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.  

California Alps Cycling Members Hit the Slopes of Mammoth

Last Saturday, a few of us rode the Mammoth Gran Fondo out of Mammoth Lakes, CA. Members Mario Carmona and Chris Schull, along with yours truly (check out our Strava profiles on the CAC Membership page), rode from one of the southern points of the California Alps, still in the heart of the Sierra Nevada though, into the Owens Valley, and back.

An image of the route taken by a rider on the Mammoth Gran Fondo
Map of my “Medio route” at the Mammoth Gran Fondo.

Mario went for the Gran Fondo distance (i.e. the century) and Chris and I decided to do one of the shorter (the Medio, 70 miles) rides so we could drink more beer on Friday night. I had never been to Mammoth and so was pretty stoked to get a glimpse into what the place was all about. Unfortunately, due to my crazy schedule, we were only able to experience the vibe for a short time. Nonetheless, we made the best of it!

Chris and I arrived just in time for “beertails” and after meeting Mario at our hotel to give him his CA Alps Cycling jersey (yes, they’re in – if you pre-ordered one I’ll be in touch soon), we headed to Mammoth Brewing. Had some good beer and fine grub (those chicken tacos on naan were lip-smacking good) and then decided to make one more stop for a “beerpertif.” Yeah, I know, I’m taking some liberties with the english language here…Can’t help myself!

Okay, enough about the night life, which after all of our talk, really wasn’t much. We’re in our fifties (well Chris isn’t quite there yet but will be in a couple weeks) ya know and we did have a ride to do tomorrow. So, in the end, we were responsible adults and went back to the hotel fairly early so we could prep. our bikes for the next day.

We had brought plenty of cold-weather gear for the start, but as it turned out, the day was a bit balmier than normal. About 45-50 at the start with bright sun, as you can see from the pix below.

The blue in our jerseys works nicely with the sky, don’t you think?

After a short climb out of town we had a nice, long twenty (20) mile descent or so and then it was back the way we came, into the Owens Valley, back out to Hwy. 395 and then back into town. Here’s a few shots I took while on the bike:

And here’s a bunch more from the Owens Valley, including a couple rest stop pix.

As you can see, it was an amazing day. I still can’t get over the color of the sky in these images. Sometimes it looks almost purple. It’s that color that inspired us on the design of our kits.

I should mention that the organizers did a great job. The rest stops were well-staffed and stocked, and that made to order turkey and cheese sandwich really hit the spot. Thanks!

What else can I say? Another great day on the bike. Kudos to Mario (yup, he finished) and Chris (he had a rough day on the bike but perserved nonetheless) and hey, what the heck, I’ll give myself kudos too. Anyday on the bike…

Tour of the California Alps (a.k.a. the Deathride) Metrics

Happy Friday-eve to you! I hope you’re looking forward to some labor this weekend. I’ve got some work to do on the homestead and will certainly get in a ride or two. Fall is fast approaching here in the California Alps and then we’ll be dealing with that white stuff so if you can schedule a Sierra adventure now’s the time!

Anyway, as I wrote several posts ago, I’d provide some D.R. numbers as soon I could and here they are!

Drum roll please.

An image of the word analytics on a chalkboard with colored pencils underneath.
Photo by Timur Saglambilek on Pexels.com
2018 2017
Registrants 2443 2448
Riders 1698 1728
Five-pass finishers 1045 1050
First timers 876 1021
Hospital trips 1 4

 

As you can see, the numbers are pretty close to last year’s, with the particulary notable exception of first-time riders and that very welcome 75% decline in hospital transports.

I had a conversation with Teresa Burkhauser, Director of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, a couple weeks prior to the Deathride. She was concerned about the continual decline in numbers and we were brainstorming some ideas. Some of these are hers and some are mine. For your consideration, loyal reader:

  1. Promote the 1-pass, 2-pass, 3-pass, 4-pass and 5-pass approach. I.E. There is no shame in finishing just 1, 2 etc. passes. Are some riders were thinking it’s all or nothing?
  2. Since there are more events now overall, that is likely having an effect on the D.R. numbers. Riders can find comporable events closer to their homes and so don’t need to travel as far to get that Deathride “bang.” You think?
  3. Add timed sections or KOMs. Riders would need transponders of some sort but IMHO this would add some motivation and bragging rights. Perhaps give out medals or trophies, too?An image of the sleeveless men's jersey from the 2018 Deathride.
  4. Charge more and make it more of a Gran Fondo type of event with mass starts, timed sections or KOMs (see #3 above) and really good food?
  5. Host a camp for first timers or inexperienced riders (I mentioned this in that post awhile back)? I talked with quite a few riders on the Friday before the ride and many of them were not aware of things like: starting early (and with lights) if you’re doing all five passes; using a sack-back to carry your cold weather gear for the descents; and bringing your own food so you’re body isn’t  shocked by strange input.
  6. A gear drop.  Full disclosure…We’re (California Alps Cycling, that is) thinking of doing that next year since we have done it for our posse a couple times. What would be a fair price do you think?

