The Cycleplan Blog

The Scariest Climbs in the World

From seasoned professionals to those who pedal for fun, there’s nothing that quite strikes fear into the heart of cyclists than a tough climb. We’ve taken a look at some of the world’s toughest and scariest climbs.

1. Koppenberg – Belgium

Just because a climb isn’t long, doesn’t mean it isn’t extremely tough. Even though the Koppenberg is only 620m metres long, it consistently catches even the most seasoned of professional cyclists out, thanks to its steep gradient and uneven, cobbled surface.

The cobbles offer little to no grip when wet. Even in the dry, a mistimed move will force a rider to put a foot down, and the uphill gradient (22% in some places) makes it incredibly tough to get going again without assistance. All this means the Koppenberg climb has seen even professional cyclists come to a standstill and eventually dismount, before pushing their bike up the rest of the way.

Scariest climbs
The Koppenberg is known to have forced many a cyclist to get off and push. Image credit: Sirotti

2. Muro di Sormano – Italy

This 1.7 km climb was removed from the Giro di Lombardia just three years after its 1960 debut after complaints that the climb was so steep (average gradient of 17% and a maximum of 25%) that riders were either falling off or being pushed up by fans. What more proof do you need that the Muro di Sormano (wall of Sormano) belongs on our list of the scariest climbs?

To make matters worse, every single metre of height you have climbed is marked on the side of the road. It’s a double-edged sword; you know how close you are to the top, but you’re also painfully aware of how slowly you’re getting there…

Scariest climbs
Muro di Sormano. Image credit: Gruber Images

3. Hardknott Pass – UK

Often referred to as the UK’s hardest climb, Cumbria’s Hardknott Pass would make anyone’s scariest climbs list. Part of the reason it’s so tough is because the cattle grid right at the beginning sucks up any speed you may have already accumulated – meaning all the power to get to the top has to come from you alone…

What’s more, you then have to tackle a combination of switchbacks which are incredibly steep. Parts of the Hardknott Pass reach a massive 33% – not to mention the role that bad weather often plays in this climb’s difficulty. Finally, the decent is said to be just as frightening as the climb. So, rather you than us!

Scariest climbs
Hardknott Pass. Image Credit: Steve Fleming

4. Dante’s View – Death Valley, USA

With the maximum gradient of this climb getting up to 13%, this climb in Death Valley doesn’t get as steep as our other entries. But don’t be fooled. With summer temperatures routinely hitting 49°C and landmarks with names like Funeral Mountains, Devil’s Golf Course and Coffin Peak, it’s just as scary.

Dante’s View is 64.8km long and takes you from below sea level to almost 1,700m above in one ride – if you make it that is. Beginning at 85.5m below sea level at the Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America – the first 25km of the ride up to Dante’s View is virtually flat and the next 30km of road rises steadily to around 4% – so far so good.

The killer section brings a gradient that increases the higher you get, with the final kilometre reaching 13%. If you’re still upright once you reach the top, you can enjoy the well-earned, breath-taking view of the valley below.

Scariest Climbs
Cyclists riding through Death Valley. Image Credit: Christian Pondella

5. Mauna Kea – Hawaii

The last of our scariest climbs is often agreed to be the hardest climb in the world. The Hawaiian ‘White Mountain’ reaches 4,200 metres at the top, with 70 km of non-stop climbing. If that wasn’t difficult enough, the last seven kilometres is made up entirely of loose gravel. At this point, many riders chose to switch to a mountain bike for the final push to the top.

Mauna Kea has been described as a monstrous, near-impossible ascent. In addition to the daunting climb, cyclists must also be mentally and physically prepared for changing weather conditions and altitude sickness. Basically, every cyclist’s worst nightmare – thinning air and an increasing gradient. If you make it to the top – you can truly call yourself a pro cyclist.

Scariest climbs
Very few riders have made it to the summit of Mauna Kea. Image Credit: Justin Rossi

If you’re feeling brave and taking on one of these scary climbs (good luck!) then make sure you and your bike are protected with Cycleplan’s Specialist Cycle Insurance. With European and Worldwide bicycle cover available, why not get an instant online quote today!

What’s the scariest climb you’ve ever ridden? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below!

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