Last Saturday in Carlsbad…. there was some gnashing of teeth

This time the sufferfest was titled mildly, “Carlsbad Hill Routes”, and the weather pitched in with its best heat and humidity for another boiling Saturday hill ride.  You know it’s hot when you are looking to stop not even half way in for some ice water.  I kept trying to tell myself that much of the rest of the country experiences this kind of weather all summer long, but it still doesn’t seem to make it any more bearable.

We had quite a surprising turn out for such a hot day, with about twenty women gathering in the already hot sun.  With such a large group, it was a little difficult sorting into groups but fortunately the routes were overlapping the entire way.  The folks that were stuck with me in the A group were not too difficult to persuade to skip some of the additional, steeper climbs I had originally planned for the A route.  Jill and I scoped out the B route on Thursday morning and decided that with the added heat factor, the B route was truly enough for anyone to get a good workout.

Where we went…

Well, it might actually be easier to ask where we didn’t go.  The entire route ran within the bounds of the City of Carlsbad, missing only a few of the truly worst it has to offer (saving those for next time).  All of the groups started by ascending part way up Poinsettia, and then headed down Aviara for the warm up climb on College.  Braving the construction on Faraday, our first big climb to tick off for the day was the “Whitman-Tolkien” climb – 0.6 miles with an average grade of 8%, enough to qualify as a category 4 climb on Strava.  There are some great views from this spot to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and the ocean beyond.

Sabine and Vivienne at the top of Tolkien with the view in the background

Sabine and Vivienne at the top of Tolkien with the view in the background

Jill always smiles at the top of the hill

Jill always smiles at the top of the hill

Melina and Brielle reach the top of Tolkien

Melina and Brielle reach the top of Tolkien

The El Fuerte Series

After the steeper climb on Whitman-Tolkien, we eased our way around to rejoin the C route with a mild ascent up Frost Avenue, eventually snaking up a few steeper ramps to Faraday, which was to take us over to our next challenging series – the El Fuerte Series.

I used to be somewhat obsessed with El Fuerte street. Meaning “the strong” in Spanish, when we first moved to Carlsbad five years ago my husband and I always joked how this street was aptly named.  Almost any way you go on it, it’s difficult.  The first portion heading south, from Faraday to El Palomar, is doable with only half the hill at an 8% grade.  The C route turned left at this point, and I heard later the B group also decided to skip the next portion, which while approaching unreasonable, is not the most unreasonable part of that road (that would be later on the A route, which we decided to skip and save for another day).  Nicknamed “El Fuerte Hard Way” on Strava, the difficult portion of this hill is a solid 9%.  I’d say it feels much worse than that maybe sounds.  You get up to the first stop sign, and there’s a tiny respite where the grade slackens and there’s some shade, and then all of a sudden the hill hits you again for your last breathless two tenths of a mile.  We earned a break at this point, and while I’m sure my group was wondering what kind of a break climbing to the fire station on RSF was, eventually after an ice water break at my house, we cruised down Levante and on El Camino Real for a solid 4 mile respite.


Alga seems like it should be easier than it feels.  There’s at least quite a bit of shade as you climb, I’ll say that for it.  You can also say that it’s easier than turning on Alicante and finishing up the worst part of El Fuerte I alluded to earlier (i.e., at least it’s not that).  But I can’t say that first steep 9% portion ever feels easier.  While the C group made a left just before Alga starts to turn its ugly on, the A and B groups headed all the way to the top before looping around through a neighborhood most likely none of you had been through before.  And of course, it provided the opportunity for another surprise hill treat (>12% for a very short ramp – because why else would I go that way).

The Rest

It doesn’t seem possible to go anywhere without climbing in Carlsbad, and our return route took us up what at this point seemed like a “mild” grade on Alicante, and out El Camino to finish with one last flourish up the back side of Tamarack before heading down to the coast for a cool down.

Did we find every hill in Carlsbad?

No, we certainly did not.  In fact, in the future, I’m thinking about titling the route “All the other hills in Carlsbad”, or “Every hill we didn’t find on that last ride”.  That will be a super fun one, and you should look out for it!

Overall ride stats:  ~36 miles with 3700 ft climbing, a solid >100ft/mile ratio

I hope you all enjoyed some nice cool drinks when you returned home, perhaps followed by a nap in the shade.

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