glendora Mountain Road or Mt. Baldy.  So this is the first time I’ll climb beyond East Fork Road … I’ve always heard about this climb, but never really did it.

As Ron Hansen says, past East Fork Road is where the real climbing, or the fun begins.  Translation … hard climbing.  By this time, the sun was out in force, and it was gorgeous.  How can anyone look at this and not want to live in California?

As we got to steeper climbs, I ended up in the back again. My shoulder blade started getting stiff at this point, making my climbing a little weaker.  Since I didn’t have my Garmin to rely on, I had no idea how far we had come, or how far we have to go.

Halfway up Hwy 39 at the Road Closure

Halfway up the climb, we get to the Hwy 39 Road Close sign. This was a nice break from the climb, and gave us an opportunity for a little bit of rest, at least. What’s nice here is we have the whole road to ourself till we get to Hwy 2, at least.

Mountain Biker with Ski Boots and Skis

Here’s something you don’t see everyday … even on a bike ride. Here was this guy, in ski boots, carrying his skis, with the ultimate intentions of skiing. I mean, he’s in his ski boots. Later on, when I was descending, I saw him hovering around the Crystal Lake turnoff (which is closed by the way … weird).

Anyhow, the climbing continued, and it would just be continuing, at about a 5-8% grade for about 30 miles. We had done about 20 miles already, and this is where fatigue started to settle in. Before this, the longest sustained mountain climb I did was Mt. Hamilton, which was 20 miles … but we definitely surpassed this.

Wow, I'm really high up .. 5000 feet elevation

I'll have to go down those roads eventually

This is definitely a ride that categorizes as HTFU … but one thing that kept me going is the amazing scenery, mixed in with an almost perfect weather day.  We got to a point eventually where we passed some black ice.  Funny how a harmless little wet patch of road can cause such horror in a cyclist.  I could tell, as I rolled over that wet patch, I felt my wheel slip, but luckily it wasn’t too bad, and I did not end up on the ground.

I was really struggling at this point, but I wanted to go as far as I could possibly go.  My shoulders, back, knee … were all screaming out in pain.  Unfortunately, I forgot my Ibuprofen and my electrolyte pills, so I couldn’t replenish myself.  All I had were clif bars, perpetuem, and water, and I was constantly going through those.  I got to one point where I just had to throw in the towel.  I saw one more climb, and that was it.  I was really bummed, as I did not want to “give up”, but I just could not take any more of it.  Later on, I found out from Ken that I had < 1 mile before the top.  I kind of figured that, but I just didn’t have it in me.

So I turned back, and was descending really slow, especially with that patch of black ice.  Plus, it’s another opportunity to enjoy the scenery.  However, it was not all completely downhill.  The section below East Fork Road had some uphill pitches, and after climbing 6000+ feet climbing, my legs were definitely feeling it.

One oddity .. the original ridewithgps plot showed 57 miles, and 8100 feet climbing.  Not sure about that, since the peak of the climb was at 6670 feet.  I’d be fine with 55 miles, and 7000 feet.  Great day for a ride.


3 thoughts on “Climbing Hwy 39 to Hwy 2

  1. merider

    Ron, you were riding a route that is normally referred to around here as “Crystal Lake,” although why?, I’ve never understood, since you don’t actually go to Crystal Lake on the ride. I did it a couple of times a few years ago and then did it from the opposite direction (up the 2 to Hwy 39 & back down). Going down it was easier of course, and yes, it’s a climb that will eat your lunch. I couldn’t make it up half of it these days, but someday I’d like to go back up it just as I will eventually get back up to Baldy. In the summer, though, 39 is miserable given that it’s so exposed the farther up you climb. You definitely picked the right day to do it!

    1. sevencyclist Post author

      That’s interesting … yea, we don’t actually go to Crystal Lake. I was a little bummed I didn’t make it all the way to ACH, but I was just stretched to my limits. But I guess with ACH closed, I guess the only way would be to go through Big T? That would be an epic ride.


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