Conquering a mountain peak almost 4,200 metres above sea level could easily be a mountaineering feat – instead we are talking about road cycling.
And the great thing is that you start from sea level, tackling an elevation gain more than double that of the Stelvio, for instance.
To attempt this incredible climb, considered to be the toughest in the world, you have to go rather out of the way, to the island of Hawaii, in the archipelago of the same name, where the mountain in question stands.
More precisely, it is an extinct volcano – the Mauna Kea – the total height of which, considering that it rises directly from the bottom of the sea, is 9,000 metres, even higher than Mount Everest.
The part above water, in any case, is more than enough for daredevils who feel the need to put themselves to the test with an unparalleled feat on a racing bike.
There are several uphill slopes, but the “craziest” of all is that which starts from Spencer Park, near the beach of Waikoloa: 92 km of uphill climb, 4,100 m of elevation gain with an average gradient of 4.5%. Do not let yourself be deceived by the latter figure however: up to an altitude of 2,000 m, the climb proceeds regularly without spurts, but in the remaining 2,000 the situation is different and the difficulties grow exponentially.
From that point on, up to the astronomical observatory at the top, the route literally becomes hellish.
About 50 km between 8 and 12%, with 15% gradient spurts and long 20% stretches close to the summit. On top of it all, the last 20 km are mostly dirt roads, always with strong headwind, and of course with little oxygen at high altitude.
And if this were not enough to understand why it is considered the hardest climb in the world, we can add a few words about the environmental situation.
They say Hawaii has all the climates of the world, and that’s not hard to believe in this place: between start and finish the difference in temperature can often reach 35-40 degrees, in any season; the constantly changing landscape passes from beaches with tropical vegetation to dry grass moors, moonscapes of lava rocks beaten by the wind, and sometimes even snow on the summit.
Finally, a tip: if possible, it is better to avoid any risks by tackling this “craziness” with the support of a specialized local organizer, able to provide a support vehicle with water and a food supply, a change of clothing and mechanical assistance in case of any problems.