Tag: monitor pass

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.

Ebbett’s Pass and Monitor Pass – After Action Report

Here’s smiling at you! Sending good vibes and mountain energy from California Alps Cycling!

Well it’s been a great week of riding I must admit. Being furloughed has its benefits. I am one lucky dawg. I also recognize that many folks are not so lucky; some are sick or have died, some have lost loved ones, many are unemployed and many are working (some on the front lines – THANK YOU!). And yet life continues for me, and you, and most of us, albeit in this twilight zone. And so, writing a post about cycling two (2) iconic California Alps climbs this past week feels a bit weird. Nonetheless, for your reading (and cycling, if you’re coming our way) pleasure…

Ebbett’s Pass

Last Monday, April 27th, I partook, and I’m pretty sure I was the first cyclist up the mountain this year (my friend Bill Cassity said so!). It was a beautiful day (in the 60’s and 70’s), made even more beautiful by the fact that there were no cars on the road past Monitor Junction (see last week’s post for more on that).

There was no snow or other issues on/with the road until I got up towards Cascade Creek. There I found quite of bit of rock (a few large boulders but mostly small stuff) that had fallen from above, which made for slow going on the descent.

As I approached Kinney Reservoir I was excited for the photo op — the mountains and sky reflecting in the water are amazing — but felt like such a nit when I got there only to find a still frozen body o’ water. Skating anyone?

Yup! Still frozen. It is at about 8000′ after all.

I didn’t see any riders at all until I was coming down. And, again, that no motor vehicle thing is awesome! The pass will likely open soon (May 15th perhaps) so if you want to experience the climb, with no cars, like you only get on the Deathride, now’s your chance. It’s not for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced, though, so please be aware of that, and be cautious.

Monitor Pass

Just this a.m. I climbed Monitor and it was not nearly as pleasant as my trip up Ebbett’s Pass earlier in the week. I knew it was going to be windy; conditions at HQ before I left made that pretty apparent, but it was particularly “sporty” today with lots of crosswinds and gusts and such. I did, however, get some help from a nice tailwind for a lot of the climb; it was especially welcome on that first real pitch of about 3.5 miles from Monitor Junction to the cattle guard at Heenan Lake. That’s really the toughest section on the western side of Monitor; once you’re above that guard it becomes a bit more manageable. And while Monitor is steeper than Ebbett’s it’s only about half as long…That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

Just about at the 8000′ mark. That’s the Carson Range in the distance behind me.

I’ve never seen Hwy. 89 to Monitor Pass so devoid of snow this time of year; it validates (not that I needed it) the recent “only 3% of normal” snowpack report. As you can see, there was no snow on the side of the road (and there was nary a bit (just a couple of small patches) at the summit, neither.

The wind seemed to get colder, and more vexing (that’s for you Rich) on the way down – it was so cold (and I brought a couple extra items with me for the descent) that I had to stop and warm up. I was shivering so badly that I was starting to shimmy (and shake) – not a good thing when you’re barreling down a mountain at high speed!

Anyway, I did survive the descent, which, with the exception of some gravel and other debris on the road closer to the bottom of the hill, and a few of those gusts, was uneventful. I was back at HQ by lunchtime and beer-thirty.

So, there you have it. Did I mention that climbing these passes, or any passes for that matter, is not for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced? My lawyer told me to tell you that you assume all the risk if you decide to partake. Your loved ones would remind you to be careful (and I am reminding you too) and to keep in mind there’s no sag wagon behind those gates. And cell service? Forgettaboutit!

On that cheery note though…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Weekend Update – Two Alps Passes, The Deathride and Fishing

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had some news that I wanted to pass on. And, since I’m an old school SNL guy I thought I’d go with the “Weekend Update” reference (Aykroyd was the best anchor, IMHO).

