SONORA PASS - climb of west side




Bike Ride

3365 ft

Begins in:
Dardenelle, CA, United States
Created By:
<i>The follow description of the climb was written by the late </i> <b>John Finley Scott </b> <i>(the inventor of the modern mountain bike in the 1950s!) for the 1975 Super Tour ride. This is Finley at his best. [This MMR map starts at the Kennedy Meadows turn off and ends at the pass; the elevation graph (expand and enlarge it) does not give the climb a true sense of its steepness. The average grade for this 3400 ft climb is 7%. But, in the words of John Scott, you don\\&#039;t climb the average!]</i><br><br><br>Past Dardanelle (next store: Leavit Meadows) you cross the middle fork of the Stanislaus river and climb to the Baker maintenance station and soon come to the snow gate with its legendary laconic sign: SONORA PASS AHEAD / STEEP AND WINDING ROAD / HOUSE TRAILERS NOT ADVISABLE. Now begins the test you are here to meet: your pulse races and adrenalin knots your somach; you imagine that you are hitting the beach at Normandy, or leading with no belay on a worsening friction pitch, that you have sold naked call options in a strong rising market, or are confronting Special Agents from the Department of the Treasury. This is the testing-ground, this is the day of reckoning, this is the moment of truth; your time is come.<br><br>You ride boldly through the gate and <u>shift directly to low gear</u> (you will see why shortly). The first grade you see is steep but deceptive, as it worsens round the curve. As you climb the view opens up to Kennedy Meadow and the great bulk of Leavitt Peak: now lift your eyes to the left wall. Espy the incredible road above, audicious climber, and dispair! What you now face is the legendary Q de PORCA incline, .84 miles averaging 13%, too long to charge in oxygen debt. The grade worsens. If the road is sandy your rear wheel may spin if you stand, yet if you stay in the saddle to keep weight on the rear wheel you lighten the front, so that torque unloads it and destabilizes steering. Now the road winds right and left on constant reverse curves, while the view improves rapidly. Now you draw on your reserves, for the next .55 miles lift you 443 ft. for an <u>average</U> grade of 15.1%. Finally go beyond your reserves as you approach the rock defile of the Q de PORCA: here raw courage (aided perhaps by unusually low gears) will yield up your salvation, for God hates a coward. The grade increases still more, to well over 20% in the defile, and you will be relieved to learn that this is the steepest pitch on the whole ascent (a photo of riders climbing through the defile will be memorable). A short level section past the defile leads to a long section that elsewhere would be a terror but here is relatively mild: 1.8 miles at an unrelenting 9.6%. You round a switchback and climb along a steep hillside till, just past the first ELEVATION 8000 FT sign the grade eases, and the next 1.8 miles (including the 150 ft. retrograde) average only 2.5%.<br><br>At the second ELEVATION 8000 FT sign the iron discipline of the western approach resumes. The next 1.79 miles to the ELEVATION 9000 FT sign average 10.7%. For 1.2 miles the grade is only 7.5%, and so we may calculate what greater travail is yet to come. Along a short tangent, where the road bears directly towards the rock wall ahead, you can see the gradient increase sharply. You have now arrived at the GOLDEN STAIRS section, named for the yellowish granite terraces on the cliff to your left. Peaks and precipices stand at every hand, snow of a severe winter repose in rubble-strewn avalanche chutes, the environment is wild and desolate in the extreme, and the only human intrusion is the precarious road you are about to ascend. For .49 miles from the first left-hand turn sweeping curves lift you towards the ELEVATION 9000 FT sign on an <u>average</u> gradient of 16.9%. Finally the road turns sharply left parallel to the steepening gorge of Deadman Creek (excellent photos <u>down</u> the road, showing riders climbing past the sign). You look up the road and see the elevation sign and a further increase in the grade. But there is more. Past a curve to the left the grade increases again: here, at 9000 feet, after the wrenching climb from the Baker snow gate, you must now prevail over a grade of 20% for 800 feet. Like the hard fists of the Zen Master, whose silent blows open your eyes to wisdom, this dreadful journey to the limit of strength and endurance leads you to realize what abstract proof cannot: that Truth, Beauty, Empire, and Victory inhere in small chainwheels.<br><br>Yet relief awaits. The grade now quickly recedes to less than 10%. You enter an open alpine basin, the last 2.48 miles climb at an average of only 4%. Sweeping curves and a rising grade lie just below the summit: the Mono County Line, a new highway district, your first view of the high desert ranges to the east, tourists and well-wishers, and a sign announcing your arrival at SONORA PASS / ELEVATION 9624 FEET. The battle is over, and your side has won.
Starts From:
Bike Ride


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