The 10 Toughest Climbs in California

128 miles with 17,000 feet of climbing

5400 kjs – a good days work


More pictures on my Flickr



I came across the list below, California’s 10 toughest climbs, on Wednesday 6/09/10.  I can’t remember what I was Googling at the time.  But when I saw this list it really intrigued me.  I thought wow this looks like a great “to-do” list to work off of.  I asked a few friends for advice and planned a quick trip within a couple of hours.

After consulting a map I found that quite a few climbs were concentrated in the Eastern Sierras.  I also noticed that three climbs were in close proximity to each other.  I got this crazy idea that I could do something REALLY Epic and do three of the climbs, Onion Valley, Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal all from a “base camp” in Lone Pine.  The ride turned out to be 128 miles with 17,000 feet of vertical gain. Subtract the 34 junk miles from Lone Pine to Independence and back and the final 11 mile descent off of the Whitney Portal and you have a 17,000 feet of climbing in 83 miles — far less than a century!! I personally don’t know anyone who has done all three climbs in one day!!

In his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in California, John Summerson gives a great overview of the 100 hardest climbs in California.

He developed his own rating method, which is similar to the method used on this website, with additional adjustments for altitude, grade variability, and road surface.

Most Difficult Climbs:

1) Onion Valley — DONE 6/10/10 !!
2) Horseshoe Meadows — DONE 6/10/10!!
3) White Mountain
4) Sherman Pass
5) Whitney Portal — DONE 6/10/10!!
6) Mount Baldy
7) Shirley Meadows
8) South Lake
9) Mount Palomar DONE 6/06/10!!
10) Mosquito Flat

Greatest Elevation Gained:

1) Horseshoe Meadows – 6,234 feet– DONE 6/10/10 !!
2) White Mountain – 6,204 feet
3) 190 – 6,199 feet
4) J21/245/180 – 5,750 feet
5) Mosquito Flat – 5,548 feet
6) Dantes View – 5,475 feet
7) South Lake – 5,445 feet
8) Sherman Pass – 5,316 feet
9) Emigrant Pass – 5,309 feet
10) Onion Valley – 5,169 feet DONE 6/10/10!!

Highest Elevation Attained:

1) Mosquito Flat – 10,220 feet
2) White Mountain – 10,152 feet
3) Horseshoe Meadows – 10,034 feet DONE 6/10/10!!
4) Tioga Pass – 9,945 feet DONE 7/27/12!!
5) South Lake – 9,852 feet
6) Sonora Pass – 9,624 feet DONE 7/6/13!
7) Kaiser Pass – 9,184 feet
8) Onion Valley – 9,163 feet — DONE 6/10/10!!
9) Lake Sabrina – 9,141 feet
10) Sherman Pass – 9,126 feet


1) Onion Valley (5,169 7.8% 12.5 miles)
2) Horseshoe Meadows — (6,234 feet 6.2% 19 miles)
3) White Mountain (6,158 feet 5.8% 20.1 miles)
4) Sherman Pass (5,316 6.6% 15.2 miles)
5) Whitney Portal — (4,580 feet 7.7% 11.3 miles)
6) Mount Baldy – (4,830 feet 7.1% 12.9 miles)
7) Shirley Meadows (4,105 feet 7.9% 9.9 miles)
8) South Lake (5,445 feet 5.5% 18.8 miles)
9) Mount Palomar (4,731 feet 6.8% 13.2 miles)
10) Mosquito Flat (5,548 ft 5.1% 20.5 miles)


Additionally, here is the list of the 10 toughest climbs in the US.

Below is a list of some of the top cycling climb bike rides that are listed in the book Best Cycling Climbs In The US. The book lists the 100 toughest USA road bike climbs from 1 to 100.

  1. Mt Washington, NH
  2. Haleakala, HI
  3. Onion Valley, CA
  4. Horseshoe Meadows, CA
  5. Mt. Equinox, VT
  6. White MTN, CA
  7. Mt. Baldy, CA
  8. Mt Graham, AZ
  9. Mt. Lemmon, AZ
  10. Palomar Mountain, CA


After work, I drove from Newport Beach to Lone Pine.  I made a stop along the way to purchase a small point and shoot camera.  I thought it was important to share my adventure properly.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.