Do you have any suggestions? Comment on this post or send me an email.

  • Want to check out the D.R. site? Click here.
  • Need some D.R. schwag? Click here.
  • Want some California Alps schwag? Stay tuned for our store grand opening! We’ll have tees (men’s & women’s), stickers, and soon, those jerseys, bibs and wind-vests.
  • Want to become a member of California Alps Cycling? Click here.

See you next year! Deathride on!

 

California Alps Cycling – Here and There

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure I must admit I stole the “Here and there” from a San Jose Mercury News sports writer.  I can’t remember his name but I always liked how he bounced around with quick bullet points on many different subjects.

So, here’s some “bulletized” news about goings on up here in Markleeville, CA., the heart of the California Alps:

  • New Members

Welcome Mary Ellen Riggs and Jeff Karotkin! Thank you for joining our merry band of troublemakers and we remind you to “ride with passion while honoring the sport of cycling.”

  • A Week of Mountain Biking

Having had my road bike in the shop last week I was able to show my 29er (and myself) some love by doing a few mountain bike rides. I’ve got about 300 miles on Bullitt (as I’ve named that bike) and about 12,000 miles on Roscoe II (the name for my road bike). I spent the week in the forest, instead of riding around it and it was freakin’ awesome!

Here’s a couple more shots of the swallows dancing around and over one of the hot springs at Grover Hot Springs State Park. It’s an amazing place and this a.m., with the steam and the sunrise adding to the vibe, it was extremely chill. I like it…Extremely chill…You can use that if you want to, dude.

A swallow enjoying the sunrise and steam at Grover Hot Springs State Park.
“Jet swallow” over the hot springs.
A swallow enjoying the sunrise and steam at Grover Hot Springs State Park.
Upside down swallow over the hot springs.

Okay, I’m done with the Spicoli impression. Onto the next bullet.

  • Jerseys, Bibs and Windvests will be in soon

Four to six weeks was the timeline given to me by Castelli. We’re about 2/3 of the way there. Can’t wait to see the new schwag and I hope you feel the same way. By the time we get ’em in we’ll have a way for you to buy them right on this site. And the tees, too. Stay tuned and please tell your cycling and mountain biker buds and budettes too, k? Much appreciated. Just in case you forgot, here’s a few pix:

  • New Signage in Town

My wife, Mom and I are members of the Markleeville Enhancement Club, which was instrumental in getting our two welcome signs recently refurbished. We held a little dedication ceremony last Saturday. Giving back, or giving to, is such a fantastic feeling.

Welcome to Historic Markleeville Signs - dedication
Members of the MEC, the sign craftsman, Bill Rose (in the hat) and members of the community participate in the dedication and unveiling at the North sign.

Check out the shirt I’m wearing (I’m on the far right, kneeling). It’s kinda hard to see but it’s a CAC shirt and on my left chest is our tagline, “Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!” Oh, and that wonderful woman in the tie-dye skirt is our Club Mother, (and my actual mother) January.

  • A Short Video for Your Viewing Pleasure

I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself right now because I’m hanging out in the SF Bay Area as I write this post.

Just yesterday, I was in Diamond Valley, saying hi to ‘Shoe.

The mountains are calling! You coming?

 

 

 

 

 

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.  Any information provided on this website is subject to change and CAC is not responsible for the accuracy of that information.  

A Day Trip to Wolf Creek Meadow

It seems to me that since I’ve lived in Markleeville, Wolf Creek Road has been closed. That’s not to say I haven’t been back there (shhhh…). I have. I’ve taken a few rides in and a done a few hikes as well. There was a massive slide during the winter of 2016/2017 and so access by car was not possible. Frankly, there were times that it didn’t seem it was wise to access it by bike either – too much mud, rocks and run-off. Nonetheless, I tried, but alas, getting to the Meadow was not even possible. So, after weeks of dirt-haulers coming in and out, I was encouraged. And then recently, bam! the gate was opened and so I was able to ride “that segment” with impunity. However, about 2 miles or so past the gate, the road was just too rough to continue on the bike, so I made a mental note to come back, with the wife ideally, and explore. Last weekend, I did just that! Loaded up the chairs, the cooler, the fishing gear and most importantly, my wife, Patricia, and off we went for an afternoon recon.

wolf creek road map
Access Wolf Creek Road from Hwy. 4, about 8 miles south of Markleeville.

On the way out we spent quite a bit of time checking fishing spots and trying to figure out the best way to get to them but in the end, decided to just keep on truckin’ to the Meadow and then work our way back. It was a bit smokey in some areas due to the Ferguson fire near Yosemite but as you can see, the meadow is an amazing place.

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Happy Cows in Wolf Creek Meadow

We also explored some of the spur roads in the area that lead to various trailheads in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Something else to do in the future – backpacking!

