Dorenaz. A long way above the valley.

I got a fair bit of feedback on the last post here. Apparently the physics of time and space and time were/are/will be a step too far. Folk were worried. It’s nice to know people care. And read the blog.

With that in the mind, lets bring things back down to earth with something more cheery.


Where is this going? Well, Wayne's going down and north, I've no idea where the blog's headed.

Damn they’re amazing. Take toxoplasmosis. Until recently all I knew about it was you get it in cat poo and it caused Tommy’s death in Trainspotting (err, spoiler). Well, it didn’t really, his death was the result of a chain of events that surely couldn’t have been foreseen but that doesn’t help my point, whatever, choose life.

Some of this is relevant. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that lives in the guts of cats. To proliferate it needs to spread from cat to cat. Obviously, this is difficult when you live in the gut of a cat. So, toxoplasmosis leaves through the usual channels and sits on the floor. Cats don’t eat cat poo. Cats eat rats and mice. So instead the parasite waits for the rats and mice to eat the poo and get one step closer to the guts of the next cat. This would be interesting enough, but the really good bit is about to come. Normal mouse and rat behaviour is to stay as close as possible to the edge of a room or some other shelter. Not those that have been infected with toxoplasmosis. These rats and mice throw off their agoraphobia and make a b-line for the middle of the room, maximising their chance of ending up as cat snack. It gets weirder. Some studies into rats have shown that after being infected with toxoplasmosis they might become sexually attracted to the scent of cat urine. Which raises some interesting questions about the perfume industry.

Doesn't that bike look good....

This tiny wee parasite completely alters the behaviour of a host animal for it’s own gain. Where could analogies with day to day life be found in that?

Thinking about it, is this blog parasitic? Does it alter your behaviour when you read these posts and keep seeing yon lovely Airdrop Edit on the finest trails in the world, you start associating the two. Probably not your behaviour, but does it alter my behaviour? I’m keen to keep riding the bike (it’s the most fun bike I’ve owned), and I’m also keen to keep getting them, so does that worm its way into my mind and alter my picture choices?  How about when you see ideas for rides that are notchamonix and they work on your mind to change your behaviour to do that, leave the safety of the bikepark, head out into the open. Does this blog make you attracted to the smell of marmotte pee?

Pedal back up hill this way for the telecabine. Oh look, Mont Blanc.

So many questions with no intention of finding an answer. On with the riding.

In a valley not so far away there is a magical lift. Ok, maybe magical is pushing it a bit, but unique should cover it. Dorenaz is public transport, a quicker easier way up to Champex than taking the bus. That makes it fairly rare. It takes bikes, at least 6 of them, for a small extra fee. This makes it rarer. You hang the bikes from hooks on the underside of the lift and hope they’re still attached when you get to the top. There’s not many lifts that make you do that.

It might be autumn, but it can still be damn hot out.

Normally when you use uplift you sling the bike into the carrier and forget about it until you have to unhook it from the chairlift at the top. Not so much in Dorenaz where I challenge anyone not to have a quick glance at their axles to make sure everything’s done up good and tight. It’s funny the things that get inside your head.

How does this image make you feel about the security of your wheels?

No matter how amazing, the lift only gets you so far. We stood about in the slightly cooler air of 1124m altitude, looked at a map, discussed options, and decided it was way too much like effort to go all the way to the Tete du Portail, and definitely way too hot and dry for the descent. The lower trails on the south facing aspects from the Dorenaz lift are loose and dry at the best of times, as it doesn’t seem to have rained this century in Valais we couldn’t really call this the best of times.

Pointing at maps. We have to pass 6 separate modules on the subject at guide school.

Instead we started traversing and climbing along the west facing slopes, linking trails we knew with trails we’d heard of.

It went pretty well. We basically ended up with 2 descents, the first steep, slow and technical the second faster looser and more flowing.

Technical or flowy, your call.

The first was what I guess BC Canada would feel like if it rained less and was warmer. So BC in about 10 years then. The dirt didn’t quite have that hero tack of Whistler, but it wasn’t just loose dust either, and the rock lined trail dropping down through old growth forest with the early autumn light filtering down to the green floor made you feel like you were in another Frenchie-living-in-Squamish shredit. Stills make this myth easier to perpetuate than video.

Just like BC. Well, green and forested at least.

I can’t really remember the climb, which is probably part of the bike being a parasite thing, altering memory to suppress the bit’s that aren’t fun, so maybe the first descent led straight into the second?

It didn’t, but we get to make our own truths, so it did. Which will be part of the parasitic behaviour of society thing.

Brake hard, tip'r in and look for the exit. Textbook.

The second course was a much quicker affair, which was good and bad. Lot’s of fun, but it’s all over so much quicker. It was good to be in nice wide spaced trees, and being early autumn there was a fine combination of orange on the forest floor, orange in the canopy, and less intense orange sunlight dappling down amongst the shadows.

Orange, truly the colour of our time.

Orange. Here until November at least.

I alluded to it being quick, 850m had been lost in a dusty, slidy, hairpin-y flash and we were left with the pay off from going right for the last few hours. A sharp turn to the left and heading back home. We can but hope. Turned out the fun wasn’t over. Whilst going right had been a steady downhill trend, going left still had some fun singletrack next to the Rhone to pump and pop along before the final few kilometers of vineyard track back to the car. Chat turned to where next in 2020’s adventure. No idea, but I’ll probably write something for it. Photos for this week come from the phone’s of messieurs Oliver Carr and Juan Coatez, ta muchly!

I said it was loose....