Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mt Soledad by the steepest route: Country Club Dr

When someone tells you that he has cycled up Mt Soledad without specifying which route he took, he hasn't told you much. La Jolla's little-mound-by-the-sea can be ridden up by many different roads at varying degrees of physical brutality; from the gentle and roomy Soledad Mountain Rd on the southeast side to the relentlessly steep (and trafficky) Via Capri on the north side, but the most monstrous of them all is also one of the least well known; Country Club Drive.
Country Club Dr just past Mar Ave.
The proper climb begins as you head south on Exchange Place south from Torrey Pines Rd in La Jolla and ends with the left turn onto Upper Hillside Dr. The tally is 0.8 mile at 11% average grade (max grade 16% for a couple of patches). 

As Exchange Pl curves left to become Soledad Ave, veer straight (or slightly right, if you will) onto Country Club Dr and be prepared to shift to lower gear. Sufferingville begins at Mar Ave intersection until the first left curve with maximum grade of around 16%. This stretch of the road is also very narrow, which makes its usual lack of traffic quite a blessing. There are some really nice houses along the road if you can manage to take in their view, though. After the left curve the golf course appears on your right side and the road mellows out for a short stretch. Take your time! This is the only real break in hard climbing you are going to get before the top.
Country Club Dr at the golf course. The only 'rest' stretch on the climb.
Romero Dr switchback.
At Fairway Ln the steep climbing recommences. Stay left on Country Club Dr and then make the next left turn onto Romero Dr. More gorgeous houses, gardens and driveways abound as the road carves itself up the slope in a stylish S. If you are already suffering, take a wide line at the switchback curve before turning left onto the brutally steep and straight ramp that is Brodicaea Dr to allow your legs a mini-break before the 16% grade ramp (don't stop, though. It gets more reasonable toward the top).

If you aren't here to set a new Strava PR or to snag to much coveted KoM, though, take a break at Encelia Dr curve and go check out the gorgeous overlook on the left side. The road dead ends but a paved trail continues a bit down the hill and around a left curve to a water tank. On a clear day the view of La Jolla Village and the shoreline is drop dead gorgeous! I wouldn't ride a road bike down that trail since it's full of broken glasses and other debris, but a little hike into such scenic solitude never hurts anyone!
Encelia Dr trail to water tank.
Encelia Dr up toward Upper Hillside Dr.
If you are trying to snag the much coveted Strava KoM on this leg chewing climb, however, turn right with the road and go straight up Encelia Dr to the left turn up Upper Hillside Dr, the official 'top' of the steepest route up Soledad Mountain... Via Capri Dr included. It is a charming climb lined by houses I could never dream of affording (if you manage to register anything but the pavement in front of you on your way up). Traffic-wise, you'd have to be the most unlucky rider on the planet to have to share the road with more than a handful of cars along the way. That's something that can't be said about Via Capri Dr

Yes, yes, I've gone up Via Capri a few times. It is relentlessly gnarly, but what turns me off about it is having cars speed by on left while dodging parallel-parked cars on the right while trying make snailish progress up the steep slope. Country Club route is a much more serene and personal climb where the handful of cars that might drive by go at 15 mph, with the drivers noticing everything on the road (because, on such a narrow and curvy road, they have to!) and are much more keen on a friendly wave or even a verbal cheer to urge you up the hill.

Turning left from Encelia Dr onto Upper Hillside Dr.
Upper Hillside Dr to Via Casa Alta.
Once you've got to Upper Hillside Dr and the end of the official climb, however, you might just notice that you aren't yet on top of the mountain. The way is barred by a heavy duty fence and gate... If you are nice, quiet and discreet, a nice local may tell you how to get thru the gated complex to the other side where you'll remount the bike, go straight on the few yards remaining of Upper Hillside Dr and make the right turn up the 12-14% long ramp that is Via Casa Alta.

Spectacular view is earned by spectacular pain... or something like that.
The true top of Soledad Mtn. The TV antennae on Via Casa Alta (with a good view of Mission Bay & Pt Loma to boot).
Be sure to look to your left as you head up the cracky cement pavement! For all the pain and suffering you are paying to get up this hill, you might as well reap some scenic rewards along the way. Once you've crested the true top of Soledad Mtn, the view also opens up on the right side just before the television antennae. A good place for a photo op, perhaps?

Via Casa Alta dumps you onto La Jolla Scenic Dr between Via Capri Dr and Soledad Mountain Rd (turn left to go to the cross). There are many ways of descending the mountain, but if you need to go back to Exchange Pl at Torrey Pines Rd (or to La Jolla Village proper) by the least trafficky way without descending down steep, curvy and very cracky roads, I'd suggest hanging a right onto LJ Scenic Dr, then;
-R - Nautilus St
-R - W Muirlands Dr
-R - Fay Ave
-R - Pearls St
-L - High Ave
-R - Virginia Wy
-L - Exchange Pl

If you feel like climbing some more, though, more Mt Soledad back-road routes coming up in a bit! Smiley

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the route. Ive always climbed soledad on the easy side and have been wanting to up the challenge a bit. I agree Via Capri is pretty sketchy with all the cars speeding uphill.


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