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Monday, September 5, 2011

A Pass to Remember

It seems almost like a dream that just a couple of weeks ago, we were camping with a view like this one.
We all reveled in the warm sunshine and views.
Even R managed to look serious in front of the panorama for a moment.
We embarked on all sorts of adventures. One day, we decided to try to find a place for trail running and mountain biking near Ophir Pass. Since my spine hates long 4wd drives, I rode my bike up and over the pass, exploring possible side trails along the way.

Pedaling up the pass was not too hard, especially with colorful views to entertain me.

Ophir Pass itself was starkly gorgeous. It was a narrow slot in the mountainside, the only gap for miles. The wind jetted through the slot.

When I saw the pass and the road on the other side, I became very nervous about the Runner driving the Labmobile over the pass and along the road perched precariously on the hillside that descended it. I met him at the top, and I told him that I'd meet him at the bottom. I couldn't bear to watch him drive the precarious road.

Indeed, as I descended, I met a foreign family in a 2WD city van whose GPS had sent them over this crazy pass as the best route to Silverton. They were beyond terrified by the road - they expected a paved highway and their vehicle wasn't suited for anything more rugged than a paved road! Turning around was not an option on this narrow road. The sight of a crumpled up vehicle that had fallen off the side of the road and lay in the talus didn't help. The vehicle was hundreds of feet below me but I zoomed in for the photo.
To my relief, the Runner and the Duo made it down the pass safely. We discovered that all the side trails were too steep for running or mountain biking so I hopped in the van so that we could drive someplace else.

The next day, we decided to take on a classic climb out of Telluride, Imogene Pass. We all started together with the Duo leashed because jeeps use this road.
The climb up to more than 13,000' started fairly tamely on a rocky road with a mild drop-off to one side. However, soon, the drop-off became dizzying. The view below is from the edge of the road.
Due to the extreme terrain, the miners who built this road many years ago blasted a tunnel to continue their path up to possible deposits of precious metals.

Alas, all too soon, it was time for the runners to turn around. We knew that K couldn't handle running all the way to the Pass so the Runner generously gave me the go-ahead to try to climb it. This was where we parted ways.

Even a bit beyond that point, it was a moderate climb. I had to work hard but didn't have to go into my "red zone" to keep ascending. Soon, however, the climb steepened and the surface became a loose melange of slippery rocks. The pass was visible - it was the red section of the ridge in the middle of the photo but I started to question whether I'd make it.

Lots of snow still covered the tundra next to the road. On one hillside, backcountry skiers had recently eked out 17 turns in a couloir. I imagine that they were among the dedicated skiers who try to ski in every month of the year.
I pedaled so slowly that, on a couple of occasions, my cycling computer announced that I was going zero miles per hour. I wanted to throw the thing off the cliff! But, I kept plugging away, with yelled encouragement from the drivers of the jeeps who passed me.

When I was within 200 vertical feet of the pass, I caught up with a front-end loader - a very odd sight on this primitive road. The driver signaled me to stop. He explained that he was about to do road work between me and the pass, and all traffic had been stopped behind me to let him do the work. I thought that he was about to pull the plug on my climb, with the pass SO close. I was wrong - the kind man said that I could climb to the pass and then he'd make space for me to pass him on the way down.

So, I earned my view from the Pass! I always love my first glimpse of the "other side" that was hidden for the whole climb.

Then, I looked back at valley that I'd climbed. Wow.
In the photo above, you can see some of the turns made by skiers in the middle snowfield.

On my way down, I passed the front-end loader. He said that I needed to tell someone named "Bob" to radio him when I passed the roadblock. He couldn't work on the road until I was below that point due to the danger of boulders being dislodged and rolling down the mountain onto me. I can't thank that worker enough for letting me finish my climb and descent!

As I descended, the storm clouds moved in and rained lightly on me. After about 3000' of riding downhill, I was back in the land of red rock and green aspens.
What a day! I appreciate it even more after the struggles of the past week.


