Back of the Pack High Altitude Championship

The Summary:
The 1st Annual Back of the Pack High Altitude Championship was held on June 30th in the San Juan Mtns, Colorado. The course is extreme and includes three of the most scenic mountain passes in the United States. Ok, three of the most scenic mountain passes in the world. The course layout is basic, the riding / hiking is brutal. Start in Ouray, ride Red Mtn Pass (pavement), ride / hike Black Bear Pass, food + beer in Telluride, ride / hike Imogene Pass. This isn’t a race for SSTS (stuck up single track snobs = Lt Col), this isn’t a race psychos that refuse to hike (Lt Col), this isn’t a race for those that shake uncontrollably when faced with treacherous / life threatening conditions. This is a race for freaks that enjoy high altitude pain, high altitude scenery and high altitude camaraderie. (Did I do a good job of laying down the Challenge to The Lt Col, The BPR Elder Statesman? Will The Lt Col’s Foxy Mama grant approval for his participation in 2011? We will see.) 
Actually the plan was for a 41 mile joy ride with teammates and a 200 yard sprint at the top of Imogene Pass. The sprint is required just to ensure that The Judd ‘runs’ away with the Back of the Pack High Altitude Championship. There is no plausible scenario where The Lt Col, The BPR Morale Chairman or even Prob-eee could pull out the victory. It just can’t happen, it won’t happen.
The 1st annual race was dominated by Judd, because I (Judd) was the only one to show. The July 30th race date was picked around July 20. Two other Back of the Pack racers quickly chimed in… “I’m In”. (The Lt Col was not one of those two – check the paragraph above.) But only I showed, only I raced – therefore I dominated.
The start was postponed from 6AM to 7AM. Why, because it’s easy to delay the start of a one man race.  So, at 7AM the gun went off, and I was on my way. The ride up Red Mountain was uneventful, if you call the cliffs on Red Mtn Pass ‘uneventful’. The ride over Black Bear Pass was unreal. (Pansies would use the word ‘gorgeous’, but I am not a Pansy, I pride myself is being an old fashion tough guy. Yeah right.) Lunch in Telluride was fun, the Ska Pinstripe provided the motivation to hit the road and climb up Imogene. Yep, motivation. 
At 12:31 PM the action started. Imogene Pass was brutal. The 32 x 19 setup was anything but appropriate. (32 x 21 will be the setup for 2011.) The rain, freezing rain, started in at mile 4.5. No problem only two miles to go, right? Yeah, 2 miles and 2000 ft of vertical, which took The B.P.R. Hiking Champion 1hr and 35min to climb. Yikes! The thunder and lightning added to the ominous tone, the jeepers turning around and running for cover added to the experience. What could I do? Turn back? Yeah right. I was cold, my hands were freezing, my body was drenched, but there was no turning back. Why? Because, I forgot my bike lock in the GMC Yukon, therefore if I went back to Telluride I had no way to lock the bike up and hit the bars – while I waited for the B.P.R. Rescue Crew. I’d have to sit with my Black Sheep, in the rain, in a corner of an alley and wait for the rescue. Well, that was out of the question. So, I continued up and up and up. I hit the summit of Imogene pass around 4:08 PM. It was cold, it was raining, the lightning was eerie, so I took a few glamour shots and headed down. Check out the video. Sweet stuff. The descent into Ouray was 10.5 miles and 4800 feet. Yeah, my brakes were smokin’.
The end, I sprinted across the finish line around 5:30 PM. It was a long day, it was a challenging day, it was a day that will go down in B.P.R. history – documented by The Hustorian, of course. 
A huge B.P.R. Thank You to the B.P.R. Crew Chief and B.P.R. Rescue Crew – that would be The Padre – Theodore (Ted) Rohwer. Without the B.P.R. Crew Chief who would be out there to worry about the fate of The Judd. No one, obviously.
The BPR Crew Chief, heading up the BPR Rescue Crew, if needed!
So, that was the race, now it’s time to discuss the race and the plans for 2011.
The Rules:
  1. The Winner Wins, The Loser Loses!
  2. The last person to Telluride pays for lunch and the beer
  3. The last person to the top of Imogene gets the tattoo. (As in Single Speed World Championship fashion, where the winner gets inked, the LOSER of the Back of the Pack High Altitude Championship gets inked. 
  4. The racers design the tattoo at the pre race beer feast, held in Ouray the night before.
  5. The tattoo may be optional, we may rewrite the rules. Maybe the LOSER should pay for the custom B.P.R. High Altitude Championship t-shirts. (But the B.P.R. Morale Chairman doesn’t like options, doesn’t like changes, changes are bad for Morale.)
The Course, The Why:
The B.P.R. High Altitude Championship was an idea of The Judd. The Judd and The Morale Chairman (Tedd) grew up in Durango and traveled the State of Colorado to ski races and swim meets. The Brothers Rohwer each have favorite spots in this beautiful country we call the United States of America. Tedd’s favorites? Who Knows! The Judd’s favorites, The San Juan Mtns, Durango

