A Mountain-Bike Week in the
Swiss, French and Italian Alps
Day 0: Munich
– Lourtier, Switzerland
Day 1: Lourtier – Fenętre de
Durand (2797m) - Aosta, Italy
Day 2: Aosta – Val
Day 3: Col
de Nivolet (2532m) - Val d’Isere – Col
de l’Iseran (2770m), France
Day 4: Bonneval S. Arc – Col
de la Leisse (2758m) - Lac de Tignes
Day 5: Lac de Tignes – Col de la Seigne (2515m) – Courmayeur, Italy
Day 6: Courmayeur – Col Ferret (2535m) – Lourtier, Switzerland
was early in the year 2002 when my good friend Frank had announced plans for
“some big trip” in the summer of 2002 just prior to his 40th
birthday. Finally he published his plan on a personal website: A 1 week
Mountain-Bike (MTB) trip through some of the finest parts of the central Alps,
around the area where Switzerland,
France and Italy’s borders meet near the famous Mt. Blanc.
This part of the Alps has the highest peaks and some of the biggest glaciers;
there a few high pass-roads which can be negotiated in a car, many of those up
to 2800m high and only open from late May to early October due to winter-snow.
Frank had pretty much crossed all those passes with his motorcycles over the
last 2 decades. As a matter of fact, he came to study road maps for the best
routes on how to combine those passes to form large round trips over
also had occasionally ventured into some of those areas, either skiing (for
instance in Val d’Isere) or doing shorter MTB rides. On some of those MTB day
trips we would venture as high as we could to the end of some small dirt road.
From there it would be a hike up another vertical 500m or so to cross the next
pass to cross over to the next valley on the other side of the mountain. Even
back then we let our mind wander how cool it would be to just carry the MTB
across and keep going like that for multiple days.
fact Frank and I had done one such 4-day trip around the Mt.
Blanc 7 years prior. It had been the most spectacular MTB trip until then, also
touching 3 countries (Switzerland,
France, Italy) and crossing 4 high passes around Mt. Blanc.
I still remember sitting in Chamonix in late
August during morning rain, drinking French coffee and reading about the launch
of Microsoft Windows 1995!
time in July 2002 we would ride as a group of four: Frank Sarre, Andreas
Winklhofer, Markus Zobel and myself. In his usual perfectionism, Frank prepared
everything meticulously and left nothing to chance. He not only scouted out the
best possible route, but also organized hotel rooms in advance and offered
transport using his Audi wagon.
Day 0, Friday,
July 19, 2002: Munich – Lourtier, Switzerland
get off work a bit early and meet at Andi’s home in Germering Friday afternoon
to load up Frank’s Audi Avant with 4 MTBs on the roof.
600km approach drive from Munich via Zurich and the Lake Geneva
and Martigny is uneventful. We talk a lot about work and work-life balance. One
thing is for sure: This coming week we will add a lot on the life side of this
balance J Our drive is only interrupted by a brief dinner.
It is getting late when we pull up into a small valley East of Martigny to the
little Swiss village
of Lourtier. From a
previous trip Frank had still known a small hotel called “La Vallee”, organized
the rooms via phone and email, had the room keys dropped in a specific
location, and thus enabled us to get in even after midnight. We were very
tired, but also excited that the big tour was about to begin in just a few
>> Day 1