Owens Valley Epic Climbs


The daydreaming continues…

Today is Thursday and now instead of counting down the days I am counting down the hours until I am free from responsibility and on my bike.  This is will be a short post because I have a lot to do before I can get out of Dodge.  One of the routes I have done in the Eastern Sierras, on more than one occasion, is riding three very difficult climbs in one day.  They are very different from each other but they share one thing in common … they are Epic!  See the graph below 105 mile 18,000 feet of climbing now that’s EPIC! Will I do this route while I’m there?  If I don’t do this route I will definitely knock down 2 out of the 3 climbs.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 10.14.16 AM

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.28.11 AM.png

The three climbs on this ride are Onion Valley, Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal, in that order.  I mentioned previously that these climbs were very different from each other and I will expound on that now.  Onion Valley has a very consistent grade, albeit steep, but consistent.  Horseshoe Meadows undulates and ramps up and down.  It also has very long stretches of road as far as the eye can see.  The “switchbacks” on this climb are miles apart and amazing to admire from a distance.  Finally, Whitney Portal is dwarfed by the giant Horseshoe Meadows but the grades are brutally steep in some sections and this is very difficult climb.

ONION VALLEY RD

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.51.18 AMScreen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.50.11 AMScreen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.49.24 AMScreen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.49.15 AM

HORSESHOE MEADOWS

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.02.36 PM

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.57.37 AMScreen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.54.26 AMScreen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.54.18 AM

 

 

WHITNEY PORTAL

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.02.42 PM

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.11.38 PM

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.03.35 PM

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.14.23 PM.png

 

Below I have provide a screen shot from the PJAMM Cycling website.  Please visit it and contribute to it by doing some of the rides and providing feedback or doing a ride report.  Some of us are visual learners some of us like lists.  As a male I like images but as a Virgo I like lists.  Which one are you? The 10 toughest climbs in California.  You will notice the ride above bags the toughest climb in California along with the 2nd and 5th toughest climb in California.  FYI, the 3rd and 4th toughest climbs are also in the same geographical area. White Mountain is within riding distance of the three climbs of this ride.  Owens Vally has the goods! Sherman Pass West is “around the horn” as I call it.

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.37.28 AM

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 11.38.16 AM.png

Well there you have it a possible route for this weekend.  Tune in for more of my misadventures — subscribing to the blog is the easiest way to follow me.  Thank you for taking the time to follow my blog please share it with your best friend.  See you on the road.

 

FIETS – What’s FIETS?


As I sit here daydreaming of an epic climbing weekend, yes epic, an overused word but more on that later, I just can’t contain myself.  I am counting down the days until I am free to fly in nature’s most amazing playground – the mountains.  Is it only Wednesday?  I check the calendar again and yes it is only Wednesday darn!  Where am I going and why am I as excited as when I watch brown Santa pull up at my door?  I’m headed to the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California!

I’m sure you thought I must be headed off to Europe.  Or possibly you thought I must be headed to Colorado.  No, I’m driving, yes driving, a few short hours, depending on traffic ugh traffic, a mere 274 miles to Lone Pine, CA for some of the best climbing in California. I will take it one step further and state unequivocally, some of the best climbing in the United States.  The Eastern Sierras have some of the hardest climbs in the country in a  small and concentrated area.   Taking on one of these legendary climbs is a great acheivement but having them so conveniently close to each other enables you to tackle a second and possibly, if you are as nutty as I am, you might take on a third massive climb.

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 11.35.29 PM

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 11.44.49 PM

We all value things differently.  Our value systems allow us to rank and prioritize things that are important to us.  What I value in a climb is how much I will be challenged by it and how great my sense of accomplishment will be when I summit.  For some it may be the scenery and surroundings.  I understand that as well.  However, for me the scenery comes second to the suffering while I’m climbing.  Once I summit well then it is ALL about the view!

Now I’m not completely delusional sure I would like to take off to Europe and climb the mountains that have been made famous by the mano a mano battles of my cycling heroes during the Grand Tours.  But when time and finances are an issue you can find the most amazing climbing adventures right here in Southern California.  No flying, no customs, no worrying about how to get your bike to Europe and back from Europe in one piece and let’s not forget the 9 hour jet lag issues and so on …

Who’s the GOAT?

