Apagua Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

34 mi
11,714 ft
6.5 %


Page Contributor(s): Hernando Bermudez, Bellevue, WA, USA; Ties Arts, Bussem, Netherlands.


This 34 mile bike climb is located in Provincia de Cotopaxi, Ecuador . The average gradient is 6.5% and there is a total elevation gain of 11,714 ft, finishing at 13,062 ft.

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Difficulty: Extreme



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Feb 1, 2024
difficulty: Extreme
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 3
Feb 1, 2024
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 3
This climb begins at 200 meters above sea level and ends at 4000 meters above sea level in a dry and cold paramo climate. There may be a lot of chance of rain and the road is in fairly good condition, it has many tight and steep curves. You will be amazed by the beautiful view and the different climatic floors that you cross. 🚵@steve_onbike 📸@bodega.producciones
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photo collage, road sign reads "Bienvenidos a Apagua"; green mountain lake, cyclist rides on roadway surrounded by green forest

Cycling Apagua

Ride 41 miles gaining 11,854’ at 5.4% average grade.

A World Top 20 Road Bike Climb.

Climb report by PJAMM ambassador Hernando Bermudez of Bellevue, Washington.

The ride starts in the town of La Mana

Ride begins in town of La Mana.

New Year’s Eve was the second day of my trip to Ecuador. After a night in a hotel in Quito we had planned to start our drive to La Mana around 5 a.m. to leave as much daylight as possible for what promised to be a long day of climbing. We ended up getting on the road around 6 a.m. and made reasonably good time to Zumbahua where our hotel for the night was located. Rather than descending straight down the mountain towards La Mana we decided to take the fifteen minute or so detour to the Quilotoa Lagoon, a gorgeous caldera lake with green tinted waters.  Based on this and my one other experience of visiting a caldera lake (Crater Lake in Oregon) I expect them all to be some of the most beautiful places on earth, so if you’re planning on riding Apagua I highly recommend planning to visit Quilotoa as well.

Cycling Apagua, Ecuador  - view looking down over caldera lake, green water of Quilotoa Lagoon

After our little pitstop we started the drive down the other side of the mountain where I was introduced to the Ecuadorian New Year’s Eve tradition of "Las Viudas,” sets of kids and teenagers dressed in widow costumes asking for contributions on the side of the road. We would encounter them again while finishing the climb on the bike where they provided some much-needed encouragement as I went by.

Cycling Apagua, Ecuador  - PJAMM Cyclist rides past "Las Viudas", Ecuadorian New Year's Tradition

We reached La Mana around noon, bought some sports drinks and bread, and begun what would end up being the six and half hour climb up the mountain.

Cycling Apagua, Ecuador  - red SAG vehicle with bikes strapped to back parked on road side next to green sign for La Mana

Although it should’ve been clear from the profile and it’s top 15 world rating that this is a monster of a climb, I proceeded to completely mess up my pacing on the easier lower slopes, disregarding the mid-day heat and pushing too hard. As we hit mile 15 and the gradients went from 4-5% to above 10%, I paid dearly for my miscalculation to the extent that when I stopped to refill my bottles around mile 18, I felt faint and had to sit down on the side of the road.

Cycling Apagua, Ecuador  - views of PJAMM cyclist along the climb, Ecuadorian mountain towns, lush green landscape

Such must’ve been my look of distress that some kind tourists who had stopped to take some pictures proceeded to probably save the rest of the trip by gifting me a massive block of Panela, that wondrous South American product which is basically compacted cane sugar (read more about it here). Eating some of it brought me back to life and I proceeded to get back on the bike, unsure if I would be able to finish the ride up this massive mountain. It was around this time that the second stroke of luck hit when the overcast skies turned into a misty fog which cooled my body down and helped me control my heart rate a little further.

Cycling Apagua, Ecuador  - photo collage shows views along the climb; misty, foggy day in the green forested mountains

The 20-mile second half of the climb was a slog. Not only does this back section have slopes averaging about 7% but I proceeded to get stuck on my lowest gear when the battery on my electronic shifting ran out. Thanks to Esteban’s constant encouragement and the energy from eating panela, I managed to complete the climb just after night had fallen. As soon as my Garmin head unit told me I had reached the end I proceeded to get off the bike and collapse into the passenger seat of the SAG car. I had survived the hardest climb of my life and could now let my body recover for a day to hopefully be able to tackle the two climbs on the Chimborazo 0-5000m route.

Top of the climb in the small town of Apagua

Climb finish.

Thank you Hernando!