Alpine Trails – Swiss Alps Bike Adventure

Alpine Trails – Swiss Alps Bike Adventure

01/10/2014
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01/10/2014

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.

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Location

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.

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Video – Alpine Epic Trails

Alpine Trails Epic from MTB MAG on Vimeo.

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.

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Our ride started here, up above Sant Luc and close to the Italian border, we started pedalling at 2000 metres, with an aim to reach 3000 metres.

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The lakes are used as pump storage and almost all the valleys have them.

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At the head of the valley is a glacier, which was one of 16 we saw that day as we started the slow climb upwards.

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The glacier below us feeds the lake somewhat and the distinctive colour comes from the dissolved rock in the water.

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The climb up was programmed to take around 5 hours at an easy pace as we made our way upwards we stopped often to eat and rest as the altitude started to grip our lungs and make it harder to do anything.

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Still climbing, clouds and weather patterns changed quickly, we referred to the weather radar to plan our moves.

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At the top of the first pass we stopped and Lee Lau still full of energy did some Enduro riding.

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From the first pass we commenced our descents into the first valley up high before we re climbed back out again.

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We grabbed one close up shot of the glacier before we left it behind.

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The glaciologist in me was fascinated by the form and what we saw, the ice though has retreated, and once came down to the lake.

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Still up in the clouds, changing clothing layers and checking weather patterns was essential.

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Mid ride lake, at this point we were so high that any sprint pedalling even on the flat made us hurt.

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We started to climb back up to the ridge and of course we had a mechanical.

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We were heading for a mountain refuge hut, but the climb was hard with stunning views at the same time.

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The reward, a beer provided by Lee Lau.

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At 3000 metres Bec La Besson is an amazing place to be.

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.

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Always be prepared, in this case, check tubeless tyres for correct liquid levels.

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Pretty good lounge view.

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These two Swiss mountain hut guys looked after us and made what was a simple but amazing dinner.

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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.

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Mountain sunrise.

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It’s hard to explain how steep the ridge line is, but here is a good example of it.

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Riding along a ridge rampage style, was probably one of the coolest things we have ever done.

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One of the 16 glaciers around us.

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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.

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This boulder field had an awesome single track through it, but the rocks were ready to rip your gears apart if you got too confident and didn’t pay attention to where you were riding.

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The tree lines started appearing and the trails turned into some amazing single track typical easy to medium Enduro level with some awesome flow. We were still able to appreciate the views around us as well.

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We stopped often at mountain springs and fountains to top up our water packs, at this point we had been descending for 2 hours.

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.

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Stats that are hard to beat.

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We came from the mountain top from above this one, really incredible landscapes.

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Strange pyramid features.

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Riding in a group makes sense, we made it all down in one piece and with no difficulties, sometimes we carried the bikes of the weaker riders at the top but overall riding in a group was the best way to ride.

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After our rides there was no doubt getting back to this was pretty good.

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Due to the nature of where we were somethings got broken, this filter saved a 2000 euro lens.

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Martin hates this photo but the pizza reward at the end was worth it. Martin knows the entire area in detail that no gps can plan for, thanks Martin.

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If one image sticks in our mind it was riding this ridge line, we were lost for words how cool it was.

 Ride Experience

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.

http://www.alpine-trails.ch/

 http://www.valais.ch/en/home