Do you often find yourself debating with your friends “What are some of the hardest climbs you have done?” This is akin to the other never-ending circular debate “Who is the G.O.A.T?  Who is the greatest of all time?” insert sport here _________ And like the GOAT argument I wish to arm you with the facts and stats that we as climbers use to back up our argument.  Once you understand them you can use them the next time you fall into the “what is the hardest climb?” trap.  I have had this debate for years.  So I wish to introduce you to FIETS.  What is it?  Let’s find out together.  Oh and you can thank me later for the tables and graphs.

What is FIETS?

FIETS is a formula for ranking climbs.

The Fiets Index (developed by the Dutch cycling magazine Fiets).

The actual formula is: [H^2/D*10] + (T-1000:1000; but only if greater than 0)

  • H = ending elevation minus starting elevation in meters.
  • D = total distance traveled in meters.
  • T = Height in meters.

Note: Only add T-1000 if that number is greater than zero.

Let me simplify things for you … the higher the FIETS, the harder the climb, and the higher it will rank on a list.  If you want a little more explanation of the formula then think of these three things —  how much will you climb, in how much distance and what is its height.

The good people over at PJAMM Cycling have taken the time to construct and maintain an excellent interactive website with climbs from the US and all over the world.  It is a valuable resource if you love climb, love numbers and data like I do.  I have thoroughly enjoyed pouring over the lists which may be sorted in multiple ways.  One such sorting is listing the climbs in the US by the highest FIETS which as you may recall means the toughest.  I wish to provide for you a few observations.   Please bare with me as some may be plain as day but I hope to bring even the novice climber up to speed along with the elite climber.

Hawaii tops the list with the first and second hardest climbs in the US –  Mauna Kea and Haleakala, respectively.  Mauna Kea has a FEITS of 28.9 and it also has the unique distinction of being the hardest climb in the world.  The stats are mind boggling – 42.6 miles long, gaining 13,778 feet, with an average grade of 6.1%  Haleakala is no slouch either but its FIETS at 18.2 is nearly half that of Mauna Kea!  It’s numbers are: 35.6 miles long, gains 10,059 feet, at an average of 5.3% .  As any experienced climber knows the average grade just means that most of the climb is more than the average grade stated.

Now that we have dispensed with the huge volcano climbs of Hawaii let’s move back to the mainland.  I created a small table below to illustrate, again in numbers, my mind works best this way, where the rest of the hard climbs are in this great country of ours.  Excuse my rudimentary spreadsheet skills please.

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 3.58.45 PM

It becomes glaringly obvious to anyone, even at glance, that California ranks consistently with the highest number of hard climbs in each breakdown of 20 climbs for the top 100 climbs.  It also doesn’t take a math whiz to see in the final tally that 46 climbs out of 100 climbs or 46% of the nation’s hardest climbs are located right here in California.

Another observation, which was rather illuminating to me, was that Colorado ranked much lower than I expected. Aside from their two world famous, 14’ers Mt Evans and Pikes Peak in the top 20, they don’t have another strong showing until climbs 61-80 with five in that category.  Mt Evans and Pikes Peak are still on my wish list.  I tackled a 14’er here in California White Mountain Peak which shows up on the top 20 list as #9 but only up to 10,114 elevation.  You can continue on White Mountain when the paved road runs to dirt up to the summit at 14,252.  Not recommended on a Cyclo Cross bike only a crazy person would do that – who me?  Yeah me it was very challenging to say the least! Take a hard tail MTB instead.

Yes yes but Colorado has the altitude.  Fair point.  However, I submit to you that not everyone is effected by altitude.  I have ridden above 10,000 feet in race conditions and I felt the usual effects of reduced power but not the most common complaint of not being able to breathe under effort.  So not everyone will feel the effects of altitude but everyone will feel the effects of the length of a climb and the steep gradients, those are very tangible.  Length and steep gradients is what California offers in abundance.

White Mountain Peak

Even more surprising to me was how well Utah ranked with a total of 11 climbs and a good showing in each bucket of 20 climbs.  It seems like you can get plenty of good climbing there as well.

Below are screenshots from the PJAMM website.   It can’t be overstated how much work they have put into their website.

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 1.35.34 PM

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 1.36.59 PM

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 1.39.25 PM

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 3.36.48 PM

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 3.38.52 PM

Then I got to thinking wow that is a lot of climbs in California and some of these names sounded familiar.  So how many of the California climbs have I done? This part of my research was much more fun.  It turns out that:

Top 20 

I have done eight out of eight of the hardest climbs in California!

