Thursday, July 9, 2009

Death Ride Regrets

West Walker River Valley on approach to Sonora Pass from 395 Side

I was studying the course for the Tour of the California Alps - Death Ride a couple of nights ago and started to regret that I stopped training for a few weeks after my Mt Hamilton ride. The course is not as difficult as I had imagined, and also not quite as high or steep. In addition, I have done all three of its passes before - touring with 45 lbs in my panniers - although I was in my 20s at the time.

The Death Ride is a very difficult course, comprising 129 miles with 15,000ft of climbing and 5 passes at over 8,300ft, but does not take in Sonora Pass, as I had imagined it would. Sonora Pass, at 9,624 ft is signed as 26% grade, so it requires much lower gearing, or much younger legs. It does take in Monitor (twice), Kit Carson, and Ebbetts Pass (twice), just to the north of the posted map. (you can see Ebbetts Pass in the far upper left on this map)

I have some slides somewhere of the valley looking back over hwy 395 at Wheeler Pk and Mt Patterson to the east from our campsite at the edge of a cliff. Judy (Ex-wife) and I stayed there overnight, exhausted from a hard day's climbing, after getting a large water donation from a friendly Winnebago. We learned the hard way that night that when you get within 1,500 ft or so of the top of a mountain range, there is no water. Live and learn. We got up very early the next morning and went over Sonora Pass, because by about 9:00 the air starts to heat up and it gets very thin very fast.

View Larger Map

I am looking for a slide scanner so I can share those, but THAT was a climb. At 5' nothing, and 125lbs, she chugged up it behind me on a 28 lb bike, with 10 lbs in the panniers, turning 24f - 28r gearing. Even the US Marines were impressed, saluting us as they held onto their truck, crawling up the mountain. At any rate, sans Sonora Pass, the Death Ride is a much easier course to manage. The pic posted above was taken much earlier in the year, but AFAICT, from the same spot. Our view was of a breathtaking yellow, orange, and amber Alpine-glow, with the setting sun brilliantly burning the west side of the range.

I will have to study the course more, and try a few rides at altitude, as my 24 minutes in Zone 5 Saturday have left me very fatigued. My training for threshold power is going to have to be very carefully scripted if I am to succeed, but I think I can manage that successfully, so hope my altitude work will bear fruit. The event is this Saturday, and I wish I had prepared to ride it. For those that are, best of luck!

The gorgeous and green Monitor Pass


Rachel said...

Yikes! Makes the Santa Cruz Challenge I'm doing in a few weeks look like cake.

Grey Beard said...

Santa Cruz is a big challenge Rach. No slouch to ride that one. I like the safety of thicker air down in the coastal ranges. Will have to get up in the mountains soon though and test my bent ticker. Time to confront that fear and find some objective limits. Best of luck on your ride. Look forward to your report.

Anonymous said...

This must be a huge event 2700 something riders? Steep but really wonderful looking.

Grey Beard said...

You are so right Steph, the scenery is amazing. I have so many wonderful pics of me/us on bike tours sitting around in boxes. I can't wait to get them turned into .jpg files so I can share and enjoy them. One pic I really want to find back is of Judy and I standing on a glacier at the top of Mt Lassen in August. Very cool - literally.