Monte Oiz - Gernika (Basque Country)
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Monte Oiz from Gernika is a much harder climb than the average gradient suggests. The first 15km are gentle with no real difficulty. However, you then turn off onto a narrow road with very steep sections and a bumpy road surface which requires yet more power to overcome.
Roads & TrafficThe road surface is in very good condition for the first 15km. The last 5km are on a corrugated concrete road surface. This used to be quite rough, but prior to the climb being tackled in the 2018 Vuelta a España, the worst bits were all re-surfaced, and it is now very pleasant for riding.
There is little traffic throughout the climb.
The climb to Monte Oiz from Gernika joins the scenes of two of the greatest tragedies in recent Basque history. The climb begins from Gernika - a small city which was subjected to an intense aerial bombardment by the German Luftwaffe in the Spanish Civil War. This tragic event helped Franco to seize control of the country, but the barbarity of the attack - immortalized in a painting by Pablo Picasso - left a deep-seated resentment.
The bombing and subsequent anti-Basque policies implemented by the Franco regime further fuelled the indpendence movement in the region, which had been re-ignited at the end of the 19th century by Sabino Arana. This resulted in over one thousand more deaths in violent clashes during the following seventy years. The cease-fire, declared in 2011 and upheld since, has certainly not ended Basque claims for indpendence, but it has indicated a willingness to achieve it solely through political means.
At the other end of the climb, the peak of Monte Oiz has long been an important mountain in Basque culture. It is one of the five Deiadar-Mendiak - visible summits from which messages were sent, summoning members of the local government to meetings. The messages were sent by fire or by a traditional Basque horn. More recently, in 1985, Monte Oiz was the scene of a plane crash, after a flight from Madrid to Bilbao hit the radar tower at the top of the climb in thick cloud.
From a cycling point of view, Monte Oiz from Gernika is an excellent climb to ride. The scenery is pleasant throughout, but becomes really spectacular towards the top of the climb, with stunning views all along the coastline. The upper section is extremely challenging, and the last 500m before you reach a small plateau by the wind turbines is one of the toughest stretches of climb that you will ever do on a road bike. However, it is worth peservering here, even if you have to walk, in order to get above the tree line and enjoy the amazing scenery in the last 2km.
Monte Oiz is open throughout the year as far as the Balcón de Bizkaia - just before you turn off the main road. The last 5km are open most of the year, but can close in winter for short periods following heavy snowfall.
Other sidesMonte Oiz can also be climbed from Iurreta and Munitibar.
Puerto de Urkiola