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Using the Mountain Directory e-Book to Find Steep Hills
You might think, “Well, I’ll just go around them.” Often that’s the best idea but there are three problems with it:
- Snowbirds need to go up into the mountains to find cool weather and that forces you to drive these steep hills. For that we need to know which is the easiest route into the cool mountains.
- In much of the west there simply is no alternative, you either go over the mountains or drive 1000 miles out of your way to avoid them. In that case, we need to know which of the mountain passes will be the easiest.
- Much of the magnificent beauty of the west is a lot like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and it’s either in the mountain pass itself or on the other side of it.
I‘d heard of a book that lists all the Mountain Passes in the country and describes them in detail, and I knew that was just what I needed so I went to Amazon to buy it and found it, the ”Mountain Directory West.” Oddly, they had it listed but there were no new editions, just used ones, the earliest they had was published in 2007 and those old ones which were very overpriced. Apparently the owner of the book couldn’t make enough money with hardbound books so he stopped making them and now only sells them as e-Books.
I knew it was what I had to have so I went ahead and bought the e-Book. It’s great and I’ve been very pleased with it; however, I much prefer a hard-copy so it’s always handy and I can just thumb through it. I got lucky and I was in a used bookstore in Jackson Wyoming and they just happened to have a copy of a 2002 edition for $4! I didn’t hesitate to buy it and have never regretted it. I haven’t found any significant differences between it and my 2015 e-Book edition. It’s unlikely you will find a used copy, so I’m only including photos of the e-Book, which is a great and well worth buying.
I’ve used it constantly over the summer! Every time I get ready to take a drive into a new area I study the passes so when I get there, I know exactly how steep they are and how long they stay that steep. But that isn’t the whole story when it comes to mountain passes. A big part of their difficulty is in the curves along the hill. If I can hit the bottom of a hill with enough speed, I’m much more likely to maintain a good speed the whole way up it. But, if there are many curves on it that force me to slow down, I can’t accelerate going up a hill of over 6%. So if it’s full of 25 mph curves and over 6% grade, I’m climbing that hill at 25 mph the whole way. If there is another route up the mountain, that is the same grade but has fewer curves, that’s the way I want to go.
The same with going downhill. A long straight downhill is much easier than a curvy downhill even if they are the same grade. With a straight downhill you can put in a lower gear and maintain 50-60 mph with little stress on your brakes. But if it’s full of 25 mph curves, you’ll be constantly on your brakes and working them much harder.
Fortunately, the ”Mountain Directory West” describes the curves and their speed, giving you a true description of the hills difficulty.
Another thing I really like about it, is that the maps do a very good job of visually showing you where the mountains and the valleys are. So when I plan my route I can look at the map and know at a glance when I’ll be in the hot lowlands (color coded tan or green)and then climb up into the cool mountains (darker brown) and by looking at the description of the Pass I know how difficult the climb will be up into the mountains
Why is it important to know in advance about bad hills? There are two reasons:
- You can avoid the hill altogether by finding a different route. Because I’m writing a book about mountain passes, I didn’t have the option to skip hills, but most of you do. For example, there are 5 routes into Yellowstone, and you probably will only drive two, one on the way into it and one on the way out. So by using this book, you can chose either the hardest and most beautiful (the two usually go together) or the easiest. In some places, you may want to simply back-track and do a circle to avoid a particular hill. That’s true about the “Oh My God Hill” I described in my last travel post, in that case you have two other much easier ways to get to the top and avoid what is the worst hill I’ve ever driven.
- Knowing how long and steep a hill is in advance, you can pull over and stop to let the brakes and engine cool. You can stretch your legs, get a bottle of water, enjoy the view and take some pictures. In that way you’ve taken what might have been a stressful, unpleasant or even dangerous experience, and turned it into a pure pleasure. The problem is that most of us think to ourselves, “I’m almost to the top, so I’ll just keep going.” But too often, we’ve only just begun and the worst is still ahead! If we keep pushing our way up or down the hill, we not only ruin the joy of the experience, we place ourselves in danger. With this book, you’ll know exactly where you are on the hill and how much worse it gets ahead.
I’m giving you a link to get the Mountain Directory E-Book, but I should tell you that I will make a little money on each one sold. I hope you know that is not my motivation in encouraging you to buy one, I honestly believe every traveler should own one of these and use it often! I can guarantee you that I will never be without one!
Purchase the Mountain Directory East or West from this link, and I’ll make a small amount on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything extra: Click Here!
In my next post I’ll give you details on understanding what the percentage grade numbers mean and how you can use them to stay safe and comfortable. I’ll also give you safety tips for climbing and descending steep hills.
One last thing, the book doesn’t claim to have every single mountain pass in the country but it does cover the vast majority. In my travels this last summer I only found one that I wish had been included but wasn’t and it wasn’t all that bad.