So the story starts like this. My good friend Greg Matherly says “Hey Sleeter you want to climb the biggest climb in the lower 48 on your mountain bike?” I’m like sure why not I have done some pretty gnarly endurance activities, I’m sure I can do this one as well. Greg said for me to rally some of my strongest boys so we can nail down a date so we can try and tackle what I know now is the biggest climb possible in the lower 48 states if not all of North America. I was thinking of a crew that I could pull together that would be dumb enough to pull this and it didn’t take long to get 6 guys that are willing to push their mind and body to the limits. Ryan Hughes, Victor Sheldon, Jake Elkins, Greg Matherly and Brian Davis were in with no convincing. To add to the excitement of this ride we would travel through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest home to the world’s oldest living tree.
Shortly after the emails and planning started I dislocated my right shoulder on my Dirt Jumper so my volume of riding goes from 200 miles a week to nothing and my mind is in the gutter because I haven’t been hurt in 9 years. Meanwhile, in the 6 weeks prior to the ride the boys are putting in work that can be almost unmatched evenform professional cyclist.
My body was about 75%, my cycling volume was way down, but the ride was here and it was possibly a once in a life time chance to ride the biggest climb in the lower 48 states! Greg picked me up from my place and we headed North to Bishop, CA where we would stay the night at the Vagabond hotel sharing a room with Brian while Ryan and a new recruit Eric Senk stayed in his Van just outside of Bishop. That night we ate some shitty ass dinner at the Wilson Creek restaurant, so I don’t recommend this place. We finished packing our camelpacks with our food, supplements, charged our GoPro’s, Garmin’s, and set the alarm for 4:20am and walked over to Denny’s for breakfast. Once again I got some shitty coffee, eggs, bacon, and potatoes to fuel up and met Ryan and Eric in front of the hotel for a 6am departure.
We were off and headed North out of Bishop to the town of Laws to hit Silver Canyon that where we would encounter the first and biggest climb 10.7 miles 6,368ft and a average of 11% grade. This climb hurt so bad we all had to walk at times as there was pitches up to 22% grade and even my eagle cassette wasn’t enough. It took us 3:35 minutes get to the top where we regrouped and took in some fluids and supplements. I honestly didn’t feel that bad at this time and we started head north pedaling at 10,000 ft. This part of the ride went north on Silver Canyon Fork to Barcroft Station. This would take another 5:13 minutes. During these 5 hours of riding I really began to suffer. My shifter came loose and fell off, I lost my C02 bottle down a hill and had to return and get that. The group had spread out and I felt lonely riding along the washboard fire road passing Eric here and there. I was trying my best to take in more food and fluids but reaching in my camelback just seemed too much at the time and I ultimately paid the price with about 1,000ft of climbing to go before I got to the summit. I was feeling weak and lite headed. I had never pedaled a bike over 11,000 ft and it was starting to get at me. I soon started passing hikers coming down from the summit and they said the weather wasn’t looking good and I had asked how much farther I had. Ryan, Greg, and Brian were long gone and I started questioning what I was doing, They had asked where I was coming from and I told them Bishop and they just looked at me like what the hell are you doing. I had caught up to Eric and we just told each other we can’t quit! We just kept trucking along and were getting close. We could see the summit but the weather was coming in fast and the temperature had dropped to 32 degrees and a little hail started to fall.
We were so close we could taste it! We saw Ryan and Greg descending the summit and when they got to us they said guys, you made its only about 200ft left but it will take a little bit because of the terrain and switchbacks. They recommended we stop and call it good. I was like NO WAY! I came this far I’m getting to the top. Eric and I dropped our bikes grabbed our Garmin’s and started hiking. This is when the hail and wind started coming in even more and we made it about 200 feet walking at 14,000 ft when Brian came down on his bike and said guys it’s bad up there. This was it! I couldn’t go anymore for my safety and it turned out to be a good decision. I grabbed my bike and started to make my way down the very rocky climb with Eric and Brian when the hail started coming down like rocks from the sky. If we were to have taken the extra 25-30 min to take a picture of a sign we could have gotten hypothermia and been alone in a very bad place!
The way down wasn’t easy we still had about 2,000 ft of climbing and 35 miles to get back to Bishop. I took in some more food and BCAA’s and followed the boys through rain, and hail until we got back to Silver Canyon. I got to the top of Silver Canyon with a huge sense of relief but also knew I was going to have to descend my 100mm Hardtail down a very rough 20 percent grade. I was like screw it! I sent it and it proved to be the wrong decision as my brakes faded so bad I had to put the bike into the bushes so I don’t eat shit off a cliff. So from that part out I chose to limp her in and Brian was nice enough to wait for me every so often to make sure we all finished and that we did!
I got back to the Vagabond Hotel depleted, bummed, tired, and sore but knowing I had just done something that very few people in the world would ever try to accomplish. The 5 of use just rode our bikes 70 miles with 13,350 feet odf climbing to a summit of 14,252 ft. and nobody could take that away from us. We cleaned up headed to an amazing burger joint in Bishop called teh Burger Barn where I put myself in a food coma and reflected on what an experience we had just shared together. Below is some info on what I used to for the ride.
The Tools for the Job
Gearing-Sram XX1 Eagle 34-50
Chain Lube- Maxima dry Lube
Brakes- Sram XO
GPS- Garmin 510
Lycra Kit- Ride 100 Percent
Hat- Ride 100 Percent
Glasses- Ride 100 Percent Speedcraft
Breathing Strip- AC systems
Shoes- Sidi MTB Tiger
Jacket- Ride 100 Percent
Hydration Pack- USWE Airborne 9
Camera- GoPro Hero 5
130oz of water
Peanut Butter and jelly sandwich
2 shot blocks
1 honey waffle stinger
Get to Know the Riders
A week before the event we lost two riders. Jake Elkins who got called to fight a forest fire in Yosemite and Victor Sheldon who got hurt a week prior in a watercraft mishap.To know what type of person it takes to do a ride like this here are some stats of the riders
Brian Davis- 2017 Super Sport Mtb champ at Over The Hump and 6 weeks prior to the event 800 miles 70,000ft of climbing
Greg Matherly- 7 Ironmans, 1st overall in Breathless Agony, Two Time 508 finisher, 1st overall in Worlds Toughest Mountain Bike Race “Auburn to Tahoe” to name a fe
Ryan Hughes- arguably the toughest Motocross racer that has ever raced, top finisher in a 80 miles Mtb race climbing 18,756 feet two weeks prior to the event and all around bad ass.
Eric Senk- A professional motocross and enduro mountain bike racer
Me- If you are reading this you already know enough about my dumb ass