Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guanella Pass in mid-November

The Denver Metro area got its first big snow storm of the season about two weeks ago, and had enjoyed pretty dry and clear weather since.  Yesterday, fellow Uralistas Jay and Deana in their Ural Patrol, GS Rig rider Greg P aka Cesspool, Mike H (fellow airhead rider) and I decided to see how far we could get up to on Guanella Pass.

The road up to Guanella Pass is the scene of a yearly event in February called the Elephant Ride.  It's held after the winter snows have thoroughly blanketed the road leading up to the pass.  I'd attempted this ride twice now in the last two years, both times riding Natasha, my Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig which I've since sold to a fellow named Mike in Michigan.  LINK to 2010 ride.  LINK to 2011 Ride.

I was curious to see how much snow remained on the road to the top of Guanella Pass and convinced the folks I mentioned to come along for the fun.  Mike H, hereafter to be known as Fearless Mike H, elected to ride with us astride his 1985 Kawasaki KLR 250 Dual Sport motorcycle.

We arranged to meet at the gas station just east of Morrison, CO at 10:00 AM.  Introductions over with and layers donned, we set off for the small settlement of Grant, CO by 10:21 AM.  In less than an hour, we pulled into Grant and soon Mike has his KLR off the back of his truck and was geared up and ready to go.

Mike Fearless H.

The road up to the top of the pass proved to be quite navigable by sidecar rig.  There were extensive portions though covered in compacted snow/ice which slowed but did not stop Mike on his KLR 250.  He did admit to a couple of close calls and one minor fall but no injuries so it was all good.

The sun was out for the most part and the snow was melting where it was exposed to the sun.  The sidecar rigs had really no issues with the conditions as I'd mentioned and we only had to stop and wait a couple of times for Mike as he picked his way carefully through some of the iffier parts of the ride.  I sure wouldn't have taken a two-wheeled motorcycle down some of the ice covered stretches that we passed!

 At a rest break while nearing the summit of Guanella Pass
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Greg's GS/Dauntless Rig
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Deana and Jay's Ural Patrol
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Still, there was really no snow accumulation on the road and there were long stretches of dry pavement.  Soon enough we were at the top of the pass and pulling into the scenic overlook parking lot.

 The magnificent view of nearby mountain peaks from
the scenic overlook parking lot on top of Guanella Pass

Photo by Don Koch, 1942
courtesy of Denver Public Library Z-4162

 Yoshie on Guanella Pass

 That's Deana on the left, then Mike and Jay holding the coffee thermos.
It was a tad brisk up there as you can imagine.

Here's the group with the requisite shot of the pass sign.

Jay shoots the group at the Summit Sign

We then proceeded down from the pass in the direction of Georgetown, CO.  Guanella Pass Road you see, links Georgetown on the I-70 Super Slab with Grant on US285 to the south.

On the way to Georgetown

We had a late lunch at the Raven Restaurant in Georgetown, eating and chatting as we warmed ourselves from the morning's riding.  By 2:30PM, we'd noted that some snow flakes were coming down from above and geared up for the return trip up to Guanella Pass and back to Grant where Fearless Mike's truck was parked.

Note the snow flakes falling as the group geared up.

I was a tad bit worried about Mike on his KLR but it was all wasted worry.  As we ascended towards the pass from Georgetown, the skies cleared up and the snow stopped.  It was an easy ride to the top and then straight down towards Grant.

 In case you ever wondered what Yoshie looks like from the back
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 The last one of these was scampering off the road as I 
rounded the curve!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Riding along the summit of the pass
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Not so much snow as compacted ice!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We made it to Grant with no incidents.  It was there we said our goodbyes to Mike H.  It was also here that Mike gave me one of his old sawzalls!  He's a construction contractor you see and had read my previous blog posting about wanting a swazall for times when metal cutting is required!  He'd offered it to me earlier in the week and brought it along for today's ride.  Thanks very much Mike!

We left Mike loading his truck and us three sidecar rigs headed east on US285 towards the town of Bailey, CO where we tanked up at the gas station.  It was here that Greg (Cesspool) told me it was the first time he'd had his GS Rig on snow and that he'd had a blast!

All fueled up, we motored towards the Denver Metro area in late evening traffic.  We waved at each other goodbye near the C-470 intersection with US285, each splitting off in different directions.  I was home by 5:20PM, in near dark conditions, tired but happy with today's riding and camaraderie.  

Here's a youtube movie of portions of the ride up to the top of Guanella Pass, down towards Georgetown and then finally the interesting icy portions heading back towards Grant.

Here's another youtube video, shot by Deana:

The above and below videos courtesy of Jay and Deana

Past rides to Guanella Pass:


bluekat said...

Gorgeous scenery as always! Maybe it's because my views are mostly blocked by trees that I love the open views of the mountains and snow. I can see the ride appeal especially with a sidecar set up...and a heated jacket! :)

RichardM said...

As Bluekat said, beautiful scenery and the videos were great. One of these years I'll manage to work out the sidecar....

SonjaM said...

What a great bunch of like minded people. It looked like you guys had a lot of fun.

As much as I despise snow and cold weather I certainly enjoyed the white powdered scenery. Thanks for the ride!

Chris Luhman said...

gorgeous pictures of the mountains

irondad said...

Mountain passes in November. Side car people are so weird!

On the other hand, imagine how much hot coffee could be stored in the hack.

Brady Steffl said...


Looks like a hell of a lot of fun! Though, I wouldn't want to be the guy up there on two wheels, that looks, basically, crazy. I have a lasting fear of mountains from when I was young and I thought we'd fall off. (Born in the Midwest) So riding a dirtbike in the slippery stuff on a mountain is not for me, thanks.

Looks like you had a blast.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I would be lying if I told you I was less than fascinated by that GS hack rig (and I am hard to get motivated by three-wheeled machines). Is the sidecar wheel powered on the BMW rig? Has he experienced any stress related performance problems (with the bike)? And on that subject, how is the new chain holding up?

Enjoy your winter riding season.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Charlie6 said...

Bluekat, thanks for the kind words and the visit....if Martha rode with me more, I'd get her a small space heater in the sidecar!

RichardM, thanks and get cracking will you on that sidecar, I want to see your airhead in that alaskan snow-covered scenery!

SonjaM, it was a bunch of fun, thanks for visiting.

Charlie6 said...

Chris- thanks

Irondad, wait till we get some real snow! : )

Brady - wander over this way, I'll get you over the fear of mountains....or reinforce could go either ways. : )

Charlie6 said...


Greg hasn't had the rig long really to experience stress-related issues. I will tell you the GS-Hack rig combo is very popular out there, especially in Europe apparently. My rig's chain is doing great, thanks for asking.

Charlie6 said...

Added "then and now" shot of Mt Bierstadt and Sawtooth Mountain