Ebbett’s Pass and Monitor Pass

From our FB post this past Wednesday: “Yesterday afternoon I had an email exchange with David Griffith, one of our Supervisors here in Alpine Co., and he told me that yesterday morning “the Board of Supervisors approved a letter requesting that CalTrans *not* open Monitor or Ebbetts Pass until May 15th. Should perceived danger from covid-19 recede it may open sooner. I was assured that it only applies to motorized vehicles so walkers, hikers and cyclists etc. should be exempt.” It should be safe to go past the gates on Monitor a/o today he said, but there is still snow plowing being done on Ebbetts, so walking, hiking and cycling is discouraged there – for now.”

David was kind enough to ping me yesterday to say the signs that prohibit pedestrians, bicyclists and motor-driven cycles (moped? e-bike?) had been removed.

Signage at Wolf Creek Road on April 21st. The gate is open as of today, though.

Monitor Junction, where highways 4 and 89 intersect, is north of Wolf Creek Road (the above image) and the gates there ARE CLOSED. However, the “peds, cyclists and mdc prohibited” signs are no where to be seen! Just like David said. So, you can ride both of those roads if you wish. Of course, you’re assuming the risk – flat or have a mechanical and depending on where you are it could be a long walk. As for a true emergency? No cell service much past town so if you don’t have a sat-phone or a buddy…

Nonetheless, I partook today, along with other riders and hikers, and road part way up Hwy. 4 (aka Ebbett’s Pass) and part way up Hwy. 89 from the Junction (aka Monitor Pass). Wasn’t into the Full Monty (yeah, another old-school reference but I won’t expand – Google it!) today so just did sections of each. Still, got about 3000′ of climbing in! The roads are in good shape, btw, with not too many rocks, no run-off and no snow.

If you do decide to come up to Markleeville keep in mind that public facilities are still closed, BUT Alps Haus, the J. Marklee Toll Station, and Stonefly are doing take-out so you can grab some grub! Oh, and so is the General Store (open, that is).

Deathride Resurgence

If you’ve signed up then you’re probably already aware…we (the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce and our Ride Director) decided to cancel this year’s ride. Postponing it was discussed but based on the fact that many other rides that have done that already, and therefore the ride saturation that may occur in the fall will be heavy, and because of the logistics of ordering merch. (had to do it now for July and push it back to July if we did a Sept. ride) that was not an option. We also wanted to be considerate of our community and didn’t want to inundate our little town and surrounds with thousands of people just after we recovered from the pandemic (if we had/have). So next year is the year of resurgence! Hopefully in many, many ways.

This years’ ride was canceled but the Resurgence Tour will occur on July 17th, 2021!

Fishing Season Postponed for Alpine, Inyo and Mono Counties

Our Chamber posted this up on its FB page this week:

We have received a lot of inquiries about the fishing opener, originally scheduled to kick off this weekend. Due to COVID-19 precautions and the limited resources in our small Eastern Sierra communities, the season opener has been delayed. “After talking with the county representatives, we agreed this was a necessary step toward being responsive to local needs in this public health emergency,” said CDFW Director Bonham. Read the full press release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife here: https://bit.ly/2KuMi64. Fishing is at the heart of Alpine County, and we are looking forward to the opener as much as our visitors.”

Looks like we’ll have to wait until as late as the end of May, depending…But, as it turns out, the delay is not such a bad thing since the water (at least on the East & West Carson) is moving too fast and looks too much like chocolate milk.

Looking downstream at the East Fork of the Carson from Monitor Junction.

So, there you have it – our little weekend update.

Now get out and get some and be sure to do it safely and with the proper distance, k?

A Deathride Resurgence in the California Alps

Well, in case you don’t already know…It’s official! Registration is open for the 40th anniversary of the Tour of the California Alps (aka The Deathride)!

The Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce, located here in Markleeville, CA, hosts and owns the ride, and this year, as I alluded to back in September, we’ve (full disclosure – I’m on the Board of Directors) decided to up our game, hence the tagline: “Deathride Resurgence.”

First and foremost, we’ve hired the Bike the West team! These are the same professionals that put on “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” and “Tour de Tahoe” so we are stoked! (I’ll be riding the former in June, by the way).

