I had the immense privilege of personally wishing the best of luck to @maximiliantm and @userbeau in the predawn morning at the Boulder City Limits as they start off on their own Tour of the Colorado 14ers. They’re optimizing the trip for adventure and fun.
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 the early season snow coming to Colorado, some of my bikepacking plans have had to be delayed for a few weeks. Even though I’m ready and my bike’s ready, I’ll have to wait for the weather and roads to clear up.
Adventure Cycling‘s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR for short) is one of my favorite off-pavement bike routes in the country. I’ve done two tours of it myself while racing it, and have used segments the route itself quite a bit while doing shorter bikepacking tours. It’s well-designed, lots of beta about accommodations exist, and you’re bound to find like-minded people traveling on the route to bump into.
When I designed my Tour 14er, and later Highest Hundred tour, knowledge of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route was key in piecing together my own custom route. It’s actually pretty surprising how many 14ers can be accessed without getting too far from the main GDMBR.
Here’s some of the more convenient detours off of the GDMBR to Colorado’s 14ers. Names of mountains will be linked with the appropriate route to the summit from the trailhead my directions give access to.
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.
After cruising through the Sawatch, I had to once again cross west over the Continental Divide – this time with an unruly bear canister in tow, to dash off the Elk Range.
A fairly stout portion of the tour was awaiting me, featuring some interesting climbing, some fairly loose and dangerous routes, and some unknowns for me with Hagerman, Cathedral, and Thunder Pyramid.
Timing wasn’t very good. It was coming up on Labor Day weekend. I certainly didn’t want to visit the Maroon Bells at that time – an already busy area would be a mad house (lots of people = lots of potential rockfall), so I opted to take the range in a strange order: first Capitol, Snowmass, and Hagerman in the west, then Cathedral, Castle, and Conundrum at the east side of the range; and finally the Bells and Pyramids right in the middle.