Saturday, March 03, 2012

Laguna's Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters (I prefer not to use the "B" word) are steep hill climbs on the north and south side of the Laguna Hills. Most do the ride in a clockwise fashion starting from the north side in Laguna Niguel/Aliso Viejo. I have done the ride from the Laguna Beach side in a counter-clockwise fashion and you do the steeper hill climbs first, but you are making a lot of left turns.
There are several parking areas along Laguna Canyon Road north of the 73. This one is about 0.2 miles north of Hwy 73 on the east side of Laguna Canyon Road.
The first three climbs are in Aliso Viejo. Take Aliso Creek Road eastbound, right on Aliso Viejo Parkway, right on Alsio Creek Road, right on Alicia Parkway, and right on Highlands Avenue for the first hill climb. Note that Highlands connects to Pacific Island Drive in case your don't want to back track to Alicia Parkway. The Alisos and Alicias get awfully confusing.
Highlands Avenue is the baby sister, easiest of all the climbs.
Pacific Island off of Alicia Parkway is another "warm-up" climb. Take it easy, pace yourself. Save your legs for the real hard stuff.
From the south side Pacific Island Drive off of Crown Valley Parkway is slightly longer and just as steep as its twin sister. Three down and the toughest are yet to come. Get the lactic acid out of your legs as you go down Crown Valley to PCH. Three miles north awaits sister number four.
Gamin showing a 15% grade through most of the Pacific Islands climb.
These two Laguna sisters are the steepest of the 7 climbs.
The steepest climb of all the sisters. A 20% climb from the start and no flat section to recover for almost 3 miles. Driveways may be the only bailouts on this climb.
This climb begins with a warning! Take it seriously. It's difficult to clip out when your leg is in a full cramp, going 4 MPH at 45 Cadence up a 20% hill and your heart is pounding at 165 beats per minute and your front tire is lifting off the pavement.
Enjoy the views on the downhill if you dare.
Short but steep. Take Bluebird Canyon Drive from PCH up a gradual grade to a 22% quick right turn to Summit Drive. Unless you have legs of steel, this climb requires a 34-28 compact crank or a 30-25 triple crank. It seems to go on and on at 15-20%.
Take it easy on the downhill. I wouldn't recommend freewheeling it. There are stop signs and motorcycle patrolmen lurking in these hills.
The final two sisters seem like the longest climbs so pace yourself. No more 20% grades but there are a few 18%er's to deal with even though your legs are in total rebellion.
From PCH take Thalia St. up to Temple Hills Dr. Although measuring 2.6 miles, this climb is not as difficult because there are areas of 7-9% grade where you can "take it easy".
On the downhill, there is a sharp right turn toward the end of Temple Hill. Don't worry, there are guardrails to prevent you from free falling in case you over-cook the turn.
Enjoying the view is a good excuse to stop. Preventing a total leg cramp is also a good excuse to stop. Falling off my bike and sliding down an 18% grade is also a good excuse to stop.
Given its length and overall pitch, Park is probably the toughest climb especially if saved for last. This is where mental fortitude must take control when everything else in your body says "no-way!"
Park Ave is the widest road in the Laguna Hills climbs with a 16-18% grade and a couple of switchbacks through a small canyon.
After all that climbing make sure you stop, get your heart rate down, and enjoy the view! Congratulations, you have climbed 5,800 feet in 40 miles.
My Polar data showing a recent Seven Sisters ride. I started in Long Beach, 27 miles to Laguna to begin the climbs. The last climb was Newport Coast on my way to meet Donna at Fashion Island.

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