Friday, 19 January 2018

fortissimo #2

When Paula sent me the photo on the right in July last year, I knew immediately where it had been taken, even though I’d never visited the location. The deduction wasn’t hard to make. I’d learned of the existence of MacIntosh forts only three months earlier, when Paula and I had decided to explore a road leading off Lin Ma Hang Road. The fort that we discovered there, after a fairly brutal climb, had a sign explaining the history of the forts and the fact that there were seven in all.

I also know that when Paula is cycling by herself, she is more likely than not to choose the frontier road. When we first added this ride to our cycling options in 2013—it had previously been part of the so-called ‘closed area’—it was a simple out-and-back ride with a category 2 climb out of the actual frontier area. However, it didn’t take me long to discover Liu Pok Hill, which is reached by a detour through the village of Liu Pok that is accessed from a turn-off just before the top of the aforementioned climb. At first, this category 1 climb was an optional extra, but nowadays it is an integral (i.e. compulsory) part of the route.

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Liu Pok Hill can be seen in profile in the photo below, although it doesn’t show the steepest part of the hill, which is at the bottom (see Cycling Action Photos):

You will notice that the gradient eases off appreciably in the middle of the photo, and from that point to the top one can claim to be ‘cruising’! However, about 5 metres below the summit, there is a turn-off to the right, and I did take a look a couple of years ago to see where it might lead (incidentally, the white sign on the right reads ‘engage first gear’):

I gave up almost immediately, for reasons that I don’t need to explain (see below), but once I’d learned of the existence of the MacIntosh forts, I felt confident that there would be one at the top of this climb. There is!

Incidentally, I haven’t yet got around to revising my hill categorization system. Category 1 was meant to be the hardest, but I’ve since discovered hills that, if I assigned them to category 1, Liu Pok Hill would be in category 4—and that in what used to be a three-category system! The hill I’m about to describe would certainly make a new category 1 at the moment—Paula described it as “bloody hard work”—but who knows what horrors I might yet discover (I do know where to look).

It’s steep from the start, but it really depends for how long this gradient is maintained:

…a bloody long way, as you can see as you round the next bend:

The next photo shows the bend at the top of the section shown in the previous photo:

I like to think that I can push myself, but I do know when I’ve hit a brick wall. The last photo was taken from the point where I realized that I needed to stop. Had I known in advance that the streetlight visible in that photo was the same as the one visible in the next, and that the gradient eases off from that point, I might have tried to keep going.

I do have an excuse though. Prior to my attempt to ride this hill yesterday, I’d been out on the bike only once in the previous two weeks. Following three days of rain and four days when I reckoned that it was too cold for cycling, Paula being unwell meant that we went for walks instead. Then Paula passed her illness on to me, so I’ve been coughing and sneezing, and my nose has been running like a tap for the past few days. So I will wait until I feel right before making another attempt to ride the hill in one go.

And the last part of the climb is certainly much easier:

The steps leading to the fort can be seen in the background of the last photo.

In case anyone is wondering, once I’ve managed to ride this hill without stopping, I’m highly unlikely to do it again. I knew it was going to be a dead end, but if it had been up one side and down the other, like Lau Shui Heung Road, and could thus be incorporated into some kind of circuit, I might feel compelled to do it more often.

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