Ranking of climbs

[return to index

Passo dello Stelvio







Climbing and crunching

There are several methods for measuring the difficulty of a climb. I will discuss some of them. 

1. The highest grade for at least 10 kilometer  
These climbs are rated high in France  Mont du Chat 10 Mont Colombis 9,80 Granon 9,4 Agnel 9,2 Luitel 9,05 Ventoux 9,05 Alpe d'Huez 8,9 Madeleine 8,1
A good method, but the climb must be at least 10 km. 

2. The height difference  
Some examples in France  Galibier 2086 m Iseran 1986 m Val Thorens 1986 m Turini 1912 m Lombarde 1860 m Parpaillon 1850 m Cormet de Roselend 1670 m Bonette 1642 m Ventoux 1609 m
The problem with this method is where to define the start of the climb. 

3. Combination of grade and altitude gained  
the formula:           [ H^2 / D*10 ] 
(height difference in meters) squared / (distance travelled in meters * 10) 
Source: Dutch bicycle-magazine FIETS 

This formula has two components: 
 H * (H/D) -- altitude gained times mean grade 

A 10 km climb with a height difference of 1000 meter (grade 10%) will be rated at 10. This is of the same rating as a climb of 5 km distance and 707 meter (14%) or 1 km and 316 meter (31,6%) height difference. 

Here is a list of some climbs: 
Name (country, region) - index  start (height) 

  • Pic Du Midi Di Bigorre (France, Pyrenees) - 19,7 Luz st sauveur (2865 m) 
  • Pico Veleta (Spain, Sierra Nevada) -16,4 Granada (3398 m)
  • Monte Zoncolan (Italy, Alps) - 15,5  Ovaro (1750 m) 
  • Grossglockner (Austria, Alps) - 14,1 Fusch (2575 m) 
  • Mortirolo (Italy, Alps) - 14,1 Mazzo (1852 m)
  • Pic Du Canigou (France, Pyrenees) - 13,8 Villefranche (2175 m) 
  • Stelvio (Italy, Alps) - 13,6 Prato (2758 m) 
  • Parpaillon (France, Alps) - 13,4 La Condamine (2645 m) 
  • Kitzbuhler Horn (Austria, Alps) - 13,2 Kitzbuhel (1966 m) 
  • Monte Baldo (Nago) (Italy, Alps) - 13,1 Torbole (1520 m)
  • Telegraph/Galibier (France, Alps) - 12,8 St Jean de Maurienne (2646 m) 
  • Ventoux (France, Provence) - 12,7 Bedoin (1909 m) 
  • Madeleine (France, Alps) - 12,5 La Chambre (1984 m) 
  • Port D'Aula (France, Pyrenees) - 12,3 Seix (2260 m) 
  • Monte Bondone (Italy, Alps) - 11,9 Trento (1645 m) 

Some of the climbs mentioned above are non paved  (Pic du Midi, Pic du canigou, Parpaillon, Monte Zoncolan, Port d' Aula). 
Other examples for indexed climbs are:  Pico de Teide (Tenerife): 13  Col du Tourmalet (France): 10,9  Mont du Chat (France): 10,93  Gavia (Italy): 10,6  Grand Colombier (Jura) 10,56  Cime de la Bonette (France): 10,4  Alpe d'Huez (France): 10,0  Mt. Evans (highest paved climb in USA): 9,3 

Indexed climbs in Belgium and the Netherlands  Haussire (Belgium): 2,38  La Redoute (Belgium): 1,75  Huy (Belgium) : 1,5  Rosier(Belgium): 1,35  Wanne (Belgium): 0,80  Keutenberg (Netherlands): 0,75  Eyserbos (Netherlands): 0,90 

I personally use this formula. A climb of 6 is a moderate climb. All climbs with a higher index than 8 are difficult climbs. 

Of course there are some remarks for this formula. 
This formula doesn't take account for other factors like: 
- not constant % incline, steep passages can make it hard 
- the condition of the road (paved or gravel) 
- the weather (temperature/wind) 
- the number of switchbacks 
- the physical condition of the rider 
- the weight of luggage 
- the type of bike & gearing used 

4. Sum of the squared grade for each kilometer 
A even better but more complex formula is the sum of the squared grade for each kilometer. This formula does take account for the variation of the grade. You can also calculate the total points for a race like the Marmotte. 
But you will need detailed information of the height for each kilometer and it is difficult to calculate. Moreover the ranking of climbs with the simpel formula fits (according to my opinion) more the right order than with this one. Very long but not steep climbs are rated with this formula higher than with the other formula. 

I have used the simpel formula several times, and it seems to me a good indicator for the strength of a climb. The Tdf-ranking fits also remarkable well. 

Moreover it is better to feel than to calculate the difficulty of a climb! For some practical experience see:

Cycling in the mountains

More discussions about steep climbs:


Some other links 

  • Challenge-big.eu
  • www.quaeldich.de
  • Eurocols
  • The slopes of Europe
  • Tuur's Bergen
  • Cyclingcols.com
  • Iseran col Atlas- Killer bike hill climbs
  • Steep climbs - eurobike
  • Luc Oteman and his roundtrips in the mountains (Dutch)
  • http://www.icyclist.com
  • http://www.cyclepass.com/


    what is your favourite climb?

    1998 Luddo Oh