High-Alps MTB Tour 2002
A Mountain-Bike Week in the
Swiss, French and Italian
Day 5, Wednesday, July 24, 2002: Lac de Tignes – Col de la Seigne (2515m) – Courmayeur, Italy
Today we wake up at an elevation of 2000m in Lac de Tignes. Andi starts the day with a short off-road MTB trial.
To warm up, we pedal past the shops we better remember from various skiing vacations many years ago. It is a strange sight to ride past the restaurants and shops we have only seen so far from the Apres Ski circus.
enjoy clear skies and views of the
We are happy that we only need to endure this traffic for a brief period of time, as we take the less traveled road climbing up again towards the North. Only a few days ago the Tour de France has been passing on this very same road. We still see signs alongside the road as well as chalk markings on the road and garbage at some rest stops. We certainly pedal at slower cadence and move along with slower speeds; nevertheless we managed to cross many passes and covered quite a distance over the last couple of days as well.
During our climb we stretch out over several km, as each one of us rides up at their own speeds. After about 700m or 1 hr of climbing we wait at the intersection where our path leads away from the big road towards the East into the ‘Vallee des Glaciers' just South of the Mont Blanc.
The sun beats down and it is quite hot at 1:00pm. Shortly after this intersection we stop for over 1 hr and have lunch. Little did we know how quickly the weather would deteriorate! Within less than ˝ hr the sun is gone and dark, low hanging clouds cover all the mountains and threaten with rain.
continue to pedal uphill into the valley. We have a high mountain pass ahead of
us to get to our destination of the day: The famous Italian mountain
Once at the end of the road we need to hike up another 800m or so, pushing the MTB if not carrying it. On the before-mentioned 4-day MTB trip in 1995 around the Mt. Blanc Frank and I saw a rider coming up this same slope. He had so much luggage loaded on his bike that he needed to make two trips: One for the luggage without the bike, then descending and coming back up again, this time with the bike! Compared to that we enjoy our “Travel-Light” approach that allows us to shoulder our bikes and small packs and carry everything up if need be.
While there is harldy any sun, the clouds don’t develop into rain either. Overall it is quite scenic looking back into the valley we have been riding up.
happens to be the first of us four and ahead by a few minutes. For some reason
I accelerate and try to catch up with him. He thinks I’m trying to race him and
so he accelerates as well. So we engage in a little race to the top, which pegs
our heart rate at 180 bpm and keeps us sweating like crazy! We are oblivious of
the unfolding clouds and we certainly don’t mind the cool wind. At the top the
col is occasionally shrouded in mist. Every now and then the clouds still open
up and we can already see down towards the East into
are again at an elevation above 2700m, but still more than 2000m lower than the
high slopes of the Mont Blanc to our immediate North-East, with 4807m the
highest point in
The following long descent is a bit technical at times, but we can still ride down most of the way.
we get far enough down the valley, we get out of the shade and enjoy some beautiful
light in the afternoon sun. The round, white-capped summit straight above our
heads is the top of
light is magic. We stop and take lots of pictures. We envision the cover shots
of bike magazines with similar light and surroundings. The covr story: “Come
We decide to hike up to the moraine of this huge glacier coming down from the high elevations. While somewhat unusual in the sense that we are now moving on foot without our bikes, this reveals some stunning views up and down the glacier, which is covered with several feet of dirt and rocks at its bottom.
further descent into Courmayeur is a summer dream: We follow our long shadows
and the sun is about to disappear behind the mountain range and the wall of clouds
which formed due to the strong
we are in the cool shadow of the mountain range. We roll down towards the
valley, in part at very high speeds. Once in the
Next we all take a shower and put on our fresh cloths – or shall we say, the not-so-sweaty cloths – to get ready for dinner.
Dinner has rarely tasted any better, with fresh-baked oversize pizzas, so big that the four of them hardly fit on our table. We toast the preceding five days wth a glas of red wine.
to believe, but this will be our last night on this trip! We have only one more
day to ride over the Col de Ferret into the Swiss part of the