Monster Climbs-10th Anniversary Ride Report-23-26 June 2016
by Rob Verfurth
Riders: Rick Bienias, Neil Rintoul, Bernie Bogard, Jeff Cresap, Dave Voris, Dave Ernst, Dave Guidotti, Larry Murray, Oleg Shpyrko, Len Nathe, John Moran, Eric Rehberg, Lisa Rehberg, Dave Sheehan, Todd Calloway, Bob Proulx and Rob Verfurth
One picture says a thousand words, that is how the English idiom first published back in 1927 goes. The epic 10th anniversary adventure of the Monster Climbs trip is already a tome, based on the great photos Oleg has shared. Below is a link for the cameras shots I took during the trip, to add a short appendix to our library. I will add a few paragraphs of my foggy recollections from the weekend, especially for those folks that were not able to attend this special event.
Firstly, a huge thanks to Dave Guidotti for all the work he has done over the years and for this anniversary trip. It is really amazing how smooth all the logistics and details go for a large group of hard to control riders. I know we all appreciate his efforts and realize we could not have these adventures without his and others help.
The route for this anniversary trip was very similar to our first MC trip, way back in 2007. We switched things up a bit and started with the Bristlecone Pine climb, saving Onion Valley for Day 3. The fully planned route was over 150 miles and about 25,000 feet of climbing. We also drove up in the afternoon on Thursday so we could start our Friday ride early in the morning.
The large group of excited riders met up at Mike Hodges house to drive our 4-5 car caravan up to Lone Pine. Unfortunately, due to a family emergency Mike was not able to join us for the MC trip. He was on the original 2007 weekend and was missed this year. We made our usual stop in Adelanto for a bite to eat before finishing our drive up Highway 395. As we got closer to Lone Pine, we saw and smelled the smoke from the fires over by Lake Isabella, just south of Kernville; good thing we were riding farther north and east for the trip. Guido had us all at the Comfort Inn, just south of town. It was HOT, with expected weather warm all weekend.
A smart decision was made to start Bristlecone Pine early Friday am to beat some of the heat. We got the early breakfast from the hotel and drove up to Big Pine. After the group photo, we started the climb. The group quickly spread out with the fast guys disappearing into the distance. I noted that Voris, Todd and Bob P seemed to nicely cruise up as a small sub-group. Cresap pulled me along while others fell off behind. Neil was at the top first and he must not have read his brochure since he missed the turn to White Mountain Road, heading straight towards the desert. Rick had to jump into the Rehberg truck that Eric and Lisa had positioned at the corner and chase him down.
We all eventually made it to the top. Riders were relaxing at the tables in the sunshine by the time I got there after my 3 hour climb. The descent back down only took an hour, the heat rose rapidly as we got closer to the cars. Larry, Bernie, Oleg and Rob were the only four riders that decided to venture up the Glacier Lodge climb, the second ascent of the day. The rest of the riders were smart enough to call it quits, given the heat. The four of us pedaled toward Glacier. I was quickly dropped and watched the guys pedal off. It was searing hot and I was cooked. Only about 4 miles into the climb, I found Big Pine Creek at a sharp bend in the road, next to a few huge pine trees that provided some shade. I propped my bike next to a tree and made my way down to the rushing waters; a nice cool soaking up to my thighs provided some relief. I made my way back to the shade and sat on some rocks, letting the slight breeze cool me off even more. A nap was needed, but I put my shoes back on and coasted back down the road toward the cars.
Oleg came back a bit later, he melted closer to the top. Only Larry and Bernie got all the way up to Glacier Lodge. I still got in 55 miles and 7,800 feet of climbing, a nice start to the weekend ahead. We drove back to hit the pool, but it was so HOT, that we mostly just stayed in our rooms, soaking up the AC. We ordered pizza and had it delivered to the indoor dining room. Good re-fuel for the big days ahead.
Day 2 of the trip also saw an early start to the ride. Sheehan positioned the support car while the rest of us rode from the hotel to Tuttle Creek in the Alabama Hills, on our way up Horseshow Meadow. The fast riders again rode ahead while the rest of us hit the long switchbacks of the climb. I caught Sheehan near the top, before the quick descent towards the campground. The group found some shade and water, relaxed a bit and then headed back toward the valley. It got warm and then hot before getting to the car for some food and drink. A number of the guys headed back to the hotel while others turned up to tackle the Whitney Portal climb. The goal was to get to the store where a burger and fries awaited.
This second climb of the day is always hard, the heat made it more difficult. Neil and Rick were the first to the top, again. Two cars filled with the riders that went back to the hotel drove by and picked up a few more riders after the alluvial fan climb. Todd, Sheehan and I stopped at the end of the first switchback to enjoy the views of the valley floor below. We all made it to the cooler weather up in the trees to the general store; the burger, fries and coke tasted so good. Everyone relaxed at the tables enjoying their well earned feast. We hated the leave the beauty and coolness of the high altitude forest, but cruised down nice and easy, back to the hotel. It was a 66 mile, 10,600 foot elevation day over two major climbs for me, my legs were done.
Guido hooked us up with reservations at the Season’s restaurant in Lone Pine for dinner. It was an excellent feast, we learned lots about red wine and enjoyed the company of the fellow riders. We finished the evening with an ice cream social on the deck by the pool. Rick B, Dave Voris and Rob were recognized as the only Descenders that had made it to ALL 10 years of the Monster Climbs trips; epic adventures every one of them.
The last day climb was Onion Valley. We ate breakfast again at 6 am and then drove up to the small town of Independence to begin our ride. The first car got there before 7 am, Sheehan headed off to tackle the climb. I left with Bob Proulx but was quickly dropped. My legs were gone for the first hour, everyone passed me by the time I got to the campground. The square wheels finally rounded back into circles after the first hour and I did the second half of the climb at a good pace. Rick and Neil were again to the top ahead of the others. By the time I was getting to the top, the first group of riders were already heading back down. A number of guys were in the parking area when I pedaled up. We all relaxed in the sun, drank water and enjoyed the beautiful views of pine forests and waterfalls. We made a safe descent back to the car. Voris kept it interesting by rolling his tire off the rim during his descent and still saved himself from a fall, good bike handling skills. The quick up and back to the top of Onion Valley was only 26 miles and 5,200 feet of climbing, but it was a fitting end to a great weekend.
We got back to the hotel, cleaned up, packed and still checked out early! The weekend total for me was 146 miles and 23,600 feet of climbing; others did more. The cars made their way back to San Diego, riders reminisced about the fun weekend spent climbing some of the best roads in the US. This was the 10th MC trip. Next year we will do something totally different as the riding weekend morphs into the next phase of its journey. Enjoy the photos.