Blissed Out in Switzerland II
Why go half way around the world when there is so much riding to be done at home? I’m asked that question all the time when I tell people about riding abroad. My answers vary but more often than not I explain that spending my vacations sitting on a beach somewhere just isn’t as appealing to me as the possibility of sitting on my bike at the top of a far off mountain with one foot on my pedal waiting to tear into virgin singletrack. It may sound romantic but there is something that wreaks of real adventure when you’re far from home on your bike.
Adventure mountain biking is what Chris Winter calls what Big Mountain offes to its clients. Their tours appeal to individuals that share the obsession for the high places and delighting in the adventure that happens between the first pedal stoke at the top of the mountain and the last in the distant valley below. The bigger the descent, the more chance there is for something profound to happen even if its just one blissful moment. Nowhere is this illustrated better than in Switzerland, the birth place of Big Mountain. The rides truly are big and adventure is found around every corner and in between pedal strokes in the postcard-perfect Swiss countryside.
In Switzerland there is almost always a lift to some place higher up.
Wade Simmons leans into the turn in a narrow ribbon of singletrack that winds its way through a postcard perfect Swiss meadow before disappearing into the tree line.
Wade Simmons and Joe Schwartz look like people riding away from an angry giant in a monster movie – The Murder Horn is angry.
La Cabane du Mont Fort is a popular stop on the Haute Route or the High Route of mountaineering trails that run between Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland.
Wade Simmons and local racer Ludo May, start their decent to the valley below in the failing light.
With the sun dipping behind the mountains we start another decent on a trail as gooey as the cheese in my belly – led by senior guide Joe Schwartz.
Chris and Joe discuss the best route down to La Valais some 6000 vertical feet below La Cabane du Mont Fort.
We race the sun as it dips below the distant peaks, the sky golden in twilight turning to molten silver. Riders: Chris Winter, Wade Simmons and Joe Schwartz.
This is Wade Simmons tearing up trails with big mountains glowing in the background. It almost sounds like the ideal mountain bike scene from that movie you saw sometime.
One of my best memories is of Chris Winter and I descending through alpine towns with the streetlights blinking into wakefulness around us in the mounting darkness.
Wade and Joe exploring the alpine meadows on their final day in Switzerland.
Wade Simmons, Joe Schwartz and Chris Winter gather at the top before beginning the last descent of the tour.
After descending 130,000 vertical feet in 2 weeks one might think they might be tired of riding but I have never seen 2 guys enjoy being on a bike more than Joe and Wade.
Joe Schwartz, Dave Smith and Chris Winter straight-cold-chillin’ in the ancient way.
Chris Winter dropping into the trailhead of la Vallée Express, a steep, rutty switch-backed track that offers amazing views of the valley floor.
The locals have another name for la Vallée Expres. They call the trail Vertigo because of the obvious exposure but also because of how fast you can rack up the vertical meters.
The winding curve of La Vallée Express gives way to a perfect tunnel of alder trees that ends at the back door of Hotel la Vallée in our home base of Lourtier.
The light at the end of the tunnel punctuates the end of La Valée Express.
Big Mountain is offering two Alpenrock trips in 2009 – Friday, August 14 to Saturday, August 22, 2009 and Saturday, August 22 to Sunday, August 30, 2009. Cost is $2925 CAD. Details here
If you missed part one of Swiss Bliss click here…
Want to get more of a feel for the the riding on the Alpenrock tour? Check the video below.