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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you Hernando!