Winter in the Eastern Sierra Nevada – Ryan Wilson

Ever since I started following Ryan Wilson on Instagram, I knew he had an incredible eye for roadscapes. Landscapes are one thing, but roads speak to us as cyclists. We look at the bend, the bank and the angle differently than other travelers. Being able to capture those traits isn’t easy, especially while being completely overwhelmed in a place like the Sierras. I’ve never ridden there, yet suddenly I really want to, in the Summer of course…

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Pine Creek

The Eastern Sierras in Winter by Road Bike
Words and photos by Ryan Wilson

A typical day before an open weekend for me usually means scouring maps, Google earth, and anything else I can find for a new back road or an old favorite that I can experience in a new way. The Sierra Nevada mountains in California are generally my go-to option because of the sheer number of huge climbs in a relatively small area. To me, there is nothing quite like climbing from barren desert to alpine country. With massive granite peaks covered in snow, and wilderness completely surrounding you. Feeling the temperature drop 30+ degrees, and the air getting thin at 10,000ft feet.

Onion Valley Road

The Eastern Sierras, with most of the mountain roads topping out between 8,000ft and 10,300ft, are typically only passable from about May to October. The other months of the year, these roads are abandoned, unmaintained, and generally buried in feet of snow. With the draught California has gone through this year, in January I started thinking, why not give a few of these a shot? When I called a park ranger in the area, I got the usual “You want to ride this on a bike? now? No, they’re not open”. I also got the idea that they hadn’t actually been on most of these roads themselves in a few months. So, I said screw it, what’s the worst that could happen? I’m not afraid of a little hike-a-bike.

Minor road debris - Tioga Pass

Over two trips in January and March, I decided to hit a couple old favorites in Onion Valley and Tioga Pass. I also checked out a few new roads including White Mountain, Glacier Lodge, and Pine Creek.

Tioga Pass at 9,500ft

These Sierra roads never disappoint, but climbing a closed Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park (typically a place filled with tourists in rental RV’s), weaving through rockslides that would crush a car, and hiking miles in knee deep snow with the bike on my shoulder pretty much encompassed why I ride, and why I seek out these kinds of rides specifically.

Check out a few routes here on my Strava:
Onion Valley
White Mountain
Glacier Lodge
Pine Creek
Tioga Pass

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Follow Ryan on Instagram and at his Tumblr.

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  • AttackCowboy

    When you announced The Radavist as a more collaborative project I was hoping that meant more of Ryan’s photograph. I’m glad my wishes came true so quickly! Amazing as always.

    • rmdub

      Thanks man. I’m excited to make this a regular thing!

  • jim jones

    that first pic tho. love the strava linkage.

  • Ty

    Ryan kills it every weekend!

  • Tytanium

    Ryan kills it!

  • hans

    great shots!

  • KevinO

    Haha….O.Valley & White Mtn. in Winter?! Sick. Great stuff.

  • Patrick Murphy

    Awesome images. Spot on about how cyclists see roads. A great landscape is cool, but if there’s some epic pavement winding through it, that gets my heart racing.

    On an unrelated note, is anyone else having the text run way off the right side of the window? Is the formatting supposed to be like that? Not judging at all, just wondering.

  • Christopher Lee

    Ryan, this is awesome! This post pretty much sums up my feelings about riding a bicycle too!

  • http://playwithfire.tumblr.com Kyle Scully

    Always happy to see new work from Ryan. Very inspiring.

  • charlesojones

    The most epic climbs in the entire state are in the Eastern Sierra which is overlooked by many cyclists due its relative remoteness. Move over Palomar, Baldy, Mt. Diablo, etc. Bring on the eastside!