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Old 02-08-2005, 06:28 PM   #1
slide OP
A nation in despair
 
Joined: Jul 2003
Location: NM, USA
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Black Bear Pass

Too cold, snowy and wet now to do much riding except on the flats, but I figure it's time to start dreaming of what I want to do when the *#&*#&* snow clears out of the high places.

One 'road' I've always wanted to ride has been Black Bear. My intent is to ride this during 2005 or know why I didn't. I spoke to a buddy who tried this in her 4 x 4 one year in July, but was turned back by deep snow (!). She said that Telluride somehow blocks the plowing of this pass now so you can ride from the Durango side to half way there, but that's it. My recent charts show the road unpassable a bit east of Telluride which may be unpassable to fine hairs in their Land Rovers, but just interets me a bit more.

I'd like to her from anybody who rode Black Bear recently. Is it really deep snow in July? If so, is there a time when one can have a reasonable shot at getting a dual sport through there? Or was that a real bad year?

Any general comments, rumors or advice welcome. I mean, here it is the off season for we in the n. hemisphere so instead of riding those passes, let's talk them up some. -Paul
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Old 02-08-2005, 06:44 PM   #2
arroyoshark
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Black Bear Pass, in May 2004, from Telluride side. The tough part of the road is above the waterfall, left of top center.


Recall riders going all the way through during O.S.C.A.R
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Old 02-08-2005, 07:19 PM   #3
empedrado
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This year may actually be different than the past 6 or 8 years, since we are getting an above normal snowpack. I went up there to try it in 2001 during the Bluegrass Festival around June 21st and it was too snow packed and the road closed. Have ridden it in August but never before then. But my guess is that most years after first of July should be fine. A group of us from Albuq go up there every August so maybe you should join us.
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Old 02-09-2005, 07:34 AM   #4
slide OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by empedrado
This year may actually be different than the past 6 or 8 years, since we are getting an above normal snowpack. I went up there to try it in 2001 during the Bluegrass Festival around June 21st and it was too snow packed and the road closed. Have ridden it in August but never before then. But my guess is that most years after first of July should be fine. A group of us from Albuq go up there every August so maybe you should join us.
Do you announce in the Rockies group? If you'll be at Motorsport this Sat, maybe we can discuss it. I'd like to chat this bit of adventure up.
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Old 02-09-2005, 09:51 AM   #5
empedrado
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Slide - I plan on being there Saturday. I am new to the adventure bike side of things as I rode dirt bikes exclusively until just the last few years and got my first adventure bike only last summer. But have logged many long trips on and off road on my dirt bikes.
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Old 02-09-2005, 10:52 AM   #6
dirtrider
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I rode over Black Bear while attending OSCAR this summer at the end of July with Neduro, Wes and Wayne Weber, Arathrustra, Fat Head Fred, and Dirtbro. It is a beautiful ride and I highly recommend it as long as you are not a beginner. Black Bear was far easier than I expected, but leaves no room for errors. One rider in our group went over the bars on the "stair steps" and almost lost his bike over a cliff and hit his head pretty hard. As far as plowing, I'd like to see them even get a plow up there! I highly doubt that it's ever plowed.

Here's some pictures to get you through until summer.

Looking east towards Red Mountain


Looking west towards Telluride


The money shot! Telluride


This is just before the "stair steps" and where it starts to get interesting.


This picture gives you an idea of how steep the steps are - Wes Weber is in the shot (photo stolen from Wayne Weber - thanks Wayne!)


This is a great shot of the stair steps. To the right is a 20ft drop into a fast flowing creek that comes to a 400ft waterfall. Not a place to screw up! (this photo also stolen from Wayne)


Past the tricky part on the first switch back overlooking Bridal Veil Falls


Bridal Veil Falls


Enjoy the pictures.
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Old 02-09-2005, 11:44 AM   #7
FatChance
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We have more snow this year in the San Juans than the last 2 years combined. As for plowing before summer? Are you high? Anyone who gives advice about what will be open and when this year up there based on the last 5 year's experience probably doesn't know what he is talking about. As for riding it, quite a few people do, a few even on a GS. Several people were killed doing that pass last year in Jeeps. No one can tell you if you can do it on whatever bike you'll be riding, only you can, and should, make that determination. As one person said, it is not terribly difficult unless you make a mistake, then it can be very serious, indeed.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:09 PM   #8
slide OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by empedrado
Slide - I plan on being there Saturday. I am new to the adventure bike side of things as I rode dirt bikes exclusively until just the last few years and got my first adventure bike only last summer. But have logged many long trips on and off road on my dirt bikes.
Seems like it'll rain. Owell. I guess some have met before, but this may be a really funny comedy as we run around asking all we see, "Are you Gordy or Slide or....?"

