This is the Century I have been looking forward to for quiet a while now. I pulled the trigger today and registered for the ride. Sue was looking over my shoulders and urged me to purchase the commemorative jersey, and I reluctantly agreed after she convinced me that this momentum is worth it, because it will mark my first mountain century.
Sue’s cousin owns a cabin on Gull Lake, which we rented for the week, and plan to arrive on the 8th, plenty of time to acclimate to the altitude. We have been going to the Sierra’s at least once per year for a couple of decades now, and I always look forward to the great fly fishing, hiking, sometimes golfing (often the greens are already frozen in September) and now a mountain century.
Last fall was the first time I cycled those remote mountain roads with incredible vistas everywhere you look. You can find some examples in this album. One challenge I tried and failed last year, was a ride up Tioga Pass from Mammoth. My tank was completely empty about 2 miles below the summit. No matter how deep I tried to dig, there was nothing left. However, this failed attempt became my motivation for riding the hills and mountains in my neighborhood to become better at climbing and ultimately gave me the confidence to register for the century.
I am not going to ride Tioga on this trip to save my legs for the century, but the pass will still be there next year, besides, I have full confidence that my next attempt will succeed.
I leave you with a course description form the High Sierra Fall Century website.
The High Sierra Fall Century begins at the Whitmore Ball Fields, just east of U.S. Hwy. 395 on the Benton Crossing Road south of Mammoth Lakes. Just after the start, turn right onto Hwy. 395, riding north toward Mammoth Mountain with the San Joaquin Ridge visible in the background.
The road follows the base of the Sierra peaks through Long Valley past the turnoff for Mammoth Lakes. The steam that you see rising off to the right of the Mammoth Junction is from the Casa Diablo Geyser (no longer a true geyser, except for occasional bursts of water), a remnant of the recent volcanic activity that created much of the spectacular scenery around you. The hot water underground that supplies the geyser has been tapped by the geothermal plant near the hillside to generate electricity.
After passing the Mammoth Lakes turnoff, continue up a short hill to Smokey Bear Flat. A few miles later, the rest stop at Crestview CalTrans maintenance station marks the first long climb of the day up to Deadman Summit at 8,041 feet. From here, the road rolls over some small hills before making the short descent to the June Lake Junction.
From the June Lake Junction, ride downhill into the Mono Basin Scenic Area, catching your first views of Mono Lake, one of the oldest and most unique lakes in North America. Thanks to the continuing hard work of the Mono Lake Committee and others, reduced water diversions are allowing Mono Lake to rise toward a more ecologically healthy level. At mile 27, you will turn right onto Hwy. 120 toward Benton. Ahead, you can see the Mono Craters, the youngest volcanic chain in North America, built by volcanic activity between 40,000 and 640 years ago. After a gentle climb, the road will descend to the south shore of Mono Lake, then begin climbing through the largest Jeffrey Pine forest in the world. Across the lake you can see Black Point, the best now-exposed underwater volcano in the world. At mile 36, you will come to the Mono Mills historic site on the left for the second rest stop.
After cresting Sagehen Summit at mile 43, the highest point on the course, continue down a long, fast descent into the meadows of Adobe Valley and a well-earned lunch stop. It is believed that 100,000 years ago Mono Lake had an outlet to the Owens Valley through this valley. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a rare pronghorn antelope, native to this area but surviving in greatly reduced numbers. About forty miles after leaving US 395, you will turn right onto the Benton Crossing Road. Rest and refuel yourself at this stop, as it is 15 1/2 miles and over 1,000 feet of climbing to the top of Watterson Canyon.
After leaving Black Lake, you’ll have a steady climb for a few miles, then the road climbs very steeply for about a mile. Hang tough, because at the top of this steep section is the famed “Wildrose Lounge”, with tunes being spun by your roadside DJ hosts Lars and Sandra Pearce. A steady climb, interrupted by steep climbs of a mile or two each, will bring you to the top of Watterson Canyon.
Enjoy the fast downhill after this stop to the east side of Crowley Lake and to Benton Crossing over the Owens River. From here, the view of the Sierra is spectacular, with Mount Morrison dominating the skyline directly ahead. A few short climbs will bring you to the finish line at the Whitmore Ball Fields.