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Piute Pass Lord Nerd Beta

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The Sierra Nevada mountain range stretches 400 miles north to south along the eastern side of California. They’re tall, jagged, formidable and incredibly picturesque, the result of a whole heap of granite formed underground during the Triassic period and then forced out of the Earth’s mantle by the tectonic process over a few million years. But the granite didn’t go softly, and it takes revenge for its acute ascension into the heavens by slashing the descending sun at the end of each day, spilling bright crimson colors across the evening sky. In spite of the region’s renowned beauty, and the common Californian’s voracious outdoor enthusiasm, much of this range remains relatively untouched and seldom visited. One reason for this unspoiled condition is the notoriously difficult access to the High Sierra. Nearly all the roads that lead in are dead ends. During the winter people aiming to go east of the Sierra must drive around them: south to Mojave or north up and over Lake Tahoe. In the summer, the trip is made only marginally shorter with the ability to go over Sonora Pass, Tioga Pass, Walker Pass or the primitive wheel-eating pavement and dirt of Sherman Pass, all of which remain closed in the winter.

“But once upon a time there was a dream of another route, a path across the mountains that would link Fresno and the coast to Bishop, then on to Nevada, the midwest and beyond. That dream was called the 168.”

Much of the original 168 plan was completed. An eastern section stretches from questionably named Oasis on the border of California and Nevada, over the White Mountains via Westgard Pass, through Bishop and up to North Lake, and a western segment runs between Florence Lake and Fresno. There is, however, a noticeable and formidable gap in 168’s continuity. Never finished, the lost section of Highway 168 was a bridge too far, the terrain and climate too rugged for the original builders who were forced to abandon their project. Since that time much of the High Sierra has been designated as Wilderness, forestalling any further development on the road. What’s left is 27 miles of high mountain terrain separating the east and west sections of road.

This unfinished section through the Sierra is not completely inaccessible, but being designated as a Wilderness means mechanized travel is not allowed. There remain a few scratched out trails tramped down by hiking boots and pack animals that wind up and over hard and craggy granite passes. Lightly used, these trails are primitive and functional, and one could see how it would take only a few years of disuse for them to completely dissolve back into feral wilderness. With mechanized travel ruled out we knew that completing the 168 would require a healthy dose of hiking.

“If there is one thing we have learned from our Yonder Journal experiences it is that hiking is an essential part of Bikepacking. In fact, on an average trip it would be fair to say that our time spent riding versus hiking is probably split 50/50.”

What, then, is the big difference between walking a bike—leading it if you will, like some wheeled donkey—and carrying it? Isn’t this just a matter of degrees, a seamless gradient of effort? The bottom line is that you’re moving the weight. Just because bike-on-back technology has yet to be developed—as in no one has made anything for it, as in it’s in the square wheel/raw meat eating/cave dwelling phase of refinement—doesn’t mean there is any solid reasoning against it being possible. Besides, lash-tech seems to be at the top of its game right now, given the current state of nylon. Consider the modern nylon straps, nylon buckles, and nylon fixtures that populate our world. Couldn’t we simply couple our non-bike-on-back backpacks and cutting edge lash-tech? Spice this bounty of existing technology up with a healthy dose of blind hope and heading into this there was no doubt in any of our minds that the whole thing would work out. Our plan was pretty simple, we would ride where we could, and where we couldn’t, we would pack our bikes on our backs and hike. PMA, Cut & Dry, Blind Faith.

