Tag: monitor pass

The 41st Deathride – One Rider’s Experience

TEN days has passed since the 41st Annual (kinda) Deathride (aka The Tour of the California Alps). We’re starting to relax a bit here in Alpine County, yet at the same time we’ve begun preparing for next year’s ride. Not kidding.

THAT, however, is a story for another day.

TODAY we have a guest blogger! Amador County resident, and Deathrider Bill Condrashoff. I’m pleased to put forth, for your reading pleasure, Bill’s story about his “day of death.” Editors notes: First, let’s be clear. No one has ever died on the Deathride. Second, the following words are all Bill’s and they WERE NOT edited for clarity or whatever else some news programs might say. That wouldn’t be fair to Bill. It’s his story, and a good one at that. I did take the liberty of throwing in a few photos, though.

IT’S been 3 years since I rode the Death Ride and I missed it. I was in my 50s last time. So I thought I’d see if could still do it in my 60s. I wasn’t planning to better my best or even go for a fast time. I was just going to try to finish. I mentally prepared myself for being passed by the young riders and to just let it go. I’d be happy enough just being out there enjoying what I like to do. Then I got a call from my riding friend Kevin, who was going to come out and enjoy the festivities for old times’ sake. He wanted to know when I would be riding through Markleeville. I told him I would come through between 3 and 4PM. He couldn’t accept that for an answer and convinced me I would be there by 3PM for sure. So he was going to look for me between 2:30 and 3:30PM.

I didn’t know anyone else riding it this year. It was going to be a hot one. I was ready to ride at 5AM but ended up starting at 5:04 or so. Close enough. With the hot weather predicted for later, I knew I had to get in and out of the back side of Monitor Pass as quickly as possible so as not to get fried in the desert. Each side is about 3,000 ft of climbing.

Riders coming up the Eastern side of Monitor pass. Near the Mono/Alpine Co. county line.

When I started, it was about 65 degrees and my legs felt good. I was pedaling up Monitor in a matter of minutes. Most people knew it would be hot and started when I did. I was in a sea of riders just before sunrise. It was calm and all you could hear was the sound of heavy breathing, tires rolling over the pavement and an occasional conversation. Then the grade got steep and the sound of hundreds of bikes downshifting filled the rocky canyon. I was in my lowest gear but not too bad off. As we went up, I could see the sunshine start to cover the mountains around Ebbetts Pass. It looked a long way off and later the ride was going 15 miles beyond Ebbetts before riders would turn around. Of course, at this moment, I was headed AWAY from that pass. Then I realized I needed to get my head in a good place to be able to succeed. That meant having some fun along the way and paying attention to how my legs were feeling.

Before I knew it, I was over the first pass and it was time to have some fun. I gulped some salt tabs and chased them with fluid then started to pass some riders before the unthinkable happened. Some dude passed me going downhill! It was still shallow near the top for a while, but I decided it was time to have some of that “fun along the way”. So, I chased. I might seem like a thin man, but for a cyclist on the Death Ride, I’m a big boy (gravity is my friend on descents). I was up to him pretty quick and I got by him just before the grade got steeper and the spectacular view of the desert appeared. I could see his shadow racing mine on the pavement. He wasn’t just going to let me go ahead. I focused on my line and how to avoid the hundreds of bikes around us. He stayed with me in the twisties and that impressed me because I know the road very well. A couple of times I saw what looked like his shadow riding off the road over the cliff. But, it would always come back where I could see it. Left, right, left, right, pass 12 riders at a time, left, right, left, right, pass 12 more. Then after we came around a righty, and just before a lefty I saw something that scared me. It was guy with a camera standing on the double yellow center line taking photos at the apex of the turn! I could go left or right of him. Both options seemed bad at the speed I was going. So, I braked and went right of him (on the slower line) and the rider making the shadow passed me. I thought “Ok, it’s still a long way down and I have gravity on my side.” After a slower turn, I got back up to him and made a slingshot pass using his draft. It was pretty straight after that so the bigger boy wins, and that was me. At the bottom he was as jacked as I was. We averaged 42 for 7.5 miles with a max of 50mph. We talked about it halfway back up the climb out of the desert before he went ahead of me. 

IT was quite a bit warmer on Monitor Pass the second time over. But, it wasn’t too bad. I still had a good attitude. I pretty much had the second descent to myself and it is less fun to go fast without traffic. So, I decided not to push my luck and conserve energy (and blood). As I started up Ebbetts Pass, Shadow Rider passed me and we discussed how he got behind me. He had taken a nature break. We rode a little while then we both stopped at Wolf Creek for my first water stop. 5 miles up the road he passed me again on the steep stuff. By then the bike traffic was thinning a lot. This told me that I was doing well. It was like the good old days of the 2010s. I kept trying to extrapolate the time I would get to Markleeville because I knew I would be slowing down as I rode. It seemed like I would get there before Kevin left.

I got to the top of Ebbetts feeling pretty worked over. I thought “If I ride over the top, will I be able to climb out of there?” Editor’s note: Even though he was pretty worked over that skeleton is not Bill. This photo, in fact, was taken during the 2018 Deathride. It is, though, at Ebbetts Pass.

AND that’s not the worst of it. Pacific Grade Pass is new to the Death Ride this year. After you go down the back of Ebbetts, you go up Pacific Grade’s 24% slopes. This was sure to lessen my chances of getting back out of the hole I was about to ride into. Against my better judgement, I went for it and Pacific Grade felt steeper than ever. That road tests you at the start with some short 20% grades followed by shallower grades. Then back to steep, then not so steep. Just when you think you’re past the worst of it, the road seems to disappear in front of you. The first right hand switchback is so steep and sharp that it looks like the end of the road. But, it just turns so sharp that it looks like a dead end. Too bad it wasn’t. I would have been happy to turn around at that point. Standing in my lowest gear, wishing I had three more, I could feel the last of my legs slowly being left on the road. On the steep grade, each time I thought I would need to stop, the slope would ease off just enough to keep me from quitting. Before I knew it, it was over and I was at Mosquito Lake on Pacific Grade Pass.

