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Lord Nerd Beta: Piute Pass
June 3, 2015

Lord Nerd Beta: Piute Pass

Highway 168, CA

SECTION No1 Piute Pass: Route Prospectus

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.”- KVH

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.”- KVH

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.

SECTION No2 Route Map

Day 01: Oasis to Bishop
Day 02: Bishop to North Lake
Day 03: North Lake to Piute Pass and Back to Piute Lake
Day 04: Piute Lake to Bishop

SECTION No3 Bike+Pack Setup

Lord Nerd Beta: Piute Pass
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Specialized AWOL
  • 1. Fast + Stable when loaded.
  • 2. Comfy for long days on variable surfaces.
  • 3. Remove bottle cage bolts to prevent holes in your frame bag.
  • 4. 1000% run tubeless to mitigate flats.
Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion
  • 1. Load the heaviest items closer to the seatpost for the best weight distribution.
  • 2. Excellent for light but bulky gear; the Mr. Fusion is stable as a rock.
  • 3. Ideas: sleeping bag, clothing, camp shoes (e.g. sandals or Crocs™.)
Porcelain Rocket Frame Bag
  • 1. Best for your heaviest/densest objects.
  • 2. Ideas: food, stove/kitchen, tools, water.
Porcelain Rocket MCA
  • 1. The main compartment is good for high volume gear, while the smaller zippered pouch is perfect for all those easily accessible goods.
  • 2. Ideas: sleeping bag, tent, sleeping pad, clothing; snacks, phone, camera.
ACRE Hauser (Storage)
  • 1. You are always going to start a trip loaded heavily, so if possible lighten your backpack daily by moving weight on to the bike as food/fuel weight disappears.
  • 2. Ideas: water (3 liter capacity preferable), active layers, accessories (e.g. gloves, hats), more snacks, book, sun screen, first aid, commonly used tools, rain shell, head lamp.
ACRE Hauser (Bike Mount Beta Test)
  • 1. Integrating a fully packed bicycle onto a backpack is not an easy challenge and the methodology and equipment needed for a proper setup is still being developed. At the moment there isn't a ready made solution. With that in mind we have included a few pointers based on our experience. Remember for this route you will be splitting your time between riding and hiking.
  • 2. Frame: Backpack should have structural framing, either internally or externally.
  • 3. Fit: Having functional hip support is crucial, allowing you to keep the majority of the weight off your shoulders.
  • 4. Capacity: Because your bike packing gear should store the majority of your supplies, capacity in the pack itself should be limited.
  • 5. While not an ideal fit, Yonder Journal utilized ACRE Hausers for this trip. These bags were designed as riding packs, a purpose for which they are highly functional. While we cannot recommend the Hauser for this purpose, keep an eye on ACRE as the feedback from our trip is being used to develop a capable bag for these kinds of Bike/Hike adventures.

SECTION No4 FYI
Basic/Assorted Tips

  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. Pack all your camp clothes into one dry bag.
    Keep bike tools in one bag.
  8. Put like objects with like objects.

