Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Gran Canaria Day 3: Valley of the Tears

Our third day on the islands got into some real climbing. The route is affectionately known as Valley of the Tears. Now I understand why.

We rolled out the same way we did on the first day. No surprises, a never too steep double bump-up with 2500ft of climbing to the high point. Instead of turning around like we did on Day 1, we bombed down the opposite side on heinously steep, rough pavement. Gonna have to check all the bolts on my bike before the next ride!  We dropped all the way down into La Aldea de San Nicolas, where there appeared to be many plantations under netting.

Heading out of town on GC-210, we soon found ourselves in a deep, winding canyon. Scenery was gorgeous, again reminiscent of terrain you can find in the desert southwest of the US. There were a series of reservoir dams in the canyon, and each one invariable involved steep switchbacks up the canyon wall to get above the dam. Even though the climbing was a bitch at times, Peter Thomson warned us in the ride briefing that all of this was just the “climb before the climb.” Great.

We reached the junction of GC-606 where our van was awaiting us. This is where the climbing begins, we’re told. It was hot. Switchbacks scaled the nearly vertical canyon wall and at 20+% sustained grade. Felt just like that top mile of Lincoln Gap in Vermont. And it was just the beginning of 3000+ feet of steep AF climbing in the next 7 miles. There was one respite in the middle, which just meant the grade while climbing was a lot steeper than the average over 7 miles. Dave was gone, I shadowed Brett mid-group. Some F-bombs were heard.

The top was a modest double-hump. Once over the second hump, we dropped back to the same cafe we had coffee at yesterday. Then it was a 4300ft rip back down to our hotel. It wasn't all down, but nothing onerous on the way back. The top third was wicked nasty asphalt to descend. Imagine chip-seal with large stones. It was something like that. Think I have blisters on my palms from that one. Then we got into the canyon where I took many photos yesterday. I had already taken enough photos there. I didn't want to lose the Canadian train of Matt, Andy and Todd by stopping again. Brett exercised reasonable caution on the rough stuff where Dave and I went for a little more white knuckle adrenaline. Many sections of these roads are only one lane wide and it is non-stop blind turns. Not a lot of traffic, but enough that you had to treat every turn as if you were going to suddenly meet a car. And bikes. Must have passed over a hundred cyclist heading up in midday sun. The sketchy scenarios were where cars were passing bikes and leaving no pavement left for descenders. Such a riding destination, the Canaries are.

The five of us pacelined it back to town on the less steep parts on GC-200. What a riot, 4300ft with a zillion switchbacks in no time at all. Our ride went about 59 miles with 7300-8500ft of climbing, depending on whose barometric altimeter you believe. Why do I always get the GPS units that measure less than everybody else's?! Strava elevation correction put me at over 14,000ft, which is obviously wrong. A good day on the bike, avoided cramping, "active recovery" ride planned for Wednesday. Dave and I had planned to MTB Wednesday, but a large area of trails near the hotel was recently bought by a wealthy person and he fenced off all access. Rental outfits say you do not want to test this persons resolve. Bummer.

Dave heading up first climb of the day on GC-200

Smiles now, tears later in Valley of the Tears? Not for Davie.

Back side of GC-200, our first rough descent into La Aldea de San Nicolas. What look like buildings are large fields covered with netting.

Heading up canyon out of La Aldea de San Nicolas on GC-210.

First set of switchbacks on 210

Part way up first set of switchbacks

Myself working up first set of switchbacks (photo by Todd)

Kinda like the switchbacks in Teluride

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Junction of GC-606, where the "real" climb begins. Seemed like all we did was climb just to get here.

Rugged country in the center of Gran Canaria

Brett rounding one of many switchbacks heading out of canyon. Grade was easily hovering around 20% here.

Looking down some of the GC-606 switchbacks. There might have been tears here.

Brett higher up where there was a brief respite before the next round of 20% hits.

A brief drop before the next wall. Still smiling... (photo by Andy)

See many little enclaves out in the middle of nowhere. Quite a haul on one-lane roads with lots of cliff exposure.
Village in photo above now below us. Brett making his way up, probably close to 20% again.

Lots of plants in bloom above 4000ft.

Brett, still climbing with views to help ease the suffering.

Atlantic Ocean now many miles in distance

Approaching hight-of-land

View from first of double-hump summit for this loop. Second hump is in center of photo. From there, it is better part of 5000ft descent back to hotel.

Many rugged hiking routes in center of island

Beginning descent to Ayacata, where we stopped for Cokes and Espressos. 
Todd got ahead of us on descent back to town and captured photos as we rounded this switchback.

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