This is the hardest single-malt climb, aged 35 years, in the LA area. Feel free to disagree, but you will be wrong.
One of my buddies has a passion for things that don’t make sense, and he has this in common with a billion other cyclists. He texted me the other day. “What are you doing on Sunday?”
“I’m doing the hardest climb in the LA area. Single malt, aged 35 years.”
“Lots harder than Deer Creek.”
There was a pause because everyone knows there isn’t anything harder than Deer Creek.
“Santa Monica Mountains?”
More silence. “Where?”
“In Team Helen’s back yard. And hardly any of them have ever done it.”
I could hear his jaw flex through the text. “Really, now?”
“So how hard is hard?”
“It’s 30 percent for .1 mile. The total climb is about fifteen minutes.”
“How would you know that? You don’t use Strava.”
“I’m just making it up. But it’s still the hardest climb and none of your boys have still ever done it and it’s still on their porch stoop.”
“I’m in,” he said.
“I knew you would be the minute I said ‘hard.'”
“Can I bring people?”
“Instead of worrying about bringing people, you should worry about bringing gears.”
“Check,” he said.
On Sunday he showed up with a cadre of climbers. Although Michael is a big boy, he climbs like crazy, and he was surrounded by tiny people who climbed even crazier. Holloway, Jeff Mayhem, Strava Jr., a couple of juniors on the Specialized Euro squad; they were all there.
We turned up Topanga from PCH and the questions came rapid-fire. “Where is it? What’s the name of the road?”
“It can’t be here! I know all these roads.”
As we got halfway up Topanga I broke the bad news. “Boys, we’re going up Observation.”
The conversation ended as each rider contemplated his rear cog. Some had heard of it, none had done it. We turned left onto Grand View and then onto Observation, which goes down at first, which is nice, and then up, which isn’t.
A couple of guys got lost, breaking the rule of “If you don’t know the way, wait for the guy who does, even if he’s old and slow and has a leaky prostate.” We regrouped at the top, if “regroup” is what you call a bunch of broken people who aren’t ever again going to be un-broke.
Nobody said anything but they didn’t have to. When I got back home it had been memorialized as a segment called “Seth’s Hell.” Even though I was last.
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