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Back to Form Again, After Loss of Fitness from Probable COVID-19: Ascending Horseshoe Meadows Rd to Cottonwood Pass from Mt Whitney Portal Rd

It took about 2.5 weeks to get over what seems to have been COVID-19. Then after one good hard ride, I felt weak for 6 days or so, not recovering energy well at all—not sick but just not recovering well from 8500' of climbing in the heat. In normal condition for May, that should only take two days to be fully recovered.

But finally I seem to be back in good health, albeit with 10 pounds more body fat than desirable, a great liability for strenuous climbing.

Yesterday I suffered through a brutal “gravel wind”* on the 5500' climb to the trailhead to Cottonwood Pass up Horseshoe Meadows Road—the wind was so stiff in places that it was stinging my face with gravel and I had to hold my breath at times due to sand in the air (I found myself wishing for my N95 particulate respirator). Fortunately there were only five or six sections with the gravel/sand problem, on road cuts and corners. But it is darn hard climbing an 8% grade straight into a 25 mph headwind!

And... I had done the same climb the day prior. While 3 minutes slower, it was 4 watts stronger (the headwind cost a lot of time). That is 2:03:14 at 217W @ 137 bpm on day two vs 02:00:45 at 213W @ 136bpm the day prior. Two strong days are a sure sign that my body is not fighting off some problem any more.

Horseshoe Meadows Road is surely one of the most spectacular climbs in the Eastern Sierra and entire USA—and yet I had never ridden it in full—highly recommended. Start at the T-junction with Whitney Portal Road. For a full day, ride both it and up to Mt Whitney Portal (the trailhead for Mt Whitney climbers).

I know my strength is back, because I rode it two days in a row with a stronger effort the 2nd day. Today I was going to go for a third time, but the wind is so violent that I deem it unwise, but maybe an MTB ride late in the day. And, well, my legs are feeling it now, though not unduly.

Here are some pictures showing just how awesome the Horseshoe Meadows Road climb is.

Back in form on Horseshoe Meadows Rd near Lone Pine, CA
f1.8 @ 1/2000 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2020-05-17 16:24:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Horseshoe Meadows Rd, altitude 8231 ft / 2509 m, 75°F / 23°C

[low-res image for bot]
Ascending lower Horseshoe Meadows Rd, view to Owens Lake
f1.8 @ 1/4000 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2020-05-16 13:44:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: lower Horseshoe Meadows Rd, altitude 5949 ft / 1813 m, 90°F / 32°C
selfie

[low-res image for bot]
View to Lone Pine CA from Horseshoe Meadows Rd
f1.8 @ 1/6800 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2020-05-17 16:23:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Horseshoe Meadows Rd, altitude 8197 ft / 2498 m, 75°F / 23°C

[low-res image for bot]
View to Owens Lake from Horseshoe Meadows Rd
f1.8 @ 1/3000 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2020-05-16 16:26:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Horseshoe Meadows Rd, altitude 7911 ft / 2411 m, 75°F / 23°C

[low-res image for bot]
View to Alabama Hills and Lone Pine CA from Horseshoe Meadows Rd
f1.8 @ 1/3200 sec, ISO 20; 2020-05-09 15:06:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Horseshoe Meadows Rd, altitude 7894 ft / 2406 m, 80°F / 26°C

[low-res image for bot]
View to Owens Lake from upper Horseshoe Meadows Rd
f1.8 @ 1/4800 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2020-05-09 16:01:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Horseshoe Meadows Rd, altitude 9304 ft / 2836 m, 70°F / 21°C

[low-res image for bot]
Cottonwood Pass trailhead to Golden Trout Wilderness, Horseshoe Meadows Rd
f1.8 @ 1/3200 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2020-05-17 15:15:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Cottonwood Pass Trailhead, Horseshoe Meadows Rd, altitude 9950 ft / 3033 m, 65°F / 18°C
selfie

[low-res image for bot]
Cottonwood Pass trailhead to Golden Trout Wilderness, Horseshoe Meadows Rd
f1.8 @ 1/2000 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2020-05-16 15:38:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Cottonwood Pass Trailhead, Horseshoe Meadows Rd, altitude 9950 ft / 3033 m, 65°F / 18°C
selfie

[low-res image for bot]

Watts, heart rate, ascent

Altitude gain adjusted versus known points using iPhone GPS altitude, which was consistent on both days, starting out at 4600' both days and topping out at 9950' both days (within a few feet). An additional 25-foot dip is seen most of the way up the climb which is included in the total gain.

The 4rd ascent (3rd day I did an MTB ride), the temperatures were 25°F lower with snowflakes starting at 9200' and little wind, my legs were not fully recovered and I had mild bronchospasms at the summit (cold induced perhaps), I cut the time down by about 8 minutes with higher wattage. The minimal wind accounts or half of that and the higher power output the other half.

Ride from Whitney Portal Road to Cottonwood Pass trailhead via Horseshoe Meadows Road
Title data summarizes portion from DeLaCour farm to end of road/summit
Elevation gain computed using known points (altimeter was off significantly)

The 3rd day I did an MTB ride, due to high winds all day... and my legs were feeling the effects. But the 4th day I did the climb again, in 25°F cooler temperatures due to clouds, with snowflakes landing and sticking to my wool jersey sleeves at 9200' elevation. I was not entirely warm starting at 8600', but I was ill-prepared but for my hands which were very painfully cold and stiff descending—I had forgotten full-finger gloves.

While I love the convenient panorama ability of the iPhone (it's only redeeming quality), I am really getting tired of the extremely aggressive noise reduction and compression that makes my face look it has badly applied makeup and/or a bad skin disease. And notice the extremely smeared-away detail in the brick walkway—typical garbage quality of an iPhone. These quality problems are true of still photos or panoramas with the iPhone unless shooting RAW, which eliminates the issue. In other words, the core camera quality is decent, but Apple’s extremely aggressive noise reduction and lossy compression are best used for boudoir photography or dating sites, for smearing away of wrinkles and skin blemishes and all fine detail. Note that images shown here are considerably downsampled, which still won’t hide the poor quality—and a Retina display hides it even more with screen resolution beyond the resolving power of most eyes. In technical terms (MTF), coarse and medium structures are preserved (this is what the eye responds to, mainly), and fine structures are mostly obliterated.

3rd ascent on fay with light snowflakes
f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec panorama, ISO 25; 2020-05-19 16:28:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Horseshoe Meadows Rd end, altitude 9950 ft / 3033 m, 40°F / 4°C
selfie

[low-res image for bot]

 

Mountain biking in nearby areas is limited, but spectacular.

Mountain biking in Alabama Hills
f1.8 @ 1/2300 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2020-05-15 18:55:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8
ENV: Alabama Hills, altitude 4848 ft / 1478 m, 70°F / 21°C

[low-res image for bot]

 

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