THIS was my chance to rest on the easy pedal to the turnaround at Lake Alpine. Shadow Rider passed me here again and when he did he asked me how long I thought my ride was going to take. I said “If all goes well, 10 hours. If all goes not so good, 11 hours.” I saw him again at the turnaround and spent too much time talking and not enough time drinking. Rolling out of the rest stop, I could tell I was starting to lose power. But I told myself “just get over Ebbetts one more time and you can coast for 30 minutes.”

IT wasn’t much of a ride back to Mosquito Lake. But boy I felt it. After the lake, the drop down Pacific Grade is so steep that you have to get your weight behind your saddle, like on a mountain bike, or you can easily go over your bars when you try to slow for the hairpin turns. I needed to stall because I was so fried. So, I just went slow this time and kept all my blood on the inside by not falling.

The mountains and trees reflected in Kinney Reservoir (about a mile north of the pass). This photo was taken on my first ascent up to Ebbetts Pass (from Markleeville) in 2016.

THE last pass was Ebbetts and I was ready for a struggle and that’s exactly what I got. The pass isn’t that long or steep. What makes it so difficult is all the other climbs before it. Shadow Rider passed me for the last time and I never saw him again. I was crawling (at best) up the hill and just looking for a reason to stop when a guy on the side of the road asked me if I had a CO2 tire filler and if he could use it. That was my excuse! So I stopped with enthusiasm to help him. We got him going quicker than I wanted. Once I started rolling again I felt better. It was only about 500 ft of vertical up to the top from there. When I rolled over the top it was like standing on Everest to me. I was going to make it. My stomach was upset and, due to dehydration I wasn’t sweating anymore. But now it was all downhill for a long time. I filled all bottles for weight and for makeshift perspiration. I drank all I could and poured the rest over my head, front and back as I mostly coasted down towards where I started the day. The cooling plan was working pretty well for a while. But then the temperature started really going up when I dropped below about 7000ft elevation. All the gains I made the first 10 minutes of coasting were getting erased by the heat.

THE 5 miles of road along the canyon that leads to Markleeville were so hot and dry that I would get cotton mouth just 30 seconds after a swig of water. And now, my legs were starting to cramp. Through all of this, I realized I had a shot of finishing the ride in under 9 hours. Remember, 10 hours was my best case scenario. Imagine my surprise! The only obstacle between me and a 9 hour time was the last 20 to 30 minute climb, in nearly 100 degree heat with cramping legs and only about a pint of warm water.

I rolled into Markleeville and looked for Kevin (hopefully with tons of cold water). But, I was an hour ahead of my best predicted time and he wasn’t there yet. In order to beat 9 hours, I had 25 minutes to get up the last hill and figured I’d just see what happened. A woman standing in the street offered me a cold Gatorade. I stupidly said “no thanks” and rode by her. Just past her, I reconsidered and turned around and stopped next to her. She had just ridden both Monitor Passes and had a sense of how I felt. I poured the cold Gatorade into my bike bottle, thanked her and rode off. 50 feet from there, I saw Kevin just as he yelled my name. He had just gotten there and he was prepared. He had ice, cold water, and pantyhose to put ice into and hang around my neck as I rode. He knew all the tricks to beat the heat. Now it’s only 20 minutes to my 9 hour goal! I asked him if he thought I could get up that last hill in 20 minutes and he said “NO”. I still wanted to try, and told him I didn’t want to bother with the panty hose trick. He decided I could use a splash of cold water and poured what felt like an Ice Bucket Challenge cooler full of water over my head. I was yelling “heart attack, heart attack” without breathing out. It was so cold. I was freezing now. I thanked him and took off with 17 minutes to get up the hill. At first I still felt pretty drained so I just went at a pace I thought I could do and drank the Gatorade as fast as I could before it got warm. About halfway up the hill I could see the top. I still had 9 minutes. Then a guy about 50 feet ahead of me turned around and said “tailwind”. There was a tailwind, and it was a good one too. I still had goose bumps on my legs from the icing incident. I thought “I’m going for it.” I picked it up a notch, and seeing how the road got steeper at the end, I timed a last ditch effort to the finish. I watched the time get closer and closer to 9:00:00 on my Garmin. For the last 15 minutes I’d been telling myself not to ride for 9 hours and pull up a couple minutes over 9. So I grabbed a gear and really made sure. 8:58:05!

THIS was about my 12th Death Ride. I’ve been trying to beat 9 hours and have never been able to do it before this ride. The new route is about an hour shorter than the old one. But still, I can now say that I did the Death Ride in under 9 hours! My rolling time was 8:38:XX. So I spent about 20 minutes not moving. The ride was 103.3 miles with 13,999 ft of climb. I averaged 11.9 MPH, maxed 51.3 MPH, averaged 156 watts for a total 1.4 kWHr of energy output. Now your electric bill of $0.60/kWHr doesn’t seem like such a high price, does it? My average heart rate was 133 BPM and max was 150 BPM. According to Strava, I was about the 50th finisher of all six passes.

I signed my name on the big Death Ride poster over the forehead of the skull, as usual. I burned about 5,000 calories, and I got it all back in the breakfast Benita made for me on Sunday morning. One last editor’s note: Only finishers get to sign the poster. Will you add your name next year?

