MTBberkhamsted Alps trips 2011 & 2012
MTBberkhamsted Alps trip 2012
MTB Berkhamsted overseas expedition to that there France.
23 riders, 1 broken collar bone, a very friendly dog, Passporte du mist and rain, all under 1 roof. Bienvenue a passporte du soleil 2012.
Doesn't a year go round quickly? I caught myself thinking whilst sat on Squeazyjet's Airbus on the way to Geneva. The next 5 days of altitude and gravity all mixed in with 22 other good friends who had committed themselves to experiencing the feeling of getting onto a chairlift and easing your way to the top of a rather steep hill and then hanging onto your bike whilst gravity takes over and the grin widens on the decent.
With Bren , Steph and Lloydy arriving on Wednesday night with our trusty steeds we were welcomed by Zeb the owner of 'Chalet Montana' whilst Chief the dog got aquainted with our legs. Then set about the task of bike building, bagging a room and sinking a couple of cold ones. Once everyone had got sorted out we frequented the local Pizzaria in Montiond and soaked up the sun whilst trying to remember school boy/girl French and tell poor quality jokes, carry on up the Alps had begun in earnest.
With a lovely afternoon ahead of us a group decided to investigate Les Gets bike park and the rest either to ride the short distance upto the Lake at Montriond or have some "me time" at the chalet, the lake was beautiful in the sun and a nice easy trundle with the ubiquitous beer stop and stone skimming. Then the phone call that no one wants to take regarding an "off". Unfortunately Tim had tried to fly and our old friend gravity decided against that, check out the injuries page to see the results.. get well soon mate! It was a sobering reminder to everyone that this could really hurt if it went wrong.
So end of the first day and we have Tim all strapped up and waiting for his painkillers to kick in , Rich 5th who was feeling so ill that he was still in Berkhamsted , Chief who was having a ball with any leg that he could hang onto for long enough and a BBQ and beers in the evening sun on the huge deck of the Chalet Montana. We had arrived!.
Friday looked just as promising with sunshine and mountains all around and a rendezvous with Rich 3rd and Claudia in Morzine for some XC trails. With lift passes in hands a pint of sweat already dripping of noses it was onto the lifts and into Les Gets bike park where we rode as one big group, for about 60 seconds. The sensation soon comes back with the angle of the descents in some places being a real eye opener and trusting big hefty tyres and freshly bled brakes with big grins behind full face helmets it was a rush of buzzing free-wheels to the bottom. Nicki soon discovered that not everyone in front knows how to ride when the guilty party overtook and promptly crashed right in front of her leaving no room for manoeuvre, first bruise/bump to Nicki then.
Onwards and over from the bike park to some pretty technical climbs and rocky gnarly descents, a bit like Afan but warmer, and with some lovely views too. With 10 odd miles covered it was lunch time back in Les Gets. The group fragmented after lunch with some finishing the XC loop others deciding to take Blues and Greens back to Morzine and John T , Tony and me decided to try our first black run and see what all the fuss is about.... yep they're black for a reason and discovering the steep chute that John called "the Nemesis" had us all giggling at the bottom. with time and floating rotors ticking it was back towards Morzine and a Red route which ended up on the road and some knee down action on the hairpin bends. Meeting up with the gang at Bar "whatever" we did what MTB Berkhamsted is world class at and sank a few beers whilst comparing bruises, scrapes, stories and finger pulling.
Saturday was spent in sunny Chatel bike park (once some of us had found it via a minor detour to Point des Mossettes) and felt very familiar with the Panoramic and Serpentine trails being sessioned, and fast flowing reds and blues being torn into then playing spot the Orange 5 in the lift queues. We also found that possibly 75% of the people there were from the UK, some even from St. Albans and Berko!..... small world. Tired and happy it was back to Morzine via the romantic venue of "Le Stinky Goat Village" and more hairpin fun on the road back to Montriond and the chalet. With Dan and Chris arriving in a VW and Caterham combo there was nothing left to do but bike faff and re-hydrate with French lager before a great BBQ.
