Saturday, May 13, 2017

Starvation Mountain via Camino Del Aguilar - Revisited

I was fairly starved of proper on-bike suffering (and the glorious euphoria you get when you finally summit a hard-earned peak) during my exile to Riverside County in 2016. Now that I've returned to Didacus Sanctus (albeit quite a few clicks removed from the old Smorgabode), revisiting favorite scenic out-of-the-way climbs is the mission of 2017! On top of my 'Re-Hit List', of course, is the sheer brutality that is the hawks-infested super steep paved lane up the SW side of Starvation Mountain just east of Escondido/Rancho Bernardo, Camino del Aguila.

The relatively gnarly 'warm up' climb on Highland Valley Road.
These roadside cuties sure weren't starving for any breakfast!
I started out a bit late on a weekday morning from Rancho Bernardo and got on Highland Valley Rd a bit after the morning rush hour. Sycamore Creek Rd was looking dry and tantalizing, so I went snooping around there a bit. There might be a post on that one of these days if I ever shape up and become more disciplined about writing up exploration rides again. At any rate, I made it up HVR to the Camino del Aguila turn off without making too much stink... I think.

Pausing at the top of the 2nd bumps thru the winery gives you a good survey of the suffering to come.
By the time you get to this bit, the 3rd switchback, you're already cursing the day you were born.
Man, could I tell that I was over a year older and rustier since I last tried to 'spin' my way up this hideously relentlessly gnarly lane. The opening ramp from the bottom of the dip was amazingly demoralizing (no less because I knew now how horrible long I'd have to keep going before the gradient would drop to the humane side of 10% again. There was no longer any 'ignorance is bliss (or, rather, hope) associated with first time-ing up this road. No, the darn thing doesn't even let you breath at all until the 3rd switchback turn). I should say, though, unless you're trying to set a Strava record, you really should take it easy in the relatively mellow mid-section of this climb and take in the view (which, alas, will be behind you). Camino del Aguila is really one of the prettiest roads in San Diego County!

 The view of the top of Starvation Mountain looked quite different from the last time I snailed my way up this road a couple of years ago, though. There were now a few more houses near the top of the slope. I dread the day when they'd start putting in gates and turn this into something of the forbidden Cielo Complex between Via Ambiante and Mt Israel Rd in Olivenhain area.

The Snowman Boulder is still guarding the last icky steep (about 22% grade) ramp on Camino del Aguila.
I didn't go to the fence just below the summit this time, but opted to go sight-seeing around to the water tank atop Starvation Mountain Rd instead. A couple of new car gates had popped up in the last 2 years since I last came through here... along with quite a few new houses.

Starvation Mtn peak is well guarded. You must go up 22+% grader to get to the balcony, no matter from which direction you attack this hill from.

Mind you, every body I saw on the mountain was very friendly, though, waving and saying hello as they drove by. It sort of reminded me of my days in rural Missouri. People are much more friendly in person than they are in the news or online...

It was bone dry under Kreitzer Ped/Bike bridge over Lake Hodges. This was just before the winter storms hit last winter, of course!
Being too out of shape to attempt Mt Woodson after coming back down to HVR, I enjoyed the curvy descent (one of the best short technical descents around) down to Lake Hodges where I spent an hour or so stalking birds and a lovely little American kestrel before catching the bus home.

I know I had pretty much swore off ever pedaling up Starvation Mtn again on my way up.... but hills like this have a way of inflicting you with short-term memory loss of some sort and I want to go back up it again already. Before I do, though, there are a few other hills to check off my 'Re-Hit List' first...