CONGRATS, Bill! I think I can see your signature somewhere in there. 😉

WHAT a ride you had and what a great story. And a PR to boot. Sweet!

THANKS so much for sharing and we’ll see you next year for lucky 13!

Training for the Deathride? Here’s the Number One Thing You Should Do

CLIMB! And, climb some more. And when you think you’ve done enough climbing, do even more. Here in the California Alps climbing is pretty much par for the course; head out the door and you’re on some sort of incline (or decline).

Yesterday, I had the pleasure (and pain) of riding up the west side of Monitor Pass (this view is from just above Heenan Lake) and was reminded that there is no subsitute for climbing if you’re training for a ride with lots of elevation gain.

SURE, I’ve been training hard, with lots of paincave sessions, including HIIT, V02 max, and more, and some of those sessions focus on things such as building endurance, “rocking the rollers” and sweet-spot training (SST); yet I realized while “out on course” that even though my strain is up significantly from the previous week, I’m just not climbing enough.

THIS past week, including yesterday’s adventure, I rode about 116 miles with almost 11,000 feet of elevation gain.

THE DeathrideTour of the California Alps does that in one day, though, and while yesterday’s ride was 36 miles with over 4000 of climbing, I asked myself could I do that three or four more times.

The short answer = NO. At least not yesterday. 🙁

As you can see by my happy, yet very sweaty mug, that first big pitch was hard.

MONITOR east, Ebbetts north and south (or west and east depending on your preference), and Pacific Grade (twice) would still be yet to come on July 17th. Yowza, there is work to be done!

THANKFULLY, we’ve all got more time. IMHO, and based on previous experience, right about now (3-4 mos. out) is when you should start ramping 😉 up your training. And it’s not just about the climbing… Your secondary focus should be on time spent in the saddle.

IF you are going to tackle the entire ride, you’re looking at a full day on your steed.

BACK in 2017, when I finished all of the climbs, I was on the bike for about ten (10) hours and my elapsed time was twelve (12) hours!

VENTURING on a velocipede for that amount of time takes a serious toll on the bod., and takes some getting used to, so don’t skimp. And, if you’re not already thinking about it, be sure to address your future nutrition needs by practicing what, and how much, you eat and drink.

EXPERIMENTING with new bars, gels or drink mixes the day of is a recipe for disaster!

So Now What?

WELL, for me that means heeding my own advice and hitting those hills and mountains more often, and taking on longer rides. I would guess that applies to you as well.

ANOTHER aspect of training that I’m working on is the gear. You may have noticed that I was wearing an USWE hydration pack. Amazing piece of equipment by the way – pretty darn comfy and it DOES NOT move. I am not planning on wearing it for the Deathride but I am going to have it on for May’s Paydirt here in the Pine Nuts. And, yes, sharp-eyed reader, Roscoe is a gravel bike. So it was a double-duty deed, if you will, yesterday – got some climbing in and did it on the bike I’ll be riding in May, with the gear and grub I’ll be hauling.

I’m thinking a 50-60 mile ride on dirt will be a similar experience to a century on the road and so I see some benefits to training for Pete Stetina’s ride now, while also keeping that next big day in July, in mind.

NEED some other ideas? Search “climbing” on this blog for myriad posts on the subject. If you’re a neophyte I’d especially call your attention to this post as well as this one.

The snow is melting and the rivers and creeks are rising and getting chocolately. This is the East Fork of the Carson near Monitor Junction.

AFTER all, spring has sprung so it’s time to get cracking!

WE’RE looking forward to riding with you in July (or sooner perhaps), and the community is getting ready for your visit.

BE sure to make those reservations early, by the way. There are fewer resources around due to last year’s Tamarack Fire.

RIDE on, be safe, and climb, climb, climb!

Some Ride-Related News From Markleeville – And Other Goings On

WE’VE gotten some small amounts of snow here in the California Alps over the last few days; certainly not as much as we’d have liked but it’s something. Better news on that front from the higher climes, however.

SOME backcountry (and other skiing) was to be had over this weekend, said Justin, my trusty physical therapist and backcountry skiing fanatic, last Friday.

bluebird with ornamental plumage resting on twig

I’M sure he was hitting it yesterday and I’d imagine he’s out there today, as any self-respecting mountain athlete (or any snow lover for that matter) would be on this bluebird of a day. 🙂

BULLITT the mountain bike is asking me to take him out for a spin today and I think I’ll oblige. Going to be some mud-slingin’ for sure!

That Ride-Related News

THE road cycling lately has been glorious, notwithstanding the slush, and plow-pellet induced sludge, and therefore requisite cleaning and lubing (whine, snivel). I was able to get outside early in the week and on one ride it felt downright balmy! Only a base tee under the jersey and no arm-warmers!

SINCE then we’ve had a couple light snow events, as I mentioned at the start of this post, so I’ve been partaking of the paincave lately. Segue…

SPEAKING of inside…I was able to test ride the “Fatbiking in the Snow” ride recently and I’m happy to say you Fulgaz subscribers will soon be able to particpate.

BE on the lookout for the “Pick n’ Mix” release tentatively scheduled for March, said Peter the Engineer.

MONITOR and Ebbetts remain closed (Monitor at the junction and Ebbetts just past Silver Mountain City) but once we get a bit of melt of yesterday’s dusting the riding on Monitor should be pretty good. Ebbetts, being much less exposed, will remain slushy in some of the shadier areas for awhile and I suspect we won’t get much plowing done any farther up towards the pass until April.

Those Other Goings On

COMMUNITY meetings continue on several fronts as we continue to recover from the Tamarack Fire. Trails continue to be a big part of the discussion and their rebuilding in time for the spring and summer season are a priority. We’re looking holistically at trail usage and focusing on hiking, riding and equestrian in our planning. Things are certainly going to look different out there as the forest starts its long return to health, yet it’s still the Sierra and a lot of it wasn’t burned.

