Riding Crested Butte’s famed Pearl Pass Tour

This year marks 39th running of event that helped shape mountain biking

Event Travel
Pretty much everything you need to know about this ride summed up in one precariously perched sign.

Pretty much everything you need to know about this ride summed up in one precariously perched sign.

Editor’s Note: The 39th annual (yes, 39th) Pearl Pass Tour is set to roll out of Crested Butte, Colorado, on September 12th — or September 11th if you prefer to do it on a klunker. If you happen to be in town and want to join in, meet at the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum at 8:30 a.m. The Tour leaves at 9 a.m. sharp. You can find more information at www.cbklunkers.com and on the event’s Facebook Page. For a primer on this historic event, check out the author’s first-person account from a few years back.

When riding the Pearl Pass Tour it’s important to remind yourself why you are there, but right now I seem to have forgotten that mantra. Instead of focusing on the historical significance of this truly classic event, or soaking in the amazing natural beauty around me, brain and body are wondering why the hell I’m pushing my bike across a large boulder field that doubles as part of Pearl Pass Road, the rough and rocky 4×4 jeep route that bridges the mountainous 37-mile gap between the Colorado mountain towns of Crested Butte and Aspen.

Event co-organizer Don Cook (foreground) remains one of the area's most accomplished riders. But no, even he did not clear this boulder field.

Event co-organizer Don Cook (foreground) remains one of the area’s most accomplished riders. But no, even he did not clear this boulder field.

Not only is a good chunk of Pearl Pass unrideable, much of it is exceedingly tough to walk. Imagine a road paved with cantaloupe-sized boulders and you get the idea. Other obstacles faced during our journey included several knee-deep creek crossings, slushy snow, slippery mud, and the painful lack of oxygen that comes from ascending a route that tops out at 12,705 feet.

Throw in the fact that while the route includes almost no singletrack, both the Crested Butte and Aspen areas are chock full of world class mountain biking trails, and you wonder why anyone would ever ride — or walk — a bike over Pearl Pass? The answer to that question has evolved over the years, but its core remains the same: Because you can.

To better understand this reasoning a quick mountain biking history lesson is in order. The way the story goes, the first Pearl Pass Tour came together in 1976 after a rowdy band of motorcyclists from Aspen rode over the rock-strewn road and descended into Crested Butte. The details are a little fuzzy, but according to lore the Aspen gang showed up with chests puffed out and heads held high, then proceeded to spend a lot of money (people from Aspen are rich, the stereotype goes) and flirt with the local women, bragging all the while about their prodigious feat.

Continue to page 2 to find out how the people of Crested Butte responded to the Aspen insurgents »
1 2 3 4 5Next

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

Related Articles

NOTE: There are two ways to comment on our articles: Facebook or Wordpress. Facebook uses your real name and can be posted on your wall while Wordpress uses our login system. Feel free to use either one.

Facebook Comments:

Wordpress Comments:

  • Charlie Kelly says:

    “That West Coast group included the likes of mountain bike pioneers Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey and Joe Breeze.”

    In 1978, based on that Co-Evolution Quarterly article, I called The Grubstake and they told me the ride was on. So I called my friends Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Wende Cragg and Mike Castelli, and we mounted the first California expedition.

    I’m sure you understand how it grates on me that Tom Ritchey, who was NOT on the 1978 ride and didn’t get to CB until 1980, gets credit for being one of the instigators, while the guy who organized the trip from California, that would be me, does not appear anywhere in your article. Did I offend you in some way that caused you to leave me out of the article? How did you “research” this article without ever seeing my name?

    I suggest you read the Crested Butte chapter in my book, Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking. It is a first-person account of these events and much more accurate than yours.

    • Jason Sumner says:

      Hi Charlie — Thanks for your note. Certainly no slight intended (clearly I was given some bad info). The article has been amended to include your name. Best — Jason

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





© Copyright 2019 VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved.