Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monitor Pass

We started today with a long descent from Luther Pass.  With the wind at our backs, we flew downhill at 38 mph for five miles.  The fairytale ended when we turned into the wind, and going down is always bittersweet when you know there's a big pass coming up.  Predictably, we soon began to climb.  The scenery continued to be as pretty as ever with the leaves turning, and the ascent was gradual at first while following a river.
Then we saw this sign:
Fortunately we weren't going that way.  Our pass was not going to be easy, however.  I googled it and found that it is featured in a local "death ride."  A local in Markleeville, a small town we stopped in, said, "Monitor Pass?  I don't even like to take my car on that."  Up we went, much preferring our route to the 24% grade the other way.  We sustained a 9-10% grade for about eight miles with sections of probably 12% and a flat section here and there.  From the bottom, we went up almost 3,000 feet.  People think Alaska was tough riding, but this was much more difficult than any pass we did there!  
Fortunately we had the help of the wind for some of it, and our increasing elevation provided us with ever-better views.  We finally reached the top around 1 pm and sat down for a long lunch.
"Monitor Pass, Elevation 8314, Dedicated 9-12-54" 

After lunch we fiddled with our brakes for a few minutes, making sure they were working as well as possible, then set off on the descent.  This was the steep side, apparently, and I was able to maintain a constant 30 mph or so in the strong headwind simply by sitting upright.
Our destination: the bottom of that valley.  A scenic few miles!
While the headwind was good for limiting speed on the steep downhill, it wasn't so good once we reached the bottom.  It was absolutely blasting from the south.  A wind forecast indicated winds of up to 35 mph; a few strong gusts stopped us completely, forcing us to wait for them to relent before starting to pedal again.  We slogged about ten miles through the wind before stopping in the little town of Walker.  The wind is still roaring; it sounds like waves are crashing on top of the tent.  Hopefully it abates somewhat by tomorrow.

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