  1. unbeleivably beautiful. Breathtaking.....for you in more ways than not.

    Thank you for sharing.

    We hope you are feeling better

    Bert and My Vickie

  2. its so nice to see gorgeous places like this still exist. Scary about that vehicle, yikes
    Benny & Lily

  3. Every foto takes my breath away! :)

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  4. I got tired just reading about your climb! What an accomplishment. And, through all of that beauty.

  5. Hi Y'all,

    Since I suffer horrible vertigo even on a ladder, I'd never have been able to enjoy that part of your trip!

    Even knowing you're home safely, your narration had my stomach in a knot. Yes even here in our "low" mtns. glancing down at a view can cause me to stagger like a drunken sailor.

    Stunning pictures! So glad I could see your trip!

    BrownDog's Human

  6. That is just amazing! Good for you!
    I am so glad that the worker let you continue, that was so nice!
    You ambition and courage continues to amaze and inspire me:)

  7. Everytime I look at your photos, I am ready to pack up and move!

  8. This is one of your best ever Posts with splendid pics!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo, and Stella

  9. Gorgeous views! The range of colors that exist in the mountains doesn't seem real but like something you could only get in a painting. Must be breathtaking to see in person.

    p.s. After dying on some small hill climbs today, I am once again in awe of your bike trips.

  10. You're an amazing athlete!! (and not a bad photographer, either :-))


  11. Holy crow! I've been on Imogene Pass! When I was little, not long after my parents' divorce, my dad decided to take my sister and I on a trip to Colorado. We drove out in a pick up truck with a camper on it. As we got close to Telluride, my dad kept hearing about Black Bear Pass. Nothing doing but he was driving it. Everybody told him he'd have to rent a Jeep. He kept asking my sister and I about it, and we staunchly refused the idea. One day, we were driving and taking a trail. Partway through, he stopped to ask some guys with Jeeps about something. That's when we learned we were on Black Bear Pass. He made me get out and navigate him around every single switchback, and I was supposed to keep him from getting a single scratch on that stupid truck! Well, he made it down with only one, which is something he bragged about for years. I learned later that once we got partway through it, he was scared he wasn't going to be able to make it down, and there was no turning around. Making me get out to navigate was partly to make sure I'd survive it. Your story and that beautiful scenery really take me back to that trip! I'm glad you all made it!

  12. I cannot even imagine seeing the beauty that you not only look at- but hike, and bike.
    Your world is beyond beautful.

  13. Have always wanted to go to Teluride . Those photos will prod u into action ! Lesson to all foreigners - never trust thE GPS.

  14. These pictures are so beautiful they almost don't look real!

    Your pal, Pip

  15. God what a BEAUTIFUL place!!! My, my goodness.


  16. AWESOME pictures. Took my breath away! You are so fortunate to be able to hike, bike, and see all that wonderful scenery. Hope you are feeling better!
    Ernie,Sasha,Chica,Lucas & M

  17. That was exhausting and exhilarating KB, my mind is reeling for those poor GPS followers. Spectacular photos and again would love to experience this terrain within reason of course.
    I just gave a subtle shoot out to you and your blog today, so you may get some new followers or at least some new comments. Cheers Ron

  18. I love everything about this post, but I'm sure you know which part hit me the deepest, other than a glimpse of Lizard Head behind K...

    Zero miles per hour. I'll bet you and I are the only ones on the planet who've ever seen that while in motion!!!

  19. That is breathtaking! Everytime I see your beautiful pictures I know why a friend from your area who came here decided to race back home! I hope you are feeling better! Lots of love, Debbie & Holly

  20. What a day indeed! Once again seeing the trek through your eyes is a breath-taking shared journey. thanks.

  21. I believe you have rewritten the definitions for 'endurance' and 'perseverance'. Holey Moley you go girl! :)

    Always enjoy your incredible photo journeys :)

    Waggin at ya,

  22. Your photos of the pass are remarkable, KB - both the scenery and the drop offs take my breath away.


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