#RealAdventure: Slaying the Uber Monster
Dec 21, 2022
Triathlete, elite cyclists, coach and Bonk Breaker aficionado Jesse Moore had been talking about an epic ride in the Sierra Nevada foothills quite a while, with some 150+ miles and more than 16,000 feet of climbing. Always ready for a #RealAdventure, one recent early morning we met up with him in Auburn, CA and set off to slay the Uber Monster.
The history, or perhaps mythology, of the Uber Monster is fuzzy because it’s based entirely on urban legend and hearsay across multiple conversations. The coffee shop version is that the original Monster ride was brought to life by Bobby Julich and passed onto Chris Horner looking for tough training days to get ready for the Tour de France. Their original concept was to combine Iowa Hill and Ralston Ridge, two of the hardest rides in the Sierras, into one “monster” loop. Having my own reputation to uphold I set out to top the Monster by adding extra climbing and distance along with clever to me “Uber” nomenclature.
It begins benign enough on backroads working up to Colfax, when a right turn on Iowa Hill Road kicks off the adventure. Iowa Hill got its name when miners discovered gold discovered gold in this corner of Placer County in the early 1850s. Today it’s home to roughly 200 people who rely entirely on solar panels and generators for power. It’s accessed by a twisting, steep, one-lane road without a guardrail, buffered by a mountain on one side and not much else on other. After dropping like stone down to the North Fork of the American River, a double-digit length climb out is just a precursor for spending the next 2.5 hours uphill. On its own the Iowa Hill loop covers 7k of climbing in 65 miles. On the Uber Monster that’s merely a warmup.
A brief respite from the climbing comes with reconnecting to Foresthill Road into the town of Foresthill. After leaving the last bit of civilization to be seen for many hours comes a 10-mile, wide-open descent with incredible vistas on Mosquito Ridge Road, where middle and northern forks of the American River meet.
18 miles of steady climbing follows on well-paved and lightly traveled roads carved into the hillsides of Mosquito Ridge. A short side trip to Big Trees, the most northerly grove of Giant Sequoias, is a necessary oasis to refill bottles. If you timed your departure time painfully early, the reward is shade for most of this climb, which is critical in Sacramento summer.
The high point of day, just shy of el. 5,700 feet, is at the top of this climb along with first glimpses of French Meadow Reservoir, which descends back down to a short time later.
Leaving that view behind is tough especially when the next landmark is aptly named Hell Hole Reservoir. Fortunately, there were no side trips there today, but if we’d missed the spring-fed pipe sticking out of clump of ferns to top off water, we’d have spent the next several ours in our own circle of hell as temps inched up.
So did we, with 19 more miles of mostly climbing to Wentworth Springs Road and the eventual descent back to Georgetown and civilization. The day and heat began taking their toll as we passed through a massive burn from a few years ago and our tree cover turned to moonscape. The odometer and temp tickled triple digits somewhere during this section and began taking their toll.
Once back on the main road we traveled through Georgetown and eventually the town of Cool. With somewhere around 140 miles and 14,000 feet of climbing already covered the short rolling hills became leg breakers, before one last 1k climb back into Auburn put the day’s pacing, nutrition and hydration to a final test. If you were a hero at hour three or skipped a couple bars along the way the price would be high on these last miles. Fortunately, we nailed it on this day and finished happily tired with a good story to tell.