THE images above are certainly heart-breaking. I remind folks though, that a lot of the area wasn’t torched and once you get past Monitor Junction to the south, or Pickett’s Junction, to the west, you won’t see a lot of fire-related damage. The forest is nothing if not resiliant.

MRS. CA Alps points out in a “making lemonade out of lemons” kinda way that the vistas are more expansive without so many trees. She’s right and it helps to look at it that way; still so very sad to see. And lets be honest, the density of the forest was, and still is, part of the problem. Thousands of years of native americans weren’t (and aren’t) wrong, you know?

OUR rivers, streams and lakes are looking good, though, and many of the latter, like Silver and Caples, are still frozen over. We’re working hard on repairing infrastructure like Turtle Rock Park and Grover Hot Springs State Park. Plans for the “fishing opener” are in the works, we’ve got a new addition to our local Fish & Game Commission, and we’re starting to think more about native fisheries and how we can restore them. Segue…😉

SPEAKING of restoration, the county has been awarded a grant of approximately $1.8 million that will be used to help private landowners here in Alpine Co. with their recovery efforts. Work on that front continues on a fast pace.

AS does tree-clearing…

BY the way, if you haven’t checked out the Alpine Chamber’s website recently, please take a gander. Lots of great information about things afoot here in Alpine County including summer events like Music in the Park, the Bear Valley Music Festival and Hermit Fest.

WELL, it’s off to wash Blue. I promised him he’d get a bath before I took his bro out for a ride. It’s 41; starting to warm up to today’s high of 42. Won’t be just a base layer and jersey today, I guess.

STILL, it could be worse.

ENJOY your Sunday and have a fantastic week!

The Tour of the California Alps – Third Time’s the Charm?

YEAH, you’re right, there have been thirty-nine (39) charms really since the Deathride began. It’s those last two (2) attempts that have been problematic. Perhaps then we should say then that it’s the 3rd attempt for the 40th Annual Ride that’s the charm?

OF course, we haven’t had the ride yet so fingers crossed this tertiary try will be that trinket.

THE Alpine County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (full disclosure: I’m a member of the board), along with our Executive Director, Becky Hanson, met last week to discuss, among other things, the 2022 Deathride.

HERE’S what you should know:

  1. The ride will take place on Saturday, July 16th, 2022
  2. The course will be the same as last year’s; no Carson Pass but instead Pacific Grade x 2
  3. Early registration price = $139.00
  4. Registration will open in January!

BECKY has been hard at work dealing with the aftermath of this year’s evacuations (I still can’t believe we had to cancel the day before the ride), swag bag distributions and most recently, insurance claims.

ON that note, here’s a partial excerpt from her email to our Deathride Family, sent yesterday…

While it has been a lengthy process to iron out, we are pleased to inform you that the riders who stuck with us through the 2020 postponement, and to date have not cancelled their registration, will receive a partial refund of registration fees from imATHLETE. 

We do not know the exact date that refunds will go out, but we do know that it will be a credit to the card used to register. In the situation where that card is no longer active, an electronic check will be issued (again, by imATHLETE). It is not a full refund, but we were very pleased to finally get to a resolution and hope this helps you, our loyal riders.

DEATHRIDERS are a special lot, no doubt. I’ve only attempted the ride three (3) times, and completed it once, so I’m really just a rookie. Many of you riders, including my bruddah, Scott Keno (that’s him there with bib no. 1619), have completed it every time they’ve attempted it and have done so many, many times. Scotty has done 8 or 9, I can’t remember. I’m sure there are some of you out there who’ve got even more impressive stats.

IT’S not just the physical feat itself that makes me have so much respect for you TOTCA riders, though. It’s your fortitude. Your friendliness. Your patience. Your support. Your attitude.

LIKE you I suspect, I’ve done many fondos, many centuries; a shitload of organized rides. Yet this one is special. It’s different.

IT’S the location, the elements (you know what they say…If you don’t like the weather here in the Sierra, just wait five (5) minutes), the climbing and the volunteers; but mostly it’s the comraderie.

It’s just a such a special gig.

ALTA Alpina Cycling Club is arranging a training series, cleverly called the “Brush with Death,” for the spring time, so be on the lookout for that announcement.

WE – I’m a member but have no skin in this training series game; the club leadership gets credit for that – tried to do so last year but the pandemic put the kibosh on those plans.

MAYHAPS we’ll do the same here at California Alps Cycling. A few early jaunts over Ebbett’s Pass, Monitor Pass and Pacific Grade couldn’t hurt, right? Okay you’re right, it will hurt but in a good way. If nothing else, we’ll know what level of pain to expect. 😉

SO we’re going to keep at it, and hopefully we’ll actually have the ride next summer, and we’ll see you all again at the Expo.

THIS time though let’s kick some passes’ asses sans those pyrocumulus clouds that are in the pic. at the top of this post, k? I took that photo, by the way, from Carson Pass (that’s Red Lake) the day the ride was supposed to happen.

RIDE on. Be safe. Stay healthy and we’ll see you next year!

Six Days Until the Deathride! Here are 5 Things for Your Knowledge Base

IT’S going to be epic! Six categorized climbs in the heart of the Sierra. Just over 100 miles, with 14000 feet of climbing. Add the elevation, hot temps and some wind; and throw in a stray thunderstorm or two (fingers crossed that won’t happen but it often does) and that’s why this ride, formally known as “The Tour of the California Alps,” is nicknamed “The Deathride.”

I’VE done the ride three (3) times and finished it once. I’ve not ridden Pacific Grade, however, and didn’t get a chance to do so last weekend, so for those of you who are going to take that bite out of the burrito I wish you well!

