I did once ride up Vermont's Mt. Ascutney, which gains almost exactly half the elevation of Mt. Washington in almost exactly half the distance. The Ascutney ride is popular with people training for the Mt. Washington race because it’s open to anyone for the cost of a day pass to Ascutney State Park. (Vermont state motto: Freedom and Unity. New Hampshire state motto: Charge Fees or Die.)
In the middle of November, I got together with a group of old friends to do an end-of-the season overnight including some big hills. The plan called for leaving cars at a campground on Maine Rte. 113—which runs along the Maine-NH line, and crosses into New Hampshire in a couple of places—and ride south through rolling country to the base of the Hurricane Mountain Road. After crossing it, our plan was to head north on Rte. 302 and 16 to an overnight stay the Appalachian Mountain Club camp in Pinkham Notch. On Sunday morning, we’d continue north to Gorham and head east on Rte. 2 before picking up 113 again and following it up and over Evans Notch and back to our vehicles.
The weather was about as good as you could reasonably hope for at that time of year—mostly clear, not much wind, with temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s. We reached the base of the Hurricane Mountain Road around noon and began clawing our way up and over.
As an oldish guy who lives at the top of a long, steep stretch of dirt road, I’m not ashamed to run a mountain-bike-style low gear on my road bikes, and on this trip I was glad to have it. I ground to the top in a 30-tooth chainring and a 34-tooth freewheel cog, with my cadence dropping to 45 rpm on the steepest sections. (Yes, I looked it up when I got home—that's about 3 miles per hour.) I had to keep sliding forward to prevent my front wheel from losing contact with the pavement.
For some reason, the warning sign for the descent of the west side designates it as a 5% grade. Not so—it’s the same 17% as the east side. At two closely-spaced switchbacks along the way, the grade on the inside of the curves looks more like a cliff than a roadway.
I expected to use my brakes a lot, and did use them a lot.
After a pleasant and sociable evening—the ride had been planned to coincide with the annual meeting of the AMC Trail Crew Association—we woke on Sunday morning to three inches of fresh snow. Out with Plan A, in with Plan B. We caught a ride back to our vehicles and declared victory. That's the way to run a bike tour.