Abhorred monster.

Autumn. Winter is coming, and other cultural references for stuff I've not seen.

Kids today, eh. Don’t know they’re born, eh. Handed to them on a plate, eh. Am I right eh? Am I right eh*!

So continues a theme that seems to have run since Greek times of when not complaining that the world’s about to end (turns out every era’s been sure theirs will be the last, so we’re not that special after all) the elders have whined that it was all much harder back in their day and that today’s adults of tomorrow are feckless, lazy and dim.

Todays youth. Feckless and lazy, when not starting new companies, creating wealth, etc.

Thing is, sometimes they’re right. When I was 18 I was just about able to be mediocre at racing bikes downhills, skiing on a mud/heather based snow substitute and turning up for lectures. Paying attention at lectures was beyond me.

At 18, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.

I've not really matured much from 18. Skidz n wheelies for the win.

If you’ve not read Frankenstein, you might not be aware how mental that is. Frankenstein is not the jokey, hammer house of horror, novel some of the films suggest. It is page after page of misery and terror that finds new ways to shock you every chapter. Whenever you think the depths have reached a peak (I’d criticise the book for some of the writing, but people in glass houses and all that…), Mary Shelley would find another place to go and scare you more.

It’s not only an imaginative tour de force, her 1818** grasp of science and which of the competing theories available at the time would turn out to tally with 21st century thinking was remarkably prescient. Frankenstein is arguably the dawn of science fiction.

Climate change. #fake news.

As well as being multi-talentless at education and sport, 18 year old me wasn’t exactly great at relationships. Mary Shelley on the other hand was hanging out with Lord Byron whilst being Percy Shelley’s lover. Frankenstein was written holidaying with them both on Lake Geneve, enjoying all night discussion and not going outside much  (due mostly to a volcanic eruption the previous year that had resulted in the world getting a year without summer and the beach not being a great choice).

After a fun night round the fire reading German ghost stories in French (bloody european elitists, get back here and read the Daily Mail you turncoats) Byron suggested they all retire to write a short ghost story each. A couple days later, Byron had invented the Twilight franchise,  Percy probably got some notes down about vegetarianism and atheism (bit ahead of his time that lad) and Mary had the beginnings of Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.

We'll be skiing there soon. It's covered in snow already, a day after this photo....

 

Anyways (new drinking game, every time you read “anyways” on this blog, have a beer. Please binge drink responsibly) I seem to be veering far, far away from bikes again.

Or am I?

Yay, bikes. Stick to the script Graham, no one's interested in culture and thinking. We'll have beer and sport for the masses. 'Mon the proles.

For the creature, monster, protagonist, wretched devil or hero (choose one accordingly on how you feel about a nameless animated cadaver) went through an awkward few months/years where he didn’t really want to speak to anyone (adolescence is hard to pin down when you’re conceived as a full grown adult) and felt that the best place he could hide out and get away from it all was…..Montenvers, Chamonix.

Which of these would seem more out of this world in 1818, the bike (patented 1817) or the train (first public railway 1803)?

Obviously 200 years ago there wasn’t a train, so he didn’t have to deal with hoards of day trippers, but even now if he’d hung about to the evening he’d have found that the crowds disperse nicely and the trails are pretty quiet.

Two centuries ago the bike was a 1 year old patent so he didn’t have to worry about two wheeled peletons disturbing the peace either, but it’s about a 1hr pedal up to the buvette and another 45mins or more on top of that carry to Montenvers so the effort required limits numbers too. Until recently.

Light bro. We might have been too late for the glacier money shot, but the woods were in fine form. As was the trail.

As Frankenstein’s creation was a marvel of science that the world wasn’t ready for, I see no parallel at all with the Chamonix communes decision to make the trail up to the Mottets buvette an official e-bike route.

A creation, formed between the dissecting room and the slaughter-house, made from the discarded parts of others. From a distance the silhouette is the same yet up close the hideous differences, the rough joining, are all too apparent. More powerful and capable than its natural predecessors and yet shunned and ostracised for being not pure, subsequently lacking identity and being unsure where it should exist in the world, or if it should even exist at all.

No parallels.

Parallel or converging? It's all down to perspective.

Still, the trail’s good, no controversy there. The Caillet trail’s featured in the blog before, but I felt it was time to take an evening spin with the camera, make some pretty pictures to go with all this and encourage folk to maybe give the full descent a go occasionally instead of just sticking with the classic Caillet.

Climbing to Montenvers. Easier without a bike but could be a lot worse. Tim also does hair modelling btw.

You can climb to the Mottets buvette then carry through the boulders to Montenvers, which does mean you get to play on the moonscape of rock up by the end of the 4×4 trail, but it’s harder going after that point. Alternatively take the normal route to Caillet then turn uphill and keep going till you hit the top, or till the light starts to run out and you need to turn round and head home, confusing a wedding party along the way (though that might just have been on our visit).

Whichever way you do it, you’ll be treated to a fine old descent.

Autumn evening rides are flippin' ace.

Well, I say a fine old descent. It goes down hill, the path dates from before the building of the railway which opened in 1909 so counts as old, and we rode all but a 10 meter section of the trail. That adds up to fine in my book, but it is a bit rocks and tech in places, so if you’re not a fan of either of those you’re probably not going to have a great time of it.

Wedding party dodged, we descend back to Montenvers. Tim displaying fine 'Ash-arms' photo technique here.

If you’ve not read Frankenstein I’m not going to ruin it for you by telling you how it ends. Mibbies they all hug it out and ride away hand in hand on unicorns towards a rainbow, mibbies the pit of misery gets mined so deep they’re finally consumed by the molten core of the earth. It’s not much effort for you to find out, and when you do, have a think about how it applies to e-bikes. Then stop thinking about that because it doesn’t matter and have a think about what it says about humanity, which does.

Encore une fois, Chamonix: does good backdrop.

*I’ve been re-watching Spaced recently. In the DVD (which I can’t watch because DVD’s aren’t the future anymore) there was a handy “homage-o-meter” feature which would click up with the homage being homaged on screen at that moment. At some point I will write one of these blogs and flag up the same. This blog is not that blog however.

**The timeline gets a bit blurred for the sake of an easy post here. Frankenstein was conceived of and mostly written in 1816 & 1817, first published anonymously in 1818, published under Mary Shelley’s name in 1822*** and remixed by Mary Shelley for the most widely read version published in 1831.

***Obviously at this point the critical reception of the book changed tone a touch: “The writer of it is, we understand, a female; this is an aggravation of that which is the prevailing fault of the novel; but if our authoress can forget the gentleness of her sex, it is no reason why we should; and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment” The British Critic.

Tim's moving on from Chamonix. He'll be back, but'll be missed none the less. Good new content he's away to but.

  • Chamonix Bike Blog

    Mountain bike blog for Chamonix and the Western Alps

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