Some Intel on the Other Four Climbs

MONITOR PASS west will be your first climb of the day. While fairly short (9 miles), the first 3.5 miles will test your mettle. The steepest part of the climb does have a couple flat spots where you can catch your breath and once you’re up to Heenan Lake it gets easier. That’s not to say it’s easy, though so pace yourself on that first pitch, and on the entire first climb.

MONITOR PASS east is typically a cooker. The sun rises from the east and so for those of you leaving Turtle Rock Park around 5:30ish, depending on your fitness and such, you’ll be heading up the east side around 8:00 a.m. or so. Not too hot but certainly not cool, either. There’s really no shade on this climb (except for Boy Scout Corner) so combine that with the rising sun and well, you get the idea. It’s important to stay hydrated!

EBBETT’S PASS north is my favorite local climb. It’s longer than either side of Monitor (13 miles as compared to 9) but not nearly as exposed, and up until you get to just below Raymond Meadow Creek, it’s not too hilly. The real climbing starts just below RMC (which is at the 7000′ mark), about five (5) miles in, with a 12% pitch, and from there you get lots of up, with some good rollers added for good measure.

That’s Kinney reservoir behind me. Took this selfie in August of 2016 – T’was my first trip to Ebbetts Pass and I was amazed that I had made it. Plus the view is pretty cool.

ONCE you get to Kinney Reservoir, it’s only a mile to the summit. Don’t get cocky, though, as there are a couple last minute rollers to challenge you.

A five (5) mile descent into Hermit Valley will give you a bit of a respite from the climbing, and the heat (it will definitely be getting toasty by then – high 80’s expected in Markleeville), but from there it’s up and over Pacific Grade – the first time.

THEN you get to turn around and come up the west side of PG. I’ve heard it’s a grinder so be prepared. Keep up your caloric intake throughout the morning so you’ve still got the poop left to pedal up that west side of Hwy. 4 and don’t forget to down that H2O when needed (or before, right?).

AS for that last five (5) miles from Hermit Valley to Ebbett’s Pass, that’s a section I know well, having ridden it quite a few times, including once for a FulGaz video. It’s short, yet sweet; rock candy kinda sweet. 😉 Once you’re topped out though, it’s a rollicking 13 mile descent to Monitor Junction; and from there, only about eight (8) miles to the finish.

REMEMBER, while the “passes” are closed to vehicles, there will be riders coming down while you come up and vice-versa so please keep it in your lane and pass slower riders with caution. For you fast descenders, stay in control of your steed and please BOLO for those riders who are on their way up.

Closed Roads – Ahhh

YUP, no cars on the climbs! BUT, let’s not forget that our four-tired friends will be in the lanes between Monitor Junction (MJ) and Turtle Rock Park (TRP).

I found that much easier to keep in mind on the leg from TRP to MJ whereas on the return leg I have caught myself spacing out and venturing into the lanes, forgetting after so many hours without cars, that there are indeed vehicles on the road after Monitor Junction, all the way into town and up to Turtle Rock. Do stay focused on that last stretch.

Road Conditions

RoadsideS around Turtle Rock Park are weed-whacked and ready for those of you who wish stake your claim on Hwy. 89.

I’VE been riding quite a bit lately on Hwy. 4, and some on Hwy. 89, and there are some small rockfalls and there were a few slides. Caltrans though, as usual, has things cleaned up nicely. There are always rocks of some sort on the roads aound here, however, so it pays to be vigilant, especially on the descents.

BRIDGEWORK is a popular thing right now in Alpine County, including two (2) projects in progress on the route. The Markleeville Bridge being the first, and the second bridge over Silver Creek on Hwy. 4 (about 10-miles from Markleeville) being the second.

WHILE we locals are excited about the work being done, especially the replacement of the Markleeville bridge, we’ll definitley wait until after the Deathride. And so will the crews. They’ll be back a week or two afterwards so no worries for the riders.

Air Quality and Weather Conditions

THE East Fork Fire is at 1136 acres and 95% contained. This one wasn’t too far from Markleeville so it was a bit disconcerting. CalFire was all over it though and so it’s no longer producing any smoke. The crews were stationed at Turtle Rock Park (another slight worry since that’s where the Expo and ride start/finish is) but they have recently departed.

THERE is a small fire in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, due east, and quite a ways from Lake Alpine. It’s the “Henry Fire” and is only 300 acres at this point, but only 13% contained. I didn’t notice any smoke on my ride this a.m., though.

THE Beckwourth Complex fire is sending quite a bit of smoke into Washoe Valley (Reno) but as of this morning it had not mades it’s way into Carson Valley or parts south.

IT’S been hot! I’ve been whining. But, based on the latest weather report it should be significantly cooler come next weekend. Thankfully. Be sure to bring lots of “hydrate-ables!”

Remember, you can get the current weather and air quality conditions right here!

Grinds, Swag and Tunes at the Expo

“Enjoy live music,  games, massage, and more! Friday meal options will be BBQ from Out West Café. Saturday after-ride meal will be traditional and local Indian Tacos. Complimentary after-ride ice cream for all participants.”

BEER of course will be quaffable, courtesy of the Alpine County Fire Safe Council and Sierra Nevada.

THERE will be activities for the kittens, too! Click here and take a gander at the Deathride Expo Page.

Also note that “…packet pickup is Friday from 11AM-7PM, and on Saturday from 11AM-6:30PM.”

California Alps Cycling will have a booth, staffed by yours truly, and a couple other C.A.C. members who like me, have lots of local riding, fishing and bullshitting experience. I’ll have some vintage C.A.C. gear on sale. Cheap…Since new kits are on order.

