Hurricane Ridge

The big climb has a special place in cycling. In many ways it’s a contest with yourself and with nature. Do you have the legs to make it to the top? And barring that, do you have the will and the strength to suffer to the end. Pain, and how you deal with it, is a large component of cycling. The big climb, wherever it may be, is a test. Has Mother Nature created something that will beat you? Has She created something that you cannot defeat, cannot climb, cannot finish. How much can you take before you give up? And is giving up something that you can do?


“Sorry I’m late. The ferry didn’t show up on time.”

“Hey, no problem. I just got here myself. Traffic from Gig Harbor was crazy.”


“I’m ready. I’ve been looking forward to this for months. I’m stoked!”

“Me too. I love this climb.”

Hurricane Ridge starts and never lets up. It’s long. The road snakes its way up the Olympic Mountains, relentless. 30 kilometers with an average grade of 5%, topping out at 10%, Hurricane Ridge can only be described as an endeavour*. This is a climb that tests you. It tests your fitness, your strength, and your resolve.


“So, how’s life?”

” Haha, let’s just say 2013 has been a rough one.”

“Ha, me too. I can’t wait for this stupid year to be over.”

“Yeah, this year’s been balls.”

“Tell me about it.”

There is something cathartic about a climb the size of Hurricane Ridge. It’s never easy, and you will work very hard. But in that exertion, you shed everything else in the world. The only thing that exists is your bike, the road, and your friend. In a year like this, it’s a godsend. In a strange way, the pain in your legs can remind you that you are stronger than the obstacles and trials before you. As long as you can endure and put your head down you will make it to the top. No matter the circumstances, the weather, the pain, it’s your capacity to absorb and transform that determines if you can overcome. Suffering, in cycling as in life, happens. It will always happen. It’s how you deal with the suffering that defines you as cyclist, and as a person. And, of course, it helps to have friends, good friends, to pace you along the way.  Usually, on climbs like Hurricane Ridge I often find myself repeating the chorus from The Mountain Goats’ song This Year:

“I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.”

“I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.”

As a song, it matches my cadence well. It’s something I can roll around in my head to each pedal stroke. As a mantra, I find it’s something to live by. Especially now.


“James, are you speeding up to catch that guy ahead of us? Or are you just being a jerk?”

“No, I’m trying to catch that guy. We can’t let him get to the top ahead of us. We’ve been motoring and we should, at least, catch him before the end.”

“Ok. I was just wondering why we were going so fast all of a sudden.”

“I want to get him.”

“Well, let’s do it then.”

The Visitor’s Center comes into view. After 2 hours, we’ve finished the climb and lunch awaits. And Coca Cola. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about an ice-cold Coke after a long ride on a hot day. Refreshing doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s pure bliss. Over chicken fingers and fries we compare achievements, battle scars, funny and sad stories. It’s been said that in times of trouble that your true friends become clear**. Grinding up a 30 kilometer climb for a little less than 2 hours can do the same.


2 hours of climbing roughly turns into 30 minutes of descending. It strikes me that Canadians build straight roads through valleys and mountain passes while Americans, on the other hand, build winding roads up mountains. The descent of Hurricane Ridge is amazing! 60 to 70 kilometers/hour for about a half and hour, navigating a snaking road, sweeping corners, and the occasional tunnel.  It’s an absolute thrill and unlike any road I’ve ridden in Alberta.

“So, how was that?”

“James, that was fucking rad!”

It was.

* Origin: Late Middle English (in the sense ‘exert oneself’): from the phrase put oneself in devoir ‘do one’s utmost’

** “The Mark of True Friendship,” The Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo

3 thoughts on “Hurricane Ridge

  1. Haha! Great pictures! There are so many clichés to describe how our bodies and minds react when dealing with any kind of adversity – but, in the sing song words of Dori from finding nemo, “just keep swimming” or, in your case, just keep riding fucking rad routes.

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