Once we got to the end of the road, literally, we stopped and enjoyed the Creek. I did a bit of fishing (no catching unfortunately) and “momma” read her book and took a little nap. We stopped and hit a few other holes on the way back to Hwy. 4 but again, no catching.

Still, if you’re looking for a little day trip, close to Markleeville, this is one I highly recommend, especially once the smoke clears.

I’ll leave you with a couple pix from one of “those 2016/2017 winter hikes” I mentioned earlier in this post. Take a trip out there! You won’t regret it.

 

California Alps Cycling’s Adopt-a-Highway Adventure

So after a bit of fun doing things like filling out applications, getting an encroachment permit, viewing orientation videos, getting our gear and getting sign decals made and installed on the panels,california alps cycling, lets kick some passes asses, sierra cycling and then mounted on the signs, we were official and ready to rock-n-roll!

Last week, we decided (ok, I decided) that we would just do it. It would just take a couple hours and it wasn’t too hot. Wrong!

Our crew consisting of yours truly, my wife (and soigner extraordinaire) and our Club Mother (aka Mom) got out on the road and did some adoptin’.

Okay, before I continue, some context: CAC has the stretch between Turtle Rock Park and Camp Markleeville – mile markers 14 through 17 (North bound), just between Alta Alpina and the Alpine Watershed Group, other good stewards of the area.

That’s our little stretch of heaven, right there, between those arrows.

california alps cycling, lets kick some passes asses, sierra cycling,
Date and time of the mission: Thursday, July 26th, 1000 hours. Launch location: Camp Markleeville pull-out (bottom arrow). Mission finish: Turtle Rock Park and Highway 89 (top arrow)

Two hours…not! How about four?! And it was hot. 95ish or so, but we had to kick some passes’ asses so we gutted it out and collected about five good sized bags of plastic bottles (lots of those little Sutter Home wine bottles and Crystal Geyser water bottles), cigarette butts (really people! still? so not chill – but I guess all litter is so not chill). Oops, there I go. Let me step off the soapbox and continue. A few beer bottles were in the haul. No micro-brews, though. I found that interesting. Quite a few straws, a flip-flop (didn’t find the match), some gloves (various), lots of bits of plastic-mostly from fast food soda lids, an old antifreeze bottle filled with stinky tar and most importantly, an orange 5 gallon “Let’s do this!” bucket that was in great shape (thanks Home Depot!). Authors note: My wife made our house its forever home and so it didn’t go to the landfill. Oh, and only 2 Gu packs and 2 Gu pack “lids” so not bad, cyclists.

All in all a really good day for team California Alps Cycling. Helped the community and generated some good karma, especially with motorists and our fellow locals (based on the “nice honks,” and waves).

Want to join us next time? We’d love to have you. We’ll be hitting the road again in the fall (September we’re thinking). Right around the time our new Castelli schwag comes in. Oh, boy!

Follow this blog and be on the lookout for an announcement. And remember, part of our mission here at California Alps Cycling is to help the communities in which we live, work and ride. We did our part last week.

What are you doing to give back or pay it forward in your community? Let us know by commenting on this post.

A Little Update on Recent California Alps Cycling Activities

Welcome new members! We’re so pleased to add the following active members to our merry band of troublemakers:

  1. Scott Anderson
  2. Karrie Baker
  3. Mario Carmona
  4. Roy Franz
  5. Greg Hanson
  6. Richard Harvey
  7. Joe Watkins

Thank you all for joining. We look forward to our upcoming adventures together!

We’ve adopted a stretch of Highway 89 (from Camp Markleeville to Turtle Rock)!

As part of our mission, we help the communities in which we live, work and ride and so are very pleased to be able to help keep our local roads clean. We’ll be out doing a bit of litter pick-up later this week. Stay tuned for an after-action report.

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Yup, that’s us, we’ve adopted this stretch of Hwy. 89

Thunderstorms have been a daily ‘thang…

The weather here has been pretty crazy lately with a daily dose of thunderstorms. You can pretty much set your clock by them as they’ve been starting about 2:00 p.m. Yesterday’s storm dumped over a 1/2 an inch in just a few minutes with our weather station showing a rain rate at that time of about 3.84 inches per hour! Be sure to check out our Weather Conditions page regularly for real-time updates.

Jerseys, bibs and shorts will soon be arriving!

Thanks to many of you for your pre-orders. We’re working with Castelli now on finalizing our order and so we’ll soon have your stuff here. Once it’s arrived we’ll reach out to those that have ordered schwag and make final preparations for launch, (okay, shipping but I just liked how that sounded). Oh, and a bit of a surprise…wind vests! Check ’em out:

california alps cycling, cycling, sierra cycling, cycling in the wind
Our new windvest will supplement your cycling wardrobe nicely, we think.

Lastly, the road conditions, photo gallery and video pages have been updated. Take a look!

We wish you a wonderful week of cycling, mountain biking, hiking or just hanging out. Whatever floats your boat, eh? Be safe out there!