Top 40 

I have completed nine of the 11 climbs – not bad.  The two I haven’t done I just haven’t heard of them.  I need to locate, close with and destroy the enemy … oh wait that is the former Marine coming out.  What I mean is I need to find out where they are and get them done.

Top 60

I have completed nine of the 11 hardest – One of which I may never do. Hwy 330 is just too narrow and too dangerous and the other I just put on my hit list. There I go again –  I mean checklist.

Top 80

I have completed three out of eight climbs.  Interesting to see a few on there that I didn’t know existed or that ranked in the top 80 so I can knock them off fairly easily but I need to travel to them.

Top 100

I have completed seven of the eight.  Same story there is a climb on the list I haven’t heard of before this exercise.

I haven’t made my plan yet for this weekend’s rides but know that they will be epic.  Oh yeah I was going to talk more about the overuse of the word.  I will just give you my 2 cents on the subject.  Far too many use the word too loosely. The short of it is — to me EPIC is something that either weather, mechanicals, terrain, duration or a combination of these four attributes but limited to them, cause you to experience great elation, despair, sense of accomplishment, suffering, soul searching, or a combination of these attributes but not limited to them, and you complete the event, race or training session and you say “one and DONE! there is no way I’m doing that again”.  But alas, the entry window opens up for next year and you sign up again.  For the long of it I will have to publish a post about epic adventures to give you some sense of what I consider to be EPIC.  Your experience may vary.

Is it still Wednesday?  yes urg!

1,000,000 feet of climbing for 2018?


I climbed 1M feet in 2015 and 2016. For 2016 I wanted to repeat 1M feet but in fewer miles so steeper climbing and less “junk miles” 8,412 miles. The first year I attempted 1M on my first riding day of 2014 I fell and broke my right femur I was off the bike for four months. There are a series of posts about that ordeal in this blog. 2017 my business kept me too busy to go for a three peat of 2015, 2016 and 2017.

I was looking at my climbing data this morning and did a little math.  This is what I came up with

To climb a 1M feet in one calendar year you need to climb 2,740 feet per day for 365 days

May 17 – 137th day of the year

137 days x 2,740 feet = 375,380 feet Should have as of May 17

Actual feet thus far 264,380 feet

375,380 – 264,380 = 111,000 feet behind goal pace

I was off the bike for six weeks from mid February until the first week in April.  I had Influenza B, pneumonia and then strep throat and sores all inside my mouth. It was awful and I will make a separate series of post about “the flu from hell”. Anyway, I lost a lot of climbing time.  I didn’t set out this year targeting 1M feet but now I’m wondering if I can make up the ground I lost and maybe pull it out by year’s end as part of a comeback success story- a feel good story with a happy ending like Disney.

Today’s ride

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 4.47.27 PMScreen Shot 2018-05-17 at 4.51.24 PM

I mean my stats aren’t bad for what I have done this year they are just behind the pace.  Let’s take a quick look at how the numbers breakdown.

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 6.45.53 PM

2,877 miles for the year in 69 rides = 41.6 miles average per ride

269,134 feet divided by 69 rides = 3,900 feet of gain per ride

269,134 divided by total miles 2,877 = 93.5 feet per mile

200 hours divided by the number of rides 69 = 2.8 hours per ride

Let’s just see how the next couple of months go and then I’ll make a determination to go for it or not.

You can follow my progress on Strava. Whether I end up with 1,000,000 feet of climbing this year or not I am going to ramp up my climbing and it should be interesting for you to watch.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! Please share it with your friends. Also if you leave a comment please provide feedback and if you have a topic you’d like me to discuss please make a recommendation. Once again, thank you so much for reading my blog we’ll see you on the road.

Next up – Heartbreak Double Century 5/19/18 – 200 miles approximately 17,000 feet of climbing.

