Category Archives: Training

Ridge to Ridge to Ridge

Ridge to ridge to ridge ride plus elevation profile - elevation data annotated, no satellite imagery. Click to enlarge. Depending on your browser, you may have to click a second time on the image to zoom in and see the detail.Ridge to ridge to ridge ride plus elevation profile – elevation data annotated, no satellite imagery. Click to enlarge. Depending on your browser, you may have to click a second time on the image to zoom in and see the detail.

My favorite geological feature in Birmingham is the long ridge lines that run northeast/southwest marking the end of the Appalachian Mountain chain. A long time ago, I hypothesized that if you selected a northwest/southeast route, you would maximize your climbing by crossing all the ridge lines. I discovered over the years, though, that this is incorrect because you also have to cross all the valleys. To maximize your climbing in Birmingham, you have to pick a single ridge and find all the roads that criss-cross it on both sides. Still, those northwest/southeast routes have the most overlooks and the most variety because you are seeing different areas from different heights. Plus, it becomes a challenge to find the route that minimizes the distance across the valley to get to the next hill.

View from Vestavia Dr, the highest pt on Shades Mountain at 1167'. Ridges annotated north towards Birmingham. Click to enlarge.View from Vestavia Dr, the highest pt on Shades Mountain at 1167′. Ridges annotated north towards Birmingham. Click to enlarge.

View from the Healthsouth Helicopter Hill with annotated ridges to the southeast - too low to see Double Oak beyond the Hugh Daniel ridge line. Click to enlarge.View from the Healthsouth Helicopter Hill with annotated ridges to the southeast – too low to see Double Oak beyond the Hugh Daniel ridge line. Click to enlarge.

View from the double oak cliffs at the turnaround point. Annotated ridges beyond Chelsea. Click to enlarge.View from the double oak cliffs at the turnaround point. Annotated ridges beyond Chelsea. Click to enlarge.

One day as I was riding on Dolly Ridge on my way back from riding out to Double Oak, I realized that there was a spot near the top where you can see all the ridges that you just crossed to get to double oak. It got me thinking about how many different ridges you can cross on one ride in Birmingham. I named that ride the “ridge-to-ridge” ride, and expanded it quickly to include all the ridges from Red Mountain on the southeast side of Birmingham to the Double Oak ridge lines at the edge of the Coosa River valley. The ride can be extended further to hit part of the Signal Mountain ridge line and several other ridges all the way to Flagpole Mountain on the other side of the Coosa River where you could then pick up the Sylacauga ridges and eventually make it to Georgia. That would be a nice 250+ mile round trip ride that I hope to do some day, especially if I could make it all the way over to the long Callaway Gardens / Woodbury ridge line which is such an interesting geological feature so far south in Georgia.

Perhaps what makes a ride like this the most interesting isn’t the 40 ridge crossings (numbered and labeled in red), but rather the 23 spots on the route (numbered and labeled black) that are non-traditional connectors between roads. These make for nice intermediate challenges (can you clear a section of trail without putting a foot down) on a long ride. I’ve also numbered and labeled the major creek and valley crossings in blue as well as a select number of locations around town in purple.

Ridge to ridge to ridge ride annotated with hires 2015 satellite data (USGS orthoimagery 1ft resolution). Click to enlarge and zoom. Red numbers are ridge crossings. Black numbers are non-car accessible points and trails. Blue numbers are creek and valley crossings. Purple unnumbered labels are other various points of interest. (Click to enlarge, depending on your browser you may have to click the loaded image to zoom)Ridge to ridge to ridge ride annotated with hires 2015 satellite data (USGS orthoimagery 1ft resolution). Click to enlarge and zoom. Red numbers are ridge crossings. Black numbers are non-car accessible points and trails. Blue numbers are creek and valley crossings. Purple unnumbered labels are other various points of interest. (Click to enlarge, depending on your browser you may have to click the loaded image to zoom)

Close to 30 different ridge crossings on this ride – will post annotated topocreator.com map soon to my blog.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

Here’s a gallery of photos selected from the 64 pics I took during the ride yesterday.

Finally, just how hilly is a ride like this, check out the iBike data!

iBike data for the ridge-to-ridge-to-ridge ride. Click to enlarge.iBike data for the ridge-to-ridge-to-ridge ride. Click to enlarge.

Mountains and valleys in the Alabama snow

Snow showers visible from the top of Blount Mountain near Straight Mountain, Alabama.Snow showers visible from the top of Blount Mountain near the community of Straight Mountain, Alabama. For those that have done the Tour de Blue, this is the overlook that is used as a rest stop just past Walker Gap.

During my Sleeping Giants adventure last week, I rode in shorts and a short sleeve jersey unzipped because the temp got up into the 70s even with the rain. Yesterday, exactly one week later, the temperature stayed in the upper 20s all day except towards the end when the sun came out and I experienced some of the heat island effect of Birmingham. During the ride, I was also able to experience something that doesn’t happen very often here in Alabama – intermittent convective snow showers. These are basically the same thing as summer rain showers, except with snow instead. In between the showers were very brief periods of blue sky and sun as well as gray overcast skies. The pic above is from the top of Blount Mountain after climbing up US Hwy 231 in a snow shower (video below). Note how you can see two distinct snow showers obscuring different parts of the valley and ridges below.

My goal for this ride was to head northeast of Birmingham because that is where the most snow was going to be. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to make it all the way up to Lookout Mountain, so I settled for Chandler Mountain, which at 1500′ would have the highest chance of accumulating snowfall. There wasn’t a lot of snow in any one of the showers, and I don’t think it had snowed at all when I climbed up the 1 mile Cat 3 Chandler Mountain wall used as the finish of the Sumataunga Training race series. I turned around at the top and decided to head back all the way across Pine Mountain / Straight Mountain / Blount Mountain to get back to Birmingham.

This really long mountain has a lake in the middle of the mountain called “Inland Lake”, and I noticed the turn for the east side boat ramp, which I plan to explore on another ride another day. In the meantime, check out the maps and pics from the ride.

Annotated Garmin 1000 elevation profile - interesting to compare the relative size of climbs (particularly Vestavia Dr, Karl Daly, Walker Gap, Chandler Mountain, and US 231). Click to enlarge.Annotated Garmin 1000 elevation profile – interesting to compare the relative size of climbs (particularly Vestavia Dr, Karl Daly, Walker Gap, Chandler Mountain, and US 231). Click to enlarge.

Tri-county annotated topocreator map of the ridges and valleys on this ride. Click to enlarge and see detail.Tri-county annotated topocreator map of the ridges and valleys on this ride. Click to enlarge and see detail.

Earth slides.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

Icicles, waterfall, and snow.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

Abandoned water tower climb across the valley from the cell tower climb.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

Downtown Birmingham in the distance, January 2012 tornado damage path in the foreground.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on