Argentine Pass

Argentine Pass is often said to be the highest double tracked mountain pass in Colorado, even if only one approach side fits that description these days. Argentine Pass is not on the continental divide. The honor of the highest continental divide pass goes to Mosquito Pass. Still, with its high distinction Argentine Pass offers up some special difficulties and attractions. In the attraction department, this is as alpine as it gets. 14000 foot peaks, Grey's and Torrey's Peaks are what seems a stones throw away, on the other side of a gaping tundra trough. In the difficulty department, the east side is reasonably bikable. However the west side most likely requires a lot of walking, portaging, - maybe some route finding.

01.(mile00,10027ft)START-END WEST: slightly south of the town of Montezuma, joins with Webster Pass Profile
02.(mile01,10167ft)stay left on main road
03.(mile02,10640ft)stay left on main road
04.(mile05,11296ft)turn right onto steep Argentine Pass single track trail
05.(mile06,13207ft) TOP: Argentine Pass, single track becomes double track
06.(mile08,12237ft)stay left
07.(mile09,11699ft) jeep trail joins from right, continue straight
08.(mile09,11578ft) stay on main trail to right, now a reasonable dirt road
09.(mile14,9671ft) route joins Guanella Pass road, for Georgetown go left
10.(mile18,8570ft) START-END EAST: Georgetown

Approaches

From West.  It has been a long time since I have done this. So I can't remember the details at this point. But - between points 1 and 4, the route follows a dirt road in the valley. Past there, the approach is largely on a steep hiking trail. Extensive walking is most likely necessary. I know I did.  Portaging the bike up a steep mountain side is also an option.

From East. (also described upwards) The profile includes the initial approach on the Guanella Pass road between points 9 and 10. Continuing to the top, the route is a jeep trail, at times very ridable, at other times very rocky. Crossing the past from west to east (going down this side) is in my opinion preferable, because descending on this side is less troublesome than on the other side. Going up either side is likely to be fairly slow for normal people, walking or riding.

Dayrides with this point as highest summit:

Argentine Pass , Webster Pass , Guanella Pass , Hepburn Pass: Georgetown > Guanella Pass > Burning Bear Trail north > Hepburn Pass > Webster Pass > Montezuma > road up Peru Creek > Argentine Pass > Georgetown: 58.1miles (mech Odo m1:87.8.8).
Notes: This "ride" was much longer than first thought. We reached the top of Argentine pass just shortly before sunset, when the picture below was taken. - return after dark.




History

Colorado gold rush of 1859/60 (<Jones Pass|Webster Pass>): Several passes were pioneered long after the initial two years of the gold rush. Their purpose was to serve as easier supply routes to the gold camps. All of these involved crossing the continental divide west of Denver. A previous attempt to ease movement of goods to the mining towns west of the divide was over Jones Pass.

Argentine Pass was the most direct attack on the wall between the mining towns and Denver. The previous pass in this thread, Jones Pass, had no affect on the movement of goods for the majority of mining towns, which are located further south. The problem remained the long and complicated route to Denver. In order to get to the Front Range, Breckenridge miners had to cross Boreas Pass, South Park and Kenosha Pass. By this time another wagon road had been opened over the continental divide west of Denver over Rollins Pass. But that did not do much for the Breckenridge area. That pass also was too far north. All through the 1860s silver had been found on the west side of what would become Argentine Pass. So close to Denver, yet its distance to be traveled to a mill was over 200 miles. Georgetown, east of the ridge, and all its adjoining wealth and industry, was less than a dozen miles away as the crow flies. If only a road could get across that ridge. Motivation to build a road was very high, and so was the pass that resulted.

The business man for such a venture had to have a matching ego. Stephen Decatur also had business dealings and wives to match the ego, 5 children from 2 white and several Indian wives. His motto was "no orthodoxy, no monogamy and no monotony". If he had his way, the capital of the new mining district that was to be created from his road, would be called Silveropolis

So how did Silveropolis turn out ? Incredibly Argentine Pass was built from Georgetown to the top in 1869 and started cutting down the other side during the spring of 1870. By the time the first toll gate was installed at Waldorf, our hero Decatur was drinking heavily and resigned from the Georgetown Snake River Wagon Company, maybe to promote his Silveropolis.

That was just as well. The road was blocked with snow except for July to September. And when the road was cleared of snow, chances were high that it was blocked by a rockslide. Paying customers of the road were forced to clear the road themselves, on top of doubling and tripling their wagon teams. But 1877 the road had essentially become a pack train trail. Another pass was built to address the original problem in 1878, Webster Pass.