Hills from HELL or the Not-so-mellow Metric

Listed as the Not-so-mellow metric by none other then our fearless web master, Jerome, I happened to be privy to the route ahead of time, so there was no need to find it the undisclosed location or unlock 16384 bit encryption to see it. What two hills from HELL am I referring to? Two that I was aware of but had never attempted: Redwood Gulch and Hicks Road. I was the only other rider to join Jerome for this epic ride! I had promised I would join him ahead of time. What the heck, they are only hills and the worst that could happen would be a little cross-training.

Redwood Wood Gulch is a 1.4 mile climb going from Stevens Canyon Road up to Highway 9, it’s notoriety is mainly from hearing about it thru some friends. It doesn’t even rate a spot it The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in California. It does climb 703 feet and averages a 9.4% grade. This was the gentler of the two climbs this day, not only was it shorter, but it was under the cover of redwoods, as this day did turn out to be a bit of a scorcher.

David at the top of Redwood Gulch
Our planned lunch was for the Blue Rock Shoot in Saratoga, but we arrived in Saratoga to a road detour, some sort of street fair had the area of Highway 9 and Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road all blocked off, so we continued on to Los Gatos for lunch at the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company instead.

I first heard of Hicks Road from Chris Thomas, he was out doing a test ride for an ALC training ride he was listing, and at the corner of Shannon and Hicks Road, he turned right instead of left. Hicks Road does make a listing in the Complete Guide to Climbing: “This hill is very steep and scenic and may be the most difficult in the Bay Area. Jerome and I arrive at this same corner and I asked if he was sure we didn’t want to turn left? Nope. And so we turned right and it is a very pleasant road for the first couple miles, then you hit what the book refers to as the cruz stretch: the first mile of the climb which averages 14%. Averages.

Guadalupe Reservoir

Then add a flat tire on the second section after Guadalupe Reservoir, needless to say, I had no choice but to walk the bike up to a section of road that measured under 10% grade, just to change the tube. And in the shade too.

I finally arrived at the top, where one can do the optional Mount Umunhum climb (no thank you, so glad it was not in the plan today). Jerome had a bee fly into his unzipped jersey and sting him under the arm, fortunately there was only a minor reaction. We then descended the south side of Hicks Road, a pretty road, but very, very steep. From there we passed by Almaden Reservoir on our way to McKean Road and the final job to Calero Reservoir and then over Bailey Road and back to South San Jose.

Jerome at the top of Hicks Road

Considering it was 90+ degrees, and the bulk of the 3800 feet of climbing we did in 64 miles was in these 5 miles of climbing, I have to say I was pleased overall. Even with some cross-training. Thanks, Jerome!

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