I unearthed a cache of 2011 Tour Divide photos I had taken with a Micro 4/3rds camera I had brought along. 2011 was a strange year, as the snowpack was so great, the route was detoured around most all the mountain passes from near the beginning in Banff, Alberta, CA to after Steamboat Springs.
Me being me, I just brought along snowshoes and thought it obvious to just trudge across them, pushing the bike in lieu of riding. And that’s kinda what I did. No one cared to join me – I assume everyone else valued their life and their sanity more than myself. But taking the actual route when others wouldn’t dare during the Grand Depart was somewhat of a sea-change moment for me and my philosophy of self-powered traveling: it’s OK if things seem hard, it’s a challenge – it’s supposed to! Rise up to the challenge.
Here’s a collection of photos I’ve found, that I’ve lightly edited and re-saved in a higher resolution – I’ve put them up all in a gallery to check out which I’ll archive here. I’ve picked a few of my favorites to comment about in this post. I promised to post these photos about eight years ago, so it’s nice to make good on that!
So things you’ll see: lots of photos of me alone, on snowy passes. This is somewhat atypical – even though there’s an underlying self-supportive lean to the Tour Divide, camaraderie while on the route is bound to happen – everyone is going the same place, the same way! Unfortunately, not for me: lonely days out there. Not by design; just by circumstance.
With another run of the Tour Divide this year, I’m reminded again of this awesome cross-country route and the many great memories I have on it.
The last time I was riding on the GDMBR was on my Tour of the Highest Hundred, where I rode up Marshall Pass after riding the 100 miles from Lake City to summit my first Sawatch of the trip: Mount Ouray.
The route itself was excellent, and provided a relatively quiet and mostly dirt route linking two disparate mountain ranges. The GDMBR barely gets into the San Juans, which is a real shame, as the San Juans are truly one of the crown jewels of Colorado. I’ll explain the route from Salida to Lake City, as this is where you’ll get on it via the GDMBR, then detour off towards Lake City. Once at Lake City, you’ll have to make a choice of where to go, as detouring back to the GDMBR is a trip in of itself and is also, sadly, all on pavement.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is without a doubt one of the preeminent off road touring routes in the US/Canada. Now that I’ve ridden the route essentially twice and have done some extensive touring within Colorado, I can’t help but think how one could enhance it.
Personally, I enjoyed my time more when the route stuck close to the actual Continental Divide, rather than opting to drop down into a relatively easy going valley or basin to gain some mileage towards the end goal (finishing!). I always greatly anticipated gaining the summit of the passes, then rocketing down. Knowing Colorado a little more intimately now, it’s a shame how much of Colorado is missed with the relatively easy path the GDMBR takes.
The GDMBR has many goals, and one of the most important one is to get a heavily laden bicycle and rider (cyclists on a mountain bike, pulling a trailer) eventually to the end of the route. If the route is too long, too hard, and/or with too many Divide crossings, it’s just never going to realistically happen for a good majority of people. If we throw these constraints out of the window, and focus on the goal of staying as close to the Divide as possible, while also keeping the route terrain somewhat similar: gravel roads to 4×4 trails, we start drawing out something a little different.
Below, I’ll be describing a route that takes you off the official GDMBR just before Ute Pass, and rather takes you up and over the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, parallels the James Peak Wilderness as you travel south to Idaho Springs, then brings you back west to go up and over the Continental Divide again at Argentine Pass, finally depositing you once again onto the official GDMBR in summit county. It circuitous and it’s a whole lot of fun .