We’re boondocking (free camping) in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine on Hwy 395. One of the reasons to stop here was to see if we could ride our bikes up to Whitney Portal where the road ends and the trail starts if you want to continue on and climb Mt Whitney at 14,505 feet. The Portal is at 8630′ and the town of Lone Pine is at 3727′ but we started in the hills so our overall gain was more like 4200′ over 11 miles.
Once on the Portal road there is a gradual climb up towards the large zig-zag you see on the mountainside ahead of you. I set my goal on the first zig as the road cuts right but have to stop a few times before reaching it. Deceptive grade but it is an overall 7.2 odd % with some steeper ones to come.
The weather is cool with sun to warm you and we stop at the zag as the road swings sharply left. Time for a look back, and yes, we have gained some altitude.
I have been noticing these upside down numbers in the middle of the road. Having plenty of time to ponder things as I methodically turn the cranks I finally guess they are mile markers from the top downwards. “230” stands for 2.30 miles still to go. They are painted every 1/100 of a mile so there is 52.8 feet in-between each one. Like I said, I had plenty of time to ponder.
Round the corner and up the final mile or two we come across this major rock fall completely blocking the road, luckily there is a wide dirt shoulder for us to get around. The car in the background is the highway patrol, he said he had just got the call to come up and inspect the damage and was waiting for the county to come up and clear it. Apparently it had just happened this morning – luckily we had our helmets on !!!!
By the time I looked up the road, Rose was out of sight but another great view of the peak. It is the smaller upside-down V-shape in the background almost directly where the road points to.
The welcome at the portal is the store run by Doug. I had heard of Doug by reading the Whitney forum and it was great to meet him in person. Turns out he knew Santa Monica and Venice so we had a good chat about how things have changed over the years. Rose & I shared a burger and drank hot coffee to keep warm. 30 minutes later we decide to leave and it was actually snowing! It was more like soft white hail that quickly melted but we felt the freezing temperature and headed back down to warmer altitudes. Was a cold descent as I was not peddling but rather hanging on to the brake levers all the way down.
Sure enough the county was there pushing all the rocks to the side. I watched as they cleared the big one with ease albeit a few more scar marks added to the road pavement.
Very satisfying ride and we are more confident of getting up Mont Ventoux in June when we are doing a 7 day bike ride around Provence in southern France.