We left the house at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning to drive up. I had no idea where we were going until the signs on Highway 65 gave away our destination. We arrived in Springville early Saturday morning and started out on our first climb of the day.
Balch Park Road Loop started out at 1000 ft elevation and went up to 6400 ft. We took a little detour off of the main road and ended up with 5700 ft. of gain for this climb.
We went back to Springville and had lunch at the cafe, which has been there since 1897. Service was a little on the slow side, so we were off of the bike longer than we anticipated. While at the cafe, we stared at the thermometer which read 100+ degrees. IN THE SHADE!
Highway 190 out of Springville started at 1000 ft and Brandy made it to 5500 ft, while I made it to 6300 ft. It was over 106 degrees when we left (with 4 bottles each) on our second climb of the day. Though Brandy is getting better about riding in the high temps, she still overheats fairly easily and the Tule River was calling her name. I was back taking pictures when Brandy decided to pull off of the road and take a dip in a beautiful pool of water. I indulged her diversion from the plan and she shed her gear for a little skinny dipping. This put us behind schedule and losing daylight, but it was well worth it. I didn’t mind at all.
From our motel in Porterville, we drove up to Three Rivers.
Mineral King Road was our climb for the day. From a starting elevation of 800 ft in Three Rivers to an ending elevation of 7800 ft at the end of the road, we gained over 7400 ft on this climb. The road was narrow, steep, sometimes unpaved (not hard packed dirt…but SAND!) and is reported to have over 698 curves. Totally awe inspiring. The views were breathtaking.
Mineral King Road is one of the toughest climbs I have done in recent memory. It is 7,400 + feet of gain in one shot (including the warm up climb before the turn off). It has sustained ramps of 10-12% grades. There are sections that avg 10% for over 1.5 miles. It got to the point where I didn’t want a relief in the road because all it meant was that I was going to have to pay for it. Just after a leveling off section BAM! you would get hit with 12-14% grade ramp. This cycle of relief and punishment repeats itself over and over and over again over the 25 miles.
Then closer to the top above 6,000 ft there were sand sections with the 12% grades. Our 23mm tires were sinking in to the sand. Hard packed dirt would have been better. Next time we will ride 25mm tires.
The motorists all said it took them over two hours to drive the 23 miles up all the switchbacks, ramps, single lane travel, potholes, loose gravel and did I mention the very narrow road without guardrails?
Mineral King is a very tough climb indeed.