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Great Divide Route: When to start?

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Great Divide Route: When to start?

Old 10-02-10, 01:37 AM
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Great Divide Route: When to start?

Hi I'm in the early stages of planning a great divide trip for next year. I am wondering about the best time to go or rather how long is the window to miss the snow. How late in the season or how early has it been done. Probably looking at the traditional North to South route. Any experiences or knowledge shared is appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 10-02-10, 01:40 AM
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North American or Australian?
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Old 10-02-10, 04:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
North American or Australian?
Surly there cant be two of them, can there?

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Old 10-02-10, 04:45 AM
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Well, there's a Great Dividing Range here in Australia ... the range of mountain just west of the east coast from top to bottom in Australia ... I live at the south end of that.

And there's the Continental Divide of North America ... basically the Rocky Mountains ... and I used to live right next to that in Alberta.


Down here in Australia you'd probably want to be in the Melbourne area by mid-May to avoid the snow. Not long after that ski season starts.
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Old 10-02-10, 11:57 PM
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For the US Divide Ride route: I rode the N to S standard route. I started too nearly at June 20th and had to wait a week for some snow to melt on the first passes.
Start date depends on that winters snow fall so plan in some flexibility if possible. A July first start date would work most years but even then some bike and hike through snow pack will still often be necessary.
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Old 10-03-10, 09:53 AM
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I'm interested in this thread because I'd like to try this route sometime myself. However, I don't think I'd want to try the whole thing.

What do you think would be the best section to do if I was starting on about July 1 and riding for a month?

How foolish would it be to do it alone? (I don't know anyone who wants to go with me.)

Which would you recommend: 1) a hardtail mountain bike with front and rear panniers; 2) a hardtail mountain bike with a Bob trailer (the one without the suspension); 3) a Surly LHT with large tires and front and rear panniers? (These are the options I have with the equipment I currently own.)
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Old 10-03-10, 12:26 PM
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I started the Divide Ride alone but frequently rode with others I met along the route for a few days or as much as a week at a time.

For a July 1st start I would recommend starting in Banff with a planned end point at I-70 in Colorado to facilitate your return trip home. You could always stop sooner at main points along the way if necessary or if you want a slower pace.

Without consulting the maps I guesstimate about 1500 miles of some of the most varied and scenic parts of the route including the national parks of Canada and the US. Daily mileage of ~50 miles per day. Elevations generally increase from North to South on that portion of the route allowing you to gradually acclimate along the way to Colorado.

I rode a rigid bike with front panniers only and a dry bag stuffer on the rear rack- a Bruce Gordon RNR with 700x47 tires with full fenders. This worked well for me but I traveled comfortably light in terms of equipment carried. Washboard roads and sandy or soft sections were more of a challenge for my tire width and volume but certainly doable. Any bike in your current stable of bikes will get you there on the Divide Ride- some with more comfort than others.
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Old 10-04-10, 08:22 AM
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Arctos has a good plan there, but I'd recommend riding on past I-70 a couple more days and continuing to Salida. The country you'd miss if you stopped at I-70 is stunning, especially around Gore Canyon, Breckeridge/Boreas Pass, and Salida.
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Old 10-04-10, 11:51 AM
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Thanks good info? . I was thinking about starting in mid to late august in roosville MT anybody started that late. How would the weather be then?

Last edited by leebikes; 10-04-10 at 11:53 AM. Reason: bad grammar
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Old 10-10-10, 09:58 PM
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or has anybody done it South to North?
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Old 10-11-10, 12:12 AM
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Mid to late August from Roosville can be hot in NW Montana so no snow to hike through unless there is an early snow storm. More thunderstorms likely as well due to the heat rising. Water sources will be at their lowest so plan accordingly by carrying extra in the Basin in Wyoming.

By the time you reach the highest points in Colorado early winter storms could be a problem on the passes above 10000 ft. assuming a late September time frame. With luck you could have ideal weather all of the way but just do not count on it and be prepared for any extreme and know your limits. And remember that hunting season opens in the Fall so be visible so not to be mistaken for a deer or elk.