Last but certainly not least…

A huge community effort goes into making the ride a success. From the crew captains to the members of the rest stops, many, many locals volunteer their time to make this ride what it is. Please do thank them when you seen them around and a big ol’ shout out to you too, dear rider. We couldn’t do it without YOU!

SAFE travels!

Wildflowers? Coming Soon to the Sierra Near You!

NOPE, they’re not hear yet; at least not in force like they were in the featured image above (taken at the Alpine/Mono Co. border in June of 2019), but they’re coming!

THE flowers are just starting to raise their heads and fingers crossed we’ll get a good pop soon. My guess is that within the next several weeks we’ll start to see more color than we are today. We’ve got lots of yellows, some purples and a few reds but it’s certainly not yet what it can be.

MY wife, my Mom and I were just on Monitor Pass last weekend and were hoping to see some mountain iris, mules ears, lupine and such, but alas, we were disappointed (with the lack of color but not with the view – see below).

Looking east from Monitor Pass towards the Pinenuts. Those are sulphur flowers in the foreground.

AS I’ve alluded to before in many posts, there is a lot more to do here in the heart of the California Alps than ride bikes. Birding, hiking, leaf-peeping, and posey-sniffing are just a few of those other options.

IN fact, in case you missed it, check out this post from last month.

OR, take a gander at this one from last year.

IN the meantime, here are a few other images to whet your flower appetite.

The image on the left was taken near Frog Lake and the two (2) on the right were taken near Mill Canyon Road.

Fields of flowers and Frog Lake in the fall of 2019.

SO plan your trip now and come up in a few weeks to do some riding, birding, posey-sniffing, photography, hiking, fishing, or whatever floats your boat.

HEY, what the heck, you can do it all if you’re so inclined!

THE weather is fine, or will be by then at least.

YUP, some snow is expected tomorrow and Friday. If the current wind conditions are any indication we just might get some of that white stuff.

BUT, you know what they say about the weather in the Sierra? If you don’t like it, just wait five (5) minutes. 😉

STAY safe and color on!

Thinking About Kicking Some Alpine Co. Roads’ or Trails’ Asses? Here’s a Quick Update

WELL it’s that time of year when many of us are waiting for things to clear snow-wise so we can get to training, whether on the bike or on foot.

SO, here’s a quick update!

Road Cycling

Carson Pass

I’VE warned you before but I’ll say it again: this pass is for the seasoned rider. The vehicle traffic is heavy, moves fast, and includes lots of hay trucks. Add to that the hairy, approximately five-mile section from Woodfords to Hope Valley and this ride will get your blood pumping (and not just from the climbing).

Still, it’s an iconic climb so I have to mention it.

Ebbett’s Pass

I talked to a rider in Markleeville last Sunday who had just come down from the pass. The gate was still closed at Raymond Meadow Creek (7000′) but he had, as well as many other riders, jumped the gate and went on up. The road was clear of snow and Caltrans was clearing debris and filling some holes. He mentioned that he talked to riders who had come up from the Bear Valley side and they said the same thing: the western side is almost ready, too.

I have it from a very reliable source that it should be open by the end of the week.

Luther Pass

LUTHER has not closed all winter (as is the usual unless it’s really nasty) and I’ve taken several trips over by car in the last few days.

THE road looks good and there is no snow.

Monitor Pass

BOTH the eastern side and the western side are open so no issues there. Go get you some!

Blue Lakes Road

AS of yesterday, Blue Lakes was open to the third gate so you can’t quite get to the actual lakes unless you jump the last two (2) gates. Not sure of the conditions past gate #3 so enter at your own risk (which is good advice ANYTIME you jump a gate). And you’re right, astute reader, Blue Lakes is not technically a pass but it’s a good climb (and a rip-roaring descent) for certain.

BE sure to have a back-up plan if you get a mechanical and extraction by vehicle is not an option!

Mountain Biking, Gravel Riding and Hiking

THERE are many, many trails here in Alpine County so I’m just going to mention three (3) of my favorites and let you do your homework if you wish to partake of any others. Check out AllTrails for some ideas.

Charity Valley Trail

IT’S a fantastic trail, best done IMHO from Blue Lakes Road DOWN to Grover Hot Springs State Park. Certainly for you hard core “gravelers” the up-direction is an option, but it’s some tough sledding so be sure to set your expectations properly and bring plenty of water and other necessary gear.

Thornburg Canyon Trail

ANOTHER trail that connects to Blue Lakes Road and as you might imagine, coming down is the easier option. It’s an approximately 14 mile out and back with 3600′ of climbing. I’ve not hiked nor biked the entire length of the trail but as you can see, it’s pretty. The above image was taken just a little ways from the Markleeville entrance. You can drive, walk or ride up Saw Mill Road to the trailhead.

THE Alpine Trails Association just met and we discussed the conditions of the trails. Suffice it to say there are still lots of downed branches and trees and other detritus on the trails, and likely still some winter ruts so be wary. The crews have begun work on getting the trails summer-ready but as far as I know we have not gotten to either Charity Valley nor Thornburg.

Wolf Creek Road

THE above photo of Wolf Creek Valley was taken in August of 2018, when it was a bit smoky here due to the wildfires that year, but I’ve heard the road is in pretty good shape and it is a great option for a gravel ride.

It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden the entire road but I do know that the first mile or so (from Hwy. 4) is paved, and then, as I recall, it’s about 5-6 miles of fire road from there over to the valley. There are some sections of rutted, boulder-strewn dirt so keep that in mind.

REMEMBER, activities such as these can be inherently dangerous (my lawyerly sub-conscience reminded me to tell you this) so take part in these adventures at your own risk.

