Tag Archives: climbing

Adventure Home in the Apps

View of the Great Smoky Mountains from near the top of Cherohala Skyway.

“Apps” as in the Appalachian Mountains, not mobile apps or webapps – although both of those were discussed at the ACM Computing Conference I was attending in Gatlinburg, TN. I have been attending this conference in Gatlinburg every year for the past 13 years (including this year). Since I didn’t start my cycling blog until Summer 2008, my first reports on our Gatlinburg adventures were on our old family blog. I’ve had so many adventures over the years in Gatlinburg as documented below –

416 miles, 4 states, 15 counties, 37K+ feet of climbing – Gatlinburg, TN to Hoover, AL via Clingman’s, Cherohala, Lookout Mountain, Little River Canyon, and Karl Daly

Day 1 – Gatlinburg, TN to Chattanooga, TN via Clingman’s Dome and Cherohala Skyway
I wanted to get home to Birmingham relatively early on Sunday so I wanted to get as early a start as possible Saturday morning so I could get to the hotel in Chattanooga early and then leave again early Sunday morning. I woke up at 2:45AM even before my alarm went off (set for 3AM) so I was up, dressed, and ready to go shortly after 3AM. I left Gatlinburg with temps in the low 30s knowing that I would be fine for the first couple hours of the ride on the 25 mile climb up to the top of Clingman’s Dome.

My only concern was whether the sleet, snow, and rain from a couple days earlier would have dried out completely or left slippery roads. There were a few wet spots, and a few icy spots, but no ice completely covering any of the road so I could always find a clear path up. The temp did drop down into the mid 20s around Alum Cave, the coldest part of the climb, before rising again to 30-32 degF by the top of the mountain.

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Climbing, climbing, and more climbing

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Alpine glow Georgia style.

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It has been a busy week of riding and racing with the Cheaha Climbing camp on Thursday, the Southern Cross race on Saturday morning, and then following that up in the afternoon with a “5 Gap” ride up to the highest point in Georgia – Brasstown Bald. The sunset pic is from the top of the Brasstown Bald lookout tower at the turnaround point of my ride.

One of my favorite views in Alabama - the skyway epic ridge line heading out towards Adams Gap and Horn Mountain viewed from the Cheaha descent.One of my favorite views in Alabama – the skyway epic ridge line heading out towards Adams Gap and Horn Mountain viewed from the Cheaha descent.

Cheaha Climbing Camp
This year marked the inaugural Cheaha Climbing Camp – a new camp helping cyclists improve their climbing and prepare for the upcoming Cheaha Challenge and Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Ultra. I was invited to come ride with the group on Thursday, and we had quite the adventure with sleet at the beginning, thunder towards the end, and lots of cold, cold, cold, cold, rain in between. I had ridden over from Birmingham in beautiful cold weather in the upper 20s, but I could see the clouds rolling in behind me and by the time we left from the Bald Rock Lodge, the valleys were covered in clouds and sleet and rain. We persevered, though, and were able to warm up by the fireplace and share stories about racing and riding. I spoke about the challenges of Race Across America and shared some of the experiences and things I learned from the race.

Southern Cross Race
Fast forward to Saturday, and I headed over to Dahlonega, Georgia for Southern Cross. The cold rain and sleet that we got on Thursday in Alabama was a few inches of snow up in the higher elevations of Northern Georgia. Friday and Friday night were dry and windy so that the course was mostly dry. Only at the highest elevations of the course was there still some snow in the shade and a few muddy spots from melted snow but that just made the course even more beautiful. I started out at the front with the leaders, but struggled with the pace on the Winding Stair climb. My quads were really sore and hurt too much to try to keep up that pace, so I involuntarily backed off the pace (I wanted to go harder, but my legs said no) and watched everyone ride away as I continued to get passed by people on the climb. By the top of the climb, I had started to recover and catch people. This gave me extra motivation to push it hard. So I did – from there to the end – even getting a KOM on one of the later short climbs. I moved all the way back up to 9th place overall. Not the result I was hoping for, but it was still a lot of fun.

Brasstown Bald
Most years I have raced Southern Cross, I have brought my road bike to get in a good ride in the mountains on Sunday. This year I needed/wanted to get back to Birmingham sooner so I decided to do my normal Sunday ride on Saturday after the race. The weather had warmed up a bit, and it was a beautiful day climbing in the mountains. I wanted to climb all the way to the Fire Tower on top of Woody’s Gap from Dahlonega, but the last 300 feet or so were covered in snow and mud. After Woody’s, I climbed the backside of Wolfpen Gap and made my way over to Jack’s Gap and Brasstown Bald. Everything was deserted, and I ended up hitting the top right at sunset — which meant I rode the reverse route back to Dahlonega in the dark. That would have been fine, except I ran out of water and everything was closed. I climbed back up and over Wolfpen from the long side and fortunately made it to the gas station in Suches while the owners were still inside and they let me in to buy a couple drinks. I did the short reverse climb up Woody’s and then enjoyed the super long descent all the way back down to the Dahlonega reservoir.

I tallied up the climbing between the ride out to Cheaha on Thursday and the two rides in Dahlonega in Saturday and came up with some cool data. Check it out and pics from the rides below!

Climb Length Vdiff/Gain Avg (Max %) Peak Elevation
Thursday, Cheaha Climbing Camp
Cheaha from below Camp Mac 12.9 mi 1735’/2365′ 2.6% (16.8% ibike max) 2407′
Cheaha from Cheaha Lake 3.3 mi 1175’/1175′ 6.8% (11.7% ibike max) 2407′
Saturday, Southern Cross Race
Winding Stair (Climb #1) 11.2 mi 2001’/2812′ 4.7% (15% over 0.1km) 3394′
Cooper’s Gap (Climb #2) 9.9 mi 1345’/1829′ 3.5% (14% over 0.1km) 3299′
Saturday, Brasstown Bald 5 Gap
Woody’s Gap Fire Tower 13.2 mi 2324’/2709′ 3.4% (27.9% ibike max) 3540′
Wolfpen Gap Reverse 1.9 mi 559’/559′ 5.6% (13.5% ibike max) 3341′
Jack’s Gap / Brasstown Lookout Tower 10.2 mi 2764’/3063′ 5.4% (23.4% ibike max) 4784′
Wolfpen Gap 5.9 mi 1372’/1385′ 4.6% (13.5% ibike max) 3341′
Woody’s Gap Reverse 1.9 mi 388’/388′ 4.2% (8.2% ibike max) 3139′
Totals: 2 state high points 70.4 mi 13663’/16285′

The table above shows the stats for the major climbs I did on Thursday at Cheaha and Saturday at Southern Cross and up Brasstown Bald. I had a grand total of 339.8 miles over the three days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) with 131.5 miles on Thursday, 76.4 miles on Friday, and 131.9 miles on Saturday with a total of 38,203 feet of climbing. No wonder my legs were sore!!!

Annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge).Annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge).

Annotated heartrate summary.


10 mile HC climb up Brasstown Bald – annotated – click to enlarge.