I am just going outside and may be some time // La Grave

I considered "One foot in La Grave" as a post title. Glad I decided naw.

The year is 1912. Captain Scott’s mission to be first to the south pole is not going quite to plan. Having been beaten to the bottom of the world, they now face bad weather, worse food and multiple injuries. Knowing his gangrene and frostbite were reducing the remaining three member’s chances of survival, Lawrence Oates says those fateful words and leaves the tent to die in the storm.


Terribly English.

This is not Antartica. This is the Glacier de la Girose and a way better place to go for all manner of reasons.

We’re way past the Victorian era now (yeah I ken, it was the Edwardian, but the mindset of the stiff upper british lip prevailed. Still does if you ask the right tory) so going outside is just a good way to clear the head of demons. For some at least.

Not La Grave. A hut trip to Cabane du Mille in August. The riding was grand too, but the photos of the sunrise are going to impress you more.

I’ve had an outstanding 6 week spell of riding. Guiding on some amazing trails with great people, organising hut trips, hitting a prime selection of bike parks with friends, playing out in groups of 1 or 2 or 10. Almost every time someone in the crew has been able to progress or ride something they’ve never ridden before. Been watching friends achieve big things too, be it newly crowned Masters World Champ Emily Horridge casually smash the entire field or best of all, riding with Lorraine Truong, actual singletrack riding with Lorraine which can’t be anything but the highlight of the year.

It’s a whole lot of good, if you ignore a couple of unpleasant injuries and some broken bikes along the way….

Lorraine doing Lorraine. And hoarding all the headsets and Fox 38's in Switzerland.

Which confuses my poor wee west coast Scot brain. I’m a grumpy soul and all this positivity and friendship got a bit too much for me. Fun and enjoyment can’t be good for you, where’s the misery? What am I playing at just going and enjoying myself and doing a job that’s fun and rewarding when there’s so much that’s shite in the world and I could be trying to do something about? Why do I want to just play bikes to the detriment of all the other things in my life?

This is La Grave. Riding solo means just shots of trails. Don't like it? Tough.

Everyone seems to suffer from some sort of mental block. Makes sense, how many folk get through life never getting a stomach bug or injury? How exactly can you be expected to live your 3 score and 10 without the brain needing a lie down and a warm mug of soup occasionally? Being triggered by happiness is probably not that common, or at least I hope not, but variety is the spice of life eh.

Eitherways. After 6 weeks of riding with friends and having the time of my life, a ride on my own to look at hills and let my mind go where it wanted was needed.

This is a trail. Honest. Squint a bit, you'll see it. Just by the rocks....

Handy then I had a week in the Haute Alpes with Endless Trails MTB and the “bike park” of La Grave to learn. If you’ve no heard of La Grave you’re probably not that into skiing. I am into skiing, and La Grave has an almost mythical status for us lot.

La Grave in winter. Lorne and Fawcett head into La Voute....

This is summer however, and we all know how the ‘good in winter = bad in summer’ ski area rule goes.

In winter there's some grand tree skiing just here. Summer, just singletrack and a load of multi-coloured lifts.

I’ve put bike park in ” ” up there for a reason.

It’s not exactly a bike park.

I mean, there are trails built for bikes, but it’s not Pila. Singletrack with surprises…. There’s a few berms, drops and kickers, but they’re pretty rare. And unlike most parks, don’t assume every feature rolls or goes. I mean, it all goes, just mibbies not the way you think it should. There’s also no grading. Which is very similar to the winter La Grave. If you have to ask it’s too expensive can be translated to if you have to ask it’s too hard. Bring your A game or you’ll probably be walking at least a bit of every trail.

What are the trails like then? Pretty good.

Trails are pretty good. And not all about the gnar either.

First off you need to get up the hill, the La Grave lift system is just as idiosyncratic and interesting in summer as winter, but you get up there eventually.

The trails feel a lot like La Thuile did before enduro was cool (strong bit of I’ve been riding this longer than you superiority name dropping there). Rough because they’re rough, not because they’ve been battered into submission by a million Megaplowers. I made notes if you want it though, because I was kinda working after all, and professionals take notes don’t they? Goes something like:

Vallons. Scenic , ok.

Cote Fine. Favourite trail, almost fast and flowy. Almost. Huge fan all the way down, especially in the lower trees. Lots of throwing shapes and hanging off the back buzzing ass on tyre to get it round stuff.

Honest, there is a trail down here. It's the rocky bit. Chavala.

Avag One. Rowdiest trail, a lot of looking for an exit and holding on until you get there.

Desoutter. Tried to eat my stanchions, so that’s a black mark against it, but lower part might be better than lower part Cote Fine, so if you swap trail at that point…

Chavala. Aye, pretty fun. Has slabs.

King Stone Road. Well! I guess if you’re in La Grave you got to ride it. There canny be many “bike park” trails like it, the trail “Top of the World” wishes it was. Stunning ride in a stunning place, do it even if you’re going to walk half of it.

There. I feel like I earnt that carte prof now.

La Grave. Does good backdrop. Like a lot of places to be fair.

Anyways, the trails are pretty engaging. Which is exactly what I was needing. Somewhere to get lost in the moment and get to yon place where only the now exists and all those things that have been clogging up the head have gone leaving the simple joy of riding a bike as well as you can.

This is a La Grave liaison trail. One of the easy bits.

I also felt a lot better at the end of the day than I did at the start. There’s plenty to be said for a day moving at your own pace, making decisions based entirely on what you feel not your perception of what other people want, not having the nagging doubt that someone’s not having a good time or finding it too hard or just hates your guts and is only out because they didn’t know which way the trail goes. And a lot to be said for having the time to think all that through and realise you’re probably worrying too much, like almost everyone probably is, and just get on with life. Which it turns out isn’t fair, and has little interest in what you think.

Bikes are good for all that eh.

Mountains make me feel better. Usually. Other things make other people feel better. Usually. We're all different.

With any luck there might be some more content appearing here in less than 5 months. It’s not that I’ve not been writing stuff, it’s just I now get paid for it to appear in IMB magazine, and much as it’s nice to vomit words into the ether here, money is kinda handy.

What's your first coffee of the day outlook?