Tag Archives: LKHC

Tearing Myself Inside and Out up Mt. Umunhum to the White Line of Death

Profile for Mt. Umunhum LKHC Week 6, http://lowkeyhillclimbs.com/2014/week6/profile.png

I’ve done Mt. Umunhum many times before, so this LKHC shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary. When I read the LKHC web site, it was claiming that this is the highest rated climb of any of the LKHC. Now I know it is tough, but I still think it’s doable … so reading that it is the toughest came as a real surprise to me. It is true that in the past, I usually take a rest after taking the right turn onto Mt. Umunhum, and in this ride there was no stopping … but damn!

Courtesy William von Kaenel

There was roughly 128 riders, and taking a look at all the riders, I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” Plus, when I stepped up to register, I saw this really young looking chap in USA jersey … I wasn’t sure if this was something someone had just bought at a bike shop … and then when he announced his name, Adrien … everyone then said “Oh, that Adrien” … for those that don’t know, this is Adrien Costa. Ok, we all know he will be the first one to finish.

Registration was at Venture Christian Church, which was 4 miles from the start of the climb.  The plan was to ride over to the start, and then start the climb.  But I know this road, and the run up to the start is not flat at all … there are rolling hills, and one section that is a bit steep, and it’s not even part of the LKHC.  So Sandra and I decided to just ride up ahead.  Never before did I ride this stretch of Hicks, just for a warm up ride.

When we did start, I made sure I was off the back.  This was a mass start, and eventually, everyone spread out after about 1/4 mile up the climb … and it was a steep climb.  I mean, 20 yards into it, we’re grinding it up a 15% grade.

As long as I had someone in my sights, it still gave me motivation to continue pushing up the hill.  In the 1.2+ mile section of Hicks, I was still in contact with the riders ahead of me.  We make the right turn on Mt. Umunhum, and then it continues on some more.  At this point, I usually stop off at the bathroom, and take a little breather, but not today.  I didn’t feel dead at this point, so I felt confident enough to continue up the hill.

Courtesy Mark King

Photo coutesy Bill Bushnell

Photo coutesy Bill Bushnell

After about a mile of 15%+, this was just the start, and more 15% climbs up ahead.  The fact that we’re able to sustain the steep part of Hicks seems to make the Umunhum part of the climb not so bad.  I figure, if I could make it up Hicks, my body is already used to the pain, so just continue it for another couple more miles! I guess that’s why stating this is the most difficult climb of the LKHC season seemed a little odd. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

As soon as I started thinking about how it’s not the most difficult, I sense others starting to pass me. I was thinking I was alone on the climb, and then I hear someone else’s gear grinding … Damn, I’m losing ground, and then I start ending up in the back.

I start seeing fast riders heading down the hill, and normally that would demoralize any rider, but on this ride, it’s expected. I just have to make sure I stay on my side of the road. Passing the gate at Bald Mountain, people are cheering us on, ringing their cowbells, it’s very motivating. I only wish I had a line of people ringing cowbells all the way to the end.

Courtesy Ryan PC Gibson

Courtesy Ryan PC Gibson

White Line of Death Courtesy Rich Hill

I finally made it to the finish, and I was sure I was the last one … But I forgot there was one other behind, who I saw as I descended down the hill. Major kudos to everyone who finished this epic climb. I can only imagine how epic this will be when it’s officially (and legally) opened to the top of the mountain. It will make other mountain challenges pale in comparison.

Here’s a portion of the climb I recorded on my Shimano Sports Camera

Montebello LKHC 2013 and My CX Excursion Across Montebello Trail


Montebello is the beginning of the LKHC season.  This is a series of hill climbs that begin in October, and goes on for 2 months on successive Saturdays.  It’s a great series, and is completely volunteer driven.  This is the 3rd year in a row doing this, and I just love it.


Got to see my friend Mark, who I haven’t seen in a while.  In fact I think the last time I saw him was on the Hwy 9 LKHC Time Trial.


I also spotted Gregory Smith, who I interact with in G+.  Good to finally meet someone in my social media outlets in person.

Montebello is my local hill, and usually when I climb it, there’s maybe 3 or 4 cyclist I see on the road, so it’s cool to see the road suddenly filled with a line of 70-80 cyclists.  Awesome!!!!

Photo courtesy Gregory Smith

As usual, people are passing me at will, and that’s fine … I’m in it to finish it … and hopefully I won’t be the Lantern Rouge.  Eventually, I found myself in the same level as a group of others, and I used their pace to maintain my pace up the rest of the hill.  One of them is a tandem, and it’s awesome for them to climb this massive hill on a tandem.


Photo courtesy Alexander Komlik


Photo courtesy Garrett Lau

I had no clue where the photographers were on the route, which was probably a good thing … get more candid shots that way. It also have more suffer shots as well.

Got up to the top, and Strava tuned this at 49 minutes, while the LKHC has this at 45 minutes.  Obviously, different start time for that segment.  It’s not my best, but I’m still pretty happy with it, considering last week, I could only muster 55 minutes up this hill.

The paved road ends here, but I decided to continue on the unpaved dirt and sometimes loose gravel section of the Montebello Trail.  Some spots are hard on a road bike, due to traction, it lack of it.  However,  I know others have done it, so let’s give it a try.



The view is spectacular, and since there are no cars, I don’t have to worry about cars.  Most of the bikes I saw on here were in Mountain Bikes.  I wonder how many thought “what’s that idiot going here on a road bike?”


This is a view I wouldn’t have seen in a paved road.  There were a few seconds where I was fishtailing, but I got used to it and was able to recover.