I arrived late in the evening.  I stayed at the Whitney Portal Hostel (760) 876-0030.  A nice clean and inexpensive place and I highly recommend it.  On Thursday morning, I rolled out at at 5:30am.  I rode the 16 miles to Independence for the first climb of the day — ONION VALLEY ROAD. My reasoning was if ONION VALLEY ROAD was considered the toughest climb in California it would be prudent to tackle it first, while the legs were fresh.

It can not be overstated, Onion Valley is one tough climb.  Man when it ramps up and then stays at 8-9% for sustained sections– better said– miles and miles it really takes ganas to summit Onion Valley Road.  I was riding Felicia – my 2010 Felt F2 with Di2.  A fantastic riding bike and now I was putting her through a climbing camp.  I had a standard 53/39 and an 11/23 cassette.  I probably should have had at least an 11-25 cassette.  Later in the day I would regret the 11/23.  As I mentioned before, I left straight from work and didn’t want to stop by the house.  This was a spontaneous trip.  I had my bike with me and a couple of cycling kits in my “race bag”.  I figured I would buy what I needed along the way.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for the steep grades dished out by Onion Valley Road.  I had been riding mostly flatter training rides in the Orange County area hence my cassette was an only an 11-23.

I really enjoyed the climb even with all the steep grades.  It was early in the morning and there were no cars on the road.  I actually can’t remember seeing a car for the full 26 mile round trip up and down Onion Valley Road.

Nice Smith Pivlock 90’s- Thank you Smith Optics

Felicia- My Felt F2 with Di2 which performed FLAWLESSLY!!

The descent was very sketchy.  The winds were swirling on the climb up, which was manageable at slower speeds.  But on the descent, I would get up to 50 mph and bank into the corner and BAM! get hit with a massive gust of wind and be blown off my line completely.  After three of these scared poopless moments I decided to slow down and take the corners more conservatively.  The winds were so unpredictable and so strong I was surprised that even with my low profile training wheels that I was getting tossed around so much.  When I reached the straighter sections of the descent I let her fly.

Below is another description I found on the internet about Onion Valley Rd
10 Miles
Onion Valley Rd.
Mile 2.5-12.5, Independence, California–8.3%

The last 10 miles of this 12.5-mile ascent are the steepest stretch of that length in the country–and also higher than 5,000 feet, a combination that unquestionably makes it the most difficult. The first 2.5 miles are a great warm-up. Like most Eastern Sierra climbs, the road sneakily gets steeper as you ascend, then the switchbacks begin and you’re in no-man’s land: too far up to see the start, too far down to see the finish. After you clear the Sierra foothills, the twisting road eases its slope then kicks into an alpine climb along a narrow road between soaring rock walls, with the massive Owens Valley visible behind you. You hear but cannot see a rushing creek. Close to the top, an elegant S-curve funnels you into an alpine bowl, then the climb ends soon after. Longer than Alpe d’Huez and steeper than the Galibier and Tourmalet, the last 10 miles of Onion Valley are legendary. Get There: From Independence, turn west on Market Street. The road becomes Onion Valley Road; the climb starts at the cattle guard.



After my descent of Onion Valley Road I had to ride the 16 miles back to Lone Pine.  It was generally downhill and I had a slight tailwind.  I refueled at my “base camp” Whitney Portal Hostel. I then headed up for my second major climb of the day.  The second toughest climb in California — HORSESHOE MEADOWS.

There is one thing I should mention about my return leg to Lone Pine.  The 395 is under construction.  There was only one lane in certain sections.  I had to take the lane and I think some motorists were upset but there was no shoulder as you can see from the photo above.  As I stated before it was generally downhill 1% grade and a little tailwind.  So I Time Trialed the sections with no shoulder above 300 watts going 30 +mph. 😀

Three miles into the Whitney Portal climb you see the turn off for Horseshoe Meadows

Ok back to the Horseshoe Meadows climb -this is one beast of a climb.  20+ miles and over 6,000 feet of gain!!  And it’s not just the vertical gain, but the grade just kicks up and is unrelenting.  When you first see the switchbacks they are awe inspiring.  They are so far off in the distance and yet they still look massive.  See below.

