Wuling Pass West - #13 hardest bike climb in the world.
Taiwan may very well be the cycling capital of Asia. Cycling is extremely popular and well-supported on this tiny island just off the coast of China. It is also home to three Top 100 World Bike Climbs, including numbers two (Wuling Pass North) and 13 (Wuling Pass West). In May 2019 we travelled to Asia to climb the top climbs by bike there -- the three ascents of Wuling Pass, the four ascents of Mt. Fuji, Japan ( Subaru approach is the most popular), and Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand. We are in the process of identifying and recording the other top road bike climbs in Taiwan.
TAIWAN KOM CHALLENGE
The Taiwan KOM Challenge is one of the greatest road bike climbing races in the world, and is the most significant cycling race in Asia. This race started in 2012 and begins 20 kilometers south of Taroko Gorge, in the town of Hualien, and ends at Wuling Pass (the highest paved road in Taiwan). This exceptional bike race includes 3,500 participants, is held in October each year and has a six hour time cut-off. Many professional riders, including elites such as Cadel Evans (winner of the 2011 Tour de France) and Vincenzo Nibali (winner of the 2014 Tour de France, and the 2010 Vuelta a España).
Elevation Profile for entire race.
Elevation Profile for final km.
Here is an email Lee Rodgers, Communications Director/Official Coach Taiwan KOM sent us on May 19, 2019 (we tried meeting up for dinner in Hualien but our schedules unfortunately did not coincide):
Here's an article I wrote in 2015 that gives some insight: https://www.pezcyclingnews.com/racing/racenews14/kom-challenge-2014/
Briefly, as of May 2019 the race has gone from less than 250 riders (with just 10 foreigners) in 2010 ('first' edition but in its true KOM form it's been on since 2012), and we had 770 riders last year with over 400 foreigners.
Top pros are coming now, Nibali, Evans, Pooley, EF-Drapa & Katusha this year, also Bigla from the women's side. We could have more than 1000 riders but have to limit the number due to safety.
We also have now the Spring and Summer sportif versions, the Spring Road tot KOM and summer edition also.
My position: I'm the Communications Director and responsible for inviting the foreign professional riders and the international media and making sure they are safe and taken care of whilst here. We are quite unique here in Asia and not far from it in the rest of the world in having equal prize money for both men and women as we fully support the development of the and encouragement of women in the sport, we have a zero tolerance with regards to doping, and Olympic committee drug testing on the day.
Lee Rogers Lee with Nicole Cooke, Olympic and World Champ turned
journo at the Taiwan KOM 2014 Challenge Presentation.
Photo: Taiwan Cyclist Federation.
#1 MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB IN TAIWAN
WULING PASS NORTH
Wuling North is the second hardest bike climb in the world behind only the incomparable Mauna Kea Volcano, Island of Hawaii, USA. At 14 miles, climbing to an altitude over 10,000’ (3,275m), with grades exceeding 30%, this climb is nearly unparalleled in the world. Wuling North places #5 for steepest 5 kilometer (16.5%) and #2 for the world’s steepest 10 kilometer at 13.4% (behind only World #6 road bike climb Alpe Fuori).
That is a BRUTAL elevation profile.
This bike climb is so remote it does not even have a Strava segment. Due to getting a late start on for our Wuling North ride (we foolishly tried to climb it on the same day after riding Wuling West) and falling on a steep moss covered segment, we abandoned the last four miles to the bottom of the climb and only did the last 10 miles. Thus, this monstrous climb remains to be fully documented by PJAMM, or anyone else we’ve heard from, for that matter.
#2 MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB IN TAIWAN
WULING PASS WEST
Wuling Pass West -- one mile from the summit.
Cycling Wuling Pass from the west out of Xiulin Township in central Taiwan is a grueling 40 kilometer (24.7 mile) climb to 3,300 m (10,813’), gaining 2600 meters (8,530’) at 6.4% average grade. With those statistics as a foundation, riding Wuling Pass from the west ranks as the 12th most difficult bike climb in the world.
Wuling West is not as popular as the eastern approach, but it is extremely challenging and offers a different cycling experience. While the eastern approach goes through the breathtaking Taroko Gorge at the beginning of the ride, the western approach takes us through several towns over the first half of the climb.
Final approach to the summit.
Summit sign and viewpoint bottom right center of photo -- across from parking lot.
#3 MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB IN TAIWAN
WULING PASS EAST
Wuling Pass East is one of the most epic and scenic bike climbs in the world.
Located in Central Taiwan within Taroko National Park, Wuling Pass is a saddle between Mt. Hehuan’s main peak and it’s east peak. Though not the highest point in Taiwan, at 3,275 meters (about 10,745 feet) above sea level, Wuling is the highest point in Taiwan that is accessible by highway (via Highway 14). You can read more about Mt. Hehuan here.
Aerial drone photo -- view east from 6 kilometers into the climb, Pacific Ocean in the background.
This is an extremely challenging road bike climb and the second longest in the world, behind Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA (100.1 km/62.2 miles). Because the formula we use (FIETS) penalizes climbs that have significant descents in them, Wuling Pass East “only” ranks 77th in the world (Wuling North is #2, and Wuling West #13 -- primarily because they are shorter, steeper overall and have no meaningful descents). However, at 87.4 kilometers (54.3 miles), gaining 3,459 meters (11,349’) to a peak of 3,158 meters (10,361’) at 3.6% average grade (a mile near the top averages 10% at around 8,500’ altitude), this is a beast of a climb.
There are many tunnels along the Wuling East route.
While the challenge of this climb alone justifies its inclusion on all road bike climbing bucket lists, it is Taroko Gorge that separates Wuling East from nearly all other climbs in the world. Taroko Gorge is within Taroko National Park (est. 1986; 355 square miles/227,000 acres), one of nine National Parks on the island of Taiwan. Taroko Gorge is composed of metamorphic rocks, including marble. It is the smooth polished marble walls carved by the Liwu River which is absolutely remarkable. We’ve never seen anything like it -- stunning!