Friday, July 5, 2019

Guanella Pass Gambol 100k

In June, 2018, Paul Foley did the inaugural ride of the Guanella Pass Gambol 100k, and wrote a great report for it, which also appeared in RUSA's American Randonneur magazine.

This June, I got around to riding this, my own route, myself!

To recap, this is an out and back over Guanella Pass - from Downieville to Grant and back - climbing Guanella Pass from both sides. The seven miles from Downieville get us up to the minimum distance, but are also a nice warm-up before the big first climb.

My ride report will be complementary to Paul's, although there is some overlap - both of us took photos of our bikes with Dino the Dinosaur at the ride start. But Paul enjoyed a sandwich in Grant at Al's Pits BBQ, which was closed on the day of the week I rode.

Folks at the Starbucks in Downieville were friendly, as they explained I could park in their lot, just not overnight. A chocolate croissant (pain chocolat in French) immediately upped my energy level and bolstered my mood.

The 7 miles from Downieville to Georgetown are slightly uphill and largely quiet. They are  good warmup for the Guanella Pass climb itself, which aims skyward immediately up switchbacks out of Georgetown.

Soon we're getting good views of snowy landscape above the timberline.

This is a well-engineered road with plenty of attractive stonework to bolster the roadside slopes.

The grade is a steady climb, except for a couple of fairly flat stretches along two reservoirs dotting Cabin Creek. Final grade to the pass increases a bit.

Still plenty of remnants of plowing, after our plenteous snowfall this winter.

At the pass, the "Summit Overlook" on the right is the turn you take to the info control.

There are trailheads on the west side of the pass, to trails across the tundra including to Square Top Lakes. Also the Mt. Bierstadt trailhead on the east side of the road.

Looking east.

The descent starts on rough chipseal at a good grade, but after 3-4 miles and a switchback, reaches silky smooth asphalt, from a couple years ago when this part of the road was paved (from being dirt).

Midway down opens out to an almost stretch of meadows and grazing (bounded by cattle guards), and some equestrian trails.

The road proceeds along roaring and churning Geneva Creek.

Grant - Just before reaching downtown Grant, is Al's Pits BBQ on the right. There is a small arrowed sign; otherwise it is easy to miss. Since they are only open Fri.-Sun., if you bike another day, you can ring the bell at the store-like establishment at the junction of US-285, and purchase liquids.

This plus Al's and a motel are about the only establishments in Grant.

Heading back was work for me, even with the (probably prevailing) tailwind, but the scenery provided a nice distraction.

I like the wooden guardrails, and they're handy to lean bikes against.

Nearing the summit from the south.

Back at the summit. There has been lots of cloud today, but making for a comfortable temperature range, and the dry forecast was born out.

Another snowbank rounding a switchback.

Narrow valley heading down to Georgetown.

One of the two small reservoirs

Herd of bighorn sheep placidly grazing or after salt near the roadside

Georgetown in the Clear Creek Valley, I-70 and the climb to Silver Plume on the left

Dino looks on as the trusty Kestrel rests after another great ride!

One thing I especially liked about this ride was the extreme quietude of the Guanella Pass road. There were almost no vehicles on it, but this was during the week. Peak summer hiking season on a weekend might be a different story.

Either way, try and enjoy!


1 comment:

  1. First impression: look at that big chainring — you are one tough dude!