Saturday, March 3, 2012

DRR 200 - September 15, 2012. The Grimpeur.

Organizer: Norm Carr
Start/Finish location: Yokes Fresh Market, Road 68, Pasco, WA
Start at: 9/15/2012 07:00
Finish by: 9/15/2012 20:30
Route: Spreadsheet, map.
Sunrise: 06:35
Sunset: 19:07

Lights and reflective gear required.
Fee: $10 -- cash preferred

Register; see who else is riding.

Nearest accommodation:

Sleep Inn
9930 Bedford Street
Pasco, WA 99301
(509) 545-9554

Holiday Inn Express
4525 Convention Place
Pasco, WA 99301
(509) 543-7000

In the UK (and elsewhere, for all I know), there’s an informal tradition of naming particularly hilly randone├ęs as grimpeur (“gram-purr”, French: climber) routes. I’m using the term a little ironically. Eastern WA doesn’t have high passes like the Cascades to the west, but this route visits the most notable summits local to the Tri-Cities, and climbs around 5,000 feet - twice as much as our regular “Flat Yak” spring 200 Km event. We will spend a substantial portion of the ride in the Horse Heaven Hills. Bounded by the Yakima valley to the north and the Columbia river to the east and south, and named after the herds of wild horses that used to roam here, it’s now land intensively farmed for wheat and wind. There’s the opportunity for awesome long-distance views from up here, south across the Columbia to Oregon, north across the Yakima valley, and on a good day you’ll have a simultaneous view of Mts Hood, Adams and Rainier to the west.

The ride starts on Road 68 in Pasco which is well-appointed with plentiful services. We head down to the river then take the riverside bike trail to cross the Columbia on the 395 “Blue Bridge”. Next we wiggle through Kennewick on some back streets, then begin the recently rebuilt climb up Clodfelter. From the top of Clodfelter (about 1850’) we begin the long, straight trip west across the Horse Heaven Hills. The course gently drops then climbs again before we turn onto Township Road. Then very soon the pavement ends and about 7 miles of dirt road begins. It’s well-maintained dirt and will be a problem only for particularly skinny and feeble road tires. This section also includes the high point of the ride (about 2000’) and the reward is excellent views and even less motorized traffic, if any.

We rejoin pavement at the junction with the Mabton-Bickleton road and head north down a fast but twisty descent into the Yakima valley. If you’re desperate for sustenance, the roadside burger joint and couple of bars might be open in Mabton (100Km, no grocery or convenience store), but if you can wait, options for refuelling are much better in Grandview (115 Km). The control at Grandview Safeway is hard to miss, but remember to leave on Wine Country Road (heading E), not the way you arrived (from the W).

Next it’s a quick stretch to Prosser, further optional services, then the steady climb up SR-221 (locals call it “the elevator”) to the Horse Heaven Viewpoint and info control. From the viewpoint we continue back east through yet more wheat fields until eventually arriving at the top of Webber Canyon - another local cyclists’ favorite hill. It’s a fast and fun descent on a good surface, but keep half an eye over your shoulder for occasional traffic creeping up on you. There’s a Conoco at the bottom in Benton City for refreshment. The last stage back to Pasco, beside the Yakima for a bit, through Richland, over the Columbia and back to Road 68 and the finish, is gently rolling - with any luck there’ll be a tailwind.

There’s effectively no services of any significance until after the first half of this ride, at Grandview (115 Km). Please carry plenty of food and drink from the start. Bear in mind that, even in September, Eastern Washington temperatures can sometimes be in the 90s (sunscreen!). Up in the hills there’s little or no cover and if we’re unlucky the prevailing wind might be against us for the first 100 Km or so.


  1. The picture is taken from more-or-less the highest point of the ride. Some great views up there above the Yakima valley. The road is a few miles of dirt, but well-maintained. I had no problem with 28c tires.

  2. So... how many miles of gravel is there? Being on a recumbent, I'm not too keen on gravel.

  3. I am interested in doing this event. The gravel section will be good traing for me since I'll be riding L'Eroica later this year.

    Looking at the route sheet I don't see any mention of services until the Safeway at mile 70. For those of us not familiar with the area are there other options?

  4. Also, I dont see a registration link. And, I don't understand why my google ID doesn't show up?

  5. Map/GPS download is at

  6. And routesheet download...

  7. Made a spur of the moment decision to pre-ride Le Grimpeur yesterday rather than today...
    Perfect weather and great views up in the Horse Heavens. Long stretches where I felt like I had the whole place to myself. Very little traffic anywhere. If its like this in a couple of weeks it'll be a lovely ride.

    Things of minor note...
    * Up in the hills what little traffic there is can be large produce trailer-trucks full of corn or grain or other veggies. They can be a little intimidating, but will give you plenty of room if they can and return a wave.
    * The dirt road section along Township road has been 'improved' by having loose gravel dumped on it in places, and there's more washboard than a few months ago. The surface is now looser over some sections. I still rode it on 28s without much worry, but required a little more care, especially at any speed on the couple of downhill bits.
    * I got low on water up on Township, despite having three bottles - bring lots! It'll hopefully be a little cooler in a couple of weeks, and there might even be a 'secret' control somewhere up there, but take plenty anyhow...
    * I was previously unfair to Mabton - there is a small store there. Still recommend waiting til Grandview to refuel.
    * Mama J's burgers in Mabton... just don't... trust me on this...
    * A tailwind down Webber is a beautiful thing.
    * Couple of small tweaks to the routesheet are coming.
    * The rest is all familiar territory, no surprises. Overall the route is looking good, but consider wider tires for Township, if you're undecided.

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