Just back from a week up in the Sierra Mountains. My wife and kids and I spent a few days in Yosemite, through the Tioga pass and spent a couple of days in the Eastern Sierra’s. We spent most of the time hiking with the kids, but I did bring my bike with me and got in a few rides throughout the week. The day before we headed home, my wonderful wife sag’d me up White Mountain to the top of the Ancient Bristlecone Forest - one of the passes of the Everest Challenge. Below is my ride report and some pics. I really enjoyed this climb and would rank this as one of my favorite climbs that I have ever done. I hope to do this again in September as part of the EC, and hopefully it will be much cooler. Apologies for the length.
The climb starts just outside of Big Pine (just south of Bishop) and climbs 24 miles up Hwy 168 to just over 10,000 feet. Last year I camped with a buddy and we took our mountain bikes all the way to the summit which is 14,000 feet. I didn’t fair to well in this ride and suffered from the altitude and got quite sick on the descent. Here is my ride report from last year: White Mountain ride report
This year, I opted for the road bike and hoped not to experience any of the drama of the previous year. We camped the night before north of Bridgeport a couple of hours north of the ride start. Unfortunately, there was a fire off the 395 that closed to road for a few hours and we were delayed getting to start of the climb. I was worried about the temperatures during the ride and wanted to get an early start – strike 1. We were also diverted from getting an early meal, so I had lunch in Bishop about 45 minutes before the ride – strike 2. When I started the ride it was 99 degrees out, which is way hot for a coastal boy like me. Although the temperature was not ideal, I figured it would start to cool as I ascended the mountain.
The ride started with a short flat section and then quickly turned up the mountain. The temps started to climb steadily and within the first 30 minutes I felt like my helmet was going to pop off the top off my head. As soon as the road turned upwards I hit a bit of a headwind and it literally felt like I was sucking air directly from a hair drier. My wife was following behind in our car and passed me letting me know the temperature had increased to 102. By the time I passed her at the next pull-out the temp climbed to 104. I rode slowly past my wife and rode for another 10 minutes. The road was pretty steep and I felt like I was riding in an oven, my heart rate was really high and I was suffering. My wife pulled along side and let me know that the temp was now up to 106 and proceeded to let me know that she thought that this was stupid, dangerous and offered a few other words that cannot be repeated on a public forum. She asked me to get in the car and drive up the mountain to where the temps would be more manageable. I told her I was going to go easy and try and nurse my way up this section. This was really tough, the climb was not that difficult, but I was in total temperature management mode. At the next turn out I caught up to my wife and got off the bike. I felt like if I took another pedal stroke I was going to completely over-heat. I got in the car for a few minutes and had as many AC vents as possible pointed at me. I drank a bunch of water and then got back out on the bike, much to the disappointed of my wife who was still lobbying for some hill repeats near the summit instead. The next couple of miles were pretty much the same. I drank a ton of water, rode at a frustrating slow pace and just tied to manage my body temp.
Eventually the temperature dipped below 100 and slowly started to decline. When I crested over 7,500 feet there is a bit of a flat section and I actually started to feel cool. I pulled over for another bottle and the temp was down to 90 degrees. After I hit the 8,000 foot marker, there were a series of pretty steep switchbacks to contend with, but I was feeling a little better as the temps were much more manageable. I eventually passed my wife who had pulled over to the side of the road to document me going into 5 digits of elevation. This is the highest I have been on my road bike
I pulled into the parking lot of the Bristlecone Forest, cleaned up and forced down half a turkey sandwich. I actually felt pretty good, and we took our kids on a small hike to an old mining entrance and took a few snaps of the park we had not seen before. My wife dove down the mountain and the turkey sandwich I had eaten was churning like a washing machine in my belly. I will spare anyone reading the details, but let’s just say I have been on this mountain two times and both times I have not been able to keep down my lunch. At least I am consistent
My wife thinks that I was probably suffering from a bit of heat stroke, but I teased that she just drives too fast on the switchbacks and I got car sick. All kidding aside, I am blessed to have such a great wife, as there was no way I could have done this ride without her SAG support. I can’t imagine it can be too much fun yo-yoing up a mountain at 10 miles an hour. I went through nearly a gallon of water during the ride. Also a big plus on this ride were the other cars that passed me along the way. I think just about every car slowed down and yelled out some form of encouragement. When the temps were really high, a few cars that did not realize that I had a support car actually offered me some of their water.