A truly world class climb that epitomises the Epic Cols mission.
The Valle Nevado has it all – 58 switchbacks, vast landscapes, killer reveals. And, when you reach the summit at 3000m, the majesty of the Andes still tower high above. This 29km rewarding climb begins in Lo Barnechea region, in Corral Quemado, 20km northwest of Santiago. It ascends 1802m and has an average gradient of 6% (max 14%).
Turning away from the river (rio San Franciso), herein lies the first 16 gloriously intertwined switchbacks carved into the Andean landscape.
It is hard not to get too excited while riding this first section – the gradient is eminently doable and the views are already epic.
Then a rolling section of long contouring bends, before rising up and over a small col – vertical metres are lost while descending to the bottom.
Another set of switchbacks await. It is a game of snakes and ladders.
The spring/summer (October - March) are great months to ride this climb. During this time there is very little traffic, as Valle Nevado is a ski resort. However, there is one drawback, and that is the heat. Likely in the mid-thirties (90F+). It makes for thirsty work.
Notably, after switchback 21 there is a small café to refill bottles – and then no less than 37 switchbacks before the summit.
Generally the surface is smooth with helpful countdown markers on each corner.
At 2560m altitude, the air is thin and the landscape has changed – what was once lush green with soil is now baron with rugged volcanic rock.
Yet, during the final set of 18 switchbacks, it's like the road gently adds layers of beauty with every turn.
It is hard to find another cycling climb, where during the last few hundred metres, it appears you've barely scratched the surface.
The enormity and outstanding beauty of this climb provokes a particular feeling yet to be experienced anywhere else. It is the majesty of the Andes is in full force when at 3000m there are peaks of mountains still thousands-of-meters towering above. This climb warrants a title as one of the Greats.
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