Telepherique des Glaciers. Uplift of a sort.


Jan’s starting to get a bit fed up. For a month now every time he’s been out he’s called last ride, cleaned his bike and put it away for the winter, only to be persuaded to get it covered in mud again the next weekend. Sure enough as we were packing the bikes away at La Saleve he was sure that was it for the autumn. Then I suggested we ride the trail down from ye olde abandonned “Telepherique des Glaciers“….

Jan: urban riding in the backcountry

Just as well he did, I’d have gone up solo, but it’s much easier to take photos when there’s someone else there to wheelie on command.

Skids & wheelies. What's not to like?

The Telepherique des Glaciers is the original version of the Midi lift, only it was never completed and, in 1955, was abandoned for the better line of the current lift. Most folk know the lift buildings from descending to the Mont Blanc Tunnel after skiing some of the classic Chamonix lines such as Rond Glacier or the North face of Mont Blanc, but with a bike the push up to the middle station with a bike is pretty easy, and you can knock another 200m vertical off if you drive up to the tunnel entrance.

Jan on the stairs

This wasn’t an option for Jan & I as the traffic was backed up for several km from the tunnel, so we just rode up the edge of the road past the static traffic. After negotiating our way through the tunnel entrance area we started the push up, following the same route as you descend.

Starting the descentNatural trails, as good as it gets.

The station sits at 1688m, about 600m above Chamonix and 400m above the tunnel. It’s north facing and a bit chillier than down in town, but you can’t visit any of these places and not take some time to explore. If you’ve got the skills of Danny Macaskill you could have an amazing time here. Jan and I had to make do with wheelies and skids, but that was fun enough for us!

Natural berms are fun!

Eventually we figured we’d best head down the hill. I always take a bit more time to savour the descent if I’ve had to get myself to the top of it. The “need” to take some photos was a great excuse to session some of the amazing natural features on the trail. The trail flows so well though, it’s tempting to just keep blasting down. It’s not super steep and tech like you find on many of the valley side trails, but at the same time there’s so much going on on the trail that you aren’t tearing down too quickly.

Never too tech, but always interesting

Reaching the tunnel again we crossed over the concrete and dropped down towards the Cascades du Dards to ride that trail down to town. Another sweet little track, all the better for having no snow on it this time.

best not to out-brake on some of the corners

Getting to the back of the old Camping Les Molliasses we were still keen for more, so cut right and took the forestry roads up towards the path down from the Midi-Plan. These trails, particularly the Cascade du Dard and Midi paths, are very busy throughout the summer and early autumn with walkers so it was good to ride them without anyone else about.

The last section of this trail down to the ski jump was a fitting end to the ride. Having started at the Telepherique des Glaciers lift which opened in time for the first winter Olympics and hosted the bobsleigh, we finished at the ski jump which had been built and inauguriated for the same event. If only I’d planned it that way!

Cascade du Dard trail

Is Jan going to get the bike out again? Is anyone? The weather watchers are getting excited about the prospect of some fairly serious snow next week, Verbier’s already open  for skiing, Courmayeur opens on Friday and Grand Montets is scheduled to open the week after, so maybe the bikes are away for the winter now.

We’ll see.