Everesting Elfin Forest to Double Peak Summit – San Marcos – Everest number 3

I completed my third Everest on Thanksgiving day November 24, 2016.  While many were enjoying their time with family and friends I decided to go out and spend some quality time with my climbing bike Bella – Bottecchia Emme 695.

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IMG_3871 2


The first Everest was South Grade Palomar Mountain.  I still consider it as my hardest.  The solitude, the danger of the country road at night, the heat during the day and let’s not forget the HC climb of 11.6 miles and 4,200 feet of gain.


The second Everest was a local hill close to my shop and home, Double Peak Drive.  The climb is 1.1 miles but I chose the segment of the climb that was the steepest 1/2 mile.


And for my latest trick, I climbed a 2.4 mile climb 31 repeats at an advertised 985 feet about 7.8% grade and it also included the entire Double Peak 1.1 mile climb which ramps up to over 15% on the last 1/2 mile.  I Everested only the last 1/2 mile section (steepest section of the 1.1 mile climb) on July 10th – screenshot up above.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 11.16.25 AM

One hour 38 minutes of stopped time.  At first glance it looks like a huge amount of resting time however, I assure you not one of my stops was for a rest.  This particular Everest had 10 Traffic Signals, Five on the way up and Five on the way down.

  1. Elfin Forest Rd (start of the climb and U-turn point)
  2. Schoolhouse
  3. Hope
  4. Questhaven
  5. Double Peak Park Dr (Left turn across traffic)

On every repeat I had to stop at least once on either the ascent or the descent.  Consider 31 repeats being stopped just ONCE for one minute that’s 31 minutes right there!  The rest of my stops were all logistical in nature.  Clothing changes, transition to night riding and of course the self-sagging stops are all very time consuming.

Below is a comparison table of the key data I monitor and use to compare the efforts for each event.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 11.59.31 AM

A few quick points to put some sense to the numbers:

  1.  The Elfin Forest to Double Peak Summit ranks second in the following categories: A. Total Time, Moving Time, Stopped Time and Kj’s, kj/hour, Normalized Power and VAM
  2. The Elfin Forest to Double Peak Summit ranked Highest in Training Stress Score (TSS)

In general it did feel as the second hardest Everest that I have completed.  So the numbers give an accurate representation what happened on the road.

Thank you for reading please subscribe to this blog.  It has been dormant far too long.  Four years ago I opened my own high-end bike shop and that has consumed me.  My spare time for my writing has been almost nil.  However, there are several posts that are in a draft mode and just need to be revisited, edited and published.  Please leave comments with your questions so that I can answer them.  Your questions will be incorporated into my future Everest posts.

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#everesting #everestchallenge

Mt Whitney Super Century– SPOT Link



Tomorrow I will be riding the Mt Whitney Super Century.  Here is the SPOT Transmitter link if you care to follow on the SPOT page.

Thank you Brad Horton for the use of the SPOT Transmitter.



My First Ultra — the 2003 Grand Tour Highland Triple

So as I was digging through some old stuff I found this little gem.  It is from my first ever Ultra, The Grand Tour Highland Triple back in 2003.  Pictured are some of my favorite Ultra friends, Lynn Katano, Francis Ignacio and Roehl Caragao.  This picture was taken at Gaviota State Beach, CA at approximately mile 193 of the total distance of 300 miles.  The back story to this picture is one of my favorite cycling stories to tell people.  Lynn has often introduced me to her friends with the story that follows– an abbreviated version of course.

I had been off the bike for two years. People who know me probably find this incredible to believe.  Why was I off the bike so long?  I had had a “violent crash” as my friend, Tom called it.  I broke a finger on my left hand and jammed my neck really bad.  I destroyed my steel frame as well.  Add to that a new career, a new home and cycling took a back seat to other priorities.  I kept telling myself I’ll get back on next month and next month came and went.   Finally, I was just disgusted with how looked when I looked in the mirror one morning and decided to get back on the bike and back in shape.

