Hardly the most difficult climb in the area and may not even break into the top 5 but it is a classic climb in every sense of the word, Gibraltar. 3000' of climbing with multiple switchbacks all the way to the top save for a very brief descent into a mountainside community before climbing back out. The switchbacks provide expansive views of Santa Barbara, the coast, the Pacific and the Channel Islands. Stunning views all the way to the top. People consider the start of the climb from different points, either from the ocean (tack on another 1000') from Foothills Drive, from Mountain Drive or from where I start, where the road is signed Gibraltar. There, I ran into a guy who was riding a mountain bike with knobby tires. I asked, "Are you going to ride to the top on that and if so, don't embarrass me by passing." He laughed and said he rides up the mountain 3 times a week and chose the mountain bike to increase the resistance.
My previous best time was 1:09 and I kind of thought I'd have a good shot at getting under an hour but as I shoved off, so too did the other guy and he began talking and I forgot to restart my computer, instead looking down and seeing the time read 10:25am. I quickly left him behind (whew!) but came to a fork in the road that I had not remembered and turned left, while continuing to climb....wrong turn idiot. I stopped the computer, turned around, coasted back to the fork and got onto the correct road while restarting the computer. Not sure how much time I lost but at least a minute.
The climb is a little steep in sections at the start but not bad until it gets bad. Make a 180 degree turn, hit a ramp, make another turn and another and on and on with fabulous views. After coasting through a 100 yard downhill through that community, it gets very steep with many pitches in the 12-18% range. Finally, closing in on an hour, I ride to the back side of the mountain, riding hard (for me) but it keeps going and keeps going and I begin to panic, come around a turn and there is East Camino Cielo Road, hit the computer and it's 11:26 so that's 1:01 from the start. What to do...I rationalize that when I first looked at the computer it was 10:25 but early in the minute or late in the minute? How long did that detour take....at least a minute...therefore, my time was 59:59:59, yes, just under one minute.
Then I followed ECC for 7 miles of mostly down hill, most of it along the spine of the mountain with views to both the coast and valley all the way. Amazing.
Reached the end of the pavement, turned around and headed back, gaining around 900' to Gibraltar. Along the way I wondered if there are people living out in the vast wilderness off the grid and someone told me indeed there are. Some can be found while fighting fires and they the firefighters stumble into their "home sites".
Hard to beat this view. Coasted down with 32 miles and 4400' of climbing. Had planned to ride over and do the San Marcos and Painted Cave climbs but just ran out of motivation.