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  1. #1
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    Mar 2008

    Riding to 11,673' in the Sweetwaters

    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.

  2. #2
    Rhymes with fartmaster
    Reputation: Leopold Porkstacker's Avatar
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    Apr 2010
    Nice Strava footies gained! Good job!
    one by nine works just fine but single speed is all ya need

  3. #3
    mtbr member
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    Apr 2004
    nice job! i've only been up there on my dirt bike and *that* was hard. not a lot of O2 near the top.
    something about the west makes me wanna ride

  4. #4
    Reputation: jtmartino's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Beautiful pictures - thanks for sharing!

  5. #5
    Recreational Terrorist
    Reputation: SCTreeHugger's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    Looks amazing. Nice job.

  6. #6
    (slight return)
    Reputation: slide mon's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    Nice! I drove my old Rodeo around in the Sweetwaters back in the fall of 2003 I think, although I didn't know they were called that at the time. Remember it feeling pretty "out there." Timed it right with the Aspens, nice ride off the beaten path.


  7. #7
    More Torque
    Reputation: Diesel~'s Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    Very cool photos of something different. Love the colors.


  8. #8
    Reputation: modbog's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    i consider myself very lucky to live close to places like this. looks like you had a great time.

  9. #9
    mtbr member
    Reputation: chairthruster's Avatar
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    Dec 2004
    very very cool. really appreciate you taking the time to share. I've been interested in visiting that area for a long time as a remote backcountry ski trip, now ive added it to my list for summer, fall too

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Uncle Stinky's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    Very cool, those aspen look great. Only rode up there once years ago but on the east side near Boulder Flat. My brother and I were going to ride down the cow trails to Bridgeport off the south slope of the range but we did not have the time your shots make me want to do it again. Lots of cool old mines up there.

  11. #11
    he who goes without food
    Reputation: diskus's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    Im not sure I could ride downhill at 11K , nice ride

  12. #12
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    Mar 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Stinky View Post
    Very cool, those aspen look great. Only rode up there once years ago but on the east side near Boulder Flat. My brother and I were going to ride down the cow trails to Bridgeport off the south slope of the range but we did not have the time your shots make me want to do it again. Lots of cool old mines up there.
    Cool, that sounds like a fun plan! The very first time I rode in the Sweetwaters - as a teenager with my brother - was up cow trails along Desert Creek starting at Risue Canyon road. He didn't see a rock hidden in the sagebrush, hit his derailleur, and the derailleur snapped off and went flying. We couldn't find a single combination of gears that let us get the chain to stay on (he had BioPace gears on his bike - yep this was the late '80s). Ended up walking and riding jeep roads with him grabbing my shoulder until we got to the top of Jackass Creek and then could coast down the jeep road. There were some tough creek crossings along Desert Creek - at one point I bunny-hopped off of a grassy embankment down into the creek 3 feet below, cranked along the 2-foot-deep fast-moving creek, hit a big submerged rock, and endoed in the middle of the creek. My brother couldn't stop laughing...

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation: TahoeBC's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Great stuff, thanks for sharing!
    Go get that KOM "You Deserve" -

  14. #14
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Fairfaxian's Avatar
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    Dec 2004
    Props to you Locoyokel -what's better than a T.R. on backcountry riding, conditions/results T.B.D. This is what adventure riding is about. In rock climbing the paradigm is a clean ascent with no advance beta (or falls) -aka "onsight". I am sometimes guilty of checking for "trail conditions", beta, & gearing up obsessively. It is important to be aware of weather & elevation in the high country -esp in the "R" months, and being "prepared". But heading out solo into big country past tree level is its own reward. Terrific pix too.

    There should be a regional "epic" forum. That would make for good reading.
    I like to bike.

  15. #15
    mtbr member
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    Jun 2010
    Nice! If I go backpacking in the Hoover Wilderness or on the JMT next summer I'm going to bring my bike and get some riding in too.

  16. #16
    Feral Roadie
    Reputation: bbense's Avatar
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    May 2010
    nice work!

  17. #17
    mtbr member
    Reputation: benjaminj's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    Epic for sure, thanks for posting... there's a lot of country out there to explore!
    Support TAMBA (Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association)

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