I only encountered a small percentage of the Divide Riders going South to North.

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Old 10-11-10, 08:55 AM
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Unless one is very lucky, I don't think there is one start date from either N or S that will allow one to avoid potentially nasty conditions on the GDMBR - too much accumulated snow (Colorado) or impassable mud (New Mexico). Leave too early, you'll get the former, leave too late (southbound) you'll get the latter. Fortunately, the ACA maps provide paved alternatives to the mud: if fact, Tour Divide even uses the paved alternative from Cuba to Grants.

If you are willing to pack for inclement weather (potentially snow at higher elevations; otherwise, torrential rain), and are willing to take the alternatives to avoid impassable conditions, you can leave Banff or Roosville from mid June to the end of July +. This year, I left Banff on June 24 and arrived in Antelope Wells on August 25. I don't recall any accumulated snow along the route, but I did take pavement from Cuba, through Grants and even through the El Malpais National Monument - all to avoid the mud. I think you can get a good idea of the nature of the window of feasability, both N to S and S to N from the journals on Crazy Guy.

BBT: If I had a month starting July 1, I'd do the Canadian section - especially the new Flathead Wilderness routing - but then veer off at Polebridge into Glacier, go to Waterton, "figure 8" back to Banff on the GDMBR (yes, it's worth it to do that section twice) and then go up the Ice Fields Parkway. If you wanted to stay on the route, I'd just continue from Polebridge and quit when I ran out of time.

This year I went with a group that soon parsed into compatible "teams". Next time I will go alone with my SPOT, but I'd expect to hook up with other riders if / when it were mutually acceptable - especially through the lonelier bits like the Great Basin.

If you have a hardtail, I'd go with that rather than the LHT. Panniers work fine because there is very little single track. Besides, in the north you'll find it easier going over logs if you don't have a trailer. Usual caveates, yada, yada...

S to N: From a climate standpoint, it's doable starting from as early as the first week of June, but again be prepared to bypass blocked passes in Colorado. The advantage of an early start from the South is that one avoids the monsoon season of New Mexico - so less mud - but water is still relatively plentiful. One then encouters warmer weather in Montana and Canada. The downside is that some nasty decents N to S become even nastier ascents S to N.
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Old 10-11-10, 09:48 AM
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I rode the Divide in 2008 with a friend, after spending a little over a month touring across BC from west to east. We crossed into Montana at Roosville on August 19 and finished in Columbus NM on Oct 24.

With that late of a start, plus side trips in Montana (Glacier NP and Missoula), we had to push the pace through southern Montana, Wyoming and Colorado to make it through the high passes before bad weather and colder temps stopped us.

We spent 3 days in early October waiting out bad weather before crossing the highest pass. We got hit by a nasty thunderstorm in northern NM. But after that, getting through the desert and lower elevations of NM was easy - the weather was great and there was not much mud.

Overall we were incredibly lucky with the weather. All of September and much of October it was spectacular. The nights were quite cold though in southern CO and northern NM - mid teens a few times.

Starting mid August is too late at a pace of 50 miles/day though. Aug. 1 probably would have been ideal for our trip in 2008, but who knows what the weather will be like any other year.

I rode a touring bike, with 26 x 2.25" tires, 4 panniers, a high mount front rack and drop bars with cross levers. This is the touring setup I'm accustomed to. It worked well for me and I'd use it again. I had to get really good at using my elbows as shock absorbers though.

Most people I saw out there had a similar setup - touring bike or rigid mtb with 4 panniers. All with flat bars. I wouldn't run a low rider rack on this route, and I wouldn't consider a trailer. That's just my personal bias, but I'd hate to have an extra vehicle bouncing and dragging behind me on those rough climbs and descents.

BlueToe: a front shock could be a benefit I guess, though I've never toured with one. I guess it depends on how comfortable that bike is for you for long rides, and how well it handles with 4 panniers.

As for going it alone, I don't think a day went by when we weren't passed at least once by a vehicle of some sort. Some stretches are pretty remote, but there are hunters, ranchers, atv riders, other campers out there. Bring a Spot.
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