Monday, August 16, 2010

Uraling to Argentine Pass, First Attempt

Got off to a late start today, didn't leave the house till almost 9:00 AM and had to be back home by 4:00PM to take my son to choose some new glasses.

Time was limited so I chose what I thought would be a "doable" mountain pass that was close enough and which I'd not tried before.  I picked Argentine Pass which I google-mapped to be off of the small mining town of Silver Plume which is west of Georgetown, CO.

Why Argentine Pass?  I was motivated by this nice photo posted by another rider on a site I use to reference possible rides:

The site is Andy Bishop's Passbagger 50 site, great reference site in terms of terrain conditions and directions to a lot of Colorado's Passes.

In order to make time, I took the E-470 Slab to I-25 northbound, this eventually lead me to I-70 westbound and by 10:30 AM I was in Silver Plume.  Pretty good time for a Ural!  I was able to maintain speeds in the low 60s except on the inclines where my Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig, Natasha, could only manage 50-52 mph.  Still no big deal and I was not the slowest vehicle on the roads!

Once at the town of Silver Plume, I quickly located the entrance to the Argentine trail, only to be dissapointed in that it was marked for non-motorized traffic only.  I went dejectedly back to town and encountered one of the locals who UDF'ed me for a few minutes.  As we talked, I told him I'd come up to try the Argentine Pass, and he informed me you can get to it from Georgetown, off the Guanella Pass road!

I took some time though before I left and took some pictures of the town of Silver Plume for one of my "Then and Now" motifs.  More on that in a later post.

I headed back towards Georgetown on I-70 and soon was leaving that town by way of the the Guanella Pass Road.  There's road construction on that road so be prepared to wait for your turn on a "single lane" stretch close to town.  By the way, Guanella Pass road is also presently closed after Clear Lake.

I found the start of the Argentine Trail easily enough, there's cars parked there for folks who want to hike up the rocky trail.  The man I'd met at Silver Plume had said the first 1/4 mile or so was pretty bumpy with large rocks and stones but that it would get better as I went higher up.

I got to tell you, it really didn't get much better.  There's spots on that miserable excuse for a road where the boulders are pretty big as they stick out of the rocky ground!  It was a slow slog for about an hour, nursing Natasha through holes, dips, boulders, and rocks everywhere I could see!

There was a couple in a jeep who I encountered a couple of times on the trail.  They told me that Argentine Pass is rated as a "Moderate" 4WD road!  Geez, I'd hate to see what a "Difficult" road would be like!

As I slogged/bounced along the rocks and holes, all the while keeping a wary eye on the edge of the road which plummeted far down the thickly forested hillsides, I also passed several mountain bikers.  They seemed to be doing a lot better than I was!

To add to the "ambience", I saw the same two kids on dirt bikes just scooting up and down the road with seemingly no effort!  Big smiles on their faces and cheery waves as they zoomed past me.

It took seemingly a long time but I finally broke clear of the tree line and saw before me this sight:

It was quite beautiful but it was then I also realized that there was much further to go to get to the summit of Argentine Pass itself.  If you look at the panoramic picture above, you can see the trail continues along the side of the mountain on the right.

Natasha and I stopped and took a break here as her clutch was acting up a bit from the heat.  I'd tried to not touch the clutch at all on the way up but she decided it was time for a break.  I chatted with the mountain bikers you see in the picture and we watched a group of about four jeeps take runs up some old mine tailings:

A hill made up of mine tailings, all that's left of some old mine

Took this jeep two tries but he managed to make it up the hill!

I checked in with the family via cellphone from this spot.  It looked like at least another hour, probably more of even steeper rocky trail climbing to get to the pass.  Since I had to get home by 4:00 PM, I elected to turn back at this point.  I'll be back one day, with the Denver Area Uralisti hopefully coming along for mutual support.

Curiously, the way down was not as hard as the way up.  Probably because the engine was not working as hard as on the way up or I was getting "used to" the road  I used the brakes and stayed in first gear the whole way down.  There were spots where Mr Gravity provided a bit too much assistance and I had to brake hard to stay in control as we bounced on the rocks.

I managed to "contact" some rocks with my left exhaust pipe on this road, not much in the way of dings but disconcerting when you first hear the sound of metal hitting rock!

In the last couple of miles before coming back onto Guanella Pass Road, there's this waterfall/stream spot that is quite cool and relaxing.  I stopped here for pictures and to rest my weary knees which were taking quite a beating due to the rocky conditions.

A nicely cool stream along the Argentine Pass Trail

I played with the contrast and colors on this picture of the trail to hopefully give you an idea of how rough the conditions were for my poor Natasha.

Taking a short break by the creek, in the shade

One of the smoother portions of the Argentine Pass Road, I believe this is the first hairpin you come across after negotiating the first quarter mile of large boulders fields laughingly called a road.

The start of the east side of the Argentine Pass Road/Trail

So I made it off the trail without incident and soon had Guanella Pass Road and Georgetown behind me.  I ran into the typical Sunday afternoon traffic jam on eastbound I-70 and suffered through slow stop and go traffic till I got off at the US40 exit.  From there it was frontage roads all the way to Idaho Springs.  Traffic had cleared up as it always does east of Idaho Springs and I got back onto I-70 which I took all the way to C-470 south and eventually E-470 back to my home neighborhoods.

Quite a day in spite of not having made it all the way to the top of the pass.  One day, I will get there.

Note:  This road made Rollins Pass' rocky conditions seem like a picnic.  This is not a road for street motorcycles, though I am sure dual-sport motorcycles will do fine in the hands of skilled/trained riders.  Dirt bikes and ATVs I saw had no seeming problems with the terrain either!


Steve Williams said...

You ride in amazing terrain. The rough, rocky road through the pass is beautiful. Sometimes I hesitate to read your posts because they just trigger some discouragement in the mundane places I get to ride.

I suppose it's a grass is greener on the other side of the fence sort of thing.

I smiled when I read about the kids on dirt bikes. Reminded me of the seemingly effortless riding I did as a kid on a Kawasaki dirtbike. My memory tells me I did things I would never try now.

Thanks for sharing a fantastic adventure!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

bobskoot said...


I think your comment over at Jack's is going to push me over the top. I noticed an add for a R80G/S last week for a very good price. I knew if I went to look at it, then it would be mine. I would have been afraid to bring it home. I was thinking that I would put a blanket over it and hide it somewhere sight unseen.

It was very HOT here on Saturday so I decided not to see it. Then on Sunday I could not find the listing so I presume it had been sold. There are two more for sale up here. One is overpriced

Here is a nice GSPD, also has factory side cases, but it is a R100GSPD

another one, but too much $$

another R80GSPD, but again too much

How about a custom bobber ?

if you like the one for C$5,500. send me the $$ and I'll see if they will take C$5K. for it

Wet Coast Scootin

Charlie6 said...

thanks bobskoot for the links, they really are pricey up there aren't they?

bobskoot said...


that's what we have to contend with up here. We live with higher prices for everything, that's why most people buy bikes/cars, etc on-line. If I could buy one for half of these prices I could import it into canada as long as it is on the RIV list

if it is NOT on this list then we cannot import into Canda.

If I could insure a bike in the USA I would purchase a bike and leave it somewhere in the Centennial area for my Colorado rides, and every year fly down and drop it off somewhere else. Of course you could use it to keep the gas fresh

Not many R80G/S for sale right now

NOT that I am looking or anything like that.

Wet Coast Scootin