Montebello Road hill climb

28Oct06

Pre-work ride off of Foothill blvd. Headed out past I-280 up into Stevens Creek Reservoir with the idea that we might take on Mt. Eden road or maybe try Montebello. Never climbed it before. First let me say that heading up to the reservoir on a weekday morning is fairly unpleasant, as the road is just choked with big rigs heading in and out of the quarry at the foot of Montebello. In a couple of miles, we must have been passed by 20 gravel trucks just on our side of the road, choking us with diesel fumes and making the passage both loud and somewhat treacherous.

As soon as we got past the quarry, I noted the sign for Montebello road, and sick of the trucks, took the sharp right up the hill. I immediately began to regret this decision, as you’re faced with a 15% wall from the first turn. Ugh. Particularly daunting when you can’t see the top and you don’t know the climb at all. Got my legs under me as well as possible and moved up the climb. The first hairpin offers much of the same, and the climb continues sharply up for a while. Some respite comes in the first mile, allowing you to get into a difficult but manageable rhythm.

The immediate benefits are the disappearance of trucks and their associated diesel and dust, and the almost immediate reward of views of the valley on a clear morning. The negative, in addition to the pain, is that what little traffic there is seems not used to much bike traffic, and drivers are not as accommodating as you might find of a more heavily bicycle-trafficked climb like Old La Honda.

The climb moves up typical peninsula hill terrain with brown grass and black oak hillsides spreading out steeply before you. This lasts for a mile or two, and then curiously moves into a more moist, more thickly wooded section of deciduous trees with the leaves turning and falling. Felt like New England for about a mile. Odd.

The road surface is generally good at the bottom, then degrades a bit as you climb and get into less and less homes. After the wooded section, you come out on to an open section which feels like you’re nearing the top and approaching Skyline Blvd. This was a bit of a surprise, as on the map it appears not to connect to skyline, and the top of the ridge appears to be still a distance away. But we ran out of time, and when the road started pitching steeply upward again, I became instantly more concerned about the time, particularly as my riding buddy was gapping me. I think my pride was further down the hill, so I suggested we head back down to find it.

We’ll take it on again soon, it’s a great climb with lots of variation, and a new route for us if nothing else. There seems to be a good bit of road to explore in the south bay that we haven’t gotten to yet.

Here is a link to a great site with the gradient of Montebello road
. He also includes gradients for many other popular climbs in the area.

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