Resources and Grinds

HERE’s a link to the Alpine Co. Road Dept. where you can get more info. on county road conditions here.

AS far as local highways…Caltrans District 10’s Twitter feed is a great resource for up-to-date info. and I’ve found that its QuickMap page (and associated app.) is pretty reliable too.

BEER? The Cutthroat Brewing Company is now open 7 days a week and you can partake of delictable eats like the Deathride Pizza.

THE J. Markee Toll Station is another wonderful option with a nice lawn where you can spread out and do some people watching. Don’t let the “hole-in-the-wall” appearance fool you; Sandy (chef and owner) and her son Tanner are excellent hosts. We were just there last weekend and and the food and service was awesome!

LAST, but certainly not least, is the Out West Cafe. This place is only open for breakfast and lunch but Joey (chef/owner) always has some unique dishes and his wife bakes the most amazing cheesecakes.

WE’RE still masking up here when appropriate but with so many outdoor options it shouldn’t be too challenging to follow those best practices.

LET me know if you’re coming to town. Perhaps we can get a ride or hike in!

OH and by the way…if you’d like to check out some of these climbs (and other local rides, including some Tahoe rides) from the pleasure of your pain-cave then check us out on FulGaz. Just login and search “Schwartz.”

It’s Another Springtime Thang Here in Markleeville

WE’VE been in denial here at California Alps Cycling HQ, aka Chalet Schwartz. Well, at least we were. Not anymore, though. Reality has set in and so has spring!

WHILE we had hoped for a miracle March, unfortunately we had no such luck, and so we’ll just have to accept the fact that spring has come to the California Alps (and elsewhere). It’s a tough thing, enduring spring here in the heart of the Sierra but we’ll just have to persevere.

The Birds are Back in Town!

IT all starting hitting home, so to speak, last Thursday evening as our local coyote – we named it Wiley of course – made its way along Hot Springs Creek and our meadow, without having to trudge through the ice and snow that recently finished its ritual thaw.

FRIDAY brought in our resident pair of California quail and on the same day we saw the chickens. No, not wild chickens. They belong to our neighbors (Linda & Gordy) just west of us and they let the girls out to scratch around the meadow. It seems though that they’re doing it just a bit more gleefully than usual.

THAT same day, the hummers showed up. Anna’s first, as is the norm, but soon the Rufous’ and Calliopes will be here.

THE Mallards too, have arrived. Mrs. Mallard is just out of the frame as Drake Mallard stands guard.

ROBINS, crows and Steller’s jays are all gathering nesting material and the chipmunks and ground squirrels have recently come out of hibernation, too. No bears yet but I’m sure that will change soon enough. And, we’ve got flickers, turkeys, herons, vultures and dippers as well!

YUP, in case you didn’t know before, you do now. This is a great place to do a bit of birding.

Ahh, Riding With Less Layering

MY gravel bike ride up Hwy. 4 (towards Monitor Pass) to, and a bit up Leviathan Mine Road on Sunday was glorious! There were a few other riders taking advantage of the closed road, too. I did have a chance to connect with one rider who had just come down from the pass. Clear all the way to the top, he said.

Whispy clouds over the Carson-Iceberg, and Hwy. 89, as seen from just above Heenan Lake.

THE gate will soon be open (saw those gigantic snow blowers on the side of the road Sunday) and then it’s just a matter of time before Ebbetts (and other Sierra passes) opens too.

YESTERDAY I partook of my second gravel ride of the spring season – a short but sweet trip up to, and in, Grover Hot Springs State Park.

AS you can see, the sky was as blue as my jersey and both Roscoe and I were very happy to be gravelin’.

Can You Say Fishing?

FISHMAS starts April 24th but that hasn’t prevented people from fishing now. The river is a bit chocolately (another sign of spring) but it should soon be its clear, cool, self. Click here for a few more particulars courtesy of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

ALPINE county will soon be opening up to the public I’ve heard and we’re all excited to welcome you!

SOCIAL distancing and masking is still required inside our businesses but it’s pretty easy to deal with when outside, and there’s lots of outside here in Alpine Co.

OOPS, I almost forgot to mention the spring wildflowers that will soon be popping. Don’t miss that either!

BE safe, stay healthy, travel respectfully, and we hope to see you soon.

Deathride Dreaming? Need Some Ride-Inside Options? Check These Out!

As you likely know by now I’m a FulGaz devotee. That’s not to say I don’t use other “inside apps”, I do. Lately though, FulGaz (FG for short), has been my go-to. With the FulGaz French Tour now complete — my stats: 26:53:40 hours, 221 miles and 50,017 feet of climbing — and the smoke for the wildfires still lingering somewhat, I’m now looking forward to riding all of the Deathride climbs (and other local rides) from the pleasure of the pain cave.

And next week (Tuesday the 29th to be precise), I’ll have my chance and so will you!

Every Tuesday, FG does an email entitled Top Up Tuesday and yesterday I received a preview of ours! The library includes all five (5) of the current Deathride climbs (Monitor East & West, Ebbetts North & South, and Carson East) as well as the climb up Blue Lakes Road and some additional nuggets:

  • Markleeville to Snowshoe
  • Diamond Valley to Markleeville
  • The Alta Alpina Cycling Club (AACC) Markleeville Time Trial.

So here’s your chance to virtually explore some of the rides of Alpine County, and you can do so for very little, or no, money.

How can I do that? you ask. FulGaz offers a 14-day free trial so if you want to hit ’em all up in two (2) weeks you can definitely go that route (no pun intended). After the trial period, it’s only $12.99 per month or $108.99 per year. And no, I don’t work for, nor am I being compensated by FulGaz. I just wanted you to be aware since the application is so bitchin’ and I’ve found that a lot of riders just don’t know about it.

