Californian Mark Schwartz brings us a set of his favourite rides focussed on the Tour of the California Alps otherwise known as the Death Ride. He’s also added in a few of his favourite local loops which really highlight the amazing riding around this region.
The 56-year-old hails from Markleeville and when the event postponed in 2020 he decided to share some of the USA’s best riding with FulGaz.
Now in its 40th year, the Death Ride offers up to 15,000ft/4,500m+ of climbing over 129 miles/207km, and five epic mountain passes.
The common theme through all of these rides is clear, bright blue skies, and seemingly endless mountain vistas.
Monitor Pass West Ascent
This is the first climb of The Death Ride and with its relentless pitches, it sets the tone for the rest
The ride starts at Monitor Junction, where the highways to Monitor Pass and Ebbetts Pass meet. You’ll travel past Heenan Lake, which cultivates Lahanton Cutthroat trout in order to preserve the endangered species.
With approximately 2800ft/850m of climbing in just over 8/12.2km, this HC climb is a tough one.
Ebbets South Ascent
This ride is the shortest and fourth climb on the Death Ride and is only a category two climb.
This ride begins in Hermit Valley and climbs up the southern side of Highway 4 (Alpine State Highway) to Ebbetts Pass.
You’ll ride past the North Fork of the Mokelumne River, and as you ascend out of the trees you’ll start to catch glimpses of the surrounding mountains and granite peaks. Rest while you can on this climb so you can tackle Carson Pass next!
Ebbets North Ascent
The ride begins at Monitor junction where the highways that climb to Monitor Pass and Ebbetts Pass intersect, from here you ride up Highway 4 to the north side of Ebbetts Pass.
It’s climb number three (of five) of the Death Ride, and is the prettiest of them all even though it’s a Hors Categorie ride.
Enjoy the views of the East Fork of the Carson River, Silver Creek and near the top of the climb, Kinney Reservoir, as you ascend.
Carson East Ascent
Even though this is the last climb of the Death Ride it isn’t the hardest stage, you’ll soon understand why it’s considered the hairest.
This climb is 14 miles/22km long making it an HC climb. When you add in the distance with the fast-moving traffic and limited shoulder in some areas. In real life this climb is not for the faint of heart but in FulGaz you’re safe as houses from the passing traffic.
It’s this is a beautiful ride through Woodfords Canyon, Hope Valley and past Red Lake. Once you get to the top you can revel in the fact that you’re at 8580ft/2615m above sea level!
Blue Lakes Road
This road is arguably one of the prettiest rides in Alpine County, California and it happens to intersect with Highway 88, the Carson Pass Highway, part of which is the last climb of the Death Ride.
As you ascend from Hope Valley up to Lower Blue Lake you’ll take in views of some of the iconic peaks of the area including Hawkins, Markleeville, Thornburg, Raymond, and The Nipple.
Creeks, meadows and wildflowers abound but be sure to keep an eye out for the pond, with lilies in bloom, as you get closer to the end of the ride.
Markleeville to Snowshoe
Follow the Alpine State Highway north from Markleeville to Diamond Valley Road, where you’ll ride to the Snowshoe Thompson Historical Marker.
With lots of bumps along the way, you’ll get a bit of climbing in and you’ll catch some good views of the backside of the Carson Range, a spur of the Sierra Nevada Range.
Diamond Valley to Markleeville
This course connects three iconic passes of the California Alps; Carson, Monitor and Ebbetts. Ths route is ridden by the Alta Alpina Cycling Club in its annual racing series.
This ride starts in Alpine Village, near the enclave of Woodfords, California (once a Pony Express Remount Station), and then heads south on the Alpine State Highway into Markleeville.
Markleeville is the county seat of Alpine County and the headquarters of the Death Ride. You’ll turn around just past town and head back towards Woodfords but you’ll take in a different view and some rolling hills also.
About the Death Ride /Tour of the California Alps
Celebrating 40 years of this iconic event, the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce holds the Death Ride each year to challenge riders to what’s described as ‘the premier cycling event in California’.The event offers up to 15,000′ of climbing over 129 miles, and up to five mountain passes, this ride is sure to challenge you, inspire you, and leave you wanting more!