Alps Biker 2016


En route from Marseille to the Alps

I'm riding light for a week on the mountain roads of the Alps. No laptop, although I do have my SLR camera but photos will have to wait till I'm back in Marseille..

I left Marseille for a long ride north via the Col de la Croix Haute (1179 m.) to Saint-Gervais under Mont Blanc. A bit of rain towards the end of the day which cleaned the Provence dust off my white leathers and boots but didn't soak me through.

Col du Galibier, the old frontier between Savoie and France

That Friday morning on the balcony of the hotel in Valloire will be remembered forever as where I heard that the UK started Brexit. We’ll have plenty more of that in days to come, meanwhile “Keep Calm and Carry On” comes to mind.
A memorable morning for riding too, putting on my leathers and crash-hat for the last time on this trip and concentrating on the mountain road up to the Col du Galibier (2645 m.), firstly through alpages (Alpine pastures). I came round a bend to disturb two marmottes on the road. They froze, I slowed down and they ran off in to the lush grass and fields. I think they were basking on the hot tarmac, understandable behaviour but not a good survival strategy. Onwards up as the road climbed through the familiar phases of the middle mountain, alpages giving way to bare rock or gravel, finally walls of packed snow either side of the tarmac. The weather changed, misty clouds attaching to the peaks of the Écrins to the south, the peaks I’ve now left behind to the north hidden in hazy mist. Mont Blanc massif not showing.

Read more: Galibier - Lautaret - Marseille

Great St Bernard Pass road down to Italy

Dawn in the high mountains, then an Italian breakfast and super coffee. Riding down from the col, gathering speed as the road improves but still with scary drops and hard landings at every turn. The Italians have this road in good shape, as did the Swiss on their side.

Mont Blanc, Italian side

Finally down in Aoste and feeling the full heat of the midsummer sun. My route takes me back up the Vallée d’Aoste to Courmayeur, the valley headed by the magnificent south side of Mont Blanc.

Read more: Great St Bernard - Little St Bernard - Iseran -Télégraphie

Brilliant ride round the three Swiss passes around the watershed between the Rhône,  the Rhine and the Po. Each pass is different, they’re all well higher than 2000m and to ride again the trio one after the other has been difficult to arrange. Yesterday’s precipitation fell as snow on the peaks so the views are as distracting as they come. Glaciers, deep valleys and many, many tetrahedral granite peaks with relief outlined by the new snow.
Col of the Sustem Pass
The Susten pass (2224 m.) is the most obvious choice for “best ride”, both the brilliant road engineering of the climb up the valley of the river Aare from Meiringen and the deceptively fast curves on the  long run down the mountainside to Andermatt. Deceptive: even more than usual it’s one missed apex and it’s light out or back to the wheelchair, game over.
Furka pass road up from Andermatt
Up to the Furka Pass (2436 m.) from Andermatt, the route hasn’t been “improved” like the Susten. So a more rustic surface and old-style granite or concrete markers on the edge of the precipice. The vertiginous drops affect the car drivers too, meaning they don’t stay on their side of the road.

Read more: Susten - Furka - Grimsel - Great St Bernard

Fresh snow on Mont Blanc at Saint-Gervais

Starting from the Alpine spa town of Saint-Gervais, my ride was under the flanks of Mont Blanc (4809 m.), showing brilliant white with lots of fresh new snow from the previous night's storm..

Read more: Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc - Haslital, Bernese Oberland