I wish to nominate Dawson Saddle for another of California’s Toughest Climbs additional links here and here . Dawson Saddle is 32 miles and gains 7,500 feet. But there’s more difficulty to this climb than just the mileage and the gain. If you plan on tackling the climb to Dawson Saddle please follow these tips to ensure safe travels:
1. If you want a short warm-up and then begin climbing straightaway you should start at Encanto Park approximately 660 feet above sea level
2. In the summer months, I would start the climb with a minimum of three bottles. I have done it with five bottles. Never a bad thing to have “too much fluids/nutrition”
3. In the summer months, expect temperatures over 90 degrees F at the lower elevations
4. Bring at least five hours of nutrition Minimum three-hour climb, Recovery at the summit and then nutrition for the long descent. The descent is not a high-speed descent because of the road conditions which you should note on your climb. There are sections were you can open it up as well, so to speak.
5. There isn’t anywhere to get fluids once you begin the climb
6. There is a stream coming through the rocks at about 4,000 feet elevation – drink at your own risk!
7. In May and June you should plan to reach the summit and begin your descent before 3 pm – temperatures drop very quickly as the sun sets The “sun sets” sooner because you are surrounded by higher mountain peaks in the area and you lose the Sun’s heat earlier
8. Bring a vest and arm/knee warmers and light full-fingered gloves as a minimum. I HIGHLY recommend wool! Standard issue of clothing if you wish to a summit bagger!
9. Unless you are a strong climber bring at least a 27 tooth cassette (11-27 or 11-28) or a compact crankset 50/34. I have done this climb with a 53/39 and 11-23 cassette but I wouldn’t recommend that for everyone.
10. Bring a buddy this is a remote climb, with closed roads to vehicular traffic, cell coverage is spotty to non-existent. I would go on the assumption that there’s isn’t cell coverage. Wildlife can and should be expected such as bears, deer and squirrels. Yes squirrels, they are dangerous because they are unpredictable and cross your path then double back across your path again – a recipe for disaster.
11. Bring plenty of flat repair- even though the road has been cleaned significantly over the years I have been doing this climb the roads are not maintained, frost heaves, potholes, plenty of loose rock, and falling rock are strewn along the highway. I bring tire boots but a spare tire is not a bad idea.
12. Be prepared to ride at least five hours without seeing another cyclist and once you pass the gated areas you won’t see any cars.
13. Descend with caution- it could be hours or even days before someone finds you!
14. File a flight plan- Tell a loved one or a friend where you are going and when you are expected back. I have always called/texted my loved one with three simple words “on the mountain” and then “off the mountain”
15. Lastly enjoy the views they are spectacular!
Training Peaks screenshot of Dawson Saddle Climb Normalized Power 201 or 3 w/kg for 3 hours
Grade analysis of Dawson Saddle from the Public Restroom at mile 35.25 on the San Gabriel River Trail
Felony – my 2011 Felt F1 with Shimano Di2
My ride yesterday was from Newport Beach to Dawson Saddle 168 miles with 11,000 + feet of climbing. I left Newport Beach close to 1pm. My plan was to do some night riding at the tail-end of my ride. I was stocked with 10 hours of nutrition. I ran out of fuel 9 hours into the ride. It took me almost 11 hours to get home. I bonked badly. I rode 126 miles the day before and because of it I was much hungrier on this ride. My route was North on Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH) to Seal Beach and then the San Gabriel River Trail (SGRT) to Hwy 39 to Angeles Crest Hwy 2 to Dawson Saddle summit 7901 elevation. It’s important to mention that the Dawson Saddle summit is 84 miles into my ride. This climb is hard enough from Encanto Park where you get a couple miles of warm-up and just go. Now imagine starting this climb with 50 miles on your legs. Or how about this after summiting realizing you are still 84 miles from home.
his ride is especially difficult SOLO and unsupported. You must carry enough fluids and nutrition from the start to a public restroom at mile 35.25 on the SGRT – about 50 miles for me. Then refuel and have enough fuel/fluids for the next 35 miles of climbing – at least 3 hours of climbing. You should have enough nutrition and fluids to have something at the summit and for your descent. The descent takes a little longer than normal because the road conditions are not ideal in certain areas. Basically you need enough of whatever you fancy for 70 miles with 3+ hours of hard climbing in a remote closed road section. Then once you refuel at the public restroom you need enough fluids/fuel to get you 35 miles back to PCH and then home if you don’t want to stop again. Can you say Epic Adventure?!?!?!
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Here are a few other posts I have made on climbing Dawson Saddle