Face to Face with the white giant
The Tour Mont Blanc starts very early for us… One of the first trains in the morning takes us to Martigny. We hop onto another train to Orsieres where we change to the public bus to Ferret. Swiss public transport rocks!
Still tired we start pedalling up the beautiful Val Ferret. Shortly after the easy start on asphalt a gravel road takes us to the alpage “La Peule”. I am suffering on the first uphill already, my back is not used to the heavy backpack and hurts, i am tired…the next days might be fun! At the alp we stop for a quick coffee and i rearrange a few things in the backpack before we tackle the singletrail uphill to Grand Col Ferret. After a few minutes I start to wake up and magically my backpain has also disappeared. We manage to ride most of the path up to the Col, the trail has been renovated recently only very short sections are challenging. Crossing the few hikers is no problem here. The view from Grand Col Ferret is amazing: spectacular Mont Dolent is just north and Val Ferret lies ahead of us with the Mont Blanc massif at its end… The downhill is an amazing black trail, partially blocked and steep with some hairpins it takes us into Val Ferret. We have to stop several times for occasional hikers, but overall the ride is super fun. Many bikers follow the mountain road to Courmayeur, we have planned to do the “Balcony da Val Ferret”. After a snack (and Cola – I feel the tiredness again) in the sun we carry the bike uphill 250 m to a beautiful path above the valley. Its constant up and down is exhausting but the views and th flowy sections are absolutely worth it! Via Rifugio Bonatti (Cola stop) we follow this epic trail to Rifugio Bertone (more Cola). The downhill to Courmayeur is legendary, rough and rocky, long and challenging – another trail highlight of the TMB! Technically and phaysically fit riders are strongly recommended to include the “balcony” in their planning! We arrive at our hotel in Entreves just in time for an afternoon beer and some bike maintenance (I ran low on Cola in the final descent and caught a nasty cut in my rear tire) in the sun. A hot shower and meal and we hit the pillows to catch up on sleep.
We take it easy the next day and call a Taxi to shuttle us to the top station of the Val Veny gondola (closes end of August). A short pedal bring us to Maison Vielle where we stop for another coffee, we´re in Italy after all. A beautiful scenic high route takes us uphill with spectacular views on the glaciers on Mont Blancs south face. The size of the massif and the beauty of its peaks is mindblowing! A few kilometers and 500 vertical meters later a lightly technical trail takes us down into Val Veny. We follow the gravel road and the short climb to Rifugio Elisabetta Soldini where we stop for a plate of pasta in the sun and enjoy the views from the terrace. From here it is not too far to the Col de la Seigne, we follow the rough gravel road further into the Veny valley to Tza de la Blanche. Shortly after the bike needs to be pushed to the pass for about 45 minutes. It is a little windy at the Col so we hurry up and get ready for the downhill quickly. The following trails is mega-flowy and very fast almost all the way down to the valley. Today we are lucky and hardly meet any hikers so we can enjoy all the downhills without having to stop too often. Down in La Ville des Glaciers we mess up unfortunately and ride down the road to Les Chapieux. From the road we see a very promising looking trail on the other side of the valley, but it is too late, we are too far and we do not feel like turning ´round and pedalling all the way back… How could we miss that trail?! As we arrive in Les Chapieux we find a cozy terrace in the sun where we spend the afternoon drinking some beers and enjoying the scenery. Refuge Nova, our place for the night, offers a bike room and simple rooms and dinner. We have some nice conversations with hikers from all over the world before we go to bed.
After an early breakfast we get ready for the toughest day of our TMB. It is still cold outside in the narrow valley, with temperatures around the freezing point. We pedal up the small road towards Lac du Roselend for a short while and turn-off onto the hiking route around 200 m above Les Chapieux. We have quite some respect of the ascend to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, some describe this part as very tough, it´s around 700 m hike-a-bike. Fortunately the sun comes out soon and we find a good rhythm. After around two hours we have made it to the refuge and we are happy, that was not too tough! The traverse to and the descent from Col du Bonhomme is the technical challenge of our route, we are not sure how much will be rideable for us… Many parts of this downhill are very rough, lots of large rocks combined with steep and blocked section that require good line choice and dedication. The alpine road lower down is fast and has some fun rock gardens and takes us to Les Contamines. We stop here for a good lunch break, knowing the next pass is not spectacularly long but super steep towards the end. Col de Voza is only about 5 km and 800 vertical meters, but has an average gradient of around 14%. The final kilometers are around 20% steep on gravel. It is a hot day and we are suffering for 90 minutes! What a f*$%er of a pass! From the top we follow a combination of bikepark- and enduro trails to Les Houches. After an ice cream and the compulsory beer we find ourselves a place for dinner.
Owing to the limited time we have planned we are not able to add more trails above or around Chamonix – we aim to be home again tonight. Consequently we have to cover a lot of distance on tarmac initially. The amount of cars around Chamonix and the headwind make for an annoying start into the day… The bikepark in La Tour below Col de Balme is still open so we take the cable car to the Col. The downhill to Trient is not very difficult but starts rough and rocky, lower down in the forest it becomes even more fun with nice soil and roots combined with some switchbacks. A last uphill on the road brings us to Col de la Forclaz. On a combination of fun trails and doubletrack we roll down to Martigny where we started our Tour Mont Blanc four days ago. We finish with a big smile on the face (and a big beer in the hand), that was a fantastic trip on amazing trails through impressive landscapes!