Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rhys and Michi's Chamonix Adventure

Four days mountain biking in Chamonix France with my good friend Rhys.

Day 1

After a near sleepless night in a stuffy small packed out hostel bunk room we woke up tired, but eager to hit the Chamonix trails.  But first Rhys needed a set of wheels. So down to Zero G, Chamonix's number one bike store to sort Rhys out with a rental Specilized Enduro for him to trash.  Luckily at Zero G we meet one of the authors of the Chamonix Bike Book, who is an English expat that once ventured to Chamonix is search of trails and never left. We bought his book and got him to point out some of the best trails.
Using his advice we bought a four day Chamonix multi-pass (96 Euro), which allows unlimited access to all the cable cars, gondolas, and chairlifts in the Chamonix valley.  The pass also includes the cable car trip up the Ag Da Midi, a major tourist attraction on the Mount Blanc masiff.

Big smilies on the first Chamonix up lift heading towards Gares de Planpraz.

Rhys quickly swapping the front and rear brake levers, as Europeans have their brakes opposite to us.

Oddly to us Chamonix proved to be much more popular for paragliders than mountain bikers. The paraglider air movements was intense, nearly justifying a control tower. I'll have to remember to take mine next time I come here.

My trusty Ventana Terramotto, with Mont Blanc in the background.  Back in 2011 this bike suffered a serious injury in the shadow of this very mountain. Needless to say I was praying that this would not happen again!

 A quick snap shot of us smiling and injury free, before debarking on our first run down the Plan Des Chablettes.
 Within the 1km my Chamonix nightmare returned! Luckily the this time I only destroyed a brand new hanger, a dérailleur, and my chain. As I had 700m of elevation I could at least enjoy my full suspension scooter.  My preparation saw to that I allready had a spare hanger and chain so that all I needed was a new derailleur... so back to the bike shop.

 After a lunchtime repair on my bike we went and enjoyed the same gnarly rocky trails.  In the same rocky corner that I had my mishap Rhys' tire flatted due to a typical snake bite. With a smile and laugh we quickly replaced the tube.

 Five minutes from first puncture came the second for Rhys, another snake bite, but this time on the front wheel.

 For our third and final uplift for the day we decided to make it an epic 1500m down hill by riding from the very top of the Le Brevent down to Chamonix.

There was still a fair bit of snow lying around, which added to the excitement.

Mountains and more trails are far as the eye could see, what more could you want?

Chanonix township 1500m below us, that translates into into 1500m of technical rocky awesomeness gnarl.

Thumbs up!

 What is this? Puncture number 3?

 Another Ventana pose while Rhys is repairing his tube.

 A perfect 10 point landing from Rhys, good to see that Rhys sacrificed himself to protect his bike.

 Some trail snapshots of sweet picturesque single track on our last descent for day.

Day 2

For day two we decided to explore the greatly raved about trails at the head of the Chamonix valley, where a gondola and a chairlift were all ready open for the summer season.
We began with two runs down the gondola, one run on a down hill track and another on a walking track. We then ventured to the higher slopes accessed by the chairlift, which also had a nice and rough down hill track.  After a couple runs on this down hill track we examined the guide book and quickly found a nice trail ride that involved only a short push up.

Rhys checking out the guide book before another sneak bite inducing descent.

I have always wonder what it would be like to ride through an electric fence, and now thanks to Rhys demonstrating exactly this I know.  Luckily no harm done to either the fence or Rhys:)

Rhys tearing it up the trail above Le Tour.

An afternoon ride over into Switzerland was on the
Looking back towards France.

All signs pointing down, what could be more mouth watering for two gravity riders?

After our short Swiss adventure we were riding the road back into the France and Chamonix valley where we came across a gnarly rocky hiking trail. After a solid hike up, much to our delight, we found the definitive Chamonix trail, endless technical bone jarring rock gardens.

Day 3

Le Brevent descent to les Houches, this route proved to be a trip highlight. From the top of Le Brevent the down hill began with massive loose rocks that required careful line choice and lots of momentum.  

This track rocks!
But lots of punctures for Rhys!
Unfortunately my GoPro ran of batteries, so no more photos for Day 3.  But we still go in six up lifts from Le Hoches. Le Hoches offered a mix of hiking trails, down hill bike park, and forest tracks, but nothing as scarier as the trails above Chamonix.

Day 4

Gondola shuttle runs on the Le Brevent equals pinch flats, pinch flats, and pinch flats, but in between we even found some exhilarating technical rock gardens, with tight switch backs.    
More snake bites for Rhys, this one was 20 something!
Moral of the story, when in Chamonix go for no tubes and take spares of everything!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

2014 Great Southern Brevet

Pre-ride briefing. Ah the sweet smell of eagerness combined with generous amounts of Chamois cream... a brevet must be about to start. 

Pre start group photo

Climbing out of Lake Alexandrina, yay 5km done!

Down hill time

My accommodation for the evening:)

Selfie at the Omarama Saddle

Looking down the Manuherikia West Valley, aren't river crossings fun?

At the start on the climb along Thomson Gorge Road. Got to love the head wind!

Lake Hawea

The 1200m down hill into Arrow town begins 

Crossing the Lower Shot Over River

Walter Peak Station

The bow of the Earnslaw packed full of Breveters

It does not get much nicer than this!

Shadow me

Looking back towards Lake Wakatipu

Riding along side with Burno

A quick break with Burno and Rob before riding off into the cold sunset of Mavora. 

The big climb from Garsten into the head of the Nevis.

Relaxing and drying out my gear in the Nevis.

Filling drink bottles in preparation for the big haul out of the Nevis to Alex.

Ken and I finally climb out of the Nevis, onward to Alex.

Half way down the monster descent from the Nevis.

A beautiful morning above Alexandra. Slept 20m from a cemetery, turned out to be the best sleep on the brevet. 

Sweet bike rack made by the cafe manager's farther. The all day breakfast filled the large void in tummy. 

Rainbow... what does it mean?

Cumulonimbus forming over the Maniototo

Top of Dannies Pass. Well fed, down hill and a tail hind... I couldn't ask for more.  

Dannies Pass  

After carrying my mp3 player over 1000km I thought I might as well use it.

Chasing my shadow... well somebody needs to keep me entertained.

Bad weather on the left and good on the right... guess which way the road bends!

At the top of the Hakatarmea pass, only 45km to go into a westerly.

Tekapo still kilometres away, but nearing closer with ever pedal stroke.

about 15km to go, heading towards dog kennel corner

nearly there

just around the corner...

 the final down hill into Tekapo, home sweet home.

and finally the finish line. Bonus lap anyone?