November 10, 2020 2 Comments

Back in the Summer, Band of Climbers ran a route planning challenge whilst most of the world was in some sort of COVID-19 related lockdown. The idea was simple. Plot a route with as much vertical elevation as you could, from your own home.  

This was never designed as a competition to see who could find the most elevation. It was a challenge that would give us all something to plan and do during lockdown. Plotting the most elevation you can find in 100km sounds simple, but there were rules:

  1. The route must start and finish at exactly the same spot
  2. The route must not use the same road twice, so no out and back rides
  3. The route must not criss-cross on itself
  4. The route must be a maximum of 100km long (but could be shorter)


We received hundreds of entries from across the world. We awarded prizes to several of those just for entering, and in the summer, when lockdown was eased in the UK, we went and rode the toughest 100km route that was submitted in the UK. 

You can read about the UK's toughest 100km ride here. It featured 3000m of elevation, with just 4km of flat riding. After riding the route, we can confirm it's simply brutal. Perhaps the hardest 100km we've ever ridden, anywhere. 

Sure, there are longer climbs and it's possible to ride more elevation but the relentless nature of this route simply wore us down. Almost every climb had sections over 10%, and many over 20%.

The route itself actually had more elevation than the vast majority of our entries. We had tonnes of entries from the Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites, Switzerland etc.. and almost none of them came close to 3000m.

The reason is simple, in the high mountains, it's hard not to use the same road twice, or double back on yourself. There are simply less roads in those areas to enable you to make a 100km route with these rules, and that was all part of the challenge. It meant that those living in the mountains had to challenge themselves to find an alternative way of packing in vertical meters.


Amongst the many entries we received, there were a lot which broke the rules. Many routes were over the 100km limit, many used the same road twice. Some completely ignored the rules and simply plotted a route up and down the same climb for 100kms! Fair play for trying guys!

Now that we're back in lockdown in the UK and in many parts of the world, we thought we'd revisit these entries, and the rule breakers to find the entry with THE most amount of elevation.

That entry comes from a pretty unexpected place. Not the mountains of France, Italy, Spain, the US or even Colombia. 

Step forward Paul W, currently living in Hong Hong, and more specifically Hong Kong Island. Paul submitted a 99.23km route with a whopping 4480m of elevation.


The route Paul submitted was simply mind-blowing. Four thousand, four hundred and eighty metres of elevation. In less than 100km. That's 14,698ft for those using imperials, in less than 62miles. Having ridden the UK's toughest 100km, the thought of adding another 1400m to this make our legs weak.

Full disclosure, Paul's route did break our rules. For this reason it wasn't eligible for the prizes in our original challenge. The first few KM's do overlap with the finish, BUT, it would be entirely possible to amend the route and make it a couple of KM's shorter, and within the rules, without losing much elevation.


At this point, due to Covid we've not been able to head over to Hong Kong and ride the route, so we can't provide a full report on the route. However, we caught up with Paul recently who told us more about it.

He admitted he'd never ridden the whole route in a single ride, perhaps because it's so brutal. When we spoke to him, Paul explained he was currently training for an event aptly named the Tour of Pain. A 130km ride with 4000m of elevation in Hong Kong. He was planning on riding part of his 100km route to prepare for that event.


Paul went onto further explain the route, that some sections are more like hiking trails, so a little off road, (a further breaking of our rules) and some sections are through 'no cycling areas' but he knows of riders who will safely ride through these sections early morning or late at night, also to escape the humidity and heat in the area.

The climbs around Victoria Peak certainly look like a highlight of the route. One segment on Strava named ' Morning Path to Peak' is 1.55km with an average gradient of 12.8%, with highs of over over 24%.

After learning more about the route, we're certainly adding Hong Kong to our bucket-list. It certainly appears as though there are plenty of options for testing the legs around the mountains and hills of Hong Kong Island. 



Can you plot a 100km route with more than 4400m of elevation? We'd love to see it. Add it to the comments below. One day, we might come and ride it with you...



2 Responses

Band of Climbers
Band of Climbers

November 17, 2020

Hey Thomas, thanks for sharing that route, it looks fantastic! Next time we’re in the Dolomites I’m very keen to give that a try. Stuart


November 17, 2020

I challenge this with a 100km loop that features 4.150m (using the Strava route planner), but adheres to all rules that you described. This one is in the Alps, i.e. the Dolomites, and uses some extremely steep routes leading out of Bozen/Südtirol.

Leave a comment