On the Sand to Snow tour, Susanne Brüsch and her team e-biked from Monterey, California, to Denver. The more-than-3,100-mile, 10-week journey led the team to climb over 187,000 feet in altitude from the lowest point in North America to the highest mountains in the western U.S. on their e-bikes — bicycles fueled by both pedaling and electric power. They traveled through Delta, Paonia, Carbondale and other scenic Colorado towns and ascended snow-covered Hagerman and Loveland passes — both nearly 12,000 feet tall at their summits.
Here, Brüsch shares the most memorable part of the journey in Colorado: crossing Hagerman Pass near Leadville.
We went to Aspen before we crossed the pass and were thinking of crossing Independence Pass instead. But since it was summertime, we decided that it should be possible to go over the smaller road instead of the bigger road that crosses Independence Pass, so we went back down to Basalt and followed the Frying Pan Road toward Hagerman Pass. But at about 10,000 feet or a bit less, we got to this barrier on the road that read “Road Closed,” and we were like “Holy s***!”
At that moment, a ranger came by, so we asked him what to do. He said that since there’s a huge drift on top of the pass, there’s still a lot of snow and the road is not fully plowed. But if we are well equipped with enough food, warm clothing and a tent with sleeping bags, he said we could try and see how far we could get — so that’s what we did. We climbed behind the barrier and continued.
Then we got to this huge water hole and were ready to take off our shoes and pants to walk through the water. At that moment, the ranger crossed the water hole and said, “Hey, come on up. I didn’t expect you to really do it but since you’re here, I’ll help you get through the water.” So we put our bikes on his truck and jumped in, and he drove us across the water and as far as he could up the hill where the road was plowed. We looked out the windows, and the snow was just getting higher and higher.
When the ranger couldn’t go any farther, he dropped us off. There were a lot of snow fields and also places where there was no snow, but it was quite steep. We had a lot of stuff and realized that we couldn’t push our bikes with everything on them up that hill, so we took off the front bags and panniers (saddlebags that mount on bikes) and carried them up in two runs, then came back for the bikes — so we walked every single meter five times.
The sun was going down and we were almost at the top of the pass, but we got stuck in deep, deep snow. So we decided to set up our tents and sleep on the pass for the night. We had a beautiful view and could see Turquoise Lake on the other side and all of the mountains around it. The next day the snow was much harder since the temperatures were freezing overnight, so it was easier to walk across all of the snow fields. We eventually made it across and descended on the other side where the snow fields were gone so we could keep riding. Then we arrived at Turquoise Lake and met our support crew there, everything was fine and we continued on. They were sitting at the entrance of the campsite waiting for us with GoPros, phones and video camera. As you can imagine, it was big story time once we rolled in. And the greatest thing — they had prepared a wonderful lunch. What a reward.
Photo credits: Pedelec-Adventures.com/Susanne Brüsch
Crossing epic white stuff on Hagerman Pass in June
Camping on Hagerman Pass