Cycling Apex from Hedley
Ride 21.1 km to 1,876m gaining 1,357m at 6.4% average grade.
This gorgeous Canadian bike climb is located 320 km east of Vancouver at the edge of the Northern Cascades and the Intermontaine Belt (a physiogeological region in the Pacific Northwest). The climb is named after Apex Mountain which is located in the BC interior west of Penticton.
Thanks much to Jos Beckers, Vancouver, BC, CAN for his this write up and all the photographs on for this climb.
Hedley-Nickle Plate Climb, British Columbia - Climbed by Jos Beckers and Matt Church of the Fraser River Fuggitivi cycling club (New Westminster, BC) on July 21, 2018
The second ranked gravel climb on this page after McBride Peak, the Hedley- Nickle Plate climb is also known as the “APEX, the hard way!” segment on Strava. As of August 2018 some 50 attempts had been recorded for the climb with climbing times ranging from 1hr 45 mins to over 3.5 hours. Given the number of attempts we were surprised this iconic climb wasn’t listed on PJAMM cycling, so here it is.
Start of the climb.
The entire climb is dirt and rock, mostly very well graded but with some looser segments around rock outcrops after the initial stitchback sections. A gravel or cyclocross type bike is recommended for this climb although certainly the climb is doable with a properly equipped and geared road bike. One of us used a Specialized Roubaix with a compact chainring (34t) and 32 cassette and lightly treaded tires, the other a similarly equipped Giant TCX cross bike. Puncture resistant rubber is important on this climb given the sharp rocks and gravel.
The initial part of the climb is steepest and characterized by many switchbacks.
Cyclist coming up the hairpins.
On the harder packed and rocky sections it is reasonably possible to stand and power up the grade but these sections are few and far between and interspersed with looser but well graded gravel. The entire bottom part of the climb is characterized by great views of the Similkameen Valley, both west and east. At the end of the switchback sections there is a rocky outcrop which overlooks the part of the climb just travelled.
View down of the hairpins.
Beyond that the road conditions worsen temporarily with several loose sections around rock outcrops. Once entering the forest the road conditions improve again and the gradient slackens. At the end of the forest section you will enter the alpine and there are once again great views to be had.
Entering the Alpine section of the climb.
The gradient also continues to slacken. Once you reach the former Barrick Nickle-Plate mine you will have almost made it, only a couple more kilometers of continually better graded road and easy gradients to be tackled. The gentle summit is near Nickle Plate lake.
To your right you will see a cemetery with several unmarked graves associated with former mining operations. From here the road becomes undulating and will subsequently start descending towards APEX passing the Nickle Plate cross-country ski area along the way. If descending the paved road from APEX towards either Penticton or Green Mountain Road, watch out for those huge cattle guards on the straights and loose gravel in the switchback turns.
The climb has a southern exposure which can make it very hot in summer. Given the climbing time and remoteness of the area, make sure to bring sufficient hydration and nutrition. While we came across a handful of cars and one motorcyclist during our longish ascent, once leaving Hwy 3 behind, you may not encounter a single soul until hitting the APEX ski resort, which is mostly deserted in summer.
The two of us made the mistake of not refueling in Hedley after tackling the 30 km headwind and uphill section from Keremeos to the start of the climb (and after tackling the Fairview gravel climb between Oliver and Keremeos before that). We ended up spending much more time on the climb than needed, and most of that mid-day time somewhat undernourished (gels and cliff bars only take you so far) and having to manage our water supply. We were lucky enough to find a functioning water hose on the side of the deserted APEX Mountain Inn. Proper nutrition wasn’t had until much later, after rejoining Hwy 3a. The pie at the Twin Lakes grocery store and gas station tasted awesome but lunch at 4:30pm was a little late for our liking. From there on, if like us you started in Osoyoos, the long descent through the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area with gradients that neither require pedaling or braking, is about as awesome as cycling gets.