The Track: Google Earth Style

The Data, The Proof
The Basics:
  1. Red Mountain Pass: Ouray to Black Bear Pass. 
    • Why the pavement? Because with The B.P.R. Morale  Chairman and The Judd grew up in Durango, The Brothers Rohwer ALWAYS rode the pavement to the trails – Raiders Ridge was the primary destination. The Brothers Rohwer NEVER drove to the trails. Thus, the B.P.R. High Altitude Championship starts with a 13 mile ride, a ride over one the coolest mountain passes in the country. 
    • Can’t handle pavement? Well, ask for a B.P.R. waiver, you might get one, maybe. Well, probably not.
  2. Black Bear Pass: The ride over to Telluride Colorado
    • Black Bear Pass is the ultimate in Colorado Jeep lore. In the 1970s and 1980s The Family Rohwer jeep’d over most of the famous (infamous) jeep roads in Colorado. The Family Rohwer never attempted Black Bear pass. Back in the 70s / 80s the road was not maintained by the forest service as it is today. (Black Bear was actually closed for a number of years, the ‘road’ into Telluride slide away, basically.) The danger, the potential of death, the potential of wiping out The Family Rohwer was too great. So, it didn’t happen. Well, Black Bear Pass is still wicked – actually only about 1/2 mile is intense. The rest, cake walk. But Black Bear Pass is an experience that all should experience. Walk it, ride it, jeep it. You won’t regret it, unless you and your jeep take a 2000 ft plunge to a permanent dirt nap. That would be a bummer, for you.
  3. Imogene Pass: Telluride to Ouray. 
    • One must get back to the party in Ouray, right? Well, the only option is Imogene Pass. Some people claim that Imogene pass is the second highest ‘road’ in the United States. (I wouldn’t call it a road, but no one asked me.) The Family Rohwer jeep’d over Imogene a number of times, back in the day. So, it was a no-brainer, bike the beast and live to tell about it. The danger lies in the altitude and the weather. The ride, the timing, puts the racer at the summit of Imogene in the late PM, just when the thunder storms roll in. So, the challenge is a) the altitude, b) the fatigue, c) the life threatening weather, i.e., lightning. But what the Hell. Eating pretzels and watching football is dangerous too. 
The Course, The Details:
  • Race Totals
    • 42.97 miles, 9530 ft / 8972 ft Vertical (Ascent / Descent)
    • Why doesn’t up = down? Don’t ask me!
  • Red Mountain Pass to Back Bear Pass
    • 13.56 miles, 3297 ft /30 Vertical (Ascent / Descent)
  • Black Bear Pass: The Up
    • 3.29 miles, 1748 ft / 90 ft Vertical (Ascent / Descent)
  • Black Bear Pass: The Down
    • 8.69 miles, 122 ft / 3997 ft Vertical (Ascent / Descent)
  • Imogene Pass: The Up
    • 6.91 miles, 4291 ft / 14 ft Vertical (Ascent / Descent)
  • Imogene Pass: The Down
    • 10.53 miles, 72 ft / 4840 ft Vertical (Ascent / Descent)
The Lessons Learned:
  • Must have Water Proof Gloves
  • Must have Water Proof Pants
  • Don’t forget the Bike Locks
  • Recruit multiple BPR Rescue Crews, to support the decision to quit, because quitters quit, at times.
  • Be prepared for major blisters, blisters on the feet / heels. It will happen
The Plans for the 2011 Back of the Pack High Altitude Championships:
  • The Red Mtn / Black Bear / Imogene route is fixed, no deviations required or allowed.

