Colorado Trip #4.4: Weston & Guanella Pass

Yesterday was an exciting day. I once again crashed my bike, did I mention on here I crashed before my trip as well? Well if not, I did. I decided to tackle Weston Pass again, this time the hard side first. That was a mistake.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the various incidents because help actually arrived quite rapidly, before I could even take a photo of the bike on it’s side. Which admittedly is quite nice and super lucky. Instead I’ll link a couple videos. This is a video from the fall of 2010 of an uneventful trip down a section of Weston Pass. Note the rocks however, and that it changed between then and now, but is more or less the same idea.

And here’s a second video of another motorcyclist with more skill than me making it up the section just fine. Though I’ll once again say this video is from 2011 and I don’t remember that “smooth” section to the right that he goes up. It seemed like rocks all the way everywhere for me when I went.

One more, a video descending the same place. Shows it’s more of a hill than the rest seem to. This is the way I went over Weston Pass last year, I blew a fork seal in the same area, but at least made it down just fine and rode another <thousands of km> before I finally replaced the seal. I think that’s the way to do it, down the west side rather than up it.

I think a combination of things worked against me, the first of which was my lack of skill. I’ve never really ridden a dirt bike, and I don’t ride this kind of terrain very often at all. This will have been the second time ever, really. Weston Pass is about the harshest terrain I’ve ridden, and it’s one of the easier ones for sure. So I’m not skilled, I knew this. Combine that with the fact I’m now trying to do dirt bikey things with a 600+ lb motorcycle, I think it increases what was already going to be difficult for me.

Adding to it I have different tyres than last year, I used up my Bridgestone Trail Wings and got a pair of Heidenau K60s which then speed wobbled and scared me, so I got Michelin Anakee3s because they came highly recommended. Well, I would not recommend them, not unless you stay on paved roads, and even then I had more confidence on my Trail Wings than I’ve ever had on these Anakee3s. There isn’t a surface that the Anakee3s have in anyway felt comparable to the Trail Wings for me. I will not be buying them again. I suppose I will add, they have worn well, they seem to be wearing slower than the Trail Wings did which is a plus, but probably means they’re less grippy and hence the lack of confidence in them.

Anyway, getting back to the crash, I was going up the section in these videos and just as I almost got to the top I dumped it, coming down quite hard on the right side of the bike. The bike was also laying with the wheels facing up the hill, which made it impossible for me to lift it by myself. Normally I can pick it up because you’ve only got to lift part of the weight of the bike, but in this case it meant I essentially had to lift all of the weight. Lucky a nice couple were coming down the hill not 60 seconds after I crashed, the husband got out and helped me pick up my bike. I thanked him, got back on, and then proceeded to drop it again. The Anakee3s just could not get any grip, anytime I gave it throttle it would spin up and slide all over the place, hit a rock and then go down. Super super frustrating, I was so close to the top, and I was wasting this poor guys time to boot.

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After about six drops, and lots of help from the man I finally got up but couldn’t stop to thank him for fear of getting stuck again. With the Anakee3s I needed to really keep momentum going because they barely gripped the terrain. Once I could stop I was too far away. I felt bad, and still do, I didn’t get his name, though in typical Canadian fashion I constantly apologized and thanked him as he helped me. Hopefully he’s aware of how much I appreciated his kindness and help, because I was flat out fucked without it.

Because of all that effort I expended I had little in the way of creative capacity left in my head, which meant, Horo and Alice didn’t get out to seeĀ anything throughout this trip. Which partially feels like a loss, butĀ I did get to see and experience it, and I think got some decent photos of the scenery. These two are just as Weston Pass started, a nice gravel road, how wondeful!

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These two photos are after I crashed, this section of the road was nice as easy for the most part. I really enjoyed that I didn’t have to concentrate entirely on which line I was going to take and could start to enjoy the scenery again.

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In between Weston Pass and Guanella Pass was US-285, the highway I’ve taken to South Park Fairplay a couple times. In fact I stopped in there for food and rest after Weston Pass, but seems not much is open on a Wednesday there. These two photos overlook the grassy plain that sits atop the continental divide at around 3,000 m I believe, where Fairplay and Jefferson reside. Not being on my properly calibrated monitors at home, I hope these look the same as how I saw them. The yellows and greens were so beautiful.

