Cyclist #30: The world’s hardest climb

Available from all major newsstands, airport and rail networks, select first and business …

Available from all major newsstands, airport and rail networks, select first and business class airport lounges along with Coles, Woolworths and Target outlets around the country. The latest issue of Cyclist featuring what is arguably the world’s hardest climb, Mauna Kea, has arrived.

From the editor,

This is the big one. After five years spent scouring the planet for the most exciting and challenging routes, Cyclist has finally found – and ridden – the mother of all climbs. Forget the rest, this is the big kahuna, the grand fromage, the numero uno.

We’re talking about Mauna Kea on the American island of Hawaii. You may not have heard of it, and you may initially think that a paradise island in the Pacific doesn’t sound like the kind of place that would be home to the toughest climb on earth (after all, it’s best known for beaches and Magnum, P.I. – it’s hardly the Alps or the Rockies), but its stats alone are enough to give the average cyclist sleepless nights.

Taking Cyclist‘s route to the summit of this volcano, the climb is 92km long. I’ll just repeat that: 92 kilometres. Let’s compare that to some of the hardest climbs out there. The Stelvio: 24km. The Galibier: 35km. Pikes Peak in Colorado: 40km. None of them even come close. And then there’s the altitude. Mauna Kea tops out at 4,192m. That’s twice the height of the Col du Tourmalet. Except, of course, when you climb the Tourmalet, you start from almost 800m above sea level. When you climb Mauna Kea, you start with your back wheel dipped in the ocean. Any ride that includes over 4,000m of ascent would be considered a fairly major day out – but one that covers that elevation in one go, with no respite…?

Ah, but what about the gradient? Well, a height of 4,192m and a distance of 92km works out at an average gradient of 4.6%. That doesn’t sound too bad, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Mauna Kea is peppered with long stretches at 12%, 15%, even 20%. And just to add to the fun, some of it is on gravel. We reckon Mauna Kea is the toughest assignment any Cyclist journo has taken on, and it makes for a truly epic tale.

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