The HORSESHOE MEADOWS climb was difficult because there weren’t any signs telling me what was up ahead.  Even when there was a sign it didn’t state the mileage to the campgrounds or to the summit.  I am a data geek and sometimes that can be my downfall.  I like to know the stats of a climb and keep them in mind as I ascend.  I like to know, for example, 10 mile climb 3,000 feet of gain.  My Furnace Creek 508 crews have always been made well aware of my need for climb data– ACCURATE climb data.  All three of the climbs I did yesterday were new to me.  And while that was part of the allure it was also different for me to not know what to expect.

Much needed shade tree

Half way up the mountain, the perfect climbing weather I had enjoyed earlier in the day was turning out to be a scorcher– over 95F!  I was only carrying three bottles– two on the bike and one in my jersey pocket.  I was conserving my fluids for the 20+ mile climb.  Now a little insight into the way my mind works– I’m too hard on myself and I always think a climb should be done in one shot– that means no stopping.  And that rule applies whether it’s 2 miles or 22 miles.  But I was starting to feel the cumulative effects of being on the second major climb and only having had 4 bottles in the last three hours.  I pulled over and took 5 minutes to cool down.  The shade felt great and although I wanted and needed  to stay longer I had to keep moving. There is always this little voice that says “GET BACK ON THE BIKE!”  When I reached the summit I couldn’t find an elevation sign so here is what I have for proof that I was there 😉 You have to be prepared to be on a climb for at least 2 hours (if you can climb at 10 mph which most of us can’t) and then descend at least another 30 minutes with fluids and/or solid fuels for a round trip of at least 2.5 – 3 hours of very intense climbing and descending in the heat of June!


HORSESHOE MEADOWS, the second toughest climb in California, done!!  I front flatted on a sharp corner going about 30 mph.  I kept the bike under control and came to a stop.  Whew!!  I then descended the rest of the way back to the Whitney Portal Hostel to refuel.


A description of the Whitney Portal-

Stage 10 (Monday July 14) Pau – Hautacam  154 km

After L’Alpe d’Huez the Col du Toumalet may be cycling’s most famous climb and the big test of stage 10. California’s Whitney Portal is very similar although perhaps even a bit more difficult and spectacular; a rarity in the world of mountain cycling.

Whitney Portal
Total elevation – 4,580 ft             Length – 11.3 miles
Average Grade – 7.7% (13%)     Rating – 3.98 (hors)

Whitney Portal is a great and difficult climb out of the high desert up towards Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48. Like most eastern Sierra ascents this one starts out tame and ends up tough. The grade generally increases as you climb so that a five mile stretch in the 2nd half averages 9%. The hill lets up just before the finish at Whitney Portal and a parking/hiking area (trailhead to Mt. Whitney). Whitney Portal is also very similar to the famed French climb of the Madeleine, a monster frequently used in major cycling classics including regular appearances in the Tour de France
(closed in winter – Inyo National Forest – 760 876-6222).


My last climb of the day was Whitney Portal.  I began the climb about 3pm.  Needless to say it was the hottest part of the day.  I could’ve and should’ve spent more time in the air conditioning of the Whitney Portal Hostel.  It would have helped get my core temperature down before starting the third major climb of the day.  But I was determined to get out there and get it done.  According to John Summerson’s book, Whitney Portal is the 5th Toughest Climb in California.

I really struggled on this climb.  The 53/39 and 11/23 cassette were now a detriment to me getting up the “hill”.  Whitney Portal is really steep for the last 5.5 miles, averaging 9% grade. I had to pull over four times finding small bushes and trying to put my head in the meager shade provided by them.  There weren’t any trees on the Whitney Portal climb until the higher elevations.  As a matter of fact, all three of the climbs were very exposed.   There isn’t shade anywhere to be found.

