Thursday, 11 September 2014

An ode to Le Telepherique du Brevent

If the Aiguille du Midi lift is the ultimate lift in Chamonix, if not the world, for testing your big mountain skiing the Brevent Lift is the ultimate lift for a test of mountain biking skill.

Brevent face behind 
I've blogged before about the riding at the top of the Brevent lift. read here.  Its extremely technical, and so much fun lower down.  It dawned on me today though, as I looked across to the big glaciers and high high mountains on the other side of the valley, that, if the glorious Aiguille du Midi lift is the ultimate ski lift,  then Le Brevent is the ultimate bikers lift.  The Midi, love it and hate it is the true Chamonix lift.  From town it whisks you to 3800m onto glaciers where you'll find some of the hardest north face ski lines in the world, wonderful free-ride couloirs to abseil into and open gentle glacial ski-touring.  However everyone else in Cham who thinks they are big time heads there too.  And in Easter every tourist and their trusty 'guide de montagne' swarm upon the lift and create endless moguls onto the Vallee Blanche.  It is Cham through and through, love it for the access, hate it for the ease of access and everyone else being there!

If you want to, it will challenge you close to breaking point!

Brevent Lift is pretty similar.  However with mountain biking being a minority sport in Chamonix, it doesn't get busy.  But it will still challenge you and maybe break you, or your bike. The top is so so technical, momentum is key.  The middle sections are faster, but still with big steps and rocks to test your nerve.  Belechat is switchback heaven, but if you preserver on you get more big descents, ridge lines, and multiple options of fun, flow-tech, fast, rocks, big roots and everything else that Cham riding can feature! 

Lower down, just above Merlet Parc
When you make it to the bottom in one piece, you smile, look back up and recount stories of near misses.  Much like you do when you get to the Grepon carpark after an powder filled Cosmiques couloir into Para Face run.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Keeping it going all the way back to the valley's

High above Samoens, not biking terrain, but still stunning. Can you spot the Argentiere basin?

After a busy and wet summer season guiding, followed by an exhausting, but exhilarating TRANS SAVOIE I somehow had to muster up the stamina and mental energy for my IML Summer Assessment.  It was tough!
Distant feature recognition
One of many flowers we spent hours huddled around
I made it back to Chamonix (thanks for having me you know who you are) with a urge to ride and use my valley lift pass.  My riding had slowed down a little this season so it was great to ride with some guys on big downhill bikes.  I mean try and keep up guys on downhill bikes.  I am still of thinking that in almost all situations, the Nukeproof Mega, is enough bike.  It's more the pilot that is slowing it down.  There are many good 'enduro' bikes these days and I think they are capable in all but the biggest of hits. And with a dropper post it's easy to ride uphill and traverse undulating trail sections...

Lucky that traversing ability as we had a trail in mind to get us to Argentiere from Flegere rather than going straight to Argentiere on the valley train.

The new Flegere lift cabin doesn't see many bikers these days so 5 of us were squeezed in taking up nearly half the cabin.  The footpaths up there are classic Cham flow-tech.  Welcome back I thought!  The end of the trail features many huge rocks and big roots which demand speed and concentration to keep a steady pace down to the village.

Humpo huck!
Once in Argentiere we headed across to our main objective for the day, The Grands Montets lift.  Rich had never ridden up there, and all the others had not been up there at all this season.  It was the last day of summer opening and after looking at the new lift station we hit the classic zig zag footpath down the front face back to the lift station.  It was dry so you could really lean into even the tightest of switchbacks to help you get around and keep 'flow' in order to be able to jump and hop your way down the faster sections. But we had to keep your eyes ahead, as there was always another switchback to catch you out!

Lower down there are several superb banked corners that you can ride high.  Tom had a go at the really high off camber line which dropped you into a perfect down slope just after a drainage ditch.  He claimed it was easy to keep the high off camber line, and the video on my iPhone does make it look easy, but in reality it looks tricky and is clearly a line that is not ridden very often unlike the lower line.

Andy on the wall ride
Up again and across this time to end up nearer Chamonix.  The Levancher trail takes a bit to get going, but there is a great variety of terrain.  A favourite always being the open meadow by the goat farm before dropping into sweeping lefts and rights with roots to launch off.  Luckily on the fast straight section we didn't come across any walkers unlike earlier on that morning.  Rich and Tom flew down on their downhill rigs.  Somewhere a big bike does have a ploughing through it style advantage.

Around the walkers

Meadows and views
It's great to ride with good friends again, getting back to the usual chit chat and indecisive-ness of where to eat and ride next that group dynamics bring. Funky coloured bread helped some of the group decide what to do, dog walking duty for Andy.  I wanted to ride more, but the other's were unsure.  What about that trail from Brevent that traverses towards Flegere then drops into the trees and gets faster and faster? They were sold.

The top trail section had quite a few walkers on it, but we were polite as ever and still got to shred and drop all the best bits.  Once we dropped into the tree's we only saw 3 or 4 walkers so we did it all in one go.  And we did pick up more and more speed!  I was able to hang on as Tom used up a few more of his 9 lives and Rich pumped down.