We’ve also inked a deal with Alta Alpina Cycling Club to host a training series of approximately five (5) different rides in the Deathride area. This club (it is based in Carson Valley – Lake Tahoe but members, including yours truly, do a lot of riding in Alpine Co.) does a lot of good works in the area (among other things they are one of our “Adopt-a-Highway” neighbors) and also has great experience putting on races and rides of their own, including the Alta Alpina Challenge.

As the only hard-core cyclist on the board, I’ve also been making it my mission to help my colleagues better understand why we cyclists do what we do and why we like what we like; I’ve been able to bring some of what I’ve learned doing organized rides over the years as well as share some insights about the Deathride course and the mountains that we climb.

15000 Feet of Elevation and 5 Categorized Climbs

Like I mentioned above, a change in terminology…We’ll still be climbing both sides of Monitor Pass, both sides of Ebbett’s Pass (albeit not all the way into Bear Valley – keep reading) and the eastern side of Carson Pass. In the past we referred each of these as passes but this year we’ve begun using the UCI lexicon – climbs. Technically, we only climb to three passes, right? We do, however, do five categorized climbs, four of which are hors catégorie (the other is a Cat. 1).

A Renewed Emphasis on Safety

With a strong(er) emphasis on safety this year, including more outreach to neophyte deathriders, we will make the ride even safer. We’re talking hay bales at risky corners (think Cadillac Curve), better signage, more robust outreach to non-riders, course marshals, safety talks and training, SAG and sweep support, HAM radio communications and staggered starts. For you early birds, including this guy, that means no more getting on the course at 3:30 a.m. The ride begins no earlier than 5:00 a.m.; we’ll have groups of riders departing every 15 minutes (you can pick your start time when you register). While we’ve got an excellent safety record, thanks to Curtis and Team, we’ll be even safer this year.

Other Route Options Being Explored

We had hoped to change the route this year to include Pacific Grade, and to remove Carson Pass. Unfortunately due to various concerns from CalTrans, local and state law enforcement, business owners, and others, we were not able to make it happen. Many riders have expressed support for this change and we appreciate that but currently there are so many logistical concerns we decided we needed to move on, at least this year. We’ll continue to work on it with the hopes that we can bring our neighbors to the southwest into the Deathride fold. Wouldn’t it be awesome to ride into Bear Valley or Lake Alpine next year? And, while Carson Pass is beautiful, I personally would much rather do a longer stretch of Highway 4 instead. Have some thoughts on this? Comment on this post or our Facebook page or better yet, bring your fine self and your voice to the ride this year and let us, and others, know how you feel. We’d love to hear from you!

You coming?

It’s a grueling and painful, yet amazing experience to do the Deathride. I’ve ridden it three (3) times yet only completed all the climbs one time (in 2017). In 2018 I was only able to complete three (3) climbs and last year, while I was the strongest I had ever been, I caught a nasty cough the day before the ride. Still, I was able to complete four (4) climbs: 7.5 hours on the bike, 10,433 feet of elevation and about 83 miles of distance. This year, I’m hoping to PR this bad boy and it would be great if you could join us too. Whether you’re all in and planning on doing all the climbs or doing fewer, I promise you’ll have fun and most importantly, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. And remember, there will be no cars on Monitor or Ebbett’s for most of the day – and that makes for an even more remarkable (dare I say mind-blowing?) experience.

I should also mention that we’re looking to up our game when it comes to food, fun and other amenities. Those things are still a work in progress so stay tuned for further updates but suffice it to say we’ve heard you, and our community, so it’s all on the table and our goal is to impress.

So, if you’ve joined us before, we’d love to have you back and if you haven’t and you’re looking for a world-class ride in a world-class setting, come and check it out. Alpine Co. would love to see you!

Some photos from past Deathrides

I’ll leave you all with some images that I’ve taken from past rides. Enjoy!

Oh and by the way, there’s been some confusion over the years about the relationship between California Alps Cycling and the Deathride. While the ride is near and dear to our (and mine) hearts, and were are both in Markleeville, California Alps Cycling is not affiliated with the Deathride.

