Schofield Pass: Marble to Crested Butte

9484WP

From Carbondale, there are several ways to reach Crested Butte– none of them are paved the entire way.  Several routes from Aspen to CB are enticing, including the famed Pearl Pass route, but snow above 10,700 ft excludes them this time of year.  Pearl Pass is over 12,700 ft, and Star and Taylor passes are nearly as high, and include some singletrack.  McClure Pass is paved, but connecting Kebler Pass to Crested Butte is technically unpaved, although improved and in great condition.  The paved road from Carbondale to Marble connects to a dirt route through the town of Crystal and over Schofield Pass.  At 10,705 ft, Schofield was clear of snow.  On the other side of the pass awaits the famous Trailriders 401 trail down to the town of Gothic.  The ride over Schofield is the most direct, and holds the allure of the “401”.

The road from Marble begins with Daniel’s Climb, a lung-busting grade to Crystal.  Thereafter, the aspen are electric, and the road turns to a rough 4×4 track which is unrideable at times.  The Devil’s Punchbowl is a steep, narrow feature that is largely unrideable, but is a fun challenge on fat tires.  The Pugsley is a stellar slow speed rock crawler, but even a momentary loss of momentum is enough unseat me.  Cresting Schofield Pass, pockets of snow lurk in the shadows.

9264WP

9286WP

9278WP

9303WP

9292WP

9313WP

The mill in Crystal is one of the most photographed sites in Colorado, drawing leaf-peepers from all over.

9320WP

Downtown Crystal.

9336WP

9319WP

9339WP

9340WP

Turn left to complete the Lead King Loop back to Marble; stay right to Crested Butte.

9351WP

The road turns up, and degrades to a narrow 4×4 track.  Unimaginable, this was once a wagon route.  The other riders are friends of Joe Cruz.  In fact, Joe was Anna’s professor and they share a love of cycling.  She is now entrenched in a 6-year philosophy program, but has found time for some winter endurance racing including the Susitna 100 and the White Mountains 100.  That’s 100 miles, in the snow.  I’m working hard towards a PhD in bicycle touring.  Push.

9371WP

9361WP

9378WP

9392WP

Wet feet.

9394WP

Rocky road.

9405WP

Finally.  Another world awaits on the other side.  From the top of the pass, turn up onto the 401 Trail to climb above 11,000 ft.  An epic descent awaits.

9414WP

9416WP

The 401.  With a light cover of wet snow, the Pugsley has come full circle.  From snow to snow, this bike has been everywhere between an Anchorage winter and high mountain passes in Colorado.  The tread on my Larry tires is worn, and doesn’t hold well in soft terrain.  I’m dreaming of the Nate tire at times.  Lael’s Maxxis Ardent holds the trail well.

9424WP

9429WP

9428WP

9435WP

Before cresting the ridge, an alpine park has views in all directions.  In the distance, the backside of the Maroon Bells.

9453WP

9465WP

9466WP

Going down.  Bundle up.  The soil on the other side is rich with organic matter, making for a lot of mud.  A gorgeous, but not so epic descent.

9471WP

9480WP

9497WP

9517WP

9509WP

9523WP

9532WP

9538WP

Walking, to reduce our impact on this heavily trafficked trail.  A fine coagulation of cow shit and mud temporarily clogs our wheels.  Cass would be in heaven.  Raised on English mud, he loves this stuff.  Grateful to have a fender, I came out looking a lot like a human, rather than the mud-encrusted primates seen in cyclocross and gravel races.  Platform pedals always do their job, even clogged in mud.

9546WP

9549WP

9557WP

9553WP

Rideable.  Coated in mud, the chains operate smoothly and silently.  Deore: +1.

9564WP

9573WP

As promised (finally), a rideable descent and some memorable trail at the end of the day.

9580WP

9585WP

9609WP

9597WP 2

9621WP

9622WP

9624WP

No need to filter this water.  It comes directly from the heavens.  At least, it comes from a cow-free wilderness above.

9629WP

9631WP

Camp.  Awake to clear skies, the frozen morning rapidly thaws into a t-shirt day.  The spoils of a frozen night are ideal lighting and a heavy layer of frost.  If only Lael had a camera, she could document me running around the frosty meadow in my long underwear with my camera.

Breaking the seal of our small frosty tent, I’m always excited to see how the world has changed.

9647WP

9702WP

9650WP

9674WP

9664WP

9684WP

9657WP

9686WP

9677WP

One of the nicest campsites of the entire summer.  Heat some water for tea, and ride into town.  Crested Butte is one historic home of mountain biking, and claims the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and Museum.

9698WP

9715WP

9726WP

Gothic, seemingly named for the gothic arches encased in the mountainside.

9746WP

9769WP

9785WP

9782WP

9773WP

And a bike path into town.  Mt. Crested Butte looms overhead.

9790WP

9792WP

9798WP

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Schofield Pass: Marble to Crested Butte

    • Thank Diane. I once told myself that I would set out to see the US before returning to overseas travel. I didn’t realize what a vast and spidery network of roads and trails existed. I may be at it for quite a while.

    • I already thought of that, perhaps secretly calling out to the forlorn Nate in your garage (the tire, that is). There isn’t really a convenient place for now, and I may only have a few week of riding left in the season. We spent the day riding a section of the Divide en route to NM to meet Cass and Joe. For Divide riding, a worn-out ultralight Larry is just about perfect. It’s a great hardpack tire in its current state, and makes much less fuss on pavement. Thanks for the offer, but the Nate may be better used on science. I will let you know if I change my mind. I might like to try some 26×3.8 Knard tires soon.

      Perhaps you might require a Moonlander with pontoons, per your recent scientific excursion? You’re doing some real good work up there.

  1. Wonderful, sublime.

    These images bring me back to summers spent in Crested Butte with a dear friend and mentor who passed away three years ago yesterday. He would have appreciated your photographic eye.

    Incredible that you ran into Aedmo! And very much looking forward to seeing you in a few days.

    Joe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s