SECTION No5 Basic Packing List

Category
Food
Item
Qty
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 or homemade
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, pre-ground or w/ hand grinder in a tightly sealed, durable package
Category
Clothing (Bike)
Item
Qty
Suggested
Padded Bibshorts
1
Specialized SWAT
Stretchwoven Outershorts
1
Outlier New-Way Shorts or Kustom Kut Slim Dungarees
Gloves
1
Specialized BG Ridge
Hat
1
Attaquer
Socks
3
Outlier Megafine Merino
Shoes
1
Specialized RIME Expert
Helmet
1
Specialized S3 Mountain
Shell
1
Mission Workshop Meridian
T-Shirt
1
Outlier Ultrafine Merino
Category
Gear (Bike)
Item
Qty
Suggested
Seat Bag
1
Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion
Frame Bag
1
Porcelain Rocket
Handlebar Bag
1
Porcelain Rocket MCA
Small Backpack
1
Mission Workshop Hauser
Hydration
1
Non-leaky, clean
Mini Tool
1
Specialized EMT PRO MTB
Patch Kit
1
Rema Tip Top, duh
Tubes
1
FRESH AND NEW
Tire Levers
2
First two you find lying around your garage
Bottles
X
As many as you can fit
Mini Pump
1
Specialized Air Tool Flex
Category
Gear (Bike, Shared)
Item
Qty
Suggested
Spare Parts
Assorted
Chainring bolts, bailing wire, spokes, pliers, brake pads, various nuts & bolts, tire boots, zip ties
Category
Clothing (Hike+Camp)
Item
Qty
Suggested
Boots
1
Salewa Alp Flow Mids
Pants
1
Outlier Slim Dungarees
Socks
2
Outlier Megafine Merino
Hat
1
DigiCamo with sun flap
Underwear
2
Icebreaker merino
LS Baselayer
1
Icebreaker
Down Puffy
1
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Camp Hat
1
Your favorite beanie
Shirt
1
Cotton t-shirt
Category
Gear (Hike)
Item
Qty
Suggested
Trekking Poles
1
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
Category
Gear (Camp)
Item
Qty
Suggested
Sleeping Bag
1
Mountain Hardwear Phantom
Stuff Sack
2+
Sea to Summit eVAC (bare min. one for sleeping bag)
Sleeping Pad
1
Therm-a-rest NeoAir X-Lite
Knife/Tool
1
SOG
Fishing Rod
1
Causwell Tenkara
Headlamp
1
Snow Peak Mola with NEW batteries, not the ones from your TV remote
Cup
1
Snow Peak Ti
Spork
1
Snow Peak Ti
Bandana
1
MFS Silk or YJ cotton
Dental Supplies
1
Whatever your program is, but come on, your dentist knows you haven't been flossing
Book
1
Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths
Lighter
1-2
Bic (in a Ziplock)
Lip Balm
1
Something with SPF
Sunscreen
1
SPF 35+, "waterproof"
Sunglasses
1
Oakley Frogskins
Repair Kit
1
Homemade (needle+thread, sleeping pad patches, Sharpie with Gorilla Tape wrapped around it, McNett Tenacious Tape)
Wet Wipes
1
Soft and moist
Category
Gear (Camp, Shared)
Item
Qty
Suggested
Water Filter
1/2-3 people
Sawyer Squeeze Mini
Soap
4 oz
Dr. Bronner's Almond
Canister Stove
1/2 people
Snow Peak Ti GigaPower
Fuel
1
250g Snow Peak GigaPower canister should last two people several days
Cord
50ft
Paracord
First Aid Kit
1/2-3 people
Homemade, only bring what you know how to use

SECTION No6 Piute Pass Crew

yonderjournal_deadreckoning_sierra_day5-1
Erik Nohlin, San Francisco, CA.
yonderjournal_deadreckoning_sierra_daytwo-71
Kelli Samuelson, Los Angeles, CA.
yonderjournal_deadreckoning_sierra_day4-90
Ty Hathaway, Los Angeles, CA.
yonderjournal_deadreckoning_sierra_day4-103
Dylan Buffington, San Francisco, CA.
yonderjournal_deadreckoning_sierra_daythree-87
Kyle von Hoetzendorff, Portland, OR.
FROM THE YONDER JOURNAL STORE
Dead Reckoning: Piute Pass Print
$30.00
Single, limited edition of 30 prints. Art by Jon Bailey. Screen printed by hand in Brookyln, NY by LQQK Studio. Shipping in 4-6 weeks.

SECTION No7 Mechanical Transport

  1. 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 John Muir Wilderness in the Sierra and Inyo National Forests. On which trail and in which Wilderness possession/use of Mechanical Transport is 1000% illegal.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. We took great pains to adhere to the law and the spirit of the Wilderness Act.
Made possible by 
Additional Support for this Project was Provided By SRAM CLIF Porcelain Rocket Mission Workshop Snow Peak Outlier Mountain Hardwear Oakley Stumptown Coffee Poler Causwell Salewa
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