3.10 is the magic number

up, up, up, up, up and up.

And why is it the magic number? Because that’s when the last tram leaves Le Fayet for Bellevue, but I’m getting ahead of myself, back to the start.

The sun did appear briefly. Very briefly. Posettes trail.

Every spring I start with the intention of riding all 10 bike friendly lifts on the Chamonix lift pass in a day, and every autumn arrives without me having done so. It’s a trickier challenge to complete than it first appears as the window to get it done is pretty small. Most of the good riding from the lifts is on trails off limits during the July & August bike ban, and with a challenge like this, you DO want to do it on good trails….

All 10 lifts are only open at the same time for a few days either side of the bike ban, so by the time you factor in work, weather, injuries, visiting friends and in the case of this year, broken lifts and winter not finishing until part way through summer, you can see how easy it is for things not to happen.With the window missed yet again this year, I still felt like having a bit of a challenge, so what the heck, lets try the 7 lifts still running, and just to make it more interesting, we’ll do it by the techiest trails off each one. One further, crucial, complication. The last tram back from Le Fayet is now at 1510, not 1740.

Let the games commence.

The quintessential posettes shot, minus the full backdrop

An early start was vital to our plans. I don’t do early starts and Lorne had to go to the post office so we were fairly impressed that we were only 30 minutes behind schedule and 1st ‘bin at Le Tour. The meteo had said that the overnight rain would clear early and the clouds would part giving a good sunny day, which combined with a moderate to strong wind we hoped would dry off the trails nicely leaving hero traction in the dirt and great backdrops of the Chamonix Aiguilles with fresh autumn snow. Unfortunately the weather was also a bit behind schedule and we ascended in the cloud to the top of Le Tour.

Traversing to the Col du Posettes the weather failed to lift and I’ll be honest, stoke was low and we were pretty chilly. The descent from the Aiguillette des Posettes is back in season again though and we hoped that by the time we’d knocked off the climb we’d be a bit warmer and the sun would have come out.

Welsh trail centre or Chamonix trail?

One out of 2 would have to do. As is the rule when it’s damp and cloudy, I then got a puncture. If anyone’s interested, tubeless sealant in a slightly leaky tyre with an inner tube still gets punctured more easily than a full tubeless set up. Whilst I was busy sorting that out, Lorne had time to have his first crash of the day resulting in some fairly impressive cuts to the arms, shoulders and back.

As the trail dropped into the trees there was less wet rock to contend with, but rather more wet roots. This seemed most amusing to all the French walkers we passed who without fail would stop to see how badly it could go wrong…

We survived with no further damage to bikes, bodies or egos and cruised down the hill towards Argentiere. The original plan had been to continue on Petite Balcon Sud (Grand Montets having closed a few days earlier) however to try and get back on schedule we battered on down the promenade des Arve trails instead and rolled into the Flegere lift station at about 1130.

Aiguille rouge, the sunny side of the valley living up to it's name

All my favourite Flegere tracks head back east towards La Joux. For our purposes today though, we needed to keep going west. Fortunately second best is still pretty good at Flegere, so we dropped into the initial section of the old “Elfe Secret” DH trail (which is holding up just, with 1 of the 2 north shore sections having been repaired by the trail elfs, the other now missing completely) before joining the root covered switchback-fest of the trail down to the Floria buvette. I’d run this trail a little over a week before as the final stage of the CCC, and it was amazing to see how much damage the weekends rain had done to it since then. Still an awesome wee descent though.

We pushed the bikes through the grounds of the buvette, then headed down on fireroad towards our next lift. Brevent.

By not faffing with mechanicals or photos on the last stage we’d made up plenty time and got on the first stage of the gondola a little after midday. Not everyone was on message though, and the second stage of the lift didn’t share our urgency, it was almost 1245 by the time we got out. Still quicker than riding up mind.

Rocky.

The initial descent from the Brevent towards the Aiguilette des Houches can only really be described as rocky. Or perhaps tech and rocky, but you’d really struggle to communicate the nature of the riding without using the word “rocky”. I quite like riding rocks, but ain’t such a fan of falling on them. Lorne seems of a similar mind so we took it fairly slowly on the way across. Still a whole lot of fun, and we provided the usual levels of entertainment to the walkers.

Page break. En route to Aig des Houches

After the photogenic fun of the descent came the short push up to the Aiguilette des Houches itself. From the 2285m peak you get an amazing view of the ridge line, the drop down to Servoz and, for us, the full height of the descent to Le Fayet station at 580m. 1705m of descending without any real ups!

Ridgeline. Putting the "pic" in Epic

There can’t be many trails that look better than the start of the ridgeline, it’s an absolute classic alpine MTB shot. Shame that the trail doesn’t ride as well as it looks, not that it’s a bad trail, just compared to other stuff about here it lacks flow and some of the sections of trail suddenly get overgrown in low scrub & heather.

Somewhere near the tree line Lorne decided to get a closer view of aforementioned scrub. He’d already stubbed his toe earlier in the day, but this crash seemed to have done something a bit more serious. Walking was pretty painful but fortunately he seemed to be able to stand on the pedals without too much problem, so with what later turns out to probably be a broken big toe, we keep going.

Rocky too. The tech-fest continues

The trail never really relents until you get to Montvauthier (or at least, not on the line we took) and conscious of the ticking clock, our riding was getting more and more speed based, carrying over trialsy sections of the trail when on a more relaxed day we might have stopped, scoped out a line, then probably carried over the trialsy section of trail. With 30 minutes till the last tram left, we slid down the last steep section onto the Montvauthier road.

Perhaps not the best riding trail in the valley, but the views are ok

Of course we could have called it a day here and just got the train from Servoz, but where would the fun be in that? From here the trails are fast and open all the way to Le Fayet, we might just still make it.

And we probably would have, but less than a kilometre from the station we start seeing diversion signs. Normally not something you need to worry about on a bike, but even pedestrians were diverted from the straight line around the houses, Arve, railway line and back again. At 1512 we stopped at the tramway station.

There was still plan b fortunately, the 1606 train back into town. The game was over for another season but we’d given it a pretty good go, just under 50km of riding and just under 5000m descended in just under 6hrs, if just not quite enough under 6hrs…..time for a coffee.

A very successful failure

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