Alta Alpina Challenge-Wild Sierra Century

Saturday, June 30, 2012

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Click here to watch a short video of the ride

The Alta Alpina Challenge is cycling event organized by the Alta Alpina Cycling Club. They offer 5 courses with the ride option of choosing from 8 different Passes: Kingsbury, Luther, Carson, Blue Lakes, Monitor West, Monitor East (Topaz), Ebbetts East and Ebbetts West (Hermit Valley). You can create the perfect ride for yourself!

Michael and I registered for the Wild Sierra Century with 3 Passes; Kingsbury Grade, Ebbetts East and Monitor West. This is more than enough for me at this point; I’ve only been able to prep for this ride by doing one Mt Diablo repeats (3x’s up in a day) a few weeks prior and lots of short rides in between with a decent amount of climbing! So, hopefully that’s enough to get me up and down these 3 mountain passes.

The start/finish for this event takes place at Turtle Rock Park located on CA 89 just 2 miles north of Markleeville in Alpine County. There is ample parking in the large dirt lot across from the community center.

We exit the Park at around 6:30 AM and head north on CA 89 towards Woodfords to the turn onto Diamond Valley Rd. The 6.8 mile run along the flat valley floor is a great way to warm up and start the day. It’s a cool 49F out here! It’s still not too late to enjoy the prime of the morning sunrise with the mountain peaks serving as a magnificent backdrop!

We cross CA 88 and continue north along the flat terrain on Foothill Rd/Fredericksburg Rd. The small town of Fredericksburg has a cemetery, ranches, old barns and sage brush fields.
The turn onto Foothill Rd/NV 206 takes us across the stateline into Nevada along the outer edges of some residential communities of Gardnerville and Minden.
We reach the Kingsbury Water Stop-mile 19.9 at 7:40 AM. The temps have already risen to a very warm 70F. We take a few minutes to peel off layers and top off our water bottles.

The climb up Kingsbury Grade/NV 207 to Daggetts Summit is 7.9 miles long on excellent pavement with a decent shoulder area. The first few miles of this road stair steps with gentle grades of 2-3% and increases to gradient ranges of 6-9% for the remainder of the way. It’s a fantastic climb with jaw dropping aerial views of the valley and forests below and above us! WOW!
We reach the Kingsbury Rest Stop/Daggett Summit 7334′-mile 27.8 at 8:45 AM. It’s a breezy 63F up here. This is aptly renamed the Queensbury/Drag Stop with 3 Bosom Buddies welcoming all the riders in! These ladies made a special effort to create a warm and wonderful atmosphere here-BRAVO!  
The descent back down Kingsbury is fabulous with great sightlines and sweeping turns. Having the use of the rear view mirror is so helpful-I can take the lane when there are no cars coming down and scoot back to the right side of the lane when needed. I only counted 3 cars passing us and one RV trailer. ENJOY the downhill but still be cautious!
We reverse the route back to Foothill Rd/NV 206 and Fredericksburg Rd. While getting out of the saddle on a small hump, the cleat on my left shoe slips out of the pedal and we have to stop to make some adjustments. Other than that, it’s a fast flat run to the turn onto Emigrant Trail; it’s a nice detour from taking the main road on CA 88. This section of road is 3.2 miles long with several false summits-it’s now a very HOT 98F here! The gradient ranges from 5-8% with several steep pitches of 10-11%.
We arrive at the Emigrant Trail Rest Stop-mile 47.8 at 10:45 AM. The volunteers are great here-they offer to take my bike and refill my bottles! WOW!
Emigrant Trail drops us down to CA 88 and Old Pony Express back to CA 89. The next 3.9 miles along CA 89 has a couple of climbs takes; it’ll take us to the lunch stop at Turtle Rock Park.
We reach Turtle Rock Park Lunch Stop-mile 52.6 at 11:25 AM. You have the choice of a “full service” eat in or “drive-thru” grab & go lunch. The lunch menu is the standard sandwich fare with deli meats, fruits and drinks.
Our car is parked near the entrance and it’s easy for us to put away all the layers of unnecessary clothing for the remainder of the day.
The post lunch route takes us on CA 89 for the next 7.3 miles heading south to Markleeville and along the Carson River. The scenery is really hard to beat here! The terrain is slightly downhill with small rollers in between. 
CA 89 becomes CA 4 at mile 59.9 towards Ebbetts Pass. The first 7 miles has initial gentle gradients of 3-5% with pitches of 8-9%. Enjoy this while you can-the steeper climb is coming up!
Once you reach the 7000′ elevation sign and cross the cattle guard, the gradient immediately increases to ranges of 11-13% up ahead-get in your lower gear! You gain 1730′ in the next 6.2 miles. Most of the climbing is in the 7-8% range with pitches of 11-15%! When you see Kinney Reservoir-you’re only one mile away from the summit! I ran out of water 2/3 of the way up here and it made the climb that much tougher! Next time I’ll have to remember to top off my bottles at the campground along the way-I think it’s the Silver Creek Campground.
We arrive at Ebbetts Pass Rest Stop-mile 73.1 at 2:50 PM. This was a much needed stop for me. I chugged down a Coke and had 2 cups of Chicken & Rice soup for the sodium load and ate a bunch of fruit.
The reward for this climb is the descent-it’s fun and twisty with a few blind turns. The stretch along the lower section of CA 4 to CA 89 is fast! We reach the Water Stop-mile 86.3 at 3:45 PM. You can see the start of the climb up Monitor from this intersection. Fill up your bottles and get going-there’s another mountain to climb!
The climb up Monitor West is 7.6 miles with gradient ranges of 6-9% with multiple sections ranging from 10-11%. We actually have a tailwind going up and it’s a cool welcome to the climb! About midway up, the road kind of levels out a bit before it pitches back up again. The Alpine views are outstanding! The grove of Aspen trees are a gorgeous sight along this stretch of road!
We arrive at the Monitor Rest Stop-mile 93.9 at 5:35 PM. I take my time at this rest stop and sit down to consume a cup of chicken noodle soup with a Coke chaser. It was good for me to just stop for a while and stretch-I could feel my shoulder getting stiff during all the climbs today.
The sweeping descent on Monitor takes us back to CA 89. We’re on the final home stretch to the finish-only 7+ miles back! The scenery up here is spectacular-what a wonderful place to ride a bicycle and see all this first hand!
We’re back at Turtle Rock Park-mile 112 at 7:00 PM. What a glorious way to spend the day and nourish my mind, body & soul!
There is a post ride meal at the community center-I have a plate of spaghetti with chili meat sauce & a green salad plus a full fruit plate. I can eat a lot!
Much “THANKS” to all the Alta Alpina volunteers for being out there to support us! The weather was fantastically warm & hot, add a wonderful route and you’ve got a perfect day of riding! The climbs up Ebbetts and Monitor had minimal to no traffic and the Apline views are breathtaking!
If you’ve ever considered doing this ride, I would strongly encourage anyone to come out and try it. There are so many route options to choose from and the support is wonderful! Believe me, if I can do this-you can too! It’s amazing where our bikes can take us-I’m so happy to be able to do this! LIFE’S GREAT!
VDO Stats:
Miles: 112.7
Elevation: 10,938′
Avg Speed: 11.0
Saddle Time: 10:18
Total Time: 11:30
Avg Grade: 5%
Max Grade: 19%
Starting Elevation: 5000′
Weather: Sunny and HOT with clear blue skies. Starting temp of 49F, reaching the high 90’s in the afternoon and dropping to the low 70’s in the early evening.
Nutrition: LOTS of water, maltodextrin mix, electrolytes and gels, a few cans of Coke, a V8, 2 cups of chicken & ride soup, a cup of chicken noodle soup, salty chips, lots of watermelon, oranges, a banana and honeydew, 1/2 beef sandwich with lettuce, pickle and tomato.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
~John Muir
Follow this route for today’s ride:


