CA Death Ride vs. Alta Alpina Challenge

It’s time to put something big on the calendar for this summer and I’m thinking it needs to be one of these two rides (the drive is a bit far to do both)…

Anybody have experience with both/either and a recommendation there?

Alta Alpina Challenge: Audry's 7 Pass Challenge

CA Death Ride:

I should be a little above 4-w/kg at that point in the year and I love climbing. Longest ride last year was around 120mi unsupported.


I grew up in Reno and have spent many many hours riding every single one of those roads! I firmly believe that Markleeville is some of the best road riding in the country and I say this as someone now living in Denver and riding in Boulder frequently. I have done the Death Ride both by myself and also the supported event, though they have changed the route since I did it in 2018. They removed Carson Pass and instead added Pacific Grade which is an absurdly brutal bit of road, ridiculous steep. The Death Ride will have much more riders, and probably better support in my opinion, but if you’ve got the legs the Alta Alpina 8 Pass Challenge would be an amazing achievement. I’ve thought about doing it for years.

I live in Denver now and haven’t been to Markleeville since the fire last year, but I’ve heard that the damage is really tough to process. I am planning to visit my family in Reno a few times this spring and summer and always try to get at least one big ride in while I’m there, but I am so sad that the area is I’ll likely never look the same as it did when I first fell in love with it.


Did the DR in 2016 at around 3W/kg. I think they still close the roads, and that is a huge plus. While its sad to see Carson Pass out of the DR, it was the last pass, nearly 15 miles and open to traffic. The first 5.5 miles up to Picketts Junction was sketchy with impatient cars, no shoulder, and the road in the process of being repaved.

On Alta Alpina the Kingsbury grade can get really hot in the afternoon. I don’t know if that’s at the beginning or the end of the route.

Highly recommend Death ride. Well supported and you get ice cream at the end. I would recommend getting a good nutrition plan and just stopping by the stations for real food. Start early if you’re worried about the time cut offs. And most importantly enjoy the scenery. South Tahoe is gorgeous.

That first descent of Monitor pass to Hwy 395 was epic - about 10 miles, no pedaling, and ~35mph average speed without any cars to worry about.

What goes down must go up:


That area is great to ride in. I have done the death ride 3 times, and ridden both sides of Kingsbury grade at other times. I hope to do the new Death Ride route this year, and I am glad to seem them change. I for one will not miss Carson pass at all, and if the route didn’t change would likely not have ridden Carson if I did the Death Ride again with the old route. The first 4 passes are absolutely the best part of the death ride. I think with the new route virtually all of it will be on closed roads - my guess it that it will only be the road between Turtle Rock park and the Hwy 4/89 junction that will be open to cars.
At 4+ W/Kg, the Death Ride should be no problem for you, and if you want a bigger ride the Alta Alpina challenge could be a better choice. I don’t know if they close roads for this (I kind of doubt it), and it is really nice to have the closed roads on the Death Ride.

I did the death ride twice and finished on second try. I was at 3.2 w/kg so I’m sure you’ll have no problem finishing it under 10 hours. Mine was just over 12 hours with bad cramping in the last two. Not a climber and usually prefer flat to negative slope. It was the longest ride and most elevation gain I have done at the time (did a few centuries with 2/3 of gain). Nice roads and beautiful area but a bit pricey lodging-wise. Besides the ice cream, I really enjoyed/needed the cup of noodles after the third pass. I might hit it up again for w/o cramps in 2025 after getting my triple crown next year. Getting plantar fasciitis two weeks ago likely will kill/killed this year’s attempt.

Alta Alpina 8 covers much of the same roads but much much more climbing and longer distance. I would use the Death Ride as training for it but highly doubt I’ll do something with that much pain.

Nice roads and beautiful area but a bit pricey lodging-wise.

The prices around there are insane for what looks like middling accommodations at best. I’d probably stay in Carson City and drive down for it in the morning, or try to camp somewhere.

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Worth checking out Gardnerville / Minden, a lot of our club stayed there in the past.

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Try Carson Valley Inn Casino

Yeah, lodging close by is a problem. Driving in from South Lake Tahoe (not cheap either, but much more selection) or other areas is reasonable - the Nevada side along 395 (Gardnerville/Mindon/Carson City) is good too. Lots of people camp. One time I did sleep in my minivan :slight_smile: I think lodging options are one of the weak points of this ride, but I think it is worth it.

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We used to vacation at Sorensen’s Resort on Hwy 88 near Picketts Junction, and stayed there when I did the DeathRide. It was conveniently about mid-way on the Carson climb that is no longer on the route. They have a small number of pet friendly cabins. Since then the resort was sold and prices went sky high.

Nearby Kit Carson campground always looked interesting, its a somewhat short descent to the Hwy 89 turn off to Markleville. The road was resurfaced in 2017, although when I did it there were a lot of cars at 4:15am headed to Markleville or parking a few miles before Markleville.

Doing the Death Ride? Got a past participant email and thinking of doing the new course.

I’m doing Alta Alpina this year. I recommend you get the pacing right especially if you’re not adapted to high altitude. You have to ride a little slower than you’re used to. Otherwise, it’s really easy to blow up. Ebbets north ascent is always the one that dnf me. Monitor pass east(backside) is hard too.