Monday, June 10, 2013

6-8-13: The Sherman Pass Super Century

As the training continues for the Inyo Ultra 466 Race I decided to do a fantastic bit of training in the high mountains.
The ShermanPass Super Century, (formerly known as The Sherman Pass Challenge), is an event I did more than 20 years ago. The event was then discontinued. I have wanted to do it again ever since.
This event is 150 miles but is touted to be as though as a difficult 200 mile event.
The ride starts in the desert along Highway 395 in the little town of Pearsonville, the hubcap capital of the world. One of those little desert towns you see with allot of old western history behind it in the middle of nowhere.

Little did I know that, on this day, I would be getting a considerable amount of severe heat training as well as the altitude training which I was expecting.

I started the ride a little after 4am with my friend Rick who also did the event back in the early 90’s with me. Three people started earlier than us and another group started later with one guy starting real late.
Rick and I at the start. 4am

The first part of the ride goes up to Kennedy Meadows via “9 mile canyon”. Then it was on up to Sherman Pass at an elevation around 9,300 feet.
This was a 57 mile climb, total, to get to the’s a long climb right out of the box!

Rick and I discussed the pace and we both agreed that we should take it easy. We both had memories of how tough the final section from Kernville to the summit of Walker Pass can be, especially if it is warm, and it is June after all.

Up and up we went under the awesome stars in the morning before first light on 9 mile canyon.
It was just surreal and pretty warm considering it was the coolest part of the day. It was still around 80 degrees.

Rick climbing 9 mile canyon

This did not bode well for our prospects later in the day.

As it started getting light the silhouette of the mountains was just spectacular. We could start to see just how barren and dry the eastern side of the Sierra’s are.

Looking back to the east
Looking down 9 mile canyon. About half way.

It started cooling way down as we gained in altitude and it felt great.
There Rick and I were, about 2/3 of the way up 9 mile when we heard what sounded like an eagle. We looked around and saw nothing. Then we came around a corner and saw our friend Ken standing there taking a video of us. It was Ken hooting at us when he saw us coming down below. 
After reaching the top of 9 mile canyon we popped around the corner and it wasn’t barren any more. It was forest and meadows for the sunrise....spectacular!!

We rolled on mostly uphill grades through a wonderful place called Kennedy Meadows. This area was really beautiful at sunrise.

Rick enjoying the view

We then reached a summit of about 7,400 feet up in the high meadows before a short little descent and then more climbing. This is where I felt the altitude in my head a little due the lack of oxygen. Got a little dizzy.  I acclimatized very fast though and felt great the entire way to the pass. 

It was so spectacular up there. Ken and I talked many times about coming up again with a bunch of friends and riding from the bottom up to the pass and then back down again. The most beautiful part of the ride.

Up and up we go!

Feeling real good in the cool temps at this point
It was nice and cool at this point and the temp actually got as low as 48 degrees but we hardly felt it in the morning sun.
Nice to have Ken there taking some pics of us. Thanks Ken!

Along the way we met a real nice couple from Bishop, Ca, Steve and Julie. They were two who left before us and were pacing their selves nicely also.
Steve looking real happy at this point

We all kind of kicked back and rode together to the summit, stopping many times along the way to enjoy the view of the Sierras. You could also see Mount Whitney from some of the areas.
We reached Sherman Pass at a little over 9,000 feet feeling great!

Getting real high now

We kicked back for a long while talking to the support team, Ken, Hugh and Kermit and enjoying more of the Sequoia National Forest. There was a mountain bike tour up there too. They had trucked everyone and their bikes up there to start their ride. They could not believe where we started and where we were going. I think they thought we were a little nuts!!

Ken and I at the top
Now came the fun part....we thought!

We now were going to descend off the mountain to the Kern River and Kernville.

That is a 6,500 foot, sometimes a little technical,!!! Here is video of Rick descending off the mountain.

Now we would find out for sure what the rest of the day was going to be like. It was still before 11am.
As we descended, it started getting hotter. About halfway down it was so hot that it felt like a blowtorch on our skin. It was terrible...and not fun at all!

Rick bombing down to the Kern River
We reached the Kern River and made a left turn toward Kernville and Lake Isabella. We had a blazing hot headwind now and it felt we were in a microwave oven with a hot fan blowing on us....ouch!
The Kern River.

Looks nice and cool doesn't it......NOT!!