The Back of the Pack High Altitude Championships could be organized as a 3 day stage race

  • Durango to Ouray via Coalbank Pass, Molas Pass, Red Mtn Pass. Required: single speed road bike or fixed gear. Fixed gear will get you extra points, maybe.
  • Ouray to Telluride to Ouray via Red Mtn / Black Bear / Imogene
  • Options for Day 3
    • Ouray to Telluride to Ouray via Red Mtn / Black Bear / Ophir / Red Mtn
    • Ouray to Telluride to Silverton to Purgatory via Red Mtn / Black Bear / Ophir / Molas / Lime Creek Road
No matter what the organizing committee (The Judd) decides on, the 2011 Back of the Pack High Altitude Championships will be unforgettable. 
The Video:
Check back later. It will take days to process / produce / edit the footage.
The Pics:
Check out this link for all the data and all the pics! The Link, Dude!
If you want to scan a million pics of Black Bear Pass, check out the pics from The 2009 BPR Exploratory Ride.
A face that only a mother could love!
The Moon is Cool!
Red Mountain Pass: I picked the route for the challenge, obviously.
Black Bear Pass: 12,840 ft, nice weather
The Shale Steps on Black Bear Pass. (Some call the steps… ‘stairs’, ok)
Last racer off of Black Bear buys the beer – fuel for Imogene Pass
Did I say FUEL UP for Imogene Pass – Yes I did!
A view down Imogene Pass, I was down there – hiking the bike, of course
A view of the Black Bear Switchbacks from Imogene Pass
A view up Imogene Pass. I’ll be up there – in the rain – in 1 hour – or 2


A shack and The Sheep above Tomboy Mine
The top of Imogene Pass: 13,114 ft. Cold? 
Yeah right. If it’s above ZERO, I’m not cold, by definition
Safe and Sound, back in Ouray, putting The Sheep away
When there’s a Ted in the car (or a Tedd) The Judd does not drive…
 as defined in the B.P.R. Operating Instructions
Clouds are Cool!
The Final Roundup:
The race will be held next year, sometime in late July or early August. It all depends on the B.P.R. race schedule. I’m shooting for July, the Colorado Trail Race is early August. We will see if 1) The Lt Col even acknowledges the race, 2) If Prob-eee finds ANOTHER baby shower to attend instead of racing, 3) If the Morale Chairman can handle the idea of racing up the ‘paved’ Red Mtn Pass. The only thing that is certain, is that Judd will be there, Judd will dominate — Unless some real freaks show and blow the doors off of the B.P.R. crew.
If interested in racing in the 2011 epic Back of the Pack High Altitude Championship race(s) contact (If I use the word ‘epic’, will I be cool?) The Back of the Pack Board of Directors will put you on the list, the rules are documented above. I’m sure the rules will change, because rules should change, if there is a clear advantage to be had.

3 thoughts on “Back of the Pack High Altitude Championship

  1. Judd, cool route. You were there the same weekend we did the Sneffels Big Friggin Loop. That was stupid epic. Try that one next summer as well as the Durango Dirty Century. If your race fits into the sked I will join in on the fun.


  2. Hey Freako. Durango Dirty Century? I'll be there – as a Durango boy how could I pass that up? I plan to skip most organized (registration fee required) races between May and Sept. I want to concentrate on the Colorado Trail Race. My goal is to ride the entire trail over May – July. Break it up into 5 segments. The goal is to know the trail and thus survive the 500 mile race in August. SO. I'll be in Durango for the Dirty Century. I may ride the Silverton to Durango segments after the DGO race, if weather / trail conditions are acceptable. Yep. Stupid crazy goals. But I'll do it. That Sneffels loop is insane. I think I saw you driving around Ouray on Sat night prior to 'your' race and right after I finished 'my' race. Funny. See you in a week at Old Pueblo.


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