Monday, July 30, 2007

Cougar Mountain aka The Zoo Climb

I'd heard about 'the zoo' climb before, but had no idea where it was - but lo and behold, somebody saved the route on my site,! (as a side-note this is how I know the site is working - not just saving my own routes but discovering new ones!)

The climb is 2.5 miles long, and gives you over 1K feet of elevation gain! This is about twice as big as Tolt Hill Road, which used to be the best (or worst, depending on how you feel about climbing) local climb I knew about. Probably the hardest local climb excluding the mountain passes like Snoqualmie and Stevens.

The Ascent:

The first section of this climb is probably a good 10% grade, and it seems to fluctuate between 7 and 10%, but I'm estimating, so I can't be sure. My rear tire was skidding a bit going up, due to the dampness that was still on the ground and the steepness of the road! About half-way there's a small plateau of sorts to give your legs a rest, but once you turn onto 60th St the rollers start, and they seem to get steeper and steeper! Some of them towards the end must've been over 10%, at least it felt that way. Once at the top you can take a hard left and continue up the mountain for a quarter-mile or so, which I now call it the "bonus climb."

The Descent:

You might think that since this is such a big climb that the descent would be a screamingly-fast one, but it's not! The hair-pin turns force you to keep your speed way down, and I almost learned this the hard way: I was coming down the first hairpin, my bike started to drift more and more towards the guard-rail on the right side of the road, and the wet mold next to it! It's a scary feeling when you know you can't slam on the brakes due to the damp ground, and you can't do a hard turn 'cause you'll slip, so I just had to ride it through while tapping the brakes! I came within maybe less than a foot of the edge, and got to peer down the steep slope that probably drops a good 40 or 50 feet! Scary sight indeed. Next time I'm gonna go as slow as a snail around those turns!

The Views:

You might also think that being 1,100 feet above sea-level you'd be able to see the city and lots of cool sights, but you can't; there are lots of tall trees blocking most of the views! You can see Lake Sammammish pretty well, and the Eastside as well. Definitely puts 'hills' like those around Bellevue into perspective, that's for sure! The 'bonus climb' had a little clearing that gave a pretty good view of the Cascades, but that was about as good as it got.

To sum it up, this is a great climb, but don't get your hopes up about a fast descent - Tolt is better for that.


Anonymous said...

Excellent. I was thinking about this climb just today on my drive into work. I was trying to figure out when I could fit it in as I'm ready for a new big climb. I've got this one and North Bend to the Summit I've never done that I'd like to tackle this summer.

Thanks for the route description.

Anonymous said...

I have ridden the Zoo once before... last year with my friend Randy. It was a first for both of us... and since I hadn't seen Randy in years, and I narrowly beat him in a sprint triathlon the week earlier, and I had 3 weeks to go before my first Ironman... I was... well, how do you say... "Full of Myself"... Not that I am any different most of the time.

Anyway, this hill was awesome... it was everything I had heard... UGLY... The worst/best part is that with the switchbacks, you keep hoping you're near the top... I was maybe a full switchback ahead of Randy most of the climb and as I would come around the corner I would hope I was finally there and let out a Yelp or Holler at each turn... Randy of course, assumed I had reached the summit, and to his dismay, he kept finding more hill to climb.

Anyway, I plan to ride it again later this week as part of a 60 miler "race effort fueling test brick"... as in afterwards I plan to run 10miles at race pace as well. YES... I know this is crazy... but that's how I roll.

So Matt... what do you say we meet up some hot summer day and try to do the Zoo on our fixies? That would make a hell of a blog post don't you think?

Random Menace said...

If you're into pain, try the next road heading west on Newport: Montreux. It starts out easier, but the pain is hidden around the corner at the very top. Makes for a nice screaming descent.

matt m said...

zappo - i don't know if i could push my 14x40 fixie up that hill! i think i'd either break the chain or my knees! not to mention going down, that'd be scary on a fixed gear.

menace - i've seen that montreaux road and wondered, thanks for the tip - maybe i can reach my goal of hitting 100km/h on that downhill!