black and white

Mont Blanc from the Pointe Noire de Pormenaz. Blanc, Noire. You see what I did there?

10 minutes from the front door is one of the only bike friendly uplifts running in the alps and from the top of the Brevent gondola an embarrassingly large number of trails work their way down the sunny side of the Chamonix valley.

So obviously we dingied that and went and pedalled up a hill for 1200 meters.

1200 meters takes about as long to ascend as 4000 feet.

Last summer I injured my thumb and couldn’t ride. Instead I had to run about trails with a branch in my hands making bike noises. One of the trails I found looked like it would make a grand wee ride, if a fair bit of effort to get to, but you canny really tell until you try with real wheels instead of a branch.

For some reason folk seem to be more reluctant to join me on rides to unknown trails these days but Wayne’s got an unrivalled wealth of experience in carrying bikes up hill just to carry them back down again around Chamonix, and Sandy prefers winter climbing to sport limestone so is actually happier if the ride is brutal and everyone is miserable.

That's not tilt-shift, Wayne really is that much bigger than the houses

I digress. We pedalled and pushed and pushed and pedalled from Servoz to the Refuge Moede Anternne where we then sat in the sun and ate sandwiches.

Now that's what I call a backdrop 83

Last time I was here was in the spring with Spencer and the snow forced us to change our plans. The first autumn snow fell about a week ago and some of it was looking like it was here for the long haul. Fortunately it wasn’t too deep and we were able to keep going along the Promenaz plateau towards the collection of lakes.

Two Sandys, no beach.

Trail quality > views for me 99% of the time, but the backdrop through this bit of the world is pretty hard to beat. Dolomite esque towers behind, the biggest hills in the alps in front and purty wee lochans to your side.

Autumn riding is just grand

There’s an awkward section leaving the Lac de Pormenaz when your running, but with bikes the rocky scramble nicely topped in refrozen compacted snow is decidedly tricky. We were all glad of the insitu ropes to help haul us up, feet spinning on the ice like they were still turning the pedals.

It's not winter yet dammit.

Once back onto the plateau you get some great riding along the thin bands of singletrack winding over the heather, grass and bedrock. You don’t get much of this around Chamonix, mostly you’re either going up (preferably courtesy of Compagnie du Mont Blanc) or down. Instead here it’s technical traversing, Tech-C perhaps? Everything needs a hashtagable name now.

Some newly defined Tech-C riding.

The other great thing about this style of riding is it’s much easier to stop and grab some photos without disturbing the flow of the ride. Which is why you don’t get many photos of the descent from today, far too much flow to break the ride too often.

Short days = long shadows

We stopped at the Chalets de Pormenaz to grab some water from the fountain and change mindset from mild mannered trail riding to SUPER GNAR DH. Or something. The chalets are pretty perfectly located to both be a marker you can see from where ever you ended up on the plateau (there’s a lot of trails, the chances of picking the right one are slim) and of the change in nature of the riding.

It's aa downhill fae here y'all.

From here it’s downhill, initially rocky and loose and more like the Alpes Maritimes above the Med’, but with some big drops to your side reminding you that it’s Chamonix. Despite the size of the drops as you start the trail the exposure is never too bad and there’s far more intimidating riding around here.

Sandy a long way above the carpark

As you got lower the rocks got smaller and less loose, then the trees thicker and the ground more dirt than stone. Then more rooty and so on until you eventually end up on a fireroad having covered most sort of trail in the last 1000m.

About as exposed as the trail got.

The fireroad isn’t the end of the fun though, a detour towards the Buvette de la Fontaine yields another section of forest, this time ticking the loam box before a km of fast fireroad brings you to an even faster trail and final flurry through the suburbs of Servoz to the carpark.

I love the hazy/dreamy feel of riding in woods in the autumn, just a shame I canny capture it on a camera.

A trail worth going back to for sure, but I’ll stick to milking the last of the uplift for the next few days I think.

Filling the camelback with light., it gets dark early these days after all.