When Paula and I moved to our present house in 2008, one of the first things we did was to check out the walking options in the area. There is a low ridge running east–west about a kilometre north of our house, and when we reached it we were surprised to find a narrow road snaking from one summit to the next. It is clearly a military road, because it marks the southern limit of what is still called the ‘closed area’, a buffer zone between Hong Kong and the rest of China set up by the British to deter illegal immigration (the penultimate photo in Hong Kong Country shows a section of the road).
At the time, I did wonder what this road would be like to cycle along, but I had no idea whether it was accessible from anywhere at ‘ground level’. However, last winter, I did manage to find this access point, and I set off up the hill with no idea of what lay ahead.
The first steep section is easy enough, but after a short level section I took one look at the next hill and gave up, for reasons that I don’t need to explain.
On the last day of 2014, for reasons that now escape me (I must have been bored), I decided to make another attempt. This time, I reached the first summit, which not only involved climbing the two hills pictured above but also included a third hill that was longer and tougher than the first two hills combined. I estimate that the steepest gradient on this third hill, which is shown in the following sequence of photographs, is close to 40 percent.
After reaching the first summit, the road meanders along the ridge for a short distance:
It then plunges down to a col before climbing again to the next summit. I took one look at the next series of climbs and decided that it would be sensible to turn back:
To get an idea of how tough the next summit would be to reach, I decided to walk the route a couple of months ago. The first hill is as steep as it looks in the next photo, and while I may have exaggerated the gradients on the climb to the first summit, this one really is about 40 percent. The rest of the ascent doesn’t look easy, but it isn’t quite as steep.
There are at least two more summits after this one—an estimate, because I took an escape route down to the right after reaching the second summit—but the climbs, while steep, are not as long as those pictured above. Consequently, like the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in more movies than you can shake a stick at, I’ll be back for another attempt. Just not soon. I need to wear out my current set of 5.5cm tyres first, so that I can replace them with something narrower. Another thing that will need to change if I ever succeed in completing this route is my hill-classification system, which works on the premise that the toughest hill in the area is the climb over Saddle Pass from the west (category 1), which would barely merit a classification if this military road were to be added to the top category. I must be mad to even think of trying it again.