I had in my agenda to write this story .. for a while now .. I will do my best to try to give you at least a taste of how is was…
After having Ernst convincing me that this is a challenging trip , I had subscribed at the beginning of the year for it. I really had no idea what to expect and how to best prepare for it. So I did what I do always.. ride the bike as much as I can :-). We will ride around 400 km in 6 days with more than 10000 height meters.
Day 1. After driving the 800 km I have reached the start place… the Verbier place hanging up in the mountains (an ex Tour de France pass). Place is wonderful..people are nice. We start with some beer and stories, getting to know each other. We are a total of 10 – 3 guides and 7 followers. The first evening goes well:
we get the final inspection of our bikers, some tricks are shown around, some tires get changed.. You can see that everybody is up for the unexpected and eager to start once the “trip”.
Day 2. We start with cold and gray weather (..a very positive start..) and I can see that on the size of my backpack – I think it is 5 kilos heavy and I will need to carry it every day: it contains the drinks, the clothes, the food (we are being served every day with 2 sandwiches and Matt knows how to prepare them the best – they are delicious and quite sizeable 🙂 )
For the second day we have a short route in the program. The idea is to get some pre-technical expertise before the real mountains begin. The trip takes us up down from Verbier and up the valley following the direction towards the Italian border. We are still in Switzerland but we do start to climb a part towards the ” Cole de la Ferret “.
After a good night sleep (well, sleeping seems to be no problem after a full day of hard working) we start the day with by enjoying the cold cold weather. There is still not clear if we ca
n make it over the cole with this kind of weather – it is snowing up there… Well, this is good for the 2nd day already. But we are strong, we can make it.. 🙂 The climb is long and heavy. It gets colder and colder.. whiter and whiter.. we are reaching 2400 meter in full snow.. we need to go to 2780 to pass. Well, there is no way back so we keep climbing. We try to follow the example of Bart which is carrying Fenke behind him using some strange plastic construction :-). Once we reach the pass things are changing rapidly. The “Italian” side looks to be more clear and nice. We are up for the descent and we really get it. There is a long technical descent that starts at 2780 and goes till 1600 where the first mountain cabin can be reached. It took me some time and blood (1st fall) to reach it ..but it is worth. The rest follow up slowly. Of course, Maarten is the first as his technique is wow (for somebody being 50 years old.. gives me different perspective)…. we know have to speak Italian.. so cool.. The weather gets better and better.. we have the first pass done.. what can be more relaxing??
The rest of the day is composed of some techincal climbs and descents. One can feel the tension in the air – everybody is focused as there is no place for error. Every place requires some different techniques making it difficult and challanging at once. I can say that after this whole week my techique improved soo much. I can feel the bike better and I can estimate the diffculty much better.
After the last climb (a long and steep asphalted road) we are stopping for the night at Refugio di Monte Bianchi – a lovely place in the middle of the Mont Blanc glaciers. The beer and food comes handy now… very handy :-). We have made 60 km over the highest pass from this trip, but we are not there yet.
We are climbing further follwoing an army path towards the border with France. Really amaizing overview, nature is wonderful here and we are enjoying it. We are klimbing high again and passing into France through a technical descent again. Lucly the weather is lovely this time.
We are now in Les Chapieux and we still have to go for the last climb before reaching the destination. The climb takes us over an asphalted road to Cormet de Roseland. I have a short competition with Maarten and Ernst is following back together with Kor. The group is getting more and more friendly which makes the trip even nicer.
To finish the route, the route takes us with a de-tour of the Lac du Roseland where a marmot and a fox can be spotted. There is still something strange about this place as it is so quite and savage. It gives one the impression of always being lost as you are surrender by the high mountains from each side. After some complex route search ( …we got lost :-)) we reach out destination – a mountain cabin on the side of the lake – wonderful. We enjoy the nice weather and a beer on the patio… again…what you need more than that ?
We are expecting serious climbing. The difficulty is high and we are enjoying again the super-view. Lakes and mountains.. as long as you can see. Some military planes try to do some exercises and disturb the quite of the place. The climbing start to get very difficult, but we are expecting our first view on the top of Europe: the Mont Blanc. After some bike-walking we reach the top… well.. that was worthwhile.
More to come on the second part of the story….