Cycling Monitor Pass, home of the Death Ride - an epic Sierra Nevada bike climb.
Photo - Aerial view west from location directly above Monitor Pass markers.
Monitor Pass East and West are 2 of the Death Ride’s 5 climbs.
This climb begins about 22 miles southeast of the tiny Sierra town of Markleeville (home of the annual 5 pass/15,000' Death Ride). Ride 9.5 miles gaining 3,348’ to elevation 8,335 at 6.5% average grade.
Start during the Death Ride
Just leaving the lower canyon near the start.
Aerial view of the giant switchbacks from mile 4.4 to 5.8 -
average 7.5% through this segment.
Around mile 7 (2 ½ more to go).
While the climb does have some sustained pitches in the 8-9% range, for the most part it is a smooth 5-7% climb from bottom to top. The first half of the ride covers about 1,650' at 6.9% and the second half about 1,550' at 6.4%.
The roadway surface is exceptional and while this is a state highway and traffic does whiz by at considerable speed, there is a decent bike lane for most of the climb and a light to medium flow of traffic. The descent is smooth and fairly straight once a couple of large hairpins are negotiated at the top. The landscape is desert-like, similar to the high desert of Arizona. However, the western side of Monitor Pass and Markleeville area is softer in climate and appearance (alpine forest, grassy meadows, bordered by dramatic sierra cliffs/mountains).
Approaching Monitor Pass from the east.
Starting the descent of Monitor West after climbing Monitor East.
This is the first of the five death ride passes and starts about 7.5 miles southeast of the start of the Death Ride (Turtle Rock County Park). The climb is challenging, particularly around the 1.5-3.5 mark (8.8% average grade) and miles 4.65-5.6 (7.9%).
Ride 8.2 miles gaining 2,729’ to elevation 8,335’ at 6.1% average grade. This is the traditional First Climb of the annual Markleeville, Alpine County Death Ride.
Death Riders strung out going up Monitor West.
There are sweeping high sierra views once you climb out of the canyon at the start of the ascent. The road is closed for the Death Ride, but there are hundreds of cyclists around you at this point of the ride (and will be for both Monitor passes and Ebbetts East (things begin to thin on Pass Four (Ebbetts West).
On our way up Monitor West during the 2015 Death Ride.
Finishing Monitor West.
Steepest ¼ mile begins at mile 5 (8.9%) and steepest mile at 2.9 (8.3%)
Provisions and lodging can be found in Markleeville (a couple of restaurants, general store and ice cream shop), Woodfords (motel) and Sorenson's Resort (cabins and nice cafe).