Summer was hectic. I spent a month on the road in the U.S. and Canada visiting Deer Valley in Utah and the Sunshine Coast and Whistler in B.C. I also managed to squeeze in a memorable trip to the incredible Grand Teton National Park on the Wyoming/Idaho border. When I returned to Switzerland, I decided to spend my first weekend back high in the Alps to blow away the post holiday blues. Turns out the best way to do this is not to merely ride my bike in the mountains, but instead to carry and push it for 4 hours and then stay the night in a Swiss Alpine Club hut at 2900m.
The hut we chose for this little adventure was the Cabane du Grand Mountet in the Valais Canton. From previous trips, we knew the general area quite well, but the finer details of whether the trails were rideable or not was a complete mystery. This scenario presents itself quite often on a Friday afternoon in the office and so there is always some scratching of heads/stroking of beards and studying of maps, google earth and any internet reports we can find to try and determine if we’ll get riding perfection or a field of car sized boulders. At the end of the day you just have to take a chance and deal with whatever challenge presents itself, which, in this case was a field of car sized boulders.
As soon as we started our ascent towards the hut, we were off the bike, pushing and carrying up the steep trail. Riding was virtually impossible and only in very short stints. For 3-4 hours we persevered, fueled only by bananas and trout sandwiches, the incredible views that surrounded us and the optimistic theory that the more trail we pushed up, the more trail we could ride down the next morning. At around 5pm we stood at the bottom of a small cliff with the (unrideable in either direction) trail winding up it in spectacular and typical Swiss fashion. At this point the juice in the optimism tank for the following mornings blissful descent was running low, so we decided to hide the bikes behind some rocks and continue on foot (this always results in some strange looks from the other guests in the hut when we turn up looking like mountain bikers, but with no mountain bikes). It turns out this decision was not so stupid as when we arrived at the top of the cliff, we were presented with the field of car sized boulders. The next 30 minutes or so was spent picking our way through the maze, looking ahead to spot the next white and red painted mark to indicate the route.
Once at the hut, we were treated to a close encounter with the local (huge) Ibex and a 3 course meal so delicious and wholesome that it would have been more at home in a fancy restaurant than in an old stone mountain hut at nearly 3000m. Sleep was patchy at best (as always seems to be the case sleeping in a hut at altitude) but you can’t beat the feeling of waking up in such a location. After breakfast, we ventured up higher above the hut to explore the area before heading back to where we had hidden the bikes the evening before. After half an hour of wandering around the boulder field and repeatedly proclaiming “think they are behind that one”, we found our bikes and set about enjoying the descent back down to the valley floor, of which 70% was rideable…
For the camera geeks: Nikon D7100 with Nikkor 10.5 f2.8 fisheye, Tokina 12-24 f4 and Nikkor 50mm f1.8 and an iPhone 5.