Sunday Passport du Soleil day..... (if the French have such a thing as a trade descriptions act , then I would like to use it at this point)
Du Soleil was struggling a bit today and the warning signs were abundant once we had all made a cracking start from Morzine, Jeremy's rear shock decided it didn't want to be part of the event and expired cutting short his and Ann's day temporarily until we caught them up at the last feed station. We then got our first red route "shortcut" under our belts, with Dan discovering that braking on wooden pallets was detrimental to grip and once the group re gathered we got to Chatel, to see the other side of the mountain had vanished in low cloud. We would become good friends (friends used rather loosely) with said low cloud and at times visibility was all of 5-10 metres and pretty disorientating. So the fantastic views that I had been looking forward to absorbing were somewhere out there and only Lloydys Fog horn kept us reassured that no ships would run into us on the lifts, it made for an interesting trek. More interesting was one of Simon P's off's of the day whilst following him down from Chatel in pretty good visibility when whilst failing to scrub enough speed off to negotiate a corner, decided to try flying instead and disappeared from view with his trusty new Orange 5. Thankfully it wasn't a sheer cliff but a 15 foot grassy bank which soaked up some of the impact, scary but funny too once we realised he was OK....
The highlight for me of the Sunday was the red route (read very dark red) which involved a very tricky and fast track that demanded all of your skills to negotiate and hang on to your bike. With tight rocky switch backs one of which caused me a meeting with the floor, and hose pipes left in the way (why????) it gave the slog in the cloud some real meaning and was fun to get your teeth into. With Dan, Chris, Dave, John T, and myself waiting by the bridge we wondered if Tony was Ok and started to get that sinking feeling that something might have happened....... Then like the lone ranger riding into town Tony appears with a smile on his face and Dave sunglasses he'd dropped and a very muddy side where he'd decided to involve himself in the hillside quite literally.
With more clouds to dig through, some very sketchy rocky sections and no real idea whereabouts we were with the safety of Lloydys fog horn we did the route and made it back into Morzine having negotiated the rooty forest section which was super slippery, muddy and treacherous. All in one piece but very muddy and with Dave's cut leg strapped up we got our free PdS back pack had a beer in the rain and made our way back to the chalet to try and find your kit underneath all the mud. Showered clean and with slightly achy legs dinner was consumed and the beer tasting got under way, I was fighting sleep with a big stick and still lost.
Monday morning and we were greeted with weather reports that didn't have a lot of soleil in them, Some of the team had an early start and flight home, a portion went for a trip into Morzine to look for gifts for loved ones , lunch and a few beers before flying back later in the day. Dan, Chris and I decided to take advantage of our free lift passes and went up the Super Morzine lift and Zore and looking for a suitable techy route back down.. well we found one and the alarm bells should have rung when we saw a sign saying "non MTB" the descent was incredibly steep, tight and muddy we even got told off by a walker much to the amusement of the Spanish riders who had also decided this was a suitable route down. With relief the bottom came into view and with shaky legs and scratches and scrapes from the pine trees we decided to go over the other side and abuse the Pleney black run, it had to be easier than what we had just done.
With the mantra of don't try and keep up with Dan ringing in my ears we sessioned the black run and loved it.... more travel would of been an advantage although it didn't stop Dan and Chris from buzzing the back tyres of storm troopers on big rigs. Then to add to the experience we did the rooty section back into Morzine , that had us questioning our sanity the day before. So with the tendons in my forearms aching from the braking bumps we retired back to the chalet and the job of cleaning the 5, which had been a very faithful and reliable companion, to box up and stash in the van. Then the joy of packing and flying back to Blighty the next day, having had a great 5 days and already thinking about next time!....
All in all well done to everyone who gave it their all in some rather challenging conditions and for making the trip very enjoyable.
Massive thanks to:
Bren , Steph & Lloydy for getting the bikes and kit over to the chalet. and back again.
Zeb and all of the gang at Chalet Montana who made us all very welcome and fed and watered us . I suspect we will be back from the feedback I received.
The Rescue team for assisting Tim off the mountain in his time of need.
