Big mountains and big descents seem to have become a feature of the Enduro/Trail riding landscape at the moment, with some bike companies choosing to launch their products in stunning locations, often we are left wondering where it is they were and what it is really like in that location. It’s been a while since we personally did some big mountain riding. However when the offer came up to discover some trails with Martin Butler from Alpine Trails in the Valais area in Switzerland, we could not refuse and made our way up to base camp near Sierre at Hotel Bella-Tola, after a long drive it was the perfect start location for some epic days of riding.
Our route and riding locations were based around the Valais region and Zermatt mountain in the French part of Swizerland. It is possible to do different epic rides each day. There is no doubt that getting around in Switzerland is almost a no brainer. The public buses have bike racks and drop you at the bottom or even in some cases half way up some epic mountains, this is exactly how our story started.
Video – Alpine Epic Trails
Day 1 – Ascent Day
Our first epic riding day started early in the morning as we had to get the Swiss Poste bus to the top of the mountain before we started our climb up to the very top of the mountain chain.
We had programmed to sleep at the top of the mountain so we were all carrying some basic spare clothing and sleep gear for the night. These mountain huts generally then feed you and keep you sheltered at night, in September it was not busy, isolated and minimum a few hours from civilisation we just sat there and appreciated the views and where we had come from by bike and tried to recover somewhat from one of the hardest climbs we have ever done.
Day 2 – Descent
After 7 hours sleep we got up early to observe the sunrise and prepare ourselves for the major descent which at our pace was supposed to take us around 3-5 hours depending how much we stopped to enjoy the view. The trails at the top are very steep and cut across the mountain faces, leaving little room for error when riding, so we started to understand the use of having our guide Martin, who advised us of the best way to ride and which paths were safe.
The high mountain ridges after about 1 hour gaveway to the lower high mountains, still above the tree lines, but with more vegetation, we rode down some amazing single track, and stopped where possible to enjoy the views.
Finally after exhausting our camera batteries and wearing through our brakes we got to the bottom at 600 metres. The descent this day was 98.4% down and 1.6% up. With stats like that it is hard to know where is a better place to ride.
There is no doubt big mountain riding is fun, in our experience we would say that this epic adventure beat doing the Mega Avalanche which is also an awesome ride, but there is no doubt ridge lines and single track like what we experienced here in Valais with Alpine trails just can’t be topped easily. The views were stunning, the hospitality exceptional, the hotels comfortable, clean and with great service. We ate like kings and drank good beer and wine finally we slept really well as we were very tired at the end of each day. We are not sure that a better experience can be had. Four hours of descents in one day on really great well maintained single track with a really helpful guide is something we cant forget.
It’s interesting to note if doing a trip like this the season when you travel is important as is the weather, we managed to go when it was sunny, but being in the mountains is a changeable experience and it is worth making sure that as a rider you have all the right gear and layers as we found ourselves often stopping to adjust our temperature and weather proofing as needed. Our advice is get a guide it makes the riding so much more easy going as we didn’t have to worry about where we were going or the details Martin took care of it so we could just enjoy riding. We recommend having some fitness for this type of ride and some basic riding skill as there are parts which can be hard to ride although the guides take you where they know as riders you will be comfortable.