I bought a 2001 Colnago C40 frameset in March of 2003 and started to build it up component by component.  At the time, the Colnago C40 was all the rage.  Once the bike was built I began riding in May.  I knew I had gained a lot of weight (35 pounds) in the two years but once I started riding I really noticed how much those 35 lbs effected my performance on the bike.  I needed a goal …something to train for, something to keep me focused.  I remembered hearing about double centuries and those crazy people that did 200 miles in a day.  I thought that was nuts but at least it would keep me motivated to train…even if I only did a century.

I found the California Triple Crown site which listed the double centuries for the year.  I found the Grand Tour which was at the end of June.  It’s description stated it was a great beginner double century.  Even though I had never done a double century I didn’t want to be in the “beginner” anything category so I signed up for the Highland Double which had more climbing.  The event was June 24, 2003 which meant I had almost 8 weeks to prepare for a double century.  I didn’t get a chance to do a century before the event but I felt if I just took my time, ate and drank a lot, I would at least finish the double century.

I started the event with the early departures at 3:30am.  I think back now at what a rookie I was and how crappy my gear was then.  I had this really dim headlight that barely lit the road.  I found myself in a paceline straightaway just so I could actually see the road.  I would never go out on a night ride now without a proper headlight and taillight.  About 65 miles into the ride I was teased and taunted by Roehl and his daughter Maureen, 15 years old (on their tandem) that I really should do the Triple Century with them.  First I told them they were crazy then I explained to them that I had never ridden more than 110 miles.  And since I had been off the bike for two years it had been AT LEAST 2 years since the last time I had done a century.

Well to make a long story short (23 hours worth) they convinced me to do the 300 mile option.  I had no idea what I was in for. Roehl, Lynn and Dave Evans taught me a lot on that day– my first day of Ultra cycling.  I owe them so much for the experience and knowledge they imparted on me— a complete stranger.  I had lots of food and lots to drink at every rest stop.  The pace was tolerable.  Once I committed to doing the 300 mile event I was not going to DNF (did not finish).  Even though I didn’t have the base miles on my legs or the right riding gear (my shorts chafed me soooo bad) I didn’t quit.  I was on the bike for 23 hours.  I suffered and got ‘er done!! The mind is a very powerful thing.

I still remember calling Shelley, my girlfriend at the time, when I arrived at Gaviota State Beach.  She asked where I was and how I was feeling.  I told her I was at mile 193 and she said “Wow you’re almost done!”  I then had to tell her that  I still had over a 100 miles to go 🙂

Yes my first Ultra was a Triple Century!  I signed up for the double and did the Highland Triple.  I realized then that my body and my mind were made for doing “the long stuff”.  Since that first triple I have gone back and done the Grand Tour Highland Triple Century two other times and my PR is sub 20 hours.  I have done at least 25 double centuries and the Furnace Creek 508 six consecutive times as a solo racer.  I just love the long stuff!

2011 Lake Henshaw Climbing Camp

I spent Thursday and Friday nights at the Lake Henshaw Resort.  I like using Lake Henshaw as home base for my climbing camps.  Now that I live in Orange County I miss the climbing in East San Diego County.  I rode four hours on Thursday with Palomar Mountain South Grade as the featured climb.   On Friday, I started from Lake Henshaw and climbed Mesa Grande to Santa Ysabel, Wynola Road to Julian, Banner Grade to Yaqui Pass to Borrego Springs and then the monster climb of Montezuma Grade to Ranchita, and then rode to Warrner Springs and climbed a “secret” road to Indian Flats.

The climb out of Borrego Springs (lowest point on the elevation chart) was at 109 degrees Fahrenheit.

Starting and finishing at Lake Henshaw

Elevation profile

Entire training ride graph from Training Peaks download from SRM

Mesa Grande Climb from Lake Henshaw off Hwy 76

Yaqui Pass off of Banner Grade towards Borrego Springs

Montezuma Grade from Borrego Springs to Ranchita

“Secret” road off of Hwy 79 near Warner Springs – Indian Flats

Please click image above for slideshow.