We still had the World Champs to watch on Redbull tv replay and we were kindly fed and entertained by our Aussie host! The riding on display was highly entertaining if not educational.

Welcome back to Cham riding, it's as great as ever!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Where do guides from Beaufort ride on their day off?

In Beaufort of course, and they show off what they can to their visiting friends!

Two friends of mine made the one and a half hour drive from Chamonix Valley into the Beaufortain.  I insisted that they came early so that we could get on the 9am bus (!) and make the most of the day.  The bike buses are great over here, but if you don't plan it correctly you can easily loose large chunks of the day.  Another reason a helping local hand is so useful.

From the top of Mont Bisane it was time for 18km of descending all the way to Albertville.   When I say all the way, I'm forgetting the 300m of vert 3/4 of the way through.  It's so worth it though, the trail features everything you can think of in a package that was related to "Servoz woods" by Tom H.  We made it down with about 25 minutes to spare and 'boshed' down some cans of coke whilst resisting the temptation to eat kebabs and instead opting for Tarte Beaufort's.  When in Rome you know!

Roller-coaster rollers

Tech climbing

little teapots

Down here!

After lots of deliberating about what to show my friends for the afternoon we settled on classic Col de Pre trails. A hot pedal followed by some creative bike packing saw us climbing the last section into the woods.  At the trail head we, well Wim, chatted with some old locals about mountain biking in the area.  We all dropped in and they loved seeing us disappear off down the rocky trail.  Gloria was getting her flow on now! Super lekker! Whilst others over shot corners.

We were not done after the flow show as we all had a little bit of energy left.  And also guides still have work to do on their days off.  It was time for me to ride a new trail too!  Pink Eye.
Top Tip-  Never ask guides where trail names come from...

Always climbing to be done
 After a short climb we ate some madeline's, talked about deep-frying chocolate bars, and we talked about trail names...  This trail we were all about to be shown was not super long, but it was lots of fun.  Grassy meadows, rocks and roots and even a waterfall. But best of all, it finished right into Beaufort town, near the bar!

Gloria ordered a huge Hoegaarden beer, cos Colorado girls aren't just good at mountain biking, but they are also good at beer drinking!  Happy trails to you my dear!
Pink eye delight

Pink eye delight part 2

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Magnetic tree's and more...

  1. an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.

    As well as characters that feature idea's of grandeur we've had some great tree leaning sessions.  There's one tree in Areches that just seems to pull everyone in!  Once your around it though, it kicks you out into some great fast riding...

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Story of the summer

Once it was like this:

Chamonix-meteo.com says:
PRECIPITATION : scattered from noon - possible thunderstorm - changing to continuous and locally heavy rain in the evening.
PRECIPITATION : becoming moderate in the first part of the night - probably continuous until dawn.
PRECIPITATION : continuous and moderate in the morning - changing to showers, fairly heavy in the afternoon.
Very uncertain...

Hopefully by Thursday we can get back to ever classic Massif views rather than views of muddy bikes, brushes and dirty shorts:

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Once a week treat

A journey of utilising a small village chairlift that is only open for one day a week

Over here there is a lift that is only open on Tuesday, so when the weather plays ball it's time to get up and gain some easy height to access two of the very best trails around all of the Alps.

A bit of pushing straight up a piste and a traverse around the hillside lead us to a col with breathtaking views back across the Beaufortain and Massif du Mont Blanc.  In the other direction you could see south into the Isere region.  Somewhere below in the clouds was Albertville where we'd eventually finish off for the bus ride home.

The trail from the col traverses across aplages on singletrack before hitting a gravel track that skirts the hillside for several kilometres linking up all the local farms and huts.  This is cheese country after all.  It's by one of these farm's that we cut off up through a field to find a trail head that just begins out of nowhere when looking on the map.  It's strange, because it's an amazing undulating balcon of a trail.  It is however about 1 hour from the lift station.

another ribbon of delight
After traversing, don't miss the turn downwards into the some of the tightest swtichbacks around.  You must do this section to then be rewarded with the choice of two amazing trails.  These really are some of the best around, many people who've been down rate them as the best, topping les Arc, all of Destination X and even topping the best in Europe according to one guy.
Fast tick, loam tick, flowing corners tick, technical sections tick, long, hell yeah!

The two trail's converge 4/5 of the way down and end in a small village which then requires an 8km flat road ride into Albertville to get the bus home.  The descent is usually so well received people are not bothered at all.  There is also a nice water fountain at the bottom to cool off and re-fill bladders with.  

After the excitement of that for one day only I had to put up with trails and views like this in 30.C temperatures:

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Its not actually been a bad week to be injured

As far as injuries go, the wettest week in the alps isn't a bad one to miss


Before the constant rain and mist enveloped us we rode some great trails:

And then this happened, snow down to 1800m:

And as you can "follow" in my instragram I've been cooking up perfect Savoyard winter food to keep warm:

Today I've been getting back up to speed in the mist and remnants of the mud.  There is talk of it getting up to 30.c by the end of the week.  Could it even be dusty trails with enduro goggle set-up?