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Old 06-09-10, 08:15 AM   #1
Ken Roberts
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Sonora Pass photos

Snow alongside and above the road makes it even more spectacular, and now's the time for it.



Met a touring cyclist climbing (who took that picture above of me)


He was continuing to Las Vegas. Original plan had been to go over Tioga. I think the west side of Sonora is way harder, but he made it.

Late afternoon, another rider plunging down the west side upper steep


I started from Kennedy Meadows, climbed east over to Leavitt Meadows, then back over to the west the same way.

Great day for me. If Sonora Pass were in Europe, serious cyclists would drive six hours to ride over it, and it would be used lots of times in TdF or Giro.

Last Wednesday would have been nicer for photos if less cloudy sometimes, but I didn't mind feeling less heat while climbing thru the steep sections.

Ken
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Old 06-09-10, 08:30 AM   #2
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You are a beast! Sonora is already funny steep in a car, it has to be the most grueling pass of the Sierra on a bike.
Beautiful pictures, thanks.
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Old 06-09-10, 08:32 AM   #3
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West side from low to high
. (even though I took the photos in reverse sequence on descent)

looking down into top of the first steep section




snow visible already around 8000 ft


above south side of road


easy section to rest from climbing


rock crag on north side of road


snowy on south side
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Old 06-09-10, 08:34 AM   #4
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West side, going higher









into the upper steep section


above still more to go, but moderate


altitude 2934 meters, higher than any paved pass in Europe
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Old 06-09-10, 08:49 AM   #5
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East side
Not as big, not as dramatic rocks as the west side. But with snow around, plenty spectacular. And its two tough sections are roughly as steep as the two on the west side.

sequence in the downhill direction . . .

ski tracks to left side of this peak by Sonora Pass




big snow slope (also with ski tracks, harder to see)


below the snow-line


. (I love those lenticular-like clouds which I associate with rt 395)

Leavitt Meadows


horses at the pack station


Then down the lower steep section, and I turned around and climbed back up -- nice variety of steepness on the East side road.

Last edited by Ken Roberts; 06-09-10 at 09:24 AM.
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Old 06-09-10, 09:29 AM   #6
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Awesome photos, thanks for sharing. Gets my juices going for some good summer hiking in the Sierra (though it looks like it's still early spring up there now!). And that snow slope photo looks like an epic ski run!
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Old 06-09-10, 09:39 AM   #7
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wow. awesome. do you have these in their original resolutions anywhere?
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Old 06-09-10, 10:08 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by gpelpel View Post
Sonora is already funny steep in a car, it has to be the most grueling pass of the Sierra on a bike.
Yes I first encountered Sonora Pass driving over it in a car -- also with snow because I was visiting for a backcountry ski trip over Memorial Day like fifteen years ago. I was amazed by how spectacular it was -- especially the upper steep section on the West side with dramatic rocks + snow. And I definitely noticed the steepness, even in a car.

So when I later got into climbing big things on my bike, Sonora was in my mind -- even though I doubted I could get all the way up the west side without walking.

Then I bought a travel bike with very low gears, and I found a set of steep hills for training around NY + NJ where I do most of my bicycling. Though I came to believe that some of the steepness grade numbers often quoted for Sonora were exaggerated, I didn't really know.

Anyway I think what makes Sonora really tough is the combination of steep sections with high altitude -- so I was afraid that my low gears and hill-specific training weren't going to be enough. Even after making it thru the first steep section on the west side, I felt there must be something else tougher ahead which I might fail to pedal up.

But with an acclimatization strategy and some luck this time, I didn't feel symptoms of altitude sickness. So I felt good and actually enjoyed the scenery. (Next time who knows? The altitude might hit me and I'd feel nauseous and lethargic and it would just be survival.)

If only it wasn't so long to drive to there from the great riding around the Bay area.

Ken

Last edited by Ken Roberts; 06-09-10 at 10:17 AM. Reason: fix a couple words
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Old 06-09-10, 11:36 AM   #9
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Great shots! We'd like to go over that by bike one day. What camera did you use?
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Old 06-09-10, 11:48 AM   #10
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Nice photos! I really like the mountain wave clouds. Was it very windy on the surface? Glad I wasn't trying to fly a small plane across the mountains that day.
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Old 06-09-10, 01:07 PM   #11
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Great pictures - thanks! Now you've made me want to go on a bike ride......

JB
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Old 06-09-10, 01:15 PM   #12
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Thanks for sharing. Great pictures! We are headed to Colorado in July and I hope to conquer Cottonwood Pass and then head over to Pike's Peak for an awesome downhill ride. I can only hope that my trip is half as beautiful as yours.

Last edited by Rollinlucky; 06-09-10 at 01:17 PM. Reason: made a mistake
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Old 06-09-10, 05:14 PM   #13
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I really like the mountain wave clouds. Was it very windy on the surface?
"mountain wave" -- So that's what those clouds are called. So I guess a "lenticular" over a single peak is sort of smaller version.
Oddly I don't remember it being very windy on the road that day.

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Old 06-09-10, 05:33 PM   #14
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do you have these in their original resolutions anywhere?
I posted them at 800x pixel width because most forum software is stupid, and when people post wider photos, all the text for a thread gets stretched to a width that's hard for me to read.

I have most of them at around 1600x resolution. I could easily post them to Picasa at 1024x (or higher). I'll see if I get a little time to focus on doing that.

They original image files are at 2048x1536, captured with a point-and-shoot camera.

But . . .
9 out of those two dozen pictures are composites of multiple images. So in a sense their original resolution is higher than 2048x.

I make composites because I feel that a single shot with most cameras (certainly any with my point-and-shoot) just aren't wide enough to convey the feeling of great outdoor places like the Sonora Pass road.

It takes some thought to shoot for composites, and editing work to create them, but I felt that Sonora Pass with snow is one of the great mountain rides in the world.

Ken
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Old 06-12-10, 06:52 AM   #15
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Fantastic pictures of an awesome ride. Nice work.
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Old 06-12-10, 06:59 AM   #16
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Incredible California scenery . Often the road going over the Sonora pass does not even open until June 1.?
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Old 06-12-10, 08:48 AM   #17
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Incredible California scenery . Often the road going over the Sonora pass does not even open until June 1.?

Depends on the year but late May and early June is common for opening. Best time to do it is just after they plow and before it opens to traffic. We caught it just right on this ride last year at the end of May........



.......and again in Mid October after our first snow.



A Sonora Pass over and back is part of our new KOM style Wild Hillacious Century Series this summer.

http://www.altaalpina.org/hillacious...eriesIntro.htm

Great pics Ken.
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Old 06-12-10, 11:14 PM   #18
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Nice pics, I now have a desire to ride that part of the state.
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Old 06-13-10, 07:57 PM   #19
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Best time to do it is just after they plow and before it opens to traffic.
I'm with Sagebum. Almost anything high in the mountains looks more exciting with bright snow nearby: blue sky with snow, gray road pavement with white snow, green tree branches with snow, dark rocks with bright snow.

The longer you wait to get up and ride it, the more the snow gets rutted, dirty, and less - (though a June storm timed a day or two before riding could refresh it).

In response to questions about photo resolution, I posted those photos to Picasa
here with slidewhow capability
with their suggested 1024x768 resolution for sharing on the web.

Ken

Last edited by Ken Roberts; 06-13-10 at 07:58 PM. Reason: fix a couple words
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