Larch Mountain is an extinct volcano roughly 25 miles from downtown Portland topping out at over 4000ft of elevation. The name Larch Mountain does not come from the Western Larch tree but rather how early loggers would describe Noble Fir. The mountain has been heavily logged in certain sections and is now a mixture of second and old growth forests. It’s become an iconic climb for cyclists due to it’s infamous 14 mile climb to the summit. Most climbs around Portland are rolling while Larch goes straight up for over 12 miles. [portfolio_slideshow id=4448 width="1200"]
After some last minute planning Craig and I set off from the Velo Cult parking lot at 7 am. The streets of Northeast Portland are empty and we gladly take the road. Riding out to Troutdale is probably my least favorite thing to do but with good company it aint half bad.
We cross the Sandy River and head up the Historic Columbia River Highway aka U.S. Route 30 aka the King of Roads aka HRCH. The hangover is fading and the weather is perfect. It’s a little after 9am and we pedal up to the Portland Woman’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint. I take some obligatory photos of the Columbia River Gorge. The view is epic! I’ve taken dozens of photos from the exact spot yet I still feel compelled to snap a few more. It’s our last chance to fill up on water before making the 14 mile ascent up Larch Mountain. Its Craigs first time up. I am looking forward to the summit. I brought a slice of pizza to celebrate at the top; like a boss!
Larch Mountain Road is quiet. The occasional cyclists zooms by; teary eyed from the long ascent. We’re all out here early trying to beat the 90 degree heat. Some earlier than others. At mile marker 2 I tell Craig that it’s all up hill from here. The climb is infamous for it’s long 12 mile ascent and probably more so for the incredible descent back down! We’re surrounded by towering Noble Firs and my legs settle into a rhythm. The mile markers slowly go by as we crawl to the summit. I am feeling good and all of this Mountain Biking is really paying off. Mile 9, Mile 10, we’re getting close. The trees are getting shorter, the sky is bluer and Craig is bonking. I back off and we push forward. Cadence is everything.
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We summit. I drop five bucks into the Fee box and we hike up to the viewpoint called Sherrard Point. Mt St Helens, Mt Rainer, Mt Hood, Mt Adams and Mt Jefferson. It’s all fucking there. I love this ride and this is why I celebrate it. Pizza has never tasted so damn good. Am I the first person to bike up Larch Mountain with a slice of pizza? Fuck yes I am.
The descent back down to U.S. Route 30 is incredible. The roads are still empty and we occasionally fly by someone climbing. This time we’re the ones teary eyed, focused on the road ahead. Craigs out in front and I can only imagine he’s smiling as much as I am.