High-Alps MTB Tour 2002


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



Day 6, Thursday, July 25, 2002: Courmayeur – Col Ferret (2535m) – Lourtier, Switzerland


Today is our last day. We start in Courmayeur, at a low elevation of 1,224 m. The southern ranges of the Mt. Blanc (4,807 m) are towering almost 3,600 m (12,000 ft) above us!

Climbing up to the Col Ferret will require about 1300 m (4000 ft). We start slowly in the cool, almost cold morning air. The sun reaches us. It feels good to get warm, but not hot. In fact, there is a cold wind blowing down from the high mountain which requires us to keep the wind jacket. One French guy passes us by riding up this valley with his chest naked, without even so much as a T-Shirt! I can’t understand how he can tolerate the cold wind…

We follow a small street to the end of the Val Ferret. Finally we warm up and shed some layers of clothing. It is a beautiful scenery along the little river coming down from the glaciers.

Our first goal is a local hut which also attracts a lot of tourists and day hikers. Initially we ride in groups of two, chatting about various aspects of our lives back home, which seems strangely remote at this point. Later, as the steepening slope forces the road into switch-backs, we each find our own rhythm and climb towards the end of the road.

Eventually we reach the hut around 11:20am. We park the bikes and have some drinks and refreshments. We have the peak where France, Italy and Switzerland’s borders come together in a single point just to our North.

After some well deserved rest at the hut we continue towards the Col Ferret. Now there is no more road, so we push our bikes along a small foot path. The higher we climb, the more the surrounding scenery unfolds. In the following still looking West, the mountain above the bike is the Grandes Jorasses; its famous North face is considered one of the toughest combined rock / ice climbs in the Alps.

Finally we top out at the Col Ferret at 1:30pm. We stand on the Italian and Swiss border. Strong and cold wind greets us so we don’t linger very long.

We put on our wind jackets and start to roll down the East side of the pass. Luckily the path is smooth and not very steep, so we can ride down almost the entire descent.

It is a long way down. First there are steep flanks, but the path leads down in switch-backs which can almost all be negotiated without getting off the bike.

Eventually we reach the end of the road leading down and out the valley to the East. When we get to the first little village, we stop for some more coffee and drinks. The view goes back up to the mountains and pass we have just crossed.

It is 3:30pm. We are all tired. Perhaps our bodies sense that we are approaching the end of this MTB week with its daily dose of 2000m vertical climbs and frenzied bike descents. Speaking of which, first we have to roll down all the way out to the lowest parts of the valley. It is a sheer endless road and we are playing with each others draft as we roll down, trying to assume as aerodynamic a position as possible.

After a long descent and rounding another corner at the bottom of the valley we need to ride back up to Lourtier. Even though it is only about 200m, this last climb really stings. Only the knowledge that our car is up there keeps us going and at 5:30pm we finally reach Lourtier.

We have closed the loop! 5 days ago we started here early in the morning full of anticipation for the high mountains and passes we got to see. What a great trip!

We take a shower in the hotel we had stayed at the very beginning as per our agreement with the host there. This proves quite refreshing and is more than necessary for our long late-night drive back to Munich. Before we take off, we pose for one more group picture in front of the hotel.

The trip back is a long one, but all in all uneventful. It is way past midnight when four tired, but thoroughly happy bikers get out of the car in Munich.

Three days later, Frank celebrates his 40th birthday in Munich on a splendid summer evening. All four bikers are invited, and after dinner other guests see us all huddling over our photos and digital pictures as well as sharing the story of the greatest MTB trip of our lives.