Typical last minute trip time again! I guess I like it that way, no time for the buzz to fade.
I didn’t need to stress with navigation, the signs are easy to read and follow in the alps. After making my way up and over the Swiss border from Morzine and smashing it all the way down into Champéry (1050m), there are clear signs at the central station with the names I wanted to see. Bonavau – Susanfe – Salanfe.
Wind your way up to the beautiful Refuge Bonavau at 1533m.
It’s steep all the way, straight into it! At this point I should say that of all the crazy things I’ve been lucky enough to do on a bike, this adventure was the hardest so far. Take plenty of water and food, settle in for the long haul and give yourself ample time.
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go to the Italian Dolomites. A Via Ferrata trip with a friend who showed me the ropes and gave me the confidence to consider this route.
I knew there were dangerous passages that are very steep and narrow. You must be confident with the bike on your back with at least one spare hand for climbing and holding onto the chains and cables.
Now… I might be a fool but I am not an idiot! Be prepared to turn around. There is no loss of pride in taking things as far as you are comfortable. To find your limit is an incredibly humbling thing that is a success in itself! To walk away and fight another day is not a failure.
I barely noticed, after dumping my bike and bag down, exhausted I saw the blood dripping from my arm, small but deep it had exposed a tendon and sliced a nerve…
In one of those d**khead moments I left the first aid at home but thank the stars, I had some insulation tape so was able to seal the wound and carry on.
It goes to show that injury can come from not even riding. It was incredibly selfish of me not to bring first-aid, to begin with, it could be just as needed for someone else along the way. ALWAYS carry it.
Get used to hearing “Bon Courage!” from the hikers and mountaineers! It is very out of the ordinary to see a bike up here, it’s just not done!
Just because the trail mellows it does not mean you can drop your guard. Keep it cool and calm, a rolled ankle is easy to do with a heavy pack and even heavier bike on your back. So relax, enjoy the views and just keep moving forward.
Cold beer, good whisky and amazing food.
Fabienne remembers two Germans with bikes about 5 years ago, but no-one else… I was very proud at that moment and had the most amazing night hearing the adventurous stories of others, and adding some ideas to my notebook.
Isolated, warm, welcoming, and epic.
It also lines up with a summer sunset 😉
Looking back through the pass and into France.
With an early morning climb, you are in the shadow all the way up to the col, then as you come up to the crest the warming sun hits you and the view takes your breath away!
When I first started looking into this route, staring wide-eyed at maps, finding the sparse information online to what might be in store for me, I dreamed of getting here with a bike to share its space and make my mark. To sit in the thin air up with the glacier, basking in the sun… Blindly hoping it wasn’t just another pipe dream, that it wasn’t too soon or too ambitious.Disrupting the moondust scree are passages of very steep ferrata. The chains really help. So make sure you work on your descending skills too!
I find getting the bike up on the back wheel rather than carrying is best, you can kinda use it as a walking stick to descend.
Follow the signs round to Mex to continue the well-signed loop of Le Tour des Dents-du-Midi, where back at Bonavau you can retrace your steps back to Champéry. There is basically nothing online about this trail/loop/pass with a mountain bike. I really hope this helps anyone considering it.
It was a big moment personally, inspiring me to see what other lesser known alpine areas can be ridden.. I hope you get the same from it.