After suffering on the lower slopes I got onto the switchbacks was now in the shade.  On the lower slopes I was heading straight into the sun.  But on the switchbacks the mountain was blocking the sun and providing much needed shade.  My legs were wrecked, the fatigue of  the 15,000 feet of gain so far, was making itself very apparent that maintaining even 5 mph was a struggle.  I made it to the top but it wasn’t pretty nor was I as swift as I had hoped but I “got ‘er done”!  I looked at my Garmin 310XT –17,000 feet of gain for the day wow!!

Look for the switchbacks on Whitney

Tackling all three of these massive climbs in one day was my goal because of the close proximity of two of them to each other  – Whitney Portal and Horseshoe Meadows.  But honestly, it was a bit too much.  It was a huge psychological battle to complete my final climb of Whitney Portal.  It  was hot, my legs were shot and I was nauseous.  I think I was affected by the altitude on the Horseshoe Meadows climb.  Additionally, I know I was beyond behind on calories and hydration. It’s just too hot to be unsupported for that long.

What I wasn’t given in genetics for climbing ability I was given in just plain stubbornness.  I can tolerate an awful lot of pain and I strongly believe that I can tolerate more pain than the next guy.  I also know my body pretty well.  After seven years of Ultras and training for them I have learned how far I can push my body, in particular because I train alone.  I know just the precise time to take that “5 minutes” off the bike so that I can continue without the infamous meltdown.  When attempting this ride you should know that aside from refueling at Lone Pine there isn’t anywhere else to refuel.  I’m glad I did the three climbs but I don’t think I will be doing the three climbs in one day again…well at least anytime soon.

I like the order in which I did the climbs- Onion Valley then Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal last.  For me knowing that I was saving the  “shortest climb”  for last was comforting.  You know your perspective is skewed when you think an 11 mile climb is short 😉  You rationalize things like this “Ok all I have to do is get to the top of this (Horseshoe Meadows) and then descend and do the short climb up to Whitney Portal.”  When climbing a 20+ mile climb an 11 mile climb IS shorter! But sometimes shorter doesn’t mean easier and shorter many times means STEEPER!

My recommendation for something epic enough would be to do Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal in one day!  The grades are so steep and they go on for sustained sections that you don’t need to throw in the third climb.  But if you do want a “three bagger” then do the Onion Valley Road climb first like I did.  If you don’t mind driving the out and back, you could use that time to recover and refuel instead of riding that section and adding to the cumulative effect that comes from riding an extra 34 miles.  But if you’re like me getting in a car in the middle of a ride is ludicrous.

As far as the other climbs on the list, many of them I have done numerous times.  For example, Mount Palomar used to be a weekly training ride for me and here is a blog entry from last Sunday. I have also done four repeats on Palomar Mountain in one day see below.  So actually within the last five days I have done four of the toughest climbs in California 😉

Number 3 on the list, White Mountain, is part of the Everest Challenge, a race I have completed on two separate occasions. Actually, Everest Challenge helps take care of a couple more climbs on Mr Sommerson’s list of the 10 toughest climbs in California.  As part of Everest Challenge, I have also completed Number 8  South Lake and Number 10 Mosquito Flat.

At Number 6, Mount Baldy, is a local favorite and I have been known to do repeats on that mountain as well.  The last four miles to the ski lifts are very steep at over 10% average.

The only two climbs left to complete Mr Sommerson’s list are Sherman Pass and Shirley Meadows.  Sherman Pass I had heard of but Shirley Meadows was a surprise.  I hadn’t heard of it but there are so many great climbs in California how can one person know them all?  I will make another trip out here and the list will be complete.

I now have a challenge for you.  Why not make 2010 the year you complete the 10 toughest climbs in California?  I will call it the “10 in 10 Challenge”.  Bookmark this post and as you complete your 10 ascents, or some portion of it, and comment on my blog.  I want to motivate YOU to do something EPIC this year!

I have to thank INFINIT NUTRITION for keeping me fueled during this ride.  Please give them a try — customize your nutrition based on your race or training needs.  When you do use discount code “vireo” and receive 10% off your order!!

All for now and thank you for reading my blog.


