Cycling on La Palma – Day 4

On Saturday I again took the day off, just watching the Giro d’Italia, and eating :) Somehow I could also enjoy these rest days, just by really not doing anything. Though these days were a little bit lonely… Anyway, for Sunday I planned an easier ride to finish nicely my cycling holidays on La Palma. Of course when I say easier it is very relative. Because indeed, easier than biking up twice to the Roque de los Muchachos, but compared to that, everything might seem easy. But keep reading, and you will see what I am talking about ;) After getting up at 9:30, I only managed to leave a bit before twelve – partly because it was raining, partly because it was so good to just lay down in the couch :D First, I had the same short climb as on Day 1:

6.59 km @ 5.6% with a maximum over 100 meters of 8.8% (3rd category)

Though I felt like making a good effort, I was a bit slower than on the first day. But I guess it is ok after such a week on the bike. Then after a short near flat section, the big climb (up to El Pilar on LP-203, though I think the road numbering is not the same in real life anymore) of the day started at km 10.41:

14.17 km @ 8.0% with a maximum over 100 meters of 12.9% (HC)

I was not avare of the fact that it will be this hard. I though it would be a 1st category climb, with a much less steep gradient, so I was a bit surprised when I had to face reality. But it was a world class ascent. The worst part was between km 7 and 12 with the following gradients (over 1 km): 9.5, 10.8, 9.3, 9.0 and 10.1 percent. And to make things worse, as I entered the cloud layer around the elevation of approximately 800 meters (so around the beginning of the really steep part), the visibility dropped to 100 meters, and the temperature to 11°C.

At the end of the steep section I have passed another cyclist (who was way older, so not because I would climb like Contador – at least I don’t feel the effect of the Spanish ham too much :D), with whom I had a short chat when he also arrived to the top. It turned out, that he works at the TNG, so it was a day of astronomers on bike ;) He also took a picture of me on the ‘summit’.

It was cold, in the middle of a pine tree forest, with water everywhere. Clearly 100% humidity. So I put on all my warm clothes for the descent (buying that rain jacket was a huge life-saving idea of mine when I ordered some bike stuff on-line the last time), and started rolling down. I could not see anything from the cloud, the visibility was around 50 meters. I had to put on my flashing red rear lights, though cars could not go faster either… And I was freezing like hell (oxymoron warning here). So from almost 1500 meter ASL I went down to almost 800 m ASL, where I turned right onto LP-202 (again, I believe this is not the real designation anymore, but this is written on my map), to climb up to La Cumbrecita:

5.99 km @ 7.8% with a maximum over 100 meters of 12.7% (2nd category)

At the beginning of the road a sign said that the path to the caldera is closed, but I kept going. Luckily when I reached the entrance of the national park, the lady at the barrier said that I can go in (and by the time I was coming back, the barriers were even open). This was the smoothest stretch of road which I have climbed this week, perfect asphalt, though only one and a half lane wide. Perfectly enough for me ;)

At the beginning the road was quite straight, climbing higher and higher on the left side of the valley among the so often seen pine trees of the island. A system of tubes carried down the freshwater from higher parts of the natural reserve along the road, and they were leaking here and there, but because of the tremendously high pressure, these leaks appeared as fountains of several meters high ;) The steepest one kilometer had a gradient of 11%, and that was the point where the road got very curvy.

Unluckily the top was again in the cloud layer, so instead of the amazing view to the inside of the caldera I saw a grey wall and nothing else beyond :(

But it was a very nice climb, so it was worth going up. And the downhill was also very nice on the smooth and quite straight road ;) Then already after leaving the pine tree forest and the national park behind, I had a short period of sunshine when I could look back towards the caldera, but that’s the most I have seen that day.

From here, I still had to climb back to El Pilar, up into the cold clouds, and now even facing the chilly and strong headwind. But it was the last climb.

10.69 km @ 5.9% with a maximum over 100 meters of 10.2% (2nd category)

Luckily this side of the mountain was much easier, though the wind and cold made it a bit miserable. Also the road quality here was a bit below European standards. Unluckily I could not see too much of the numerous volcanic calderas which I have passed here, because all what I could make out was the grey slopes right next to me, but the rest was lost in the mist. I have to admit the situation had a special atmosphere, because the moving (more and less dense) clouds created the illusion of volcanic smoke. Again, on the top it was not more than 11°C, so the descent was freaking cold. And because of the low visibility (50-100 meters all the way down till 750 m ASL) and the wet and steep road, I had to be very careful and break a lot. I did not enjoy it that much… But as soon as I came out of the cloud layer, it was a nice roll all the way to Santa Cruz (where I even had a bit of sunshine to close the day in a sunny mood).

So I finished my last day on La Palma with 82.8 km and 2645 meters of elevation gain (and a pizza of course, as every day this week :D). Yeah, ‘easy day’ :D GPS details here. Luckily I specifically asked for a later connection in Madrid knowing that it is impossible to make it with IBERIA if you only have 55 minutes of transfer time, because now I am sitting in the airport of Tenerife, and we already have a delay of one hour… Yeah IBERIA, damn it!

Thanks for reading, this was the last part :)

3 thoughts on “Cycling on La Palma – Day 4

  1. sylverdevil

    It’s hard to say what I was feeling, while I was reading these posts. Umpteen days I just bike to the library in the moring and back home in the evening. :D
    The only climb is the stairway to the 4th floor… (although there is no “normal” climb on the Great Hungarian Plain :P)
    Those roads are amazing, and of course the lava-fields to…

  2. Jennifer

    Hey, I’m currently on La Palma with my road bike, staying in La Laguna. My only adventures so far have been to Tazacorte and Puerto Naos and of course cycling for fruit and veg (I’m a raw vegan). Do you have any specific recommendations for a beginner cyclist? I don’t really plan to cycle around the island as such, but if you could tell me the places and roads worth visiting that would be awesome :)

  3. Péter I. Pápics Post author

    Hi, if you think that the big climb to the Roque is too much for you (which is a bit of a pity, since the view from the top is amazing), then I suggest to visit the higher road across the north of the island, on google maps it is labelled as LP-112, and it is basically a one lane wide roller coaster through the rain forests of the north, with some nice views, and really great asphalt. It is a bit steep from time to time, and there is a short tunnel, which is not so nice without a light (but it is straight, so you see the end, jut be careful not to bump to the sides, as it’s a bit difficult to ‘feel’ where the middle is), but definitely worth. Getting there from La Laguna is already quite a ride, unluckily… There is also a very beautiful spot on the north, from Santo Domingo (de Garafia) you can ride down on a small but good road towards the west, at the end it is very steep for 200 meters (16%), but it brings to a very nice lookout point on top of a cliff above the see. A much easier ride is to visit the vulcan on the Southern tip, if you go there, really visit the vulcan itself, I went in with my bike, they were fine with it, but you will have to push it there. And then, not so much climbing from your location, but it is worth going up to LP-301 (first kilometres you need to go along LP-3, which is not so amazing, but the traffic is not too bad usually), and ride up LP-301 to the top. It is a nice road (the asphalt is not the best, but OK), and it bends through many small volcanic features. And at last, there is also LP-202 (reach it from LP-3) and then drive on to the Carretera Cumbrecita, which is a very nice narrow road with perfect asphalt, which leads to the rim of the caldera, and if the weather is good, the view can be amazing there towards the middle of the island. This should hopefully help you :)

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