Sunday, December 29, 2013

Friendly Christmas Ride to Mt Helix

It is supposedly winter but America's Finest City has been stuck in Indian Summer Mode for almost two weeks now. It's quite unreal considering all the wintry weather wreaking havoc in much of the country!
Rolling thru La Mesa on Allison Ave.
Anyhow, a few friends and I decided to try to make extra stomach room for our Christmas feast by going off on a morning ride from Cal Coast Bicycles in University Heights to the top of Mt Helix on the eastern edge of La Mesa. It's only a 23 miler, but with a good climb in the middle. We plotted a route of least traffic east on Meade & Orange Aves and eventually made our uneventful way to University Ave into La Mesa in relatively sparse traffic. One of our numbers was having a hard time keeping up, though. He had been riding on 9 consecutive days and his legs were tired of being told, Jen Voigt style, to 'shut up'. By the time we made the turn from La Mesa Blvd to Jackson St he had had enough and decided to turn back, leaving our group of five survivors to deal with the day's featured climb.
Out of the saddle on Alto Dr's 1st steep ramp.
No rest for the wicked...
What a difference a year makes! Around this time a year ago I would be on my 2nd lowest gear and still found the first ramp on Lemon St to the intersection with Alto Dr quite testy. This time around it was just a good little burn on the 4th lowest gear. We (really essentially me, since I was the ride's guide. Hahaha) opted for the steeper ascent up Alto Dr rather than continuing on Lemon to Fuerte and Mt Helix Dr... A decision I suspect my friends would try to pay me back at a later date since a couple of them were on the standard rather than compact gear rings, not quite the nicest thing to deploy on Alto Dr's two 14% grade ramps.

Alto Dr past the switchback.
The gang at the crest of Alto Dr on Mt Helix.
We all made it to the road's crest after a while, though. It was gorgeously clear out and a few locals were out hiking with their family up and down the mountain. One came across us enjoying the view and kindly took our group foto.

It sure wasn't lonely at the top of Mt Helix on Christmas Day!
What a spectacularly clear day to be riding up Mt Helix! Once we got onto the Mt Helix Dr rings there was plenty of mountain vista to feast our eyes on. Quite a few other hikers and cyclists had the same idea as ours and the stone Nature Theater on top was being quite well visited.

Mt Woodson (the left peak with antennae on top) & Iron Mtn (the distinctive pyramidal right center peak) from top of Mt Helix.
Rolling home through downtown La Mesa.
Alas, I was too lazy to go walk around the Yawkey Trail to peruse all the info boards identifying all the mountain peaks you can see from the various spots along the path. I did get a good look of Mt Woodson and Iron Mountain from an unfamiliar side, though. We loitered around for a while, enjoying the visual & atmospheric fruits of our labor before turning back to town, this time straight through the endlessly cute downtown La Mesa. It wasn't a very taxing ride, with the Mt Helix climb (Lemon St - Alto Dr - Mt Helix Dr) being only about 1.7 mile with 6% average gradient (max. grade 14% on two short-ish stretches). Definitely a good start to Christmas!


  1. Hi!
    On Sunday I am doing Mt Felix for the fist time!
    HOw does this climb compare to Honey Springs or Mt Soledad? I see that is is steep but rather short segments!
    Thanks for the blog!

  2. Hi, next sunday ill be doing MT Helix for the fist time,
    how does this climb compares to Mt Soledad or Honey Springs? Thanks for the blog!

  3. Hi Cesar. There are a few ways of climbing Helix, and most of them are very different from the long slogs of Soledad or Honey Springs indeed (well, unless you do Soledad from the Country Club or Bridges/Hillside Dr routes, those are similar to Helix; short but steep ramps with breaks in between).

    The most mellow route would be, if you start from La Mesa, to take Lemon east all the way to Fuerte, then go up Mt Helix Dr all the way to the top. The hardest/steepest route is to go up Grandview, then left on McRonald, and wind your way to Beaumont and then Alto Dr, cut off to Halo Ct short cut, and pop up on the last ring of Mt Helix Dr. That's just one steep ramp after another with no break. It's gorgeous out there, tho, so the pain is worth it. ;)

    Here's a video from the last time I went roaming around there.
    Route: (was meeting some friends in Rancho San Diego, hence the loop to Jamacha Rd).

    Have a great ride!


Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!