Cycling Mount Leinster West
Ride 7.6 kilometers gaining 685 meters at 9.1% average grade.
Climb summary by PJAMM ambassador Stephen Rochford of Longwood, Co and Meath, Ireland
Mount Leinster West - The toughest climb in Ireland?
Ireland doesn't have really high mountains, most of our climbs are little more than foothills compared to the Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites, or any of the great ranges of the Americas. Many of our most famous climbs such as the Sally Gap are far more notable for their scenery than difficulty.
Mount Leinster is a spectacular exception to this. There are several approaches to the mountain but they all converge at the 9 Stones car park where the road up to the TV antenna starts. The mountain forms part of the Blackstairs mountain range, a small range that rises above the flat plains of the south east of the Irish countryside.
Starting in the village of Borris you have about 5km of rolling lanes through the countryside to get the legs warmed up. The roads are in fairly good condition and are well signposted as part of the 9 Stones cycling route or the Mount Leinster drive. From once we reach the junction at Tomduff the proper climbing starts. The strava segment says that it is 6.4km at 10% grade, however it is probably better to split this into two parts. The first section is a little over 3.5km with an average gradient of 7.5%. There are a few short ramps in this part where the road tips up into the low teens but generally speaking it is fairly steady. When we get to the 9 Stones car park things change pretty quickly. Once we go through the gate the first few hundred meters at 6-7% are through the pine forest, but the trees soon disappear and you are left exposed to the elements as you crawl slowly up the shoulder of the mountain. The road straight away pitches up to 15% and for the next 2.5km it rarely goes below that. There is a section where you get down to between 10 and 12% and this feels like a false flat because either side of it you are scraping close to 20%. The last km is the toughest. It really is just at a horrible angle and you are at close to your maximum effort just trying to keep moving forward.
While the roadway surface is in good condition for climbing, it is not a great road to descend. The long straight stretch and -15% mean things can get very fast really quickly and there are plenty of small bumps and irregularities that could put an end to your fun in a flash.
One of the most torturous aspects of this climb is how straight the majority of the route to the top is. The pain is right there in front of you all the way. It is only in the last 250m that there is a chicane that obscures your view of the very top of the climb at the gates of the mast. As Mount Leinster is the highest point in the Blackstairs mountain range the views all the way up from the car park are magnificent, weather permitting. You really need to do this climb on a clear day to appreciate it fully.
So is this Ireland's toughest climb? In a word, Yes.
Truskmore has a longer tough section, 4km at 10.4% (as opposed to 2.5km @ 13.4%) and plenty of high percentage ramps, but as a whole climb Mount Leinster trumps it for pure sustained brutality.
It's a beast.