The email will go out to subscribers next Tuesday, September 29th, and the rides will be live that day as well!

Now I put in a lot of miles (~6000 per year), mostly outside, so riding inside isn’t my first option – most of the time. I do find it a great way, however, to do certain workouts in a more controlled environment. By that I mean FTP tests, HIIT work and so on; some of those external forces (e.g. wind, heat, rain, smoke, etc.) can wreak havoc on that day’s plan.

So why not take them out of the equation?

For example, yesterday morning, when I wanted to do some sprints, every two (2) miles, on flat roads, I turned to Zwift. But, when it comes to hill charges, hill repeats or the like, I prefer FulGaz. There I can find steady climbs, or rollers, or both. The steady climbs, like those on the Deathride, are much more conducive to steady efforts if you get my drift. It’s hard to maintain a certain power level when you have to go downhill.

I’ve found it to be an immersive experience, too!

Put on some tunes and put your fine-self in the heart of the California Alps without the need to stuff those jersey pockets, figure out where you’re going to get water or worry about traffic.

And, if you’ve not yet experienced the climbs of the Deathride and so you’re not sure what to expect, these rides will allow you to get a bit of practice in before next year.

Just be sure to put down that sweat mat, turn on those fans and if you’re like me, have an extra kit standing by.

Enjoy the rides and…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know

I’ve lived here in the heart of the Sierra Nevada for about 3 1/2 years now and in that time I’ve tackled our “Big 3” (Carson, Ebbett’s, Monitor) a bunch of times (well except for Carson Pass), and I’ve done some of the lesser known climbs as well. The below tally is by no means a comprehensive Sierra Nevada list but it gives me enough experience to offer some advice as to what to be wary of when you’re climbing big mountains here in the California Alps.

The Current Count

  • Carson Pass = 1
  • Ebbett’s Pass (N. – the Markleeville side) = 14
    (my favorite climb as you can see)
  • Ebbett’s Pass (S. – the Bear Valley side – from Hermit Valley) = 2
  • Geiger Grade = 1
  • Luther Pass = (S. – the Tahoe side) = 2
  • Kingsbury Grade = 2
  • Monitor (E. – the Topaz side) = 5
  • Monitor (W. – the Markleeville side) = 7
  • Spooner Summit (Hwy. 50 – E. – the Carson City side) = 2

That’s a total of 32 climbs on local mountains (or passes as they are also referred) for approximately 112,000 feet of climbing, or the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest almost four (4) times! Here’s some of what I’ve learned in all those hours and pedal revolutions.

Climbs up Mountains are Steep

Yeah, this may seem like a no-brainer but just last week, as I was climbing the west side of Monitor (the first 3.5 miles of which average close to 10%) I came across a few cyclists struggling to maintain any kind of cadence. I noticed that several did not have the right gearing (I ride a 50-34 in front and a 30-11 in back).

Lesson learned #1: make sure you have the right chainrings and cogset.

The Air is Thin

A couple riders told me as I passed (and they gasped for air) that they didn’t realize how hard it would be and that it was difficult to get any air. Some riders I’ve talked to like to come up and spend time here before they hit the climbs. Others come right up and do their climbing before their body realizes they’re here. In any case, be do your homework!

Lesson learned #2: address acclimatization.

Winds Can be Vexing

One of our members, Dr. Rich Harvey, commented on this post (which I wrote some time ago) and it was he that used the word “vexing.” So appropriate because here in the mountains there really are NO reliable wind patterns. Just yesterday I rode part-way up Ebbett’s Pass, into the wind. Did I get the tailwind on the way back? Nope. The wind shifted due to, among other things, the valley winds (explanation in that post).

Lesson learned #3: It’s a rare day that there is no wind and so set your expectations (and plan your wardrobe) accordingly.

The Climate can Change Quickly

There can be a temperature variation of 10-20 degrees between the start of the climb and the summit! And, in the summertime there are often afternoon thunderstorms. During the 2018 Deathride several of our riders were pelted with hail and rain on Carson Pass. This was in July and it was sunny here in Markleeville!

Just last Saturday I climbed Monitor. I brought an additional neck-gaiter and hat for the descent but it wasn’t enough. The wind came up and the temperature dropped while I was still climbing up to the summit. I did have a vest on, and arm-warmers, but I should have brought another jersey or vest. In the past I’ve done so (using a cinch-pack). This day, though, I didn’t follow my own advice and I was so cold on the descent I started to shiver badly enough that I had to stop and warm up before I could continue.

Lessen learned #4: Bring the necessary gear, or layer up, so you can deal with any adverse conditions that may arise.

There is No Cell-Service

We’ve all come to take cell service for granted. Here in Markleeville it’s really only Verizon that works. My wife and I had AT&T in San Jose but when we moved up here we quickly switched to Verizon. That doesn’t do diddly-squat up on Ebbett’s Pass, though, or even in some of the lower elevations. I carry a Garmin inReach Mini on my rides. Admittedly, I already had it before I moved up to the mountains because I’ve got a yellow-jacket allergy. But, had I not had it before I moved here I would have gotten it afterwards. Among other things (including an SOS feature) it allows me to send texts to my wife from anywhere in the world.

Lesson learned #5: Get a satellite communication device if you can and if you can’t (and I do this also) make sure you have clearly communicated to “your person” your route, your approximate return time and what to do “if you don’t hear from me by such and such a time.”

Cycling in the Mountains is an Awesome Experience

And one that is made that much better if you are prepared for what you’ll experience. Understand the topography; prepare for the thin air, wind and climate; and address communication. By following some of my lessons learned you too can have an awesome experience cycling in one of the world’s most amazing venues – the Sierra Nevada, and our little slice of heaven within, the California Alps.