Monitor Pass East Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Monitor Pass East


Toughest leg of the 5 pass annual Markleeville Death Ride

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Climb Summary

Cycling Monitor Pass East - aerial drone photo of long straight stretch of road looking west from the pass

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.

California Top 10 Most Epic Climb 

Visit our Death Ride page for detailed information on each route and climb in this ride.

Cycling Monitor Pass East and West - PJAMM cyclists at finish of Death Ride holding up 5 fingers for 5 passes - skeleton  

Monitor Pass East and West are 2 of the Death Ride’s 5 climbs.

Monitor East

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.

Climbing Monitor Pass East  by bike - beginning of climb - highway sign for Markleeville


    Climbing Monitor Pass East  by bicycle - Death Ride cyclists descending through canyon

Start during the Death Ride

Bicycle ride up Monitor Pass East  - cyclist on roadway with view east of valley and mountains

Just leaving the lower canyon near the start.

Bike climb of Monitor Pass East  - aerial drone photo of Hwy 89

Aerial view of the giant switchbacks from mile 4.4 to 5.8 -

 average 7.5% through this segment.

Bike ride up Monitor Pass East  - view of road and hillside

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).

Biking up Monitor Pass East  - cyclist riding west at pass - view west

Approaching Monitor Pass from the east.

Bicycle climb of Monitor Pass East  - Summit Marker and monument at pass

Cycling Monitor Pass East  - bicyclist riding west as the pass - roadway and mountains 

Starting the descent of Monitor West after climbing Monitor East.

     Monitor West

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%).

Cycling Monitor Pass West - beginning of climb - Death Ride - cyclists and Monitor East and West road sign 


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.


Biking up Monitor Pass West - Death Ride cyclists climbing lower section

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).

Climbing Monitor Pass West by bike - panorama view of mountains and forest

On our way up Monitor West during the 2015 Death Ride.    

Climbing Monitor Pass West by bike - cyclist approaching pass monument and marker

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).