High-Alps MTB Tour 2002


A Mountain-Bike Week in the Swiss, French and Italian Alps



Day 0: MunichLourtier, Switzerland

Day 1: Lourtier – Fenętre de Durand (2797m) - Aosta, Italy

Day 2: Aosta – Val Savarenche

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







It 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 challenging passes.

We 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.

In 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!

This 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: MunichLourtier, Switzerland

We 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.

The 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 hours…



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