We choose AWOLs for their versatility. Fast on the long road sections and comfortable on the climbs, these bikes shine in dirt and gravel, and our route would be a devilish mix of all the aforementioned. But the riding, though challenging, wasn’t going to be the problem. We can do that. Riding a bike is kinda our thing. It was the taking-it-apart-and-strapping-it-to-our-backs part of the deal that was going to be tough, and we knew it. No matter how advanced our lash-tech, we knew that this would be the crux. How much of a crux though, and how much we actually knew—well, suffice it to say that just like the missing segment of 168 we intended to traverse, there were some gaps in the map. When it came down to it, we all tried. In the end though only one of us would succeed, walking off alone, away from the rest of us, into a flurry of snow over an 11,000-foot pass. Our expedition to complete the 168 is a tale of failure and of triumph, an experiment in what’s possible. In the end we each limped away beaten and bruised, with a new understanding of ourselves and of possibility. A wise man waxing philosophically at the telling of this tale might say something to the effect, “That a better understanding of self is the only success you will ever need,” but sitting here writing this I’m struggling to convince myself that he’s right.

Piute Pass Roster

Ty Hathaway, Los Angeles, CA.
Dylan Buffington, San Francisco, CA.
Kelli Samuelson, Los Angeles, CA.
Erik Nohlin, San Francisco, CA.
Kyle von Hoetzendorff, Portland, OR.
Daniel Wakefield Pasley, Portland, OR.

Seven FYIs

 

  1. Pack in preparation for wide temperature swings; we encountered snow, rain, and desert heat.
  2. Water is available while traveling in the Sierra. Water is not available while traveling over the Whites.
  3. Reprovisioning is available in Bishop. They have a supermarket.
  4. Put things in bags, keep things in bags, bags are your friends. Especially dry bags and Ziplock bags.
  5. Use lightweight dry bags (Sea to Summit eVAC) in place of “regular” nylon stuff sacks for electronics, clothing, sleeping bag, basically everything. A dry bag is mandatory for your sleeping bag.
  6. Separate food by meal by day. Pack each day separately but organize together, as a unit—smaller Ziplock bags within larger Ziplock bags.
  7. Put like objects with like objects: pack all your camp clothes into one dry bag, keep bike tools in one bag.

PSA: Mechanical Transport

This is important!!!!

The purpose of this ride was to travel California Highway 168 from end to end. Not just the 168 as it exists today but the whole thing. The way it was originally imagined, from Nevada to Fresno, over both the Whites and the Sierra. Most of the route is on public roads which is obviously legal and therefore a no-brainer. However, 22 miles of the route is on trail in the John Muir Wilderness in the Sierra and Inyo National Forests. On which trails and in which Wilderness possession/use of Mechanical Transport is 1000% illegal.

And so, because using/possessing Mechanical Transport in a Wilderness Area is 1000% illegal, we completely disassembled our bikes: pedals off​, wheels off​, skewers out, chain off, ​seat out​, etc. Then we semi-permanently attached the component parts to our backpacks where they remained (without exception, even while we slept) for the duration of our time in the Wilderness Area.

So the question is, if you disassemble a car into thousands of pieces, including the motor, and transport the parts through the Sierra one the back of pack mules, which are legal, is that the same as driving an automobile through a Wilderness Area? We think not, we think if you disassemble a mechanism it’s no longer a mechanism.

More importantly (semantics aside for a moment), we didn’t ride bikes in the Wilderness, nor are we advocating for others to ride bikes in the Wilderness.

We took great pains to adhere to the law and the spirit of the Wilderness Act.

01
Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion

Stable as a rock, this spot is ideal for bulky but light items like your clothes and sleeping bag.

02
Porcelain Rocket MCA

Ideal anything you'll need access to during the day: snacks, camera, gloves. MCA system also has room for a cylindrical item like a sleeping pad.

03
Porcelain Rocket Frame Bag

Cram the heavy and dense stuff here: tools, kitchen, etc.

04
Specialized AWOL

Fast & stable over varied terrain. Make sure you switch to a tubeless setup!!!!

05
Acre Hauser

Water, active layers, first aid etc. Move stuff into your bikebags as the trip progresses to lighten the load on your back.

06
Acre Hauser (BIKE MOUNT)

There's no good way to carry a bike on your backpack. But if you're gonna do it, we recommend a backpack with a substantial frame, major hip support, and a slim profile.

