Border.

Tracing the border between France & Switzerland

It was the Les Gets opening weekend last week and I got a bit excited at the prospect of a whole day in the bike park chasing down Nina & Spence’s new local friends on their DH bikes. As a result I ended the day with an old thumb injury flaring up again and needing to take it easy on the bike for a couple of weeks.

This seems like a perfect time then to go and explore some new trails, with a guarantee of a maximum of faffage and a minimum of actual downhill riding time to aggravate my ulnar collateral ligament.

Riding uphill with views. Good for the thumb!

One of my favourite ski tours from last winter was the little known Barberine Couloir near Loriaz so what better than to try and repeat it in summer.

Obviously this was a stupid idea as the places that give the best skiing are rubbish for the bike (Champex-lac) and the best riding is poor skiing (Les Houches) and to save you the bother of reading on, the ride followed this theme with predictable accuracy, so you can just look at the pretty pictures now.

Oooo. Pretty pictures.

Still reading? Must be a slow day in the office.

A bad day  _insert preferred outdoors sport here_ is better than a good day in the office.

To be fair, the ride started pretty well. Train with no conductor hassle to Buet, painless climb to the Loriaz chalets then starting across some fun traversing single track with amazing views in front to Switzerland and behind across the Mont-Blanc Massif. There were a few short sections that were a little to tricky to ride with a dodgy thumb, but nothing too harsh.

A good traversing trail must be one of the most under rated things in biking.

Some trailrunning friends had said that the traverse across to the Emosson dam was mostly rideable, with only a couple of technical sections with chains. This was much the case and as Lorne pointed out, most of the best trail have rock climbing with chains somewhere along the way.

Rock, chains and a drop below, all good. Carbon bike under arm, less good.

Once over by the Emosson dam (obviously it would have been easier to have just climbed the road to the dam carpark, but where’s the fun in that?) we had a break for me to discover I’d forgotten to pack any water and to pop pads on for the main event, the descent down below the dam to Barberine.

The start of the descent wasn't all unrideable, but it certainly wasn't all as good as this.

We’d been getting glimpses of the trail below us on the traverse, which looked good. Alas we’d also been getting glimpses of the steep upper slopes covered in scree where the trail emerged from. Turned out for the first 100m or so of vertical we were carting the bikes down a rubble filled gully. Not ideal, but not so bad if the trail below is worth it.

Better....if only it lasts.

Which it wasn’t. Quite. There were lots of great sections, but the flow was constantly being interrupted by awkward rock steps and slow speed boulder runs where you were constantly fighting to stop the front wheel getting hooked up. Not ideal with a bad thumb.

The granite slabs gave some of the most interesting riding.

The lower third gave the best riding as we traversed on fast trails through the forest, which was kinda the theme of the ride. Traversing trails good, descending trails bad.

Wouldn't fancy this in the wet.

Eventually we arrived at Barberine, the collection of houses masquerading as a village, and started the long spin up the road to the Col du Montets and home, after a much needed stop at the random buvette before Vallorcine for a can of coke.

The lower trails were grand, though we could have saved a bit of effort by just going there directly....

Not a ride we’ve got plans on repeating, but nothing ventured nothing gained and there were some excellent wee sections that we’d never have ridden otherwise. I’ll be back with the skis but.

It's not a bad life when this is your cruisey trail home.

3 Comments

  1. 566925500
    Posted on 8th June 2015 at 19:59

    Quality exploration. I first did the classic Loriaz descent into Vallorcine having traversed from Emosson on that horrendous route (i rode up the road). No good either way. The Emosson to Martigny descent is much much better. I will try and make time to show you down it before I leave for the summer as there are a few variations in the middle and lower sections.

  2. 566925500
    Posted on 8th June 2015 at 19:59

    Quality exploration. I first did the classic Loriaz descent into Vallorcine having traversed from Emosson on that horrendous route (i rode up the road). No good either way. The Emosson to Martigny descent is much much better. I will try and make time to show you down it before I leave for the summer as there are a few variations in the middle and lower sections.

  3. 698272330
    Posted on 28th July 2015 at 00:38

    Hey guys Myself and a few friends from Australlia rode this area last year, fun times and also did border patrol a few times, so much fun! We are coming to Chamonix to spend some time in a couple of weeks, would be cool to hit some trails with you local guys if you have time? We’re startining in Finale on the 10th Aug, then up to Pila, then to Chamonix! We love the big epic days on the trail bikes! After seeing Chamonix for a day last year it was decided that we MUST come back for a longer period!