by Jim Woodruff
The Triple By-Pass ride is an annually road bike ride over three Colorado mountain passes in one day. Starting in Evergreen CO. head West over Squaw, Loveland, and Vail passes; with a bus ride back to Denver after completion. My friend Tom and I came up with a different variation for a mountain bike ride, which we called “The Triple By-Pass By-Pass.” It took place the same day as the original By-Pass, but was a more epic ride. Our By-Pass consisted of three passes, which had to be either biked or hiked over. The mountain passes were Argentine, Webster, and Guanella.
We began in Georgetown, Colorado at 5:30 in the morning the same day the original By-Pass took place. We rode up Guanella Pass Road out of town to a four-wheel drive cut-off that took us up to the top of Argentine Pass. We made great time to the top, an elevation of a mere 13,600 feet. We had to carry our bikes down a boulder field for about two miles. A mile and a half into the descent we came to the end of the trail. About four feet was missing, because of a rockslide. With a 1,000- foot drop-off on one side and a 500-foot rock cliff on the other side, we took a break and talked this over. We had an ultimatum, turn back or get across this obstacleâ€”we chose to continue on. Tom jumped across the four-foot gully. One slip and it would have been a long way down, but he made it with no problems. The next challenge was to get the bikes over the slide area. I held on to the back tire of my bike and flung the front towards Tom. He then grabbed the front tire, and after making sure he had a good grip, I let go of the bike. We had to do this one more time with his bike, then it was my (Mr. Accident Prone’s) turn to jump across. I made it without difficulty as well.
The trail was soon ridable and we were on our way. We came to a town called Montezuma, where I think the only permanent resident was the Mayor. This town only had dirt roads; no stop lights, and not even a stop sign. We rode through town (a blink of an eye and we were through it) to our next pass, which was Webster. Less elevation, but still over 11,000 feet to the top, it was a steeper and tougher trail. Five feet from the top I stood up on the pedals and gave my bike one more powerful crank.
I yelled to Tom, “Oh shit, my pedal just snapped off.” Here we were, half way done with the ride, and I had one pedal to finish it with. We rode down Webster Pass (me with one pedal), and about a mile from the bottom we came upon three jeeps four-wheeling for the weekend. I noticed a mountain bike strapped to the back of one. I pulled them over and explained what Tom and I were trying to achieve. I ask this total stranger if I could buy one of his pedals from him. He looked at me like I was nuts or something and said, “I’ll let you use it. Just mail it back to me on Monday.” What a relief this was.
I replaced my broken pedal, while Tom filtered water in a nearby creek to replenish our water. After a short descent down to Highway 285, we headed east for about two miles to another so-called town. The town was Grant CO, which consisted of one building; the building was a gas station/tavern and a post office. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon and we took a well-deserved break. Boy, I wanted a beer, but I figured I better not. I opted for some Power Bars and water instead. At 3:00 we were riding once again, up the last and longest pass of the three, Guanella.
This pass seemed to take forever, up and up, around turn after turn, the top was nowhere in sight. Then like any summer afternoon in the mountains it started raining. Soon the light rain turned into a downpour. I wanted to stop and wait it out, but Tom kept yelling, “Come on Jim. We have to keep going.” The higher up we went, the harder it rained. Then the lighting and thunder started, which sounded like nearby bombs exploding. We took a break and let the worst of the storm pass by.
After about half an hour of sitting it out, we had to get riding again. Tom took off like gangbusters; I just tried like hell to get my legs moving. What was rain earlier was now snow. I thought to myself, “Wonderful, what could happen now?” I was wet, cold, and extremely tired. I just wanted to give up. I looked up the road for Tom, but he was nowhere to be seen.
I found myself creeping along. My eyes were closing and I was shaking I was so cold. I was thinking to myself, “Maybe I bit off a little more than I can chew. What’s next? How about hypothermia?”
I was now pushing my bike; resting my head on the handlebars, not even looking were I was going, and barely moving at all.
Tom had ridden back down to see if I had broken down or something. He sat me down and said, “Eat some food and drink some water.” As I sat shaking I told him I was out of food and water. He gave me some Power Bars, but I was too weak to unwrap them. He opened them and I chowed down. He also gave me a water bottle. After about twenty minutes I felt like I could go on. Tom said, “Come on Jim, only about two more miles to the top, then it’s all down hill.” It was about 5:00 and it appeared to be getting dark because of the low cloud coverage. Tom stayed with me to the top of the 11,700 foot pass.
We put our winter hats and gloves on and headed down the hill to the truck. We were back where we started from, over twelve hours later, seventy miles gone, and over 14,000 vertical feet of climbing in a day. Without a word we loaded up the bikes, got into the truck, blasted the heat, and drove home. It was a quiet ride home. We just took it all inâ€”words were not necessary. It took a few days to realize what we had just finished. Two guys on a “Gonzo/Abusive” mountain bike adventure. The Triple By-Pass By-Pass was one for the books.
Special thanks to â€œTitanium Tom Traskâ€ for without his desire for Epic adventures this ride could not have been possible.