A night of torrential rain preceded the start to our epic ride, leaving the first forest climb damp and, of course, slippery. It also made the rock and root gardens that punctuated the climb out of Morzine that little bit more challenging, setting a pattern for the whole trip.
With a lung-punishing climb out of Linderets behind him, Keith McIntosh rails one of the flowy bends that typify the trails of this valley. The Passeporte loop uses many of the areas enhanced trails, focusing on flow rather than natural tech, to keep the masses happy.
Another day, another climb. Keith and Greg begin the slow advance up yet another incline that arrives mid morning on day two. No matter how much you study the topographic maps, the amount of climbing in an epic like this can still come as an eye-opener.
Mike gasps for oxygen during the first steep climb out of Morgex, at the start of day two. Jeep tracks make for easier climbing, but fortunately deliver you to singletrack descents. The area boasts hundreds of miles of trails, many lift accessed via 30-dollar day tickets.
Hitting the Portes du Soleil when the lifts are closed might seem foolhardy, but guarantees you will have the trails to yourself. It also means riding in autumn when the alpine meadows are tinged with golden grass, the summer heat has been replaced by perfect riding temperatures and the dust of the summer DH riders has settled.
The steep, unforgiving rock faces of mountains above Champery provide a sunning backdrop escape from the challenge of long climbs. Home of one of the steepest, most grueling races on the World Cup DH circuit Champery boasts some more XC styled trails too. Our loop bi-passed many of these trails to allow us to finish the epic, but they beg to be revisited.
Catholic crosses decorate many of the peaks of the Alps, and are the reason many of the original trails exist in the first place. While not necessarily sharing their constructors’ religious beliefs, these landmarks make the summits of climbs, such as this one above Champery, easier to spot and pace yourself on the climb.
Getting lost in the Portes du Soleil is impossible, though without the free map, the area’s several interlocking valleys and dogleg trails can be confusing and disorientating.
Our second afternoon delivered the only short jeep track descent we rode in two days, an unavoidable double-track link back towards our starting point. Dropping away from Champery Greg pins the jeep track blissfully unaware of the steep climb up the last pass to follow.
Climbs are just the price you pay for fast descents when the lifts are closed. Lift tickets are removing the climbing element from mountain biking, but with a little willing and a lot of stamina, even areas famous for their lift accessed trails can be the source of adventure biking.