Just a little Observation

February 23, 2016 § 30 Comments

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.”

“Deer Creek?”

“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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§ 30 Responses to Just a little Observation

  • Liz says:

    Congratulations. I used to work in that area and those roads are insane. Not really even fun to go down on a bike.

  • dangerstu says:

    Wow takes me back, we used to do a training ride on Tuesdays. After smashing our brains out for a couple of hours we would typically end with this beauty http://nottstalgia.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=11066. Cycling keeping the old and leaky, young and stupid.

  • Steve says:

    Is this steeper than getting up to the Topanga Microwave Tower at Stunt and Schueren via Las Flores Canyon. That road is crazy steep at the top. I’ve only come down it.

  • gcziko says:

    Interesting. That was one of the first climbs I did after moving to L.A. Wasn’t so bad. But then I used my “all-road” bike with more teeth on the rear cog than a great white. And I could have probably climbed it faster walking–backwards!


    • fsethd says:

      The whole point behind posting “It was hard” stories is so that someone will tell you how easy it was.

  • Jim Baross says:

    Harder than Fargo St.? On Feb 23, 2016 3:01 AM, “Cycling in the South Bay” wrote:

    > fsethd posted: “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 th” >

  • Waldo says:

    You really should come north for the Nifty Ten Fifty.

  • jim says:

    Try Nye’s Wall on Nye’s Place Road in Laguna. Also .10 of a mile but steeper.

  • Woody Foster says:

    I think I’ve ridden that climb. Joins up with Tuna canyon at the top?? Did it on my ol’ heavy weight bike with the triple chainring and almost jacknifed on the way up. It it r e a l l y insanely steep but only for a few hundred meters in one place. So steep that if you stand you can spin the rear wheel and if you sit you have trouble keeping the front wheel on the ground.
    It would be interesting to see you drive your prius up there!

    • fsethd says:

      The great thing about posting tidbits like this is you quickly learn that everyone’s done it and it’s not that hard. But it’s funny how empty the road is and how there are only a handful of people on Strava who’ve done it. Time warp thingy?

  • LesB says:

    Yellow Hill Road off Yerba Buena in Malibu.

    Only know the legend, never tried it because by the time I get way out thata ways I’m too thrashed so I do Cotharin instead.

  • Jeff (former Topanga resident) says:

    Joe Yule took new girl and co. (including myself) on a training ride in preparation for BWR. He kept mumbling about those other motherf**kers are secretly training so he was going to ‘one up’ those bastards! Ask him about it the next time you him. 😉

  • DougJ says:

    Not gonna do it. Root cellar to dig.

  • Winemaker says:

    I spent my formative years (bikewise and otherwise) living near the intersection of Sherman Way and Winnetka…in the 60’s, Those roads all around and off of Topanga and Old Topanga (and Stunt and Piuma and all that other stuff) were dirt; full of hippies and people getting high and drinking (of course) red wine. 50 mile rides often took 4 or 5 hours because well, hippies, and getting high, and red wine….Ma Patterson used to be pissed and would check my bloodshot eyes…I think she knew, but I already KNEW the tactic of “Deny, Deny, Deny”.

  • JR says:

    Well, there was a ride I did Waaaay up north, taking the 5 as to the border, rode our bikes through Peace crossing, then around White rock on Marine Drive…( beautiful ride), except for this one street called oxford… Man, after a few double/triple dare you’s and a few bets on the side… yeah well, testosterone aside, that is one of the Meanest little climbs I have ever seen…30+% grade.. and if you fall over attempting it… GL with that…… just roll out to the sidewalk that has steps in it, you Might be able to catch yourself from rolling all the way back down….

  • SteveC says:

    Damn. I checked out the Strava file on this one. I think I’ll stick to cleaning out my garage and just say I did it but Garmin was on the fritz that day.

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