49 thoughts on “The 10 Toughest Climbs in California

  1. Wow, George, this sounds like a hell of a way to spend a Thursday. This is about as epic as it gets. A couple questions:
    – What were the final numbers on this? Miles, Elevation, Duration?
    – This is an extremely impressive ride. How does your form feel at this point in the season in comparison to past years preparing for the 508? I know you are gunning for a multihour PR this year at the 508, just hoping you are feeling good in preparation for it.
    Kick ass buddy! Thanks for taking the time to share this adventure.

  2. I’m not sure if I am inspired to continue riding my bike up hills, or ready to chuck my bike after reading about your amazing climbs. What an awesome trip description.

    • Well my goal is to inspire people to find their passion in the sport of cycling. Before you chuck your bike give climbing a try. It’s the purest form of cycling just you and your machine against gravity. Whatever you chose send me line. Thank you for reading my blog!

  3. Marcus,

    Thank you for reading my blog. I added to summary charts. Thank you for catching that. I can’t believe I missed that being a data geek and all. But here is your answer 128 miles 17,000 feet of climbing. If you take out the 34 miles back and forth from Independence this ends up being a 17,000 feet in less than a century!!!

    I was off the bike (my definition) for two months late March through May. I lost a lot of valuable training time and I am making up for it now. I should be ok for the 508. One thing I know is how to prepare myself for the 508. So in the next couple of months I have a few acid tests coming up and I will know better. I just want to break 36 hours. I have been trying to break 36 hours for four years 😦

    You are very welcome in reference to my post. I THANK you for reading my blog. Share it with friends …please.

    • Thank you for reading my blog. One question two requests. Question – How did you come to find it? Requests- Would you mind sharing my blog with your friends? And two Would it be too much trouble to rate the post up top?

  4. These are some of my favorite climbs. I did Whitney Portal and Horseshoe 3 weeks ago in the Mt Whitney Stage Race. There were 10 55+ racers, and I was 1 of 3 65+ racers (just turned 65 last month). I was in the middle of the 65s, at 5:45 combined for the 2 climbs, which started from Lone Pine and included some of the Alabama Hills. The fastest riders were in the low 4 hour range, with one doing under 4 hours!

    I also haven’t done Shirley Meadows (the only one I haven’t done). I’ll want to give it a try now. Another climb not on the list, but which I’ve attempted twice, is Mineral King, from Three Rivers. Last weekend, Anny and I attempted it on tandem, but at the 9 mile mark we stopped for water, and I fell very hard on my tailbone, on a slick rock. I’m recovering from it, and am about 90% good now.

    Today I did GMR, down to East Fork, up 39 to the top, then return to Glendora along Sierra Madre for almost 10,000′ and 84 miles. It was foggy and cool and the bottom. We broke through the clouds at 5000′, then it was cold and windy. But overall a great day! See you down the road.

    • Congrats on your race results!! I don’t envy you racing those climbs. I took my time enjoying the sights and taking pictures. I can’t imagine racing those climbs.

      I have done Mineral King! that is one serious climb. I will post about it on the blog. Sorry to hear about your tailbone. Speedy recovery. I am always impressed by your accomplishments you look old age in the face and say “Right now get on my wheel if you wan to keep up!”

      Here is the post on Mineral King and other climbs from another EPIC CLIMBING WEEKEND.

  5. Great post George, thanks.

    I’ve been wanting to find info for climbs in that area and am glad to have stumbled upon your blog. I’ll be checking back often.

    Work takes me to China Lake quite often; I’ve done several climbs up 9-mile drive which is a great climb itself. Next trip will include my own attempt at these three – I’ll take your advice for a little bigger cogset.


    • Kevin,

      Thank you for “stumbling on” my blog. How did that happen anyway?

      I do a lot of climbing and EPIC events. Tell me about 9-mile drive. Grade? Length (9 miles?) I would like to pre-ride the Son of Death Ride course. And then do the event on August 28th. Stay tuned… or subscribe

      • A new club member sent me the link for the San Diego Randoneurs site; i started pecking around and found you – I’ll call it good luck.