MTBberkhamsted Alps trip 2011
Nine months in the making, MTBBerkhamsted's first en masse foreign adventure could have gone so horribly wrong on so many levels. And, given the scene that greeted the roadtrip party on arrival in Chatel, it seemed to have already done so without a pedal being turned in anger.
With the fliers arriving six hours ahead of the drivers and left with nothing to do but drink the two chalets housing the airborne division were like something out of a zoo. In fact, now I'm back I should have a word with Whipsnade and tell them if they need a new attraction for the safari park all they need is an enclosure, some slabs of Kronenberg and 20-odd bored MTBBerkhamsteders and soon enough they'll have a field of savage beasts rutting, chewing windscreen wipers and swinging off the vegetation.
The question was no longer could MTBBerko's plucky crew survive Chatel but more could Chatel survive MTBBerko? Never before has this tranquil Alpine town witnessed such a focused display of athletic dedication, an absence of bikes meaning the Passportes 'it's a marathon, not a sprint' ethos was simply applied to consuming fizzy French beer rather than riding.
Bikes dumped we fled to the grown-ups' chalet further up the road and drew breath. Would anyone make it out riding tomorrow? How on earth were they going to find the necessary coordination to build their bikes, let alone ride them?
Incredibly a full contingent made it to Pre-La-Joux lift station the following morning, keen as mustard and ready to hit the trails. There were a few nervous faces on the way up the two lifts to the very top of the Chatel bike park and our first encounter with Alpine riding - the green-graded Panoramic trail. After a couple of runs confidence was up to tackle the first of the blues, Dean discovering in dramatic style that jumps with red flags on them denote a gap that must be cleared. Or fallen into, should they tackled with insufficient speed. Barely an hour into the trip we had our closest shave award nailed!
As the day progressed the group divided as folk explored their comfort zones and made the most of having a big choice of graded trails on which to learn the ropes. Richly deserved beers in the Tunnel Bar brought the day to a close, each party repairing to their chalets buzzing.
Saturday was a chance to further hone skills, a party heading to nearby Morgins for some proper x-treme DH action before returning to the park, hungry for the Passportes to start proper.
If we were going to hit the whole loop an early start was going to be needed, the oiks from down the road cheating and missing the first loop from Chatel to Morgins completely while our smaller group hit the first lift at 8am amid cool morning air and beneath a clear sky that promised baking heat later in the day.
With the goal of catching the main group we pressed on, the sun rising as we cleared the Morgins lift for a stunning view of the Dents Du Midi and Mont Blanc just behind. Breathtaking scenery and easy trails made for rapid progress into Switzerland and towards Champery, the more hardcore red-graded option a slippery, chin on the saddle steep slither over roots, wet rocks and Alpine meadow. Up and over back to Les Crosets the long lift to Lindarets brought us closer to those ahead but once there we learned why R3rd hadn't been at the pre-arranged meeting spot - he'd only been choppered off the hill having had a nasty fall on one of the high-speed gravel descents. As if he wasn't having a bad enough day already the first thing he saw on coming round was Neil, who then promptly dropped him while 'helping' to load the stretcher into the chopper. Get well soon Richard. And Claudia too.
With the gap narrowing all the time we finally caught Jeremy and Pierre in Morzine, the rest of the party not far ahead and already tasting the beers at the Tunnel Bar in a larger, Alpine version of the Wednesday night charge to the Riser. Finally on the last lift of the day we were all reunited, sunburnt, bruised, tired but chuffed as hell to have made it round. Casualties included Brennan, retired halfway round and Paul, whose earlier injury meant road riding was the only option. Bad luck fellas - next time, eh.
Battered bikes and bodies limped back into Chatel, Dave's wheel self destructing just a mile from home but all riders making it home in the end to well deserved and much anticipated fizzy beers.
Perhaps one too many for our Ben who, well, did a Ben and having survived the whole Passportes managed to crash … riding back from the pub.
All in all though a brilliant effort by all concerned. Here's to Passportes 2012!
Below is Rich 4th , who looks as though he may be up for the `Crash of the Year` award !!
For more photos of the weekend click here
The route we took on the Sunday.......