Managed to grab a couple days off mid-week, so after a day climbing & acclimatizing in the Yosemite high-country, I headed over to the Sweetwaters. I've biked in these rarely-heard-of mountains several times, but there was one place I had yet to go - to the top. So my goal: Mt. Patterson, 11,673 feet!
Here's where the Sweetwaters are, east of Sonora Pass - Tahoe is in the upper left, Yosemite is pink, Mono Lake is the lower right.
There is a 4x4 road that turns into an old pack trail on the west side of the high point (Mt. Patterson), and it looks horrendously steep on the map. I chose this since I've been to the start point (Lobdell Lake) many times, it was a nice high place to camp to get acclimatized, it's a fairly mellow road in (still needs high clearance), and it made the ride short and close to the car (nice for remote solo riding on short days with no cell phone service). I didn't know whether the "pack" section of trail between 4x4 roads would be a rocky foot path or a road, but I suspected the latter since I'd seen a good number of motorcycle tracks heading up the 4x4 road at the bottom.
On the road up Wednesday evening:
Starting the ride yesterday morning around 9, this is the low point of the ride (9100') after dropping down a bit from the lake - the creek is frozen over with a thin layer of ice. You can see the intimidating jeep road heading up the hill in the background:
The first hill was rough, but good traction, and I biked nearly all of it (except one short loose section and one short super-steep hill):
Nice changing colors:
Looking back down - you can barely see Lobdell Lake just right of center:
Turning the corner into the main canyon:
Up the road along the creek, with the switchbacks looming ahead. The best kind of mud anywhere - frozen mud!
View from the 'restroom':
Heading up the switchbacks - that's ice not water, so it felt like a singletrack climb. This is supposed to be a "pack" trail on the map - but it turns out it's a jeep road the whole way!
Steep, not as loose as it looks, and almost all climbable with some catch-your-breath stops. Snowy peaks up ahead!
The final grunt of the main climb up the switchbacks. A couple turns here were way steep and loose - hike-a-bike time:
Coming over onto the ridgetop - Mt. Patterson is on the left. A very ugly hill climb ahead?
Yep, super ugly steep loose pumice grind. No way I could have touched it if it were at sea-level - in fact it was soft and loose enough to be sketchy coming down!
Matterhorn Peak and the Sawtooths coming into view:
You can ride right to the top! Looking east with Nevada stretching into the distance. That flag has seen better days...
Looking south - there's a small white smoke cloud from a fire east of Mammoth:
Looking northwest - Tahoe is in the distance:
Then it was time for a blast back down, a snack at the car, and some aspen on the drive out:
Since the pack trail turned out to be a 4x4 road the whole way, stopped by along 108 for a quick 1500' climb to this sweet singletrack descent that Hwy 108 riders all know (a small section of the trail is closed due to logging but the best parts are all open). Note the conditions-appropriate neon-orange jersey - good thing too since I ran into 2 hunters less than a minute down the trail! Finished right before dark - perfect bonus at the end of the day!
Stats on the Sweetwaters ride: 10.5 miles, about 3000', 2:30 moving, 4:15 total. If you did the ride starting lower at the most logical spot (on the Bircham Flat road at the start of the Lobdell Lake road - easy low-clearance 2 wheel drive access), you would add about 5 miles and 1500' to the climb, and 5 miles and 300' to the descent.
Mtbr's 2016 Winter Biking GearReviews and Roundups
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