Georgia Pass

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I first rode Georgia pass during the six-stage Breck Epic race back in 2011. It came in the middle of the week, and I raced it in a blur – grinding up French Pass from Breckenridge, and not fully appreciating it. I finally went back to take a look a little closer. The day after the Firecracker, Bryan and Katie, Christa and I rode from the Swan River (on the North/Pacific/Breckenridge side of the Continental divide) to the top of Georgia Pass, and then back down the screaming fun descent to the river below.

We’d chosen the shortest route to the top; the map showed about 2000 feet of climbing in five miles, so some quick mental arithmetic had already told me how steep it would be to get to the top. We’d prepared Katie and Christa that there would be some pushing, but I think it was a little steeper than even we had imagined. The road darting up the south fork of the Swan river was devoid of switchbacks, instead carved directly up the hillside by someone in a hurry. We meandered upwards in a mix of pushing our bikes and riding short sections. We even stopped and made a dam to direct a small creek back into it channel, instead of taking the more direct line down the road. As we neared the top the trees got smaller, and the band of blue crept downwards as the gradient relented. An hour and fifteen minutes of work for a huge reward.

11,598 feet above the sea. The pass is technically in the Front Range, but as it butts up against summit county and the Ten Mile range, it feels very different from other mountains closer to Denver and Boulder.

I’ve crossed the continental divide many times on many passes – it’s an imaginary dotted line that bisects Colorado, and it defines many of my adventures. On this ride, our brief foray to the Atlantic side of the divide brought us on to the Colorado trail, and then a traverse at tree line below the summit of Miners Mountain. From here it was downhill all the way. At first, fast and loose trail crosses roots among the widely spaced trees. Soon the switchbacks start in the trees; perfectly measured 180 degree turns winding rapidly into the dense forest. The forest floor this year seems especially lush – bright green moss and lichen illuminating our way down. The smooth trail started breaking up in to rocky drops and rooty turns, and soon the flow was gone from the trail, just a slow path through the forest. Christa and Katie proved that they really do know what they’re doing on Mountain Bikes, and before we knew it we were riding the narrow wooden bridge across the river, and were dumped back out onto the dirt road in the bottom. A mere 11 miles, but a huge amount of elevation, and the quickest way into the high alpine. A route I’d recommend!