When we got to Kernville I had to replace a damaged tire which, I think, was damaged by one of the rough sections on the descent....who knows.
We got ice from Hugh, and then rolled on for a lunch stop to wait for Ken to come up behind us. He had my spare tire in his truck. I was hoping the tire would not shred before we got there.

Ken was the man!! He changed my tire, made me an ice sock, to cool my core, and then Rick gave me half a roast beef sandwich, some chips and a coke. Classic!

It was then that the latest starter caught up to us.
 It was Rob Templin.
Rob is one of the early pioneers in the sport of Ultra Racing.  He has been around a long time in the sport. He was feeling just as cooked as we were.

Off we went toward Lake Isabella. It was really getting hot now and we just “soft pedaled”. It was about all we could do. Once we got out of Kernville, we were totally exposed. There was no shade in sight for miles. Then in the worst of the heat we had a few really nasty little hills.
Hottest point of the ride right here next to Lake Isabella


My Garmin GPS was reading over 120 degrees on the road at this point and it had been over 100 since we were half way down off Sherman Pass. The accumulative, ever growing, heat was really taking its toll on us.  Rob, Rick and I kept leap frogging each other because we had to just stop every once and awhile because of the intense heat.
Ohhhh.....was it hot here!!! And look at the climb ahead! I thought I was going to keel over at any minute.

Ken, the support crew for us who were at the front, came along many times with fresh ice. Without this we would have been cooked for good. Rob was already over cooked. He must have gone up that mountain extremely fast to catch us before 100 miles.
Boy were Rick and I glad we smelled the roses on the way up the mountains.

After many...many... stops we finally made it to the turn on Hwy 178.


We now had a long climb to the summit of Walker Pass, elevation 5,200 feet. This climb was not steep at all. It was though, one of the toughest, 24 mile, 2,500 ft. ascents I have done. It did get a little bit cooler on the way up but the temp was still from 107 to 111 degrees on the entire climb.

Rob called it quits on this climb. Rick and I leap frogged some more as we had to get off to shake out cramps, walking them off. 
Rick up ahead starting the long ride to Walker Pass

Rob and Rick taking a break. I didn't want to sit on that boiling hot tarmac.

Rob Templin coming to the first shade in about 50 miles I think

Here comes Steve Tiede and Rick

The other Steve who we met earlier was suffering too. His wife Julie was just amazing. She kept a slow pace all day and was just smiling and cranking through the heat like it was nothing. Whenever we stopped, she just was not all that far behind, just spinning her way up the hill and happy as a clam!

Steve almost quit here too. He even had his bike in the SAG vehicle already. Then he saw her coming, pulled his bike out of the truck and continued. He was totally cooked at the top. He laid down almost passed out by the side of the road and waited for Julie. They both finished strong after that....awesome!

I almost totally recovered on the way up and felt great getting to the summit.
Rick and the face of suffering at the summit

Rick and I then bombed down the 2,600 foot descent back down to the highway.
Flying through the Joshua trees on the way down to the finish

After the left turn on the Hwy, we had tailwinds and mostly all down hill to the finish. What a great feeling that was.
The sun setting above Walker Pass

After the left turn on the highway it was a straight shot back to Pearsonville and the finish. I felt absolutely fantastic at the end.

I think I have to give a huge kudos out to Hammer Nutrition. Desert riding has been my downfall for so many years and I think I have it dialed in now. I have been training and doing events in the last few months using certain products recommended by Steve Born.

Steve, if you happen to read this......My regimen of 1-2 "Anti Fatigue Caps" and 1-2 "Endurance Amino's" every hour, from 3 hours into the event till the finish really made the difference. I also used "Endurolytes Fizz" in my Camel-Bac all day and a "Perpetuem" three hour bottle throughout the day.

A big thanks go our to Hugh and Kermit of Inyo Ultra Cyclists for an epic day which will not soon be forgotten.
Thanks to Ken Mathis for the ride up and all the great support. You Da Man Ken!!

You can see all the Garmin GPS data of our ride here.

You can see all the pictures here.


  1. Hey Steve, I just came across this awesome route wow, on google it does not look that sceanic. Also it looks as though the road is abandoned or rarely used (one way)? My mom has camped at KM but I have never been. Very beautiful and at elevation. Any steep grades?

  2. A wonderful account of the ride and great pics, too. I did it 2 or 3 times in the early 90's and I totally agree that it is the most difficult and the most beautiful of all the big California mountain rides (TOTF, the Death Ride etc.). A true epic adventure.