Mountain biking one of the most famous hiking trails in the world is a challenge very hard to be refused. Three of my best friends who are engaged with enduro biking had the idea, made the planning and invited me to join them. Even though I considered myself less than amateur on this field how could I say no to such a lifetime experience? It was like hearing the Godfather saying that he would made me a proposal that it could not be rejected!
It was last days of July we flew off to Milan and drove up to Courmayeur. We arrived early afternoon and two of us tried, really hard to be honest, to rent a bike. Village had it all but bikes! Nonetheless, was vivid enough and we enjoyed our stay. Lots of restaurants and cafés. Crowded enough by people who had a different approach of summer vacation meaning.
Signs was not in favor; the moment we started biking a heavy summer shower gave us a not so warm welcome. Perhaps it was the way of Mont Blanc to wish us good luck!
Biking across Val Veny, heading South to our first pit stop at Ref. Elisabetta Soldini under the view of Glacier du Miage. After few greek lessons to Marta, here we left Italy and crossed the borders on the Col de la Seigne. Voilá, the French side Alps. Getting some energy on Ref. de la Nova for the,- you might call it “highlight of the day!”- Ref. CAF de la Croix du Bonhomme where we are supposed to spend the night.
Well behind our time schedule since ascent was way harder than we had expected. At least we did make it on time for dinner. Conditions were not so great but no complaints since we had managed to book the last four beds. Food was great but if you wish to have breakfast you have to wake up really early; earlybirds get all the good stuff and refill is not a priority there.
There was no luck during the second day neither . First few kilometers of the descent was quite the same awful as the previous day’s last ones in ascent. Well, between us, a hiking trail is good for,- what else?- HIKING! Hiking not biking, we got to the point… Later though things went way beyond better and we celebrated our luck with a humble picnic by the river near Les Contamines. Next stop was on the Chalet Nid’ Aigle. Apart from the reviving beer, we met, also, the Mont Blanc tramway (yes, you guess right, we were tempted to get onboard!).
Descent was again in the beginning not so favorable but later on became one of the best parts of the route. Steep descent to Les Houches and road biking to Chamonix under heavy rain. We had booked in advanced a room in Fleur des Nieges, a good choice for budget living. We took some time off at the hotel and, then, went to the town center for an evening stroll. The town itself is simply wonderful offering you ample choices to do everything.
Day started, this time, splendid. Biking across the river in a well paved path towards Argentiere and Le Tour. That was the point that we were lazy enough and took the lift in order to avoid around 800 meters of ascent. Soon enough we paid our crime. A wrong turn led us to an awful part of a- merely not- trail. We did deviate a bit but we climbed once again to Col. du Forclaz.
Crossing this borders was celebrated with what else but chocolates. Our final destination for the day was some way just after Champex. Well, take a guess, trail was not for biking. Pushing all the way up and for most of it, down. Night had fallen and hardly managed to make a stop and have dinner. Restaurants have a strict policy about operating hours. We finally reached our hosting house using flashlights around 2300.
Leaving the chalet was hard, really hard. Excellent choice as a last minute deal few days before our trip. Well, we biked all the way the Val Ferret and it was quite easy to La Fouly. Then we had to climb, last on the tour but not least, to Col. du Gran Ferret .
It was painful but bikeable on the most part. Passing once again to Italy and Val Veny to Courmayeur. Getting of course from there back to Milan to catch on your early flight is another story.
All in All
It’s been an unforgettable experience in the midst of breathtaking scenery. That mix of the green valleys, lively forests and impressive glaciers set a unique and rewarding theme. Lucky enough to have only one blown tire, some issues with the chain and some blisters. In terms for what we did was nothing. My advice. Go for it! Worth every single step!
✔No water supplies needed. You can refill your bottle every now and then. Water is abundant/ ample.
✔Hiking TMB counterclockwise (CCW) but biking it clockwise (CW) according to the mountain guides (still not sure about it!).
✔Plan to rent a bike at Chamonix or La Thuille. Sure not in Courmayeur; its an endangered species there!Showers are quite often so be always prepared.