I finally got to the paved section, but by the time I got to Page Mill, I was stuck inside a gate. There was no outlet. Was I riding inside someone’s backyard? Luckily, I could put my bike over the other side of the fence, and crawl though it to get to the other side on Page Mill. Hopefully no one saw me.

On my way back, I’m not sure what it was, but I started sneezing and had a runny nose. This also fatigued me, and I was barely inching my way back home. It’s this an allergy attack, or did my cold re-surface? Luckily I got the LKHC in before this thing hit started. Is this another day I’m stuck indoors while it’s gloriously sunny outside? This just sucks.

Strava stats: 38.5 miles, 3406 feet climbing.  http://www.strava.com/activities/87120338

Quimby LKHC and the Adventures Getting There

I decided to ride over to the start of the LKHC on Quimby. I decided to use ridewithgps, and plot a route to the start. I then exported it to my Garmin. I figured I would follow the course on my Garmin. Great idea, right? Well, it got me lost. I probably should experiment with this a bit more before trying this the next time.

I finally got my way to Tully, and I hooked up with Ben. Nice way to meet, eh? Well, this stretch of Tully was horrendous. Traffic was awful, even at 9 am on a Saturday morning. But I guess this is normal for Tully.

The start of the LKHC was up the road from the school, where we all checked in. It was about a 8% climb just to the start.

I wasn’t sure how well I would do on this ride. I don’t do this climb very much, plus I’ve been suffering through some pains in the lower back, so I’m trying to not strain it too much … Well, I say that now, but once I got to the climbs, I threw caution to the wind.

It was a mass start, and I started out near the back.  Most of the riders I talked to, who were around me, were of the sentiment of wanting to finish, and not too concerned about placing, or even placing in their own age category.  Since I had done this climb at least once before, I did have confidence that I could complete it … I just wasn’t sure how slow I’d be.

There were two runners on this climb … kinda weird to see two runners in a sea of cyclists going up this epic climb.  In fact, you might be able to see them in the video.

I ended up riding with about 3 other riders who were in my same ability.  We kept trading leads throughout the climb.  There was also a tandem out on this ride, and I used them to help me pace myself up the hill, before I just went ahead of them.

Probably the hardest part was the last two switchbacks, with grades in double digits.  It was just tough, and I could just hear my breathing, which kind of served as a metronome, to pace my way up.  I ended up passing the rest of the riders I was climbing with, and when I saw the big crowd hanging around at the top of the hill, I knew that was the finish … so I shifted up a couple of gears, and turned my body inside and out.

Photo courtesy Josh and Erica Hadley

I later found out I got a personal best out of this, by 4 minutes.  Official time was 35:34.  I’m pretty with this result, even though I was last in my age group (45+).  The important thing is I had fun.

Montebello LKHC 2012

It’s October, and that means it’s Low Key Hill Climb season.  The first one of the year, as with every year, is Montebello Road, which is right in my backyard.

I got to the staging area in what I thought was ample time.  What I thought was strange was I couldn’t find the person who was taking check-ins, giving me my number, etc.  After waiting around a while, I got to talking with one rider, and thought it strange … where do we check in.  He then told me it’s 1/2 mile down the road in the parking lot.  Damn, they changed the check-in location.  Gotta high tail it down.  I was one of the last few riders to check in, but at least I got everything all squared away.  Now to sprint back to the staging area (along with some short steep climb to get out of the parking lot).

Photo courtesy Christine Holmes

There was a good number of riders, as usual, for the first LKHC of the year.  It’s an exciting time, where everyone gets together, reminisce about the season, and kind of a reunion of sorts.  This is a mass start, so they wanted the faster riders up front, and slower riders near the back (I ventured towards the back).  It was funny, Dan mentioned if you could do OLH in 16 minutes, then you may want to be near the front … uh yeah, right … I can do that in a car.

It was a mass start, and we had a short 1/4 mile flat stretch before hitting the climb.  Right at the right turn onto Montebello, two riders collided with each other and went down … not even on Montebello yet.  I think it was a matter of the inside rider making a move to the left, or something like that.  Not serious … they just had to untangle each other.  Wow, what a way to start the event.

I took comfort in knowing I wouldn’t be the absolute last in the group, as I was able to pass a few riders.  I did pass one family, where a guy on a tandem, with his daughter as a stoker, who couldn’t even reach the pedal.  They had a contraption on the tandem to allow a kid to pedal along.  He also had his older son, who was probably around 10 or so … it’s great to see a family outing on one of these hill climbs, which are not easy.

There was one guy I was targeting, that as long as I stay close to him, it should give me a pretty good pace.  I wanted to pass him on so many occasions, but just couldn’t.  Finally, at the last steep section, I feel like I have my chance.  I got a burst of energy, knowing that it’s only 200 more feet of climbing.  I was able to wizz past him, and ready to finish the climb strong.  One problem … there was this truck and it slowed down, and he was in my way … Nooooo!!!!!  I lost my momentum there, but it was only about 100 feet more.  Oh well, I think I lost 5-10 seconds from that.

Photo courtesy of Bryn Dole

All in all, it was a great day, despite the mishaps in the beginning and the end.  It did get cold up on top … clouds were hovering, keeping the temps down.  After getting off the mountain, I went to do Mt. Eden, and then Saratoga Summit.  I don’t know what it is, but my legs were thrashed at this point.  All I knew was I wanted to find the quickest way home.  I was going to Los Gatos and do Kennedy/Shannon loop, or maybe even Hicks … but those plans were dashed, seeing how thrashed I was.

I guess I’ll make it a short day, and rest my legs, and watch football like the rest of the arm chair quarterbacks out there.