Eastern Sierra Double

| June 8, 2009 10:00 pm
Eastern Sierra Double

by Jon Kaplan

Just back today from Eastern Sierra.  It was definitely an adventure.  Getting there (to Bishop) on Friday took 9 hours – Tioga Pass and Sonora Pass were closed, and Route 4 had chains required.  So we (Patrice Carney, Vince Cummings and I) wound up going up north and over on 88, then down Route 395 153 miles to Bishop.

All week long they were predicting 35-36 degrees and 40% chance of rain around the June Lake area for Sat., the highest elevation on this double.  Then on Friday they were predicting six inches of snow, so we got re-routed.  We were told the new route would have only about 7-8,000 feet of climbing.  The regular route has 10,200.  We wound up with 12,200, PLUS we had 36 degrees and sleet and hail at the top of Death Valley Rd. (Route 168).  What we all thought was going to be a 3,000 foot climb, which would then level out or modestly roll for the next 15 miles up to the south-end turnaround point, turned out to be 3,600 feet of gain and then a 4300 foot drop down the other side to the turnaround point, from where we had to then come back up the 4300 feet we just descended!  That totaled 7900 feet of climbing just in the space of 43 miles.

By the time we did the descent back down toward Route 395, the weather had cleared, it warmed up into the 40s, and the road surface turned back to smooth.  With mostly blue skies and the snow-capped Sierras ahead of us to the west, and an incredibly steady descent with barely any brake-below-30 mph turns, this descent was one of those great, I-won’t-ever-forget-this experiences.

After lunch (back in Bishop on what was a figure-8 course), we then headed north on US 6 into 15-25 mph headwinds, with a bout of rain, for 34 miles to Benton.  And then, we had 7.1 miles with almost 1500 feet of climbing up Route 120 to the north-end checkpoint.  Fortunately, Roger Coombes, Hisako and a train of others showed up a few miles into the northward trek, so we could all take turns pulling into the wind.

The whole route was 7 miles shorter than the regular Eastern Sierra Double that I did two years ago, but it took me 45 minutes longer, putting me into twilight and then total dark about 3 miles out of town.  But I have no complaints.  There were 225 riders signed up; only 160 showed up, and of those only 106 finished.  I was probably among the last 10-15 finishers, but I finished.  A lot of the people who started turned around before the top of the 3600 foot climb; others who went over the top of the climb and down the other side were so violently shaking from the wet and cold that they sagged back; others made it back to Bishop for lunch, but then bagged the second loop.

Out of Patrice Carney, Vince Cummings, and me, Vince was our “the man”.  He finished 2-1/2 hours ahead of me.  He was coming south as I was about 20 miles out of Bishop headed into the headwinds on the north loop.  I still had 63 miles to go, and he was just one hour away from finishing.

Patrice DNF’d.  She saw me and Vince wearing just bike shorts and looking lightly dressed at the start in Bishop where the temp was about 45 at 5:00 in the morning.  So, she dressed and packed light.  Then when we hit the sleet and temperatures dipping down into the 30s, she turned around.  Plus, her asthma had kicked in.  She waited until I got back to Bishop for lunch, then she did the second loop and rode it very strongly.

Between Davis and Eastern Sierra, I wound up doing back-to-back doubles with a temperature spread of 65 degrees between the two.  I’m assuming Grand Tour Triple temperatures will hold somewhere in-between.  Maybe it will hit 100 in the town just before we go up 150 to Ojai, but overall, the weather should be a whole lot more moderate.  I sure hope so.  There are only so many “adventures” one needs to have in a season.

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