Hunting trails

Two days off hunting. Craig David wouldn't approve.

A mission statement is a short definition of an organisations purpose, a phrase to focus and direct the activities of the group. One example is the Starship Enterprise’s “To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!” though the last bit was more about Captain James T Kirk’s efforts at interspecies relations than the attempts to be an interstellar UN. Another example is the US army’s: “The U.S. Army’s mission is to fight and win our Nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders.” which has evolved somewhat from the traditional Hummer playlist that liberated Baghdad (and suggested some folks don’t quite listen hard enough to lyrics…).

The Chamonix Bike Blog is neither a business, the worlds largest military force nor a fictional spaceship, so doesn’t need a mission statement. If it was though, I guess the closest it’s got is to encourage cyclists to try trails other than the main honeypot routes in the valley, and for everyone to be nice to each other.

Luke and Oli off hunting trails. We found a good 'un here....

In the name of a non existant mission statement, I’ve gone and ridden pure hunners of amazing trails then written something about a few of them here to encourage y’all to go give them a go too.

So if I said that a couple weeks ago, before the snows came, I went for a ride with Oli and Luke down by Sallanches and found a proper cracker of a 1300m descent, you’d expect that I’d now give some clues about where it is and how to go ride it.

Well, I’m not. I’m going to put up a load of photos to make you feel like you really missed out, give a wee bit of an explanation why, then go off on a tangent.

Autumn was absolutely amazing this year. Will ya just look at them thar hills! Obviously Oli isn't, because there's a corner coming up.

So why am I not saying where it is? About 5 years ago I rode this trail with Tom “Chamonix Bike BookWilson North. It wasn’t a complete success, but the terrain hinted at something better so I started looked about the map and saw another promising looking line. Searching through the interwebz I found a tiny amount of information about walking and biking the trail, all of which suggested it was too technical to be worth doing. Problem is, one persons technical is another person’s flowtrail…. With a relatively low expectation for success and plenty other things to try less than 30 mins from the front door, it remained on the ‘to do’ list for about 5 years.

Eventually, opportunities aligned and we said sod it, lets gie it a go. There were a few navigation points on the way down and the occasional uncertainty that we were on the right line, but nothing that can’t be dealt with if you’re an IML or spend winters doing ski lines like these.

Bit tech in places, but all fun and games.

The trail certainly wasn’t for everyone, but there were only 3 short steps all of us chose to walk. A few tweeks of alignment and it could be a classic.

That’s not the point I’m going for though. Because the thing is, we all enjoyed it far far more for not really knowing if this was going to work out. For not knowing if at any moment the good was going to end and we’d be walking the rest of the way to the valley floor. And I don’t want to take that enjoyment away from anyone else. So if you know the trail, you’ll recognise it here, but if you don’t you won’t, so you’re still going to have to go and see if the line YOU think is going to work out will.

Want to ride a trail like this? Well go and find it, you might unearth something better...

Then there’s the other thing.

We rode this trail on a Wednesday. Really, we could only ride this trail on a Wednesday or a Friday. Between 9th September and 20th January the Haute Savoie is in hunting season and these are the only 2 days hunting is forbidden. As the trail is deep in the woods, little frequented, yet easy enough to access if you have a car, it’s a fair assumption there will be hunters in the area. And nobody wants to get shot.

They like their basejumping about here. Canny see why, but Luke's trying to.

A lot of people would say we’re being a touch paranoid, but a 34 year old mountain biker was shot dead on the Super Morzine trails by a 22 year old hunter earlier in October. He was the 4th person to be killed in France due to a hunt since June 1st this year. Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you.

Luke Jarmey capturing me in my natural environment. Running away from getting shot in the back.

The investigation into the death is ongoing however some of the details are becoming clearer. Le Dauphine has provided the best information, you can read it in French here: , a rough summary of what’s been written would be: The 8 hunters were in a line parallel with the trail the cyclist was riding, roughly 40 meters from the trail, and had clear visibility. The cyclist was wearing a bright coloured t-shirt and coloured bike and helmet. The round was on an upward trajectory when it hit the cyclist, the hunters should have been shooting towards the ground.