Angeles Crest Highway Reopens – Angeles Crest Hwy from La Canada to Dawson Saddle (12,400 feet of climbing)

A four-hour training ride turned into a seven hour climbfest d’oh!  Angeles Crest Hwy from La Canada (1300 Elev) to Dawson Saddle (7901 Elev) Lots of climbing, lots of heat with few options for rehydrating on the road.  I will put together a more detailed route sheet but here is the down and dirty.  From La Canada I climbed on the Angeles Crest Hwy about 14 miles to Red Box.  I refilled my water bottle and then proceeded to climb up Mt Wilson, a five-mile climb.  I descended back to Red Box and refilled my bottle then climbed approximately 14 miles to Newcomb’s Ranch and refilled my bottle there.  I then climbed from Newcomb’s Ranch to Dawson Saddle through Cloud Burst Summit (7018 Elev) and back down to Newcomb’s Ranch.    I refilled at Newcomb’s and then descended back to La Canada.  About 100 miles 12,400 feet of climbing most of it on the way up with annoying rollers on the way down.

The Angeles Crest Highway is a two-lane (one lane of travel in each direction) segment of California State Route 2 in the United States. The road is 66 miles (106 km) in length, with its western terminus at the intersection at Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge and its eastern terminus at State Route 138 northeast of Wrightwood. The majority of the route passes through the mountainous terrain located north of the Los Angeles basin. Its alignment passes through the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. Segments of the road reach altitudes above 7,000 feet (2,100 m), with a summit of 7,903 feet (2,409 m) at the Dawson Saddle, which makes this road one of the highest in Southern California.

You can read more about the Angeles Crest Hwy here

4,000 elevation at mile marker 36.25.

Approximately 12 miles into the 45 mile climb to Dawson Saddle

Above and below– The intersection of Mount Wilson/Red Box Rd and Angeles Crest Hwy.

Approximately 14 miles into the 45 mile climb to Dawson Saddle

Cultural Center at Red Box

Work crews on Angeles Crest Hwy.  Above is somewhere between Red Box and Newcomb’s Ranch

5,000 elevation sign

Approximately 20 miles into the 45 mile climb to Dawson Saddle

The distances above are from Newcomb’s Ranch

The base of the climb is mile marker 24 ish Dawson Saddle is approximately mile marker 69.50.

This is a 45 mile climb, albeit not all in one shot but you don’t ever get more than a mile or two of reliefs along the way.

Dante’s View – 25 mile Climb

On the day after the 2010 Fall Death Valley Double Century, in which I placed third,  I went on a “recovery ride”.  My ride was to Dante’s View — a 25 mile climb from 100 feet below sea-level at the Furnace Creek Inn to Dante’s View, 5,475 Elevation.  Probably not the wisest choice for a recovery ride but my season was over so one more day of hard climbing wasn’t going to hurt too much …or was it?

February 2010

My good friend, Steve Barnes, had told me about the climb up to Dante’s View while we were sharing a meal earlier in the year.  I was on a high after placing second at the Spring Death Valley Double Century and I asked him for a recommendation for a good ride the next day.  Steve made the climb to Dante’s View very enticing.  But when I awoke the next morning I wasn’t fully recovered and I decided to sleep in.  However, since my curiosity was already piqued,  I drove up to the summit to recon the route.  Luckily, I didn’t ride that day because when I got to the summit it was shrouded in clouds along with freezing rain. Visibility was nil and while riding in freezing rain doesn’t bother me in the least, the point of going to Dante’s View … is for the view!

October 2010

I began the climb feeling pretty good.  The grades were pretty gradual from Furnace Creek (approximately 100 feet below sea level) with a few reliefs here and there.  The grades got progressively steeper throughout the climb.   The last three miles got really steep at over 10% grade.  I thought I was having a hard time because I was tired but after looking at the download it all made sense.  Yes I WAS tired from the Double Century the day before but by the time I got to the last 3 miles I had already climbed 22 miles and over 5,000 feet.  The last 3 miles were steep over 8% with the last 1/4 mile at over 15%.   On the last 1/4 mile it was all about standing and cranking to keep the pedals turning as I struggled to keep the bike upright and maintain my balance.

