Climbing. It’s What We Do in the California Alps

My newphew Ryan, who lives in the Santa Cruz mountains, says something like: “I’m climbing as soon as I leave my house.” For those of us who live in the mountains, including the “real mountains” of the Sierra (sorry Ryan), climbing is indeed what we do, and I, like Ryan, start climbing pretty much right out my front door.

Now, if you’ve met me you know that I am not the typical climber. At 6’2″ and 225 pounds (1.88 meters and 102.06 kilograms for you euro-purists, and for my own edification) I guess I’m more a sprinter than a climber. But I’ve always been a big boy and I’ve prided myself in not conforming to that stereotype. So, I relish the climbing (most of the time) and I’m trying to get better at it. Sometimes I prefer the climbs to the descents (sometimes) because I could be a better descender too and up here in Markeeville, 50 mph (80.47 kph) descents are pretty common.

Looking up the road to blue skies and dappled sunlight on the road - Hwy. 4 Ebbett's Pass at Chalmer's Mansion
Looking up hill (southwest) on Hwy. 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) at Chalmer’s Mansion

Our local pride & joy, the Deathride (July 13, 2019), climbs five (5) mountain passes (so 5 descents too) over about 125 miles, including both sides of Monitor Pass, Ebbett’s Pass (the entire northwest side and the other side to/from Hermit Valley) and the eastern side of Carson Pass. Add the many bumps and rollers in between and it presents a daunting challenge of approximaltey 15,000 feet of climbing. I’ll let you euro junkies do the km and meter conversions this time. 

“It’s not just Markleeville, though, right?” You ask. You’d be correct. The California Alps cover more area than that but Alpine County is really the heart of our Alps, hence the county name. Check out this recent article by the Sacramento Bee for more info. and here’s a link to an even more recent Los Angeles Times article. No shortage of things to do here in M’Ville and surrounds…

Okay, back to my point: climbing. While I may not have as many flat choices as others might, I do have some. Even those (Diamond Valley, for example) have some decent elevation gain, though.

So, how does one become a better climber? Okay, full disclosure, I’m no expert but after years of athletic endeavors (California’s Aids Ride back in 1998, Black Belt, Kenpo Karate in 1999, Deathride finisher in 2017 to name several) I’ve learned some basic tenets:

  1. Eat less
  2. Drink (beer) less
  3. Weigh less
  4. Climb more
  5. Work the core
  6. Lift weights.

Those last two bullets, while they may seem counterintuitive, have really made the difference for me, especially the core work. Fit balls and Bosu balls have become my friends. Try doing some dumbell work on the former (use the ball as a bench) and some squats on the latter (stand on the flat side). Takes practice but after awhile you’ll lose the wobble. My balance is better, I’m a better climber and I’ve increased my average power and my stamina. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Mark coming up the hill to the finish of the Medio version of the Mammoth Gran Fondo. Flashing the hang loose sign with tongue hanging.
Finishing the Medio (70 miles, 3500′ of climbing) on Sept. 8, 2018

After the Mammoth event I decided I needed to do more. I need to lose more weight so I can get my power to weight ratio up and I need to get even stronger. How do I do that? Well, I just started reading it but so far Bicycling’s “Climb!” is encouraging. Chapter 3, “Goats and Grinders” has some great information (you guessed it, I’m a grinder) and I especially love this quote from author Selene Yeager: “It’s not just the size of the rider but the power in the pedal stroke.” And, no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not getting any kind of stipend or the like from Bicycling. I’m just a knowledge junky and now that I live in the heart of the CA Alps I figured I better get REALLY serious about my climbing prowess. Not sure, have I earned the right to use “prowess” yet? What the heck, it’s my blog after all!

Got some advice you’d like to pass on? We’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™

 

 

 

 

My lawyer told me I need to tell you this too: Please check to make sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set. CAC is not responsible for any injuries whether you are riding, lifting weights or doing anything physical. Know yourself and what you are capable of.  Any information provided on this website is subject to change and CAC is not responsible for the accuracy of that information.  

2 thoughts on “Climbing. It’s What We Do in the California Alps”

  1. When I was young, climbing was my favorite thing to do. Maybe it’s genetic. Now I like descending at least as much. At 5’8” and 135#, (having lost a few crossing the continent this summer) I don’t enjoy flats and headwinds – but I might not mind following you through the wind!

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