See you then. Oh, I got off of any serious dirt many years ago - too dangerous and injury prone for me, but I'm back in it, but in a slower, non-MX, way.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:17 PM   #9
slide OP
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Thanks Dirt Rider for those excellent pix and Fatchance for the info. Seems to be a place of legends. I hadn't heard specifically about the stair steps, but they give me pause about doing that thing on a heavy d/p bike. Well, maybe if the tires are ok, but I can't see, based on the pix, tackling that on a GS with Tourances, for example. I'm a little leery about taking that on using any seriously heavy bike.

We here are likewise having a weirdly wet winter / fall and so is spring predicted. I figure to give that a go. At worst, I get to ride into the area and nose around some even if the snow is so deep that I determine the place isn't passable.

As to the comment that this isn't a place for beginers, well, that gave me a smile. I'm curious that the 4 x 4 crowd finds this so tough or that it's killing them. I've done some 4 x 4'ing and find it much easier than riding the same rough stuff.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:40 PM   #10
DADODIRT
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Eek

Be aware that this is a one-way road. The start is at the top of Red Mountain Pass and the fininsh is in Telluride. August would probably be your best bet. I have lived in the area since '93 and have only rode it once on a '82 XL500R. Next time I will use someone elses bike.
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Old 02-09-2005, 01:14 PM   #11
slide OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DADODIRT
I have lived in the area since '93 and have only rode it once on a '82 XL500R. Next time I will use someone elses bike.
Can you expand on that?
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Old 02-09-2005, 01:49 PM   #12
dirtrider
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slide
Thanks Dirt Rider for those excellent pix and Fatchance for the info. Seems to be a place of legends. I hadn't heard specifically about the stair steps, but they give me pause about doing that thing on a heavy d/p bike. Well, maybe if the tires are ok, but I can't see, based on the pix, tackling that on a GS with Tourances, for example. I'm a little leery about taking that on using any seriously heavy bike.

We here are likewise having a weirdly wet winter / fall and so is spring predicted. I figure to give that a go. At worst, I get to ride into the area and nose around some even if the snow is so deep that I determine the place isn't passable.

As to the comment that this isn't a place for beginers, well, that gave me a smile. I'm curious that the 4 x 4 crowd finds this so tough or that it's killing them. I've done some 4 x 4'ing and find it much easier than riding the same rough stuff.
I don't think it's the real hard core 4x4 crowd, but inexperienced tourists that die on Black Bear. The stair steps wouldn't be too hard in a Jeep, but the switchbacks are so tight, that even short wheelbase rigs have to use 3-4 point turns to get around them and most have no shoulders and skirt the edge of huge drop offs. I wouldn't hesitate taking my Jeep over it, but I've been driving off road most of my life. Wes Weber took his family over it in a Landcruiser a few years ago.

I WOULD NOT take a GS over it!!! There were a lot of highly experienced GS owners at OSCAR and as far as I know, not one single owner took there GS's over Black Bear that weekend. I did see a few tackling Imogene and I give those guys and gals two thumbs up as Imogene was snowy and muddy most of the weekend.
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Old 02-09-2005, 02:26 PM   #13
Gordy
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I ditched out on Dirt Rider and the guys mid day at OSCAR right before they went over Black Bear. My F50 had lost some bolts and was falling in half! I had been having some "ground clearance issues" that morning anyway, and Black Bear would have been no place to have your ground clearance control your decent.
The guys that went over that day are good riders! It had been raining off and on all day, and the difficulty with wet rock ledges will get your attention!

That being said......I will be back this summer!!

Gordy
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Old 02-09-2005, 03:30 PM   #14
slide OP
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We seem to be informally getting up a group from centeral NM to try Black Bear this summer. Let's chat it up Saturday (Rusty - you'll be there right?) to take everybody's temperature on the thing.

I heard some very hard cores had done this on some form of GS (G/S?) but that crowd also did others like Red Cone.
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Old 02-09-2005, 05:04 PM   #15
sstodvictory
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I rode Black Bear on a GSPD in early September one year. There was no snow but rock slides can block it too. There was a slide on the switchbacks below the steps the same day I crossed. It had been cleared only moments before my descent. Last summer I wanted to ride it in mid-September but it was blocked by snow. Its highly unpredictable.

I wouldn't ride it again on a GS, but then, I still haven't decided if "The Steps" are really that tough or if I'm just a pussy.

Steve

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