The reward for all that hard work was some of the best views of Death Valley I have ever seen.  I have included some pictures that I took but really you have to see it for yourself.  Death Valley never ceases to amaze me when it comes to its beauty.  I strongly recommend doing this climb next time you are in Death Valley.

Detail of the surges and sprints on the descent of Dante’s View

Notice I’m wearing the best socks made– Swiftwick Merino Wool Socks 7″ !

Did You Know?
The salt pan on the floor of Death Valley covers more than 200 square miles. It is 40 miles long and more than 5 miles wide.  Source

Everest Challenge Course Recon- Glacier Lodge & White Mountain

10,000 feet of gain in just 44 miles!!

I haven’t decided whether I will be “racing” Everest Challenge this year.  It is only one week before my goal event, the Furnace Creek 508. But since I was spending the night in Lone Pine I thought I might as well make the short 40 mile drive up to Big Pine and do some more climbing.  Yesterday I climbed Shirley Meadows and Sherman Pass which were the only two climbs I hadn’t done on the Top 10 Toughest Climbs in California.

Today’s climbs were Glacier Lodge and Ancient Bristlecone.  They are climb #1 and Climb #3 on the second day of Everest Challenge.  I skipped Climb #2 Death Valley Road for two reasons:

1. it isn’t that exciting to me

2.  I was riding solo and didn’t want to double back one extra time to refuel.


10 miles 4,000 feet of gain

I parked at the base of the Glacier Lodge climb.  I rode up the 10 + mile climb, warming up along the way.  The grades were as steep as I remembered them nothing had changed. 😦  I rode the climb at tempo and felt strong at times and not so strong at other times.  I think if this climb was another mile or two in length it might make the Top 10 list for California.  As such it is only 9 miles of hard climbing. 😉

Glacier Lodge Climb

4,000 feet of gain in 10 miles!

Glacier Lodge percent of grade graph

Glacier Lodge Climb data from Garmin Training Center


6,243 feet of gain in 20 miles

Max elevation 10,100 feet

Next up was a monster climb called Ancient Bristlecone, also known as White Mountain.  The climb gets its dual name from one the oldest trees and also because you turn off of Hwy 168 to complete the climb on White Mountain Road.  The climb is on the Top 10 toughest climbs list generated by John Summerson.

This tree is located on the east side of Patriarch Grove at 11,200 ft. of elevation, is one of the most picturesque of all bristlecones in the White Mts.

Ancient Bristlecone/White Mountain Road is one long-ass climb.  The bottom half ramps up continuously with 12% rollers. You think you are tired or don’t have the legs because the terrain belies the actual steep grades you are struggling to overcome.   The lower portion of the climb is just something you have to get through to get to the good part.  Once the road starts to narrow that’s when the climb gets scenic and seems to be worth all the suffering on the desert-like scapes of the lower slopes.

The upper half is lined with trees and rock formations and even single lane sections.  It’s really a lot more appealing to the eye when you get to the tree line.  Once off the 168 onto White Mountain Rd you really feel like you are in an alpine climb in another country. It’s one of my favorite sections of the climb. The steep rollers are not all done yet.   I remember distinctly at the 8,000 foot elevation sign a good steep roller waking me up from my lull.  As you continue to ascend, you need to ready yourself for the last three miles which will be at 10% average.  So make sure you save some for the last few miles of the climb because it WILL get steeper and remain consistent to the end–when you are most tired.

As I crested, it was drizzling and getting cold.  When I started the climb in Big Pine, just 2.5 hours earlier and 6000 feet lower,  it was 95 degrees F now I was shivering from the cold and getting wet as well.  I wasn’t going to be hanging out at over 10,000 feet of elevation with what looked like a storm coming in.   I wanted to find a marker, an elevation sign or anything to document my ascent but I was in a hurry to get down from elevation and OFF THE MOUNTAIN.  I immediately turned around and started my recovery process while I was descending.  I felt I had done a good day’s work of over 10,000 FEET OF GAIN IN JUST 44 MILES.

As a refresher, or if this is your first time reading my blog the list below created by John Summerson is what I have been working to complete in my last two “weekends”.

Most Difficult Climbs:

1) Onion Valley —               DONE 6/10/10 !!
2) Horseshoe Meadows — DONE 6/10/10!!
3) White Mountain–    DONE 06/25/10!!
4) Sherman Pass–              DONE 6/24/10!!
5) Whitney Portal —          DONE 6/10/10!!
6) Mount Baldy–               DONE- too many times to mention
7) Shirley Meadows–        DONE 6/24/10!!
8) South Lake–                  DONE as part of Everest Challenge Stage Race
9) Mount Palomar–           DONE 6/06/10!!– too many times to mention
10) Mosquito Flat–           DONE as part of Everest Challenge Stage Race

Greatest Elevation Gained:

1) Horseshoe Meadows – 6,234 feet– DONE 6/10/10 !!
2) White Mountain – 6,204 feet  DONE 06/25/10!!
3) 190 – 6,199 feet
4) J21/245/180 – 5,750 feet
5) Mosquito Flat – 5,548 feet- DONE AS PART OF EVEREST CHALLENGE
6) Dantes View – 5,475 feet
7) South Lake – 5,445 feet- DONE AS PART OF EVEREST CHALLENGE
8) Sherman Pass – 5,316 feet– DONE 6/24/10!!
9) Emigrant Pass – 5,309 feet– DONE 04/04/10 – BLOG POST
10) Onion Valley – 5,169 feet DONE 6/10/10!!

Highest Elevation Attained:

1) Mosquito Flat – 10,220 feet- DONE AS PART OF EVEREST CHALLENGE
2) White Mountain – 10,152 feet DONE 06/25/10!!
3) Horseshoe Meadows – 10,034 feet DONE 6/10/10!!
4) Tioga Pass – 9,945 feet
5) South Lake – 9,852 feet– DONE AS PART OF EVEREST CHALLENGE!
6) Sonora Pass – 9,624 feet
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– DONE 6/24/10!!

Ancient Bristlecone Climb power data

Ancient Bristlecone Grade Analysis from Garmin Training Center

Ancient Bristlecone AKA White Mountain data from Garmin Training Center

All for now.  Thank you for reading my blog.  Pass it on to a good friend.  See you on the road.



DAY 2 


Another of California’s Toughest Climbs- Mineral King

I want to thank John Sommerson for motivating me and others to go out and climb!  I have been thinking of what climbs I have done that rate consideration as the toughest climbs in California.  It took one of my blog followers to remind me of one of the toughest climbs I have ever done– MINERAL KING!

The stats for this climb are daunting just to read them– It is a 23 mile climb that gains just close to 7,000 feet. The real difficulty of this climb is there are continuous ramps that pitch up to 12% or more and then they flatten and then ramp then flatten then ramp then flatten and so on and so on.  Just look at the graph below.  You can never just sit and get into a rhythm and climb.  You MUST get out of the saddle when you hit those ramps or your front wheel comes off the ground.

Additionally, the road is tore up …and I mean badly.  There are potholes and cracks all over the road which make picking a good line a challenge.  And then there are the bugs and the heat and the sand traps and the narrow road and no guard rails with sheer 1,000 foot drops. All of these things combine to make MINERAL KING one EPIC climb without a doubt.

The next challenge is getting down.  Because of the steep grades, and the tore-up road, you can’t “free-fall” from 7800 feet elevation to the bottom.  No, you have to ride your brakes all the way down while your hands cramp.  Here is the link to my visit to MINERAL KING and other fantastic long climbs back in 2008

I heard a term from one of the backpackers while I was staying at the Whitney Portal Hostel– Peak Bagging.  I want to adopt and adapt that for my purposes.  I want to become a summit bagger!!

So here is my first of many nominations to California’s Toughest Climbs– MINERAL KING.

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.