Climb summary by Dan Tavelli, West Hartford CT
The Ratlum climb is more challenging than the average grade of less than 5% suggests. It’s essentially a staircase profile, so you’re either cruising along a flat stretch or going straight uphill.
Coming north up Reservoir Rd the climb starts off reasonable enough with a scenic view of Lake McDonough. As you turn right onto Ratlum Rd (where the main strava segment begins) it kicks up sharply for a quarter mile averaging nearly 10%.
Relax (or keep cranking!) for the next half mile on a slightly downhill stretch as you pass Ski Sundown ski area on your right. It's back to business as the road narrows and winds uphill with a half mile at 10% including a tenth mile at over 14% (“stupidly steep” segment). Catch your breath with a flat stretch before sprinting up the shortest of the five stairs. After a brief flat it's up again with a now familiar quarter mile ~10% step.
At the top of the fourth step turn right onto Ratlum Mountain Rd and pick up all the speed you can get on a short downhill stretch as you come into "Satan's elbow". A devilish 0.4mi and the hardest part of the climb awaits as the road bends hard right and reaches grades in excess of 20%. The hill finally levels off a bit as you hit the peak.
For a fun descent continue straight and follow Wright Rd as it winds its way down to Cherry Brook Rd (route 179).