So, this road might be familiar to anyone that’s driven to Mammoth from Los Angeles. As you pass through Lone Pine, CA, about 4 hours north of Los Angeles, along highway 395 in the eastern Sierra. I’ve been up and down this road several times in an automobile, and have camped at the top (the road dead ends at the top), and even watched hang gliders launch from the overlook.
Every time I’ve been through the Lone Pine area I always look at this road and wonder… I’ve been doing this for years now, and for the past few, I’ve tired to get friends to come do it with me, but each time something would get in the way. So, this year I said, I’m doing this thing even if its solo. Well, as things turned out, I managed to get 5 others to come give it a go, AND two to be in the SAG vehicle.
We booked rooms at the Dow Villa in Lone Pine and drove up on Friday Oct 16th 2009. That afternoon we previewed the road by car. A few of the other riders had never been up this road, so it was quite eye opening for them. This road is steep, and climbs over 6,000 feet, topping out at 10,000 feet. Depending on who you ask, this climb ranks in the upper top ten hardest climbs in the U.S. Top Bike Climbs in the United States.
Saturday morning we geared up, loaded the SAG car, and started off. The ride is an out-and-back, and only 23 miles in each direction, very short by most road ride standards. Our group included four women, all strong road riders, one other gentleman that has just this past summer gotten into both road and mountain riding, and myself, a 25 year veteran of the MTB, and occasional roadie.
The SAG car was invaluable, for fresh water bottles and food. Plus, we had extra gear (clothing and tools, etc.) in the car, and a talented photographer.
All six of us made it to the top, one did end up walking 100 yards after he cramped up, but did get on the bike and ride the last mile to the top. At the top, 10,000 feet, it was remarkably warm.
We chowed down on some food and relaxed for a bit. The four true “roadies” decided that they would SAG down the Mtn! I said, WTF???? But, that is what they wanted to do. The guy that cramped up, SAGed up the one hill that you have to ride on the way back / down, but otherwise road all the way down with me.
One thing for sure, the bike handling skills that you gain from riding the dirt, really gives you confidence on the rougher roads. This thing, the Horseshoe Meadow road, is in good overall shape, for a road that goes this high. It does however have dozens of expansion cracks that run perpendicular to the road – bunny hopping is almost mandatory for many of them. Being faster, by almost 10 minutes down this thing, gave me time to read the paper that I had stuck in my jersey to cut the cold on the way down!
I’m happy to report that I road every inch of this ride, a true “Bucket List” ride for me. Now, every time I drive up the 395 towards Mammoth, or just into the eastern Sierra, I’ll be able to look to the west and know that I road that thing!