  1. Nancy and Michael-
    Mabel Tov from Paris! Great ride, fine photos- I close my eyes and I am there… Really good writing!!! Xox Joan

    Thanks Joan! We had a great time! Nancy


  2. Nancy, Really good photos. They really capture the essence of the geography in that area. It is so different from around here, but still beautiful. They also bring back memories of slugging up Ebbett’s Pass!! Carole

    Carole-I’m so glad we all made it up there! The area is gorgeous-8730′! Nancy


  3. Nancy, You are still the best blogger! It is great to see you back on the road with Michael and doing a big beautiful ride.

    Dean, I’m so HAPPY to be back on the bike! See you out on the roads. Nancy


  4. Great ride, Nancy!!! I always love reading your ride reports and viewing your incredible photos. Good luck next weekend — and hopefully the weather will be kinder and gentler, even if the mountains aren’t. 🙂

    Barb, Thanks, we’re looking forward to completing the Death Ride. I plan on getting an early start. Nancy


  5. You are correct–the campground with water is the Silver Creek Campground–in 2003 it was the only spot on Ebbets with piped in water. (Two days after a self supported “Death Ride” where we refilled at Silver Creek both on the out and back we drove by the campground and they had a big plywood sign “Pipe Busted–no Water.” Two days before and there would have been 3 dead cyclists. -Jay

    Jay, Thanks for confirming the name of the campground! It was good to see you at Sorenson’s. Nancy


  6. AWEsome pics, nancy! until i saw your slideshow, i had little interest in riding the Alpina. now, however….

    Chris, There are so many different routes to choose from; you and Pat have got to get out there-the scenery is magnificent! Nancy


  7. Great write up . This was a beautiful ride. Great photos and enjoyed the video too!
    See you on the rode.

    Jackie, It was great to be able to spend the long weekend with you & Carole! Nancy


  8. Nancy, You are just an amazing lady. What a great ride and pics! Brings back memories of the Death Ride years ago. Good luck on the ride this year.
    Carol F.

    Thanks Carole, we’re aiming to complete the ride! Nancy


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