Mountain Biking the Valais Alps Slideshow

Mountain Biking the Valais Alps Slideshow

Steep means switchbacks, and the terrain here is steep. This section of trail made for an easy morning, rolling straight in to the descent from the Monastery’s heavy oak doors. As with so much in life though, we paid for it later, this time with a 1500ft climb back up.

Jez and Guillaume race the light to get home in time for supper. Knowing you have a comfy bed and a hearty meal waiting for you helps you dig deep on the climbs back to the monastery.

Icons stand on both sides of the border here, but only on the Italian side will you find real good coffee. We pause to contemplate the scale of our surroundings as dusk falls.

Dusky sprints for cover and a warm bed finished the rides we did at the Grand St Bernard. The food at the monastery is good and hearty mountain fare, washed down with local wine, and makes the perfect end to an epic day of riding.

Occasional sections of fast flowing trail punctuate the steep climbs and descents, not least this final balcony suspended majestically above the lake at the pass. In summer the road pass is popular with motoring tourists, but few stop for longer than it takes to buy a postcard or stuffed St Bernard dog toy, let alone appreciate the areas trail potential.

Day two meant starting with a big push up the rocky mountainside. Dwarfed by our surroundings, it was easy to get a sense of what the early explorers/conquerors might have felt marching through these impressive and daunting peaks.

Guillaume tackles one of the many typical alpine rock gardens that keep the climbs challenging. The trails here are centuries old, but the rocky terrain means they have kept their character. Lower down we climbed up ancient broken cobbles that once bore the footsteps of Napoleons army.

Tight switchbacks down steep mountainsides are typical of e fun to be had in the Alps. Guillaume peers down into the abyss and contemplates the way ahead while trying to remember the fineries of his switchback technique.

Riding this part of the Alps Is not for the faint hearted. Exposure, loose rock and steep terrain will test any riders confidence and ability but the rewards are there if you are ahead of your game.

Open all year, the monastery is a firm favourite for ski tourers too, though much of the big wall terrain is out of their league. For the few months a year when snow is absent on the Grand St Bernard pass though, the same jaw dropping scenery makes for some of the most spectacular backdrops to some of the most epic riding.