Hard to mistake him for a boar. And it’s not like he was the first non hunter to be killed either, there are legion stories of innocent folks getting shot.

Obligatory 'does good backdrop' shot. Luke up above the Arve Valley.

So you want to go play outdoor between September and January but don’t want to get shot? Advice to walkers, runners and cyclists during hunting periods includes to carry a bell and wear bright colours. And we do, I’ve got lovely pair of fluorescent orange Fox shorts that come out at this time of year. Except the dead mountainbiker was wearing bright colours and on a bright coloured bike when he was shot. Also, much like it’s the cyclists responsibility to not run over the walkers, I kinda feel the onus should be on the hunter to not shoot a human, rather than the human to dress up like a christmas tree.

Muted earth tones. Great for fashion,not so good for not being shot. Oli moves quick enough they'd probably miss.

There are two ways to go hunting in France, a day license or an annual hunting permit. The annual permit costs 447 euro or 150 euro if you only want to kill things in your own department. Not bad compared to buying a summer lift pass. You don’t just buy the license anymore though, following the high accident rates pre 2000 you’re required to sit an exam to get it. Here’s an anglophone’s experience.

Before you start thinking that sounds quite complicated, it’s a license to kill things. With a gun. Compare that to the challenge of sitting a driving license theory and practical exam.

Luke getting stuck in, and trying to ignore the assortment of cameras on his back.

The good news is that deaths are decreasing. In 2002 hunters managed to kill 40 people, which is verging on humans being a legitimate form of game, last year they had that down to ‘only’ 13. The bad news is that November is historically the worst month for deaths. So don’t put the hi vis away quite yet.

Strong rucsac/fallen leaf matching game on show there.

So maybe it’s time for a bit more regulation? The hunting lobby is strong in France (what is it with guns and government?) there’s apparently 1.12 million hunters in France (down from 1.5m in 2000). In 2017, 2,780,000 bikes were sold in France (and you can look at the live selling rate here). I think cyclists outnumber hunters. And dinnay forget the walkers, trailrunners, mushroom hunters, dog owners, horse riders….. So I’m not convinced that hunters are that strong in number, just very very vocal (kinda like the NRA). Mibbies it’s time we were a wee bit more vocal.

Snow free trails. Not sure quite how much of this there is left for 2018.

The purpose of all this isn’t to say hunting should be banned. We have to accept that simply by existing all organisms have a negative and positive influence on the other organisms in the vicinity. We might try to minimize the negative, but even Buddha accidentally stands on an insect every so often. Hunters have just as much right to be in the hills as mountain bikers, or runners, or any other group, but the current rules of society say that no group has the right to go about killing people, and only one of these groups regularly does.

Luke nearing the end of the descent. Get's quite Indian Jones in places. In a good way,not in a snakes and nazis way.

Again, I’m not saying hunting should be banned, just that perhaps there should be a zero tolerance approach to alcohol, one of the weekend days can be a no hunting day, maybe ban shooting over the line of trails within 1km, the calibre and power of the guns could be limited to reduce the range of stray bullets and the damage they can do at a distance (of course, this means you need to get closer to the prey, but then I keep hearing that hunting is about skill and stealth not wantonly blasting away at the undergrowth, so surely this shouldn’t be an issue for all the true hunters).

Really was a cracking find this trail. Oli leads out on the most interesting section.

Before that happens, here’s some useful links to help:

CHASSECO. Kinda a one stop shop for finding out where hunters can hunt and on what days. Quite handy. And also available as an app should you already be cycling and trying to avoid the bullets:

If you want to know what dates the hunts are on, and which animal you really shouldn’t look like, here’s the info:

I've got him in my sights captain!

In summary; hunting trails good, hunting trail users bad.