        9-mile drive is the road to Kennedy Meadows and starts just off the 395 – about 5 miles or so past Inyokern make a left on Kennedy Meadows Rd. The local club in Ridgecrest, High Sierra Cyclists, host a time trial up it a couple times a year. It is a 10 mile climb, 7-9% through the bulk of it. Looks to be very similar to Onion Valley – barren, hard, sharp turns as it snakes its way up. For a good part of the road it is about a lane and a half wide, so it has teat classic Euro feel to it.


  6. Hey George,
    I really enjoyed reading your posts. Knockin’ out 3 in the daylight…congrats! The Babester and I may attempt some of those climbs on the tandem. How were the flies? On a recent climb to Baldy the Babester was swatting them away as we became tasty dining for several miles. When reading about your brush with the winds I thought about what a great job it does keeping those suckers away.

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  9. Hey George,
    Thanks for the info. I plan on trying some of these next weekend—but only 1 per day. How in the heck did you get up to 75 miles per hour on a bike?! I haven’t even hit 45 yet and that seems scary fast to me.

    • David,

      You’re welcome. I saw that in my download. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to correct it. I did hit at least 60mph though. Let me know if you need more info on the climbs. I am planning on revisiting them in the coming weeks.


  10. George,

    I found your post when I Googled for Onion Valley Road. Thanks for the great information. We did the same three climbs, but in two days. Here is my ride report.

    Onion Valley Road climb is now one of my favorites. What a beautiful ride! Whitney Portal felt hard, especially on a hot afternoon. But the descent was so worth it. Hope others who stumble upon your post get a chance to check these climbs out too.

    -Mei, the mudworm
    Inch by inch, I will get there.

    • Mei the mudworm,

      Thank you for chiming in. Onion Valley is awesome and it was so desolate the day I did it. There were no cars to be seen anywhere. It was my mountain. Did you find the information pertinent? I would like to think that I am thorough but I’m sure there are things that I miss from time to time. I’ll check out your post now.

      The Red Eyed Vireo

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  16. George, do you have a report of climbing White Mountain? I registered for White Mountain Double and, frankly, am daunted by the prospect of that climb. Thank you.

    • Vlad,

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      White Mountain “is a beast of a climb” (said with a Paul Sherwin accent). I have a report here. Check it out and let me know if you have more questions. I will be happy to answer them.

      I’m trying to figure out how to do the WMD myself. Friday September 10th is my birthday and my son’s birthday. Saturday September 11th, the day of the White Mountain Double is my son’s season opener for soccer. I may ride the worker’s ride and have to ride solo the whole day because there will only be about five riders and our paces are not compatible. The silver lining is it should be good Furnace Creek 508 training if I ride the course solo.

      Let me know if you need anything.

      go Vireo!!

  17. That’s some serious climbing George. I plan on doing the climbs but at one a day. I’ve done GMR countless times and 21 doubles. and I’m wondering how these rides/climbs stack up against a GMR (to the lifts) climb.

    • Mike,

      Thank you for reading my blog. How did you come to it?

      GMR is not that hard of a climb. Of course you can ride any climb really hard. What I mean is the grades on GMR are pretty tame. Onion Valley, Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal are steep with sustained sections over 8%. Climbing up to the ski lifts on Mt Baldy is really steep over 10% but it’s only for 4 miles. OV, HM and WP have 8-9% grades that go one for much more than 4 miles. Bring big gearing and you will be fine. Challenge yourself and do more than one climb a day 😉

      Red Eyed Vireo

    • Hey Ben,

      Thank you for reading my blog. How did you “re-find” it?

      I go up mid week so if you can get away during the week and not during the weekend then we can go up together.


  18. Hi George,
    Great effort! What gearing did you use for the climbs?Looking back would you change your gearing and what would it be?
    Kevin Voigt

    • Kevin,

      Thank you for reading my blog. How did you stumble upon it?

      I used a 53/39 Standard Shimano 7900 Dura-Ace crankset and then a 53/39 SRM 7900 Dura-Ace wireless crankset. For a cassette, I used an 11-23 the first time I went out and realized I needed more gearing. Then I rode an 11-25 and still wanted more gearing so I ended up with an 11-28. I did an analysis on Onion Valley with the three different cassettes. I found that I produced more power and a better finishing climbing with an 11-28.

