Sassafras Mountain



South Carolina mountains annotated

My grandmother died on Saturday, and since we were already in South Carolina when we found out, we decided to stay here until the funeral on Wednesday. Today I went for a ride up Sassafras Mountain that brought back lots and lots of memories. The last time I did this ride in the middle of the summer was with my roommate and teammate from Clemson University, Bert Hull. We did the ride in the middle of summer from 10-3PM on what was probably the hottest day of the year. Well, here we are close to 15 years later and I pretty much did the same ride again today from 10-3PM on an incredibly hot day (see temp graph below) –

Sassafras Mountain ride with temperature and elevation – annotated

I have climbed Sassafras a few times in the past few years, but always on our fall break trip, never in the middle of the season. I chose a route that was similar to the route that Darol Timberlake and I used the very first time I ever climbed Sassafras. I just spent a few days at Darol’s house while racing in Charlotte so that was special, too. Even though I was kinda tired from the 5 day omnium that ended yesterday, I thought I would try and hit the Sassafras climb hard. Well, I did the Beasley Gap climb pretty hard (304 watts for 14 minutes) on the way out there and pretty much decided after that the rest of the ride was going to be pure survival, including the climb up Sassafras.

The Sassafras descent, however, was up for grabs and I hit a new speed record (62.5mph) on the freshly re-paved road.

Chimney Top descent to Rocky Bottom

I may have gone faster on the descent, but Jeremiah Bishop smoked me on the climb by 2mph. I was pretty much in survival mode, though, on the climb after overreaching on the Beasley Gap climb.

Finally, here is a map with some of the more popular climbs in the Greenville area highlighted.

Sassafras area map with a couple popular climbs annotated


5 responses to “Sassafras Mountain”

  1. Billy Ritch Avatar
    Billy Ritch

    Sorry to hear of your loss. I do enjoy reading your descriptions of rides and races though.

  2. kartoone Avatar

    Thanks Billy. I enjoy writing them, too. This corner of South Carolina is such an amazing place to ride. It’s no wonder there are a lot of pros and up and coming pros that call this area their home.

  3. aaronwest Avatar

    Also sorry to hear of your loss, but thanks for sharing about Sassafras. Do you possibly know the average / highest grade going up? I have heard it’s a tougher climb than Caesar’s Head.

    1. kartoone Avatar

      Aaron, I’ve done both climbs and would agree that Sassafras is a harder climb because there are several sections that are extremely steep and then a couple downhill and flat sections which makes it hard to get into any kind of rhythm on the climb. As far as the gradients go, here is my iBike data for the climb starting at the intersection of Hwy 178 in Rocky Bottom. You’ll note that there are two different sections with gradients just over 20% … 21% for the first one and 20.2% for the second one. The toughest section, though, is a nearly quarter mile long section with average gradient around 18%.

      1. aaronwest Avatar

        That is great, thanks so much. That looks to be a tough climb, especially the steep spikes and the .25 mile section, but doable even for weak legs like mine. I’ll give it a try soon. Thanks again!

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