When in the high mountains, hellish stages have a habit of arriving in bunches, and 522 is the third of four that throw up over a thousand feet of climbing. On the previous stages, the ascent has been distributed throughout the stage but on this one, the vast majority of the pain is reserved for the first five miles. The stage runs east from the merge of the Swift River and the Smart River, past Swan Lake and on to the join of the Swift River and McNaughton Creek. The Swift River is your guide for the stage as it flows against the direction of travel.
The rollout crosses the Smart River almost immediately, and that short sharp descent is almost as good as it gets in the early stages. The road climbs quickly and steeply to two miles before descending again to cross not one stream but two at three miles: then the main body of the first climb kicks in, taking the Alaska Highway to the highest elevation of the stage at almost three thousand feet by five miles. The difference in elevation between one mile and five miles is a whopping seven hundred feet.
If the first five miles are up, the next five are down. It’s a lumpy descent that takes a mile or so to get going, and it even has a couple of bumps thrown in for good measure, but once Route 1 approaches Swan Lake at ten miles, the descent is essentially over. The road runs along the water’s edge for almost four miles (Swan Lake is an east/west lake) but at the eastern end, the road is already some way into a long left hander that sees the trajectory swing from east to north east for the remainder of the stage.
On leaving the lake, the next long climb begins. It’s less severe than either of the first two, but it’s just as long and by seventeen miles the road has gone back up by another three hundred feet. As the river meanders all over the place on the right, the road maintains a straighter line, and by the time the river rejoins the road to run right alongside it at seventeen miles, there’s even the luxury of a couple of gentle dips, the second of which sees McNaughton Creek flowing into the Swift River.
The remainder of the stage is gently downhill on a left hand curve and the finish line is where the Swift River goes flowabout on the right hand side of the road high up in the middle of nowhere.
Distance: 21 miles / 34 kilometres
Distance: 21 miles / 34 kilometresAscent: 1518 feet / 463 metres
RGT Magic Road: JSw8tXG88fPi
Max elevation: 2960 ft
Min elevation: 2304 ft
Total climbing: 1520 ft
Total descent: -1077 ft
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