TR: Pearl Pass Bike Tour (11 Sept 2010)

(Last Updated On: July 16, 2017)

Don Cook couldn’t state it any better: “It’s not about the ride, it’s about the history.” We knew the rocky Pearl Pass was not going to give us the best riding, but we knew the experience would be filled with amazing views and a taste of history. As Frank and I lined up in front of the Crested Butte Museum at 8 am along with 20 other riders, we here happy to be part of the longest-lived mountain biking event in the world – the Pearl Pass Bike Tour.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

The story goes like this: The Pearl Pass Bike Tour is as old as I am. It is said that in 1976, a rowdy group of motorcyclists from Aspen made their way over Pearl Pass and into Crested Butte. They stopped at the no-longer existent Grubstake Bar (which, I believe, was housed in the building most current locals know as the “Old Brick”), bragging about their seemingly impossible feat. Well, Buttians are Buttians, and they wouldn’t be outdone by some ostentatious motorcyclists from Aspen. So, on a September morning, a group of 15 Buttians met outside the Grubstake at 9 am with their clunkers (better known today as “townie” bikes) as their ride. They camped along the way, and the next day, seven riders made their way into Aspen. Those seven riders were Bob Starr, Rick Verplank, Walter Keith, Long Beach, Patty Ann Gifford, Patty Christie and Duane Reading.

A couple of years later, the Pearl Pass ride caught on with the big-wigs. Folks like Wende Cragg, Charlie Kelly, Gary Fisher, and Joe Breeze joined the ranks. Here’s a famous photo from this historic 1978 event.
Pearl Pass Mountain Bike Tour
From left to right: Wende Cragg, Fairfax, CA (Breezer); the infamous “Neil Murdoch,” Crested Butte, CO (’50s Schwinn); Richard Neilsen, Hotchkiss, CO (’60s Schwinn); Charlie Kelly, San Anselmo, CA (Breezer); Joe Breeze, Mill Valley, CA (Breezer); Jim Cloud, Crested Butte, CO (’50s Schwinn); Bob Starr, Crested Butte, CO (’50s Schwinn); Richard Ullery, Crested Butte, CO (’50s Schwinn); Gary Fisher, San Anselmo, CA (’38 Schwinn); Archie Archiletta, Crested Butte, CO (’50s Schwinn); Chris Carroll, Crested Butte, CO (’50s Schwinn); Albert Maunz, Crested Butte, CO (’50s Schwinn); Michael Castelli, Point Reyes, CA (’30s Schwinn). Read Charlie Kelly’s account of the 1978 ride here.

Pearl Pass became famous.
Pearl Pass Mountain Bike Tour
Photo courtesy of posters on mtbr.com.

Today, the Pearl Pass tour is kept alive by the efforts of the Crested Butte Museum and CB locals Don and Kay Cook. The tour continues as an annual event, leaving from the Museum every September. On this September, Frank and I joined the 34th annual Pearl Pass tour, along with 20 other fine riders.

We made our way up Brush Creek.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

And then on toward Pearl Pass.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

The scenery couldn’t be better. Me with Teocalli behind.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Frank.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

There were a few streams to cross.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

The beautiful Cumberland Basin.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Above Cumberland Basin, Pearl Pass got downright gnarly. Full of baby-head rocks, it was difficult to ride.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Hike-a-bike was plentiful. But, I tried to ride when I could 🙂
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Frank nearing the “false summit”.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Looking back down valley. Simply amazing.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Still more riding to be done.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

THE Pearl Pass in the distance.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Looking back down the road.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Up and up.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

And finally, the summit!
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

We took a long time to admire the views. Castle- probably my favorite 14er.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Looking toward Aspen.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

This memorial to someone lost, but not forgotten was a somber reminder of our friends lost but not forgotten. Jack and Lacy, we miss you.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Finally, the descent.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

A view of Taylor, dreaming of winter.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Me, with Castle in the distance.
Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Mountain bike from Crested Butte to Aspen over Pearl Pass

Though not on the same level as the 1976 victory, the Pearl Pass riders from this year met for dinner at Little Annie’s in Aspen to celebrate our own accomplishment. A fun ride, fantastic views, and history kept alive. I’ll drink to that 🙂

Up next- our ride back to Crested Butte via Taylor and Star Pass.


Resources
Original Article from the Crested Butte Pilot
Charlie Kelly’s Website
Upslope Brewing
Crested Butte Mountain Bike Hall of Fame- Tours from 1980, 1978, and 1976
Crested Butte Mountain Bike Hall of Fame- 1976 tour from Dawn Belloise

Looking to do this ride on your own, and wondering about shuttle logistics? Try: Maroon Bells Shuttles

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate 🙂 Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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Summary
Pearl Pass Bike Tour
Article Name
Pearl Pass Bike Tour
Description
The Pearl Pass Bike tour is both a scenic and historic ride that travels between Aspen and Crested Butte. Find out more information in this post!
Author

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things, Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

2 thoughts on “TR: Pearl Pass Bike Tour (11 Sept 2010)

  • October 4, 2010 at 10:00 am
    Permalink

    Nice write up. I didn’t realize it was an annual event. A college buddy and I did it in 1991 on rigid bikes, the only beta we had was I had heard you could ride from Aspen to Crested Butte and be back for your date that night.

    So we started off from Ashcroft around 1:00 pm in the afternoon with a tarp, a couple power bars, and some cash, figuring we could make CB by nightfall. We missed the Pearl Pass turn off and continued towards Montezuma when a jeep coming down pointed out that we had missed our turn-off, he gave us a turkey sandwich, a peach, half a joint, and set us back on course. We arrived at the top of Pearl Pass at 9:00 pm and slept under the tarp.

    The next morning we woke to the sign that said Crested Butte 22 miles. We didn’t even know how far the ride was until then! We continued to CB, ate breakfast for 4 at the Paradise cafe, repaired my bike and rode all the way back to Ashcroft that day.

    On the way back up, as we were pushing our bikes more and more we instantiated what became known as the Pearl Pass Rules. It started with, “ok, if you have to push, you don’t have to get back on the bike until a flat section”, then “the flat section has to be at least 100 ft”, and “ok, the road has to actually go down”, and so on. These probably seem silly compared to the shape most of us are in today, but for a couple college kids whose biggest ride to date was probably Porcupine Rim…

    We arrived to a dead car battery and we were just as drained. It was all we could do to light a stove, cook some hot dogs in bread with cheddar cheese and pick-a-peppa sauce. Probably the most memorable meal we have ever had.

    We repeated it again in 2002, doing Taylor/Star over, and Pearl on the return to Aspen. This time I at least had front suspension.

  • October 11, 2010 at 4:47 pm
    Permalink

    The accounts of your rides are just great! Adding the historic “touch” to the rides makes it even more interesting to read.

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