I should probably post this in the mountain biking board, but I am definitely not a mountain biker. I almost exclusively stick to my road bike, but I do on occasion ride a mountain bike when traveling and camping. This past week I spent several days camping up in the Sierra Mountains while many of you were climbing Mt. Baldy. I thought I would share my ride report of my ride to the summit of White Mountain just east of the Sierra’s. This is the third highest peak in California (ed.) and reaches 14,246 feet. Anyway, like I said, I usually stick to the asphalt, but I thought some of you would get a kick reading how a sea level road bike rider got destroyed attempting the ride a bike up past 14,000’ feet. Excuse the long post…
We camped just south of the Ancient Bristlecone forest on the HWY 168. If you have not check this national park before, I would highly recommend. This park contains the oldest trees (actually the oldest living things) on Earth. Some of the trees are over 4000 years old. Here is a picture of one of the cool looking Bristlecone trees:
The Bristlecone forest is about 22 miles from Big Pine on the 168 and is at approximately 10,000 elevation. The road ends at the park and we turned onto a pretty bumpy dirt road and drove for about an hour and parked at locked gate which is the start of the route up to the summit. We arrived just after sunrise and it was definitely quite chilly. A few cars were parked at the gate, as some hikers had camped there to also get an early start. I threw on a warm fleece under my cycling vest and started the ride wearing my winter hat and carried my helmet.
There is a rough road that takes you most of the way to the summit and is approximately 7 miles from the gate. I am pretty strong roadie and have completed many very hilly routes and climbing specific events over the years. However, I had never ridden higher than 10,000 feet and I live at sea level, so I was curious going into the ride to see how I was going to respond to the altitude. The ride starts with a pretty steep climb right past the gate. I quickly found out that I was not going to adjust well to the high altitude. I switched into a low gear and found a rhythm and started the climb. My heart rate started to spike immediately and I was quickly gasping for air. This was not exactly a very challenging climb and something I would be able to handle quite easily at normal elevation. By the end of the climb, I was panting, feeling dizzy and quite concerned about how difficult the small climb was for me.
Here is a snap of the start of the climb.
The dirt road continued to climb for another two miles and we arrived at a research station run by UCSD. I think they do some high elevation research here. There was a small pen with a bunch of sheep – strange to see them so high. The two mile ride was rough. I just couldn’t seem to find my legs and I was suffering on a grade of climb that should have been easier. I was drinking lots of water and trying to keep an even pace.
We took a little break at the research station and talked to a couple of people who were hiking to the top. The sun was starting to get a bit higher and things were warming up a bit. We then rode for another 2 miles or so and continued to climb more. I actually felt a bit better and seem to be able to catch my breath a bit better and able to ride at a steadier pace.
Continued in next post...