      Here is the analysis

      Thank you reading my blog please pass it on to your friends.


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  22. what kind of gearing would you recommend on a fairly decent fit cyclist considering all the climbs you did. Double, triple, standard, compatct? cassette size?

    • Hello Pablo,

      Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to post a comment. If you are a fairly fit cyclist I would consider trying the climbs in a standard crankset and an 11-25 cassette. But honestly I ride an 11-28 cassette everywhere. I get the top end speed from the 11 and I can climb anything with a 28T cog. A compact crankset can work well too. Something to keep in mind is these climbs are long (15 miles or more) then they are steep and they are altitude. That’s a triple whammy!

      Let me know how it goes.

      George “Red Eyed Vireo” Vargas
      Furnace Creek 508 Hall of Fame

  23. Hi George,

    It was fun reading your blog. I did OVR as part of the Death Valley Stage Race in August 2011. I had just started riding seriously 6 months earlier and weigh 200 lbs. No way I could have done that on a regular double and 11/23. I barely made it with my compact and 11/28.

    The stage on the day before was from BigPine on Death Valley Road. That was a killer also coming out of the valley. I think it was something like 8 miles of 8% or so.

    I do want to do OVR again though. While it is very difficult, it’s nice to be away from all the traffic that we run into in Orange County.


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  28. No way you could do these climbs in 39/23 even the pro’s couldn’t do 12 miles of sustained 7 to 9 percent then 3 miles of 15% + at Whitney Portal. Plus Horseshoe is 20 miles of constant climbing And that’s is not a 23 on the back . Soory to be a party pooper but these climbs I’ve done.

    • Hello Someone,

      Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to post a comment. Take a few moments to read my bio and you will see I have done quite a few things that seem “impossible”. For example I am one of a select few riders to have ever done the Furnace Creek 508 (508 mile ultra race with 35,000 feet of climbing) on a Fixed Gear 49×17. The event is very well documented here.

      I am also a Trans Iowa Finisher one of very few that have successfully finished that race. Not too mention Six consecutive solo finishes at the Furnace Creek 508. Needless to say I am accustomed to suffering lol!

      But I appreciate your skepticism. Because there are people out there that sometimes don’t believe what I do I provide enormous amounts of data to back up my rides.

      Submitted for you approval here is analysis of my first attempt up Onion Valley on a 39/23 and my second attempt with a 39/25 eventually I climbed it with an 11-28 cassette and that link is provided below as well

      You will notice my average cadence increased from 48 RPM to 53 RPM. You can find a gear inch calculator online that will compute speed based on cadence and 39/23 combination and you will get the speed I was have on all my data.

      If you have any other questions please feel free to drop me a line.

      george “Red Eyed Vireo” vargas
      Furnace Creek 508 Hall of Fame
      REV Endurance Cycling
      Directeur Sportif
      REV Endurance Cycling

  29. hey george
    thanks for the great information. i just completed a double; camped at the portal, down mt. whitney portal; up horseshoe meadows; up mt. whitney portal: 55 miles, approximately 9,300 ft, mid 90’s at the lower elevations. i didn’t actaully ride into/out of lone pine because we camped at the portal. the climbs are epic and worth doing. i didn’t get a chance to go for onion valley but will be back for it later.
    i fell for the “the portal is the easier climb” and “let’s get it done” mentality on the last climb too and really suffered as a result. the lead ups to the climbs are quite significant. they aren’t super steep but they really grind you down. the climbing really starts long before the bigger gradients. i found this to particularly be the case on the portal.
    i’d do the double again but would figure out how to have a shady break point at the intersection of horseshoe meadows and mt whitney portal. perhaps a car waiting with canopy and cold water? luckily my wife was able to meet me on the road to refill bottles and pockets.
    can’t stress enough to other riders: if it’s hot, the water you get at the top of horseshoe meadows will not be enough to get you up the portal. There is no respite between the two climbs; having some shade to refuel and cool off in before going after the second climb probably would have made for a better portal experience. that said, it was a great experience.

  30. Pingback: The 10 Toughest Climbs in California – Continued | George's Epic Adventures

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