The Deathride Cometh to the California Alps

I still can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post and that the Deathride is less than a week away! Certainly my day job has been taking a lot of my time, but that’s understandable, especially lately (typical mid-year craziness combined with regular craziness- I won’t bore you, you likely have similar woes) but as I cast my mind back (RIP Paul Sherwen) to the past few weeks (months?) I realize the time-warp is mostly due to training for the ride itself. Well, okay, here at California Alps Cycling we’ve also been doing a bit of prepping for the exposition (can you say “cool schwag?“), and we’ve been getting our ducks in a row for the bag drop, too. Check out our Deathride page for more information on that and THANK YOU to those that have signed up!

Okay, Before I Continue – The Roads are Ready!

I’ve spotted the Caltrans crews out and about our local highways recently doing a bit of sweeping and other clean-up. The place is looking good!

I rode up to Ebbett’s Pass on Sunday, June 30th, and other than a few errant rocks (it’s a constant here) the road looks great. The snow was mostly gone, and no doubt will be completely gone come next Saturday. Oh, and Kinney Resevoir is no longer an ice rink!

Just this past Saturday, I rode both sides of Monitor Pass; it was a glorious day! I’m not saying it wasn’t painful, it was, especially that eastern side. BUT…the weather was perfect (it’s probably going to be a bit hotter next Saturday) and the wildflowers were popping! There should still be plenty left for the ride next week. I’ve lived here almost three years now and I’ve never seen Monitor looking so pretty so if you’re riding next Saturday be sure to look around.

As for Carson Pass, well I have to admit I haven’t had a chance to ride that one lately. Member and co-founder (and wifey) Pat, drove over to the Bay Area today (poor thing) though, and she reported that the road was good. It will be even better Saturday the 13th since it will be “staffed” with volunteers and riddled with riders. I did ride a portion of Blue Lakes Rd. last month, however, and thoroughly enjoyed the descent therefrom!

Training in the Sierra

Alright, I feel better now. You’ve got the latest intel and I’ve whined about how busy I’ve been. So, onward we go. Preparing for a ride of this magnitude takes months. My wife has been so supportive, as spouses and partners of cyclists have to be, and I’m grateful that the ride is under a week away.

As you may recall from one of my previous posts, I’ve done a bit of research and in applying said nuggets I’ve become stronger and faster, and I have more endurance too. So in the last several weeks, I’ve done an organized ride and a bunch of other “tests” to keep those legs lean and mean and keep my confidence high.

Tollhouse Century (part of the Climb to Kaiser)

The “organized test” took place on June 22nd. I was joined by my brother from another mother, and CA Alps Cycling Legacy Member, Scott (aka Scotty) Keno. It was a really fun day on the bike, made more so because we were joined by three other riders: Dan, Robert and Scott. It was great having the company; it made the day go faster, and so did the pulls! Click here for a Relive video of our day, including a couple “interesting” moments/photos. Short answer = We passed the test. I was really stoked that I was able to do the ride so quickly, and with fewer and shorter rests. All that training definitely paid off! Check out this post; it’s a little reminder of how I got here. You can follow the same plan and perhaps get the same (or better!) results.

The other tests

This ride was the first test, if you will. The other two tests were Ebbett’s and Monitor. So, I’ve done three out of the five and I’m feeling good. Now, it’s on to those other trials: recovery, rest and patience. The latter is not one of my strong suits but I’m learning. Learning how to pace myself. Learning how to take better care of the bod’ and most of all, learning how to enjoy my time on the bike more. Did an active recovery ride today and tomorrow it’s a rest day. I’ll do a couple walks this week and maybe an easy spin on Thursday so I’ll be rested for Saturday. Then I can let these horses outta the gate!

What about you?

You coming to Markleeville next weekend? Perhaps you’re already here? If you answered in the affirmative to either then we look forward to seeing you Friday at the Expo and Saturday on the road. If not, then we wish you well in your next adventure, crucible, challenge, or whatever it is you want to call it.

Now…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!