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After Weston pass everything was pretty easy by comparison, pavement and easy gravel road. Along the way I also kept passing this other guy on a red Kawasaki Versys, we’d leap frog as we took photos and alternate routes to the same places. Eventually we stopped in the same place just at the start of Guanella Pass, a construction zone. Both of us conversed about how we thought Guanella Pass was paved, only half of it is. I told him about what some people earlier had told me, how it was rocky at a certain point and to watch out. This worried me because I kept imagining Weston Pass all over again. Eventually the pilot truck came and lead us along, and we were free. We rode together for a while until I eventually stopped to take this photo.

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As I stopped to take that photo a worker stopped to warn me once again about the rocky section coming up, again memories of Weston Pass went through my head. I’m so glad everyone’s idea of ‘bad” is no where near what I imagined, I kept thinking I was going to find this crashed red Versys on the road based on how bad it had been described I was sure I’d find him once again. But nope, the road was fine, yeah there was some dips and holes and rocks, but that stuff wouldn’t have even scared me a couple years ago on my sport bike. Eventually I met up with him again at the top of Guanella Pass after almost once again dumping it in a turn full of gravel, with the setting sun I couldn’t tell what was what, luckily I caught it this time with my foot and continued on without issue.

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Some more photos of Guanella Pass without the bikes and my shadow. As hard as it is to tell the quality of the road in these conditions, everything looked amazing. Definitely the best time for photos, if only I had more time and wasn’t worried about riding in the dark down a mountain pass, I could have got some awesome sunset photos.

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This days ride was semi-planned and semi-spur-of-the-moment. I had the route all planned on the GPS, but was a little bit worried about Weston Pass, and apparently rightfully so. I woke up that morning to a BSOD’d computer, no Internet, and a broken encrypted partition which meant I’d lost nearly all of my photos and work up until this point. To answer a question I get asked, why was it encrypted? In case I lose it, it’s a portable hard drive and could be lost. Thanks to Gibwar’s (nearly obvious?) suggestion to check my memory card to see if some photos were still on it. Sure enough there were and I recovered all my photos, as I did have a backup as well of some. Unfortunately I did lose the work processing them, but still way better than nothing. So anyway, with all that I just decided screw it and took off on the planned route anyway, despite my fears. And upon reaching Weston Pass and the rocky road, I almost considered turning around, but instead of hesitating I went for it and managed a good portion of all the rocks really quickly, I thought I was on a roll. But we know how that turned out now, I was so close too.

Thanks again stranger, where ever you are now.

-Aka

Comments

  1. nordikgod says:

    I have followed your blog for over a year now. You take amazing photos and it is always fun to see Horo. She and Alice is one of the reasons that I ended up getting a couple of Dollfie Dream Sisters. Since you are in Colorado I must ask if you will be back in time and due you plan on attending Dollism in Buffalo later this month?

    • Aka says:

      Awesome! I’m glad you liked Horo and Alice enough to get a couple yourself!

      I wasn’t planning on attending Dollism, I’m not much of a convention goer anymore. But looking at the dates I could be getting home around that time (depending on how things work out), and could make a stop over in Buffalo and cross the border there instead. Not really sure, also depends on when the Toronto Dollfie Meet up takes place. Though, from what I read it should be taking place in Niagara Falls anyway, just unsure of the date. I’d probably have to find a place to stay as well. Not sure of any of that! But it’s an idea anyway.

      If you’d like to contact me further about it, my email address is at the bottom of the About page in the “My Rights vs Yours” section, right at the end.

      • Nordikgod says:

        Your photos of Horo were perfectly timed with Denaliwind(you can find her on Youtube and Flickr under that name) selling her Dollfie Dream Sister MOMO. So I bought MOMO and then had to get a second so I could do my own faceup. I will drop you an email directly to see what your schedule is compared to the Dollism schedule.

        • Aka says:

          I love that “Had to get a second” … that’s the same as me. I had Horo, but felt somewhat limited with what I could do with her. She had to always be Horo, so I got Alice because I could do all the things I couldn’t do with Horo to her. But now I like her too much to really mess around with her… Didn’t jump on the custom faceup quick enough lol.

          Sounds good!

  2. Smithy says:

    Sounds like a scary ride! (Maybe for such rough trails go towards trying a quadbike or similar? Then again those can fall over too.)
    Gorgeous landscape photos though, the lighting is lovely.

    • Aka says:

      I have indeed managed to flip a quad in the past as well. Maybe once I’m rich I’ll just plow down roads like that in a Bowler Wildcat.

      I really did enjoy that aspect, the lighting was perfect. Though, I’m definitely going to recheck and reprocess all these photos when I get home to some properly calibrated monitors.