2018 Camino Real Double 4th Overall


February 17, 2018 – Lori Hoechlin and George Vargas placed 4th overall at the Camino Real Double Century with a time of 10:59.  Our goal was sub 12 hours with a secondary goal of beating our 2017 time of 11:28.  The 2018  had a little more climbing finishing it sub 11 hours was a huge surprise.  We wish to thank Planet Ultra for putting on the event.  We also wish to thank all the volunteers spread out throughout the course.  We only stopped at 2 aid stations all day but we do appreciate the comfort of knowing there were more aid stations and friendly faces to assist us if we needed it.  Lastly and more importantly, I wish to thank my training/racing partner, Lori.  She was simply amazing throughout the day with steady power production and great companionship. I have now completed my 48th Official California Triple Crown Double Century.

The weather was fantastic.  Sure it was chilly in the morning but it warmed up nicely and it never got too hot.  It was in the low 40’s in the morning and mid 70’s during the day.  The winds followed their typical patterns i.e., calm in the morning as we headed South from Orange County and East into the hills of San Diego North County and then onshore which is head/crosswinds as we headed North back to Orange County.

This course has an enormous amount of “stop and go” because of all the traffic lights in Orange County.  In the morning when riding through Orange County and then in the afternoon/evening on the return to the finish line there is so many annoying traffic lights.  It is a little more bothersome getting the tandem rolling back up to cruising speed.  But it’s a level playing right?  Everyone has to stop at them … legally.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 9.21.03 AM

(we are missing 1.6 miles because of a Wahoo Bolt Snafu at the beginning of the event)

Finish of Camino Real Double outside

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 7.56.29 AMScreen Shot 2018-02-18 at 7.56.08 AM

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 7.51.49 AM

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 9.54.34 AM

 

 

 

Race Day Eve – 2017 Silver State 508


Today we had our vehicle/bike inspection and racer/crew check-in and waivers signed. We are officially ready to race tomorrow Sept 15, 7:00 with the relay start.

Earlier in the day we took everything out of the crew vehicle, inventoried, labeled and organized it. Noreen was methodical and precise with her weapons of mass organization – Sharpies and Post-it notes – color coded at that! Funny story, while were setting everything up in the hotel parking lot security came to us saying they had received complaints of “someone setting up a yard sale”. Point number one – umm nothing is for sale! Point number two – what I’m selling you can’t afford 🙂 Apparently, security weren’t the only ones who thought we selling our wares. Several cars did a slow drive-by and asked if we were selling our things. Nothing to see here nothing for sale move along .

#SS508 #the508 #silverstate508

THE 508 LIVE RACE TRACKING  Hutton’s Vireo

 

TRACK LEADERS GPS TRACKING Hutton’s Vireo

Race Eve Eve – 2017 Silver State 508


We arrived in Reno safe and sound. We saw dark clouds looming over the mountains on our way in to town. Just as soon as we checked into our hotel and we are carrying our baggage to the rooms – thunderclaps and rain! Well let’s hope it all passes before race day. In the meantime, we had a nice dinner – I recommend the chipotle shrimp dish – don’t get the veggies they were over-cooked and soggy. Cheers!

 

THE 508 LIVE RACE TRACKING  Hutton’s Vireo

 

TRACK LEADERS GPS TRACKING Hutton’s Vireo

 

The 2017 Silver State 508


Once again Lori and I are racing the Silver State 508.  This year we are trying something new… we are racing as a 2 person mixed relay.  As my friend, Greg Sherman, pointed out to me I have raced the 508 as a solo, Fixed Gear solo, Tandem why not 2 X Mixed Relay.

We have a great crew.  Lori enlisted the help of her long-time friend Noreen.  I enlisted the help of Alin.  Alin is a veteran of crewing for us so I know he will be fine.  Last week we did a 150 mile 16,000 feet of climbing training ride where Lori and I switched every 25 miles to give the crew an opportunity to practice transitioning, feeding, navigating and direct follow at night.  Noreen did great for her first time.  She even had the opportunity to direct follow at night up and down mountains.

The team of Hutton’s Vireo are ready — riders and crew! You know you can teach people the tasks associated with crewing but you can’t teach them how to care for people.  The willingness to care, assist, and dedicate themselves to your mission can’t be taught it has to come from within. I feel confident we will be in good hands.

If you are interested and would like to follow the race please use the following links

THE 508 LIVE RACE TRACKING  Hutton’s Vireo

 

TRACK LEADERS GPS TRACKING Hutton’s Vireo

 

 

IMG_0553

Road Trip antics on our way to Reno

 

We will try to have our crew update you via social media when the are not busy driving, navigating, feeding, motivating, massaging, and cheering us on!