Packing List

Food

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Dehydrated Backpacking Meals 1/day Mountain House, Assorted (Mexican Chicken & Rice and Chicken Teriyaki are pretty good), preferably Pro-Paks
  • Instant Oatmeal 2/day Whatever's cheapest—hot meals are a pleasure
  • Bar #1 2/day CLIF Mojo, Assorted (Chocolate Almond Coconut is rad)
  • Bar #2 2/day CLIF Kit's Organic, Assorted
  • Space Food 2/day CLIF Athlete Series Squeezers (definitely the Banana Mango Coconut, Kyle really likes the Pizza one too!)
  • GORP 3oz/day Bulk aisle!
  • Candy 3oz/day Haribo Gummy Bears
  • Chips 2oz/day Kettle Salt & Pepper (pre-crushed for space savings)
  • Hot Chocolate 1/day Swiss Miss
  • Coffee 3/day Stumptown
Packing List

Clothing

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Padded Bibshorts 1 Specialized SWAT
  • Overshorts 1 Outlier New Way Shorts or Kustom Kut Slim Dungarees
  • Gloves 1 Specialized BG Ridge
  • Cycling Cap 1 Attaquer
  • Socks 3 Outlier Megafine Merino
  • Shoes 1 Specialized RIME Expert
  • Helmet 1 Specialized S3 Mountain
  • Shell 1 Mission Workshop: The Meridian
  • T-Shirt 1 Outlier Ultrafine Merino
  • Boots 1 Salewa Alp Flow Mids
  • Pants 1 Outlier Slim Dungarees
  • Hat 1 Digicamo Sahara Hat
  • Underwear 2 Icebreaker
  • LS Baselayer 1 Icebreaker
  • Long Underwear 1 Icebreaker
  • Puffy 1 Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
  • Warm Hat 1 Beanie
  • Camp Shirt 1 Cotton
Packing List

Gear

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Seat Bag 1 Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion
  • Frame Bag 1 Porcelain Rocket
  • Handlebar Bag 1 Porcelain Rocket MCA
  • Riding Backpack 1 Mission Workshop Hauser
  • Hydration System 1 Something that's actually clean
  • Mini-Tool 1 Specialized EMT PRO MTB
  • Patch Kit 1 Rema baby!
  • Tubes 2 Fresh & NEW!
  • Tire Levers 2 Grab the first ones you see
  • Bottles N+1 Buy some from us
  • Mini Pump 1 Specialized Air Tool Flex
  • Spare Parts Assorted Chainring bolts, bailing wire, spokes, pliers, pads, nuts & bolts, tire boots, zip ties
  • Sleeping Bag 1 Mountain Hardwear Phantom
  • Stuff Sack 2+ Sea to Summit eVAC
  • Sleeping Pad 1 Therm-A-Rest NeoAir X-Lite
  • Knife 1 SOG
  • Fishing Rod 1 Causwell Tenkara
  • Headlamp 1 Snow Peak Mola with NEW batteries
  • Cup 1 Snow Peak Ti
  • Spork 1 Snow Peak Ti
  • Bandana 1 Something broken in
  • Dental Supplies 1 Dentist recommended!
  • Book 1 Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
  • Lighter 2 Bic
  • Lip Balm 1 Something with SPF
  • Sunscreen 1 SPF 35+, "waterproof"
  • Sunglasses 1 Oakley Frogskins
  • Repair Kit 1 Homemade with needle+thread, sleeping pad patches, Tenacious Tape
  • Sharpie 1 Wrap some Gorilla Tape around it
  • Wet Wipes 1 Soft pack
  • Water Filter 1/2-3 people Sawyer Squeeze
  • Soap 1 Dr. Bronner's
  • Stove 1/2 people Snow Peak Ti GigaPower
  • Fuel 1 220g canister
  • Cord 50ft Paracord
  • First Aid Kit 1/2 people Homemade