The Western alps never disappoint
Our group of five leaves Thun in the center of Switzerland very early in the morning and heads for Valmeinier, our starting point. Via Geneva, Annecy and Albertville we make our way to the Savoyan alps. We leave the cars on the big parking lot of the ski resort Valmeinier 1800, check our bikes and backpacks and soon start pedalling. The weather and the spirit is good, everybody is looking forward to the next days. Comfortably we ride up the road through the temporarily abandonded houses, it is not the high season of this region… At the end of the asphalt road the steep uphill to Col des Marches starts. It looks nasty and we all prepare ourselves to push the bike for most of the distance. “Is that lift running?”, Alex suddenly asks… Well spotted, the small chairlift “Telesiege des Jeux” is indeed working. For only a few Euros it saves us around 400 meters of grind, allows us five more minutes of relaxing and adds a few hundret meters of fun downhill trail. After a few minutes we are back on the original uphill, five hundret uphill meters remaining with the bike on our shoulders. On the pass we stop for lunch in the sun before we get ready for our first real downhill. A beautiful technical trail with lots of big rocks, it takes us down to the Refuge des Marches. Its a fun but rough trail which requires some good lines in places. Unfortunately a crash on this challenging trail attenuates our enthusiasm a little bit. We take some time at the refuge to make sure rider and bike are ok and to digest the shock. After some time we decide to tackle the next uphill. Past some beautiful small mountain lakes we hike to the Col des Batallieres. From here it is not far anyymore to todays destination. Again we spend some minutes in the sun soaking up the views and alpine surrounding, before we get ready for the last downhill of the day. The trail starts challenging and we need to find some sketchy lines through the rocks. A little later the terrain flattens and the trail flows wonderfully around small glacier lakes. We arrive at the “Refuge du Mont Thabor” with just enough time for a big beer on the terrace before the sun downs behind the mountains. After the hot shower a hearty dinner is served and we chat with some hikers before going to bed.
Day 2 starts early – again. Everybody wakes up excited for the day Mont Thabor is conquered… Morning hygiene, packing up stuff, having breakfast, a quick check of the bikes – the usual routine on multiday tours. We manage to start before most of the hikers and traverse into the Vallon du Peyron almost 1000 m below Mont Thabor. Shortly after the small lake we have to irrevocably get off our bikes and push… The hike to the top is very exhausting: thin air and loose gravel, the bikes don´t help either. As we make our way to the top we realize what a fantastic downhill this will be. 95% rideable and very flowy in breathtaking landscapes! Eventually we make it to the top and sit down to have a sandwich and digest the beauty of the region! While we prepare for the downhill we see the long procession of hikers lined on the trail, most have a large part of the grind ahead of them. We take it easy on the downhill and ride with consideration. Everybody is super friendly, most step aside for us, many cheer us on. Sometimes it can be so easy! The trail feels endless and takes us down into “Vallon du Diner” in a fantastic combo of flow and tech. This is big mountain heaven! The ascent to “Col du Vallon” feels a tiny bit like hell afterwards. We have to carry our bikes up another 400 meters through a rockfall area. The big rocks and boulders have buried the trail, consequently we have to carry our bikes over exhausting terrain. Sometimes we need to turn around and find a better route around rocky dead-ends… It is hard to imagine that there is a rideable trail on the other side of the pass! Surprisingly the landscapes changes dramatically atop the Col. The valley ahead is beautiful, no signs of larger impassable rock sections. The trail down to Nevache is challenging but amazing and big fun! Completely rideable it takes us through varied terrain along spectacular rock formations, a 10 km dream trail! Down in Nevache we have find our hotel and celebrate Martin@Trail-Hub.com birthday with a few beers.
For the third day we have planned an easy stage. We sleep late before having a good breakfast. Slowly we pedal up the 10 km on a small asphalt road to the “Refuge de Laval” where we plan to spend the next night. We leave most of our luggage there and start climbing the trail a short distance of the refuge. Afteraround 400 m a beauty of a high-trail follows the valley back to Nevache. The views up here as as stunning as the trail is. It is definately worth including this extra loop into your planning if time allows! After some fantastic kilometers above the valley the trail turns downhill and transforms into a lightly technical trail with some nice switchbacks. We return to the “Refuge de Laval” on the same road as in the morning. Not too bad for a rest-day!
The last day starts easy, we follow an alpine gravel road to “Refuge des Drayeres” where the trail to “Col de la Bagnette” starts. We push our bikes up over big rocks and past small lakes. The landscape is nice and the morning light is beautiful, after about an hour we are on the pass. The trail down from here is another fun ride, this time slightly steeper with a lot of loose rocks. After 350 m of downhill we follow a trail east and traverse the valley in a constant up and down. The “Pas des Griffes” is the last grind of our tour, one final push to the top. Just about 150 m up… The final descent start with many switchbacks in steep terrain, challenging but completely rideable for good bikers. Lower down the trail becomes rockier, some janky sections add spice. We follow the little creek to a gravel road and roll back to Valmeinier 1800 where we started this amazing trip four days ago.