Secret Climbs, Hidden Summits – Day Seven
We were back to riding straight out the hotel door again today – always a bonus, as I get an extra 30 minutes lie-in! The early miles required another trip across town & a visit to the fast & heavily trafficked Grand St Bernard Pass, however after 25 minutes we reached our turn-off.
The plan today was to explore a couple of ‘secret’ climbs – first up (literally!) was Lac Champex. The early stages of the climb had steep hairpin after steep hairpin, where you could look out across the St Bernard valley. As we climbed higher, we entered a silver birch & pine tree forest, with a strong smell of resin – similar to a newly cut Christmas Tree smell. I don’t think the climb was as difficult as it felt, it was more a case of having legs that are beginning to rebel against a daily diet of adventurous riding!
We reached Lac Champex after just over 2 hours of riding which saw us climb 3,200 feet in 12 miles – time for a coffee stop & some blackcurrent flan that was out of this world! The lake has some stunning views across to the snow-peak covered mountains, where paragliders were doing their thing on the thermals. To add to the occasion, there was a festival of some sort taking place with traditional Swiss dancing taking place. I would have happily whiled away the day here, supping the occasional beer, however, we had things to do & places to see!
It was time to give all those hard-earned feet back & descend the opposite side of the mountain, towards the St Bernard valley again. The road plummeted towards the valley below in a series of hairpins & blind corners, so it provided plenty of opportunities to stop & admire the view – no high speed descents today!
Once on the valley floor, it was time to explore ‘secret’ climb number two – we took a right turn & set off towards La Fouly in the Val Ferret, on another quiet & picturesque road. When I mapped this out, the average gradient for the 7 mile climb was only about 7%, so nothing too severe compared to what we’d already experienced. However, there were lots of fairly flat sections, meaning there were also lots of 9% & 10% sections too & my legs were finally telling me they were……on their last legs! Each day my heart rate has dropped during a climb, we’ve had to adapt our climbing as we’ve become more tired. I usually expect to ascend at about 150 beats per minute, by today this was down to 130 – as soon as I tried to raise my heart rate, my legs refused to co-operate!! Knowing this would happen ensured that I rode well within myself as we continued to climb up a beautiful glacial valley, with yet more paragliders enjoying themselves overhead.
At La Fouly it was time for a final rest stop & an opportunity to marvel at some real athletes – the Verbier / St Bernard X-Alpine race was taking place & the competitors had to run / walk / crawl 68 miles with over 27,600 feet of climbing (& descending). La Fouly was 40km into the race & we saw competitors passing through the feed station during our coffee stop – what incredible athletes!
We had a much simpler challenge ahead of us, the 12 mile descent back to Sembrancher, where we joined the St Bernard Pass again. There was just time to stop & get in some Hay Bale Surfing action – I can’t believe how inflexible I appear in the photo!
Once the high jinks were completed, there was a final sting in the tail as the wind had changed direction & was now blowing us back up the mountain. Sean pointed out he was a skinny mountain goat, so it was my duty as the Domestique to get him back to the hotel in relative comfort – what could I say? I gave it an Eyeballs Out, Full Gas effort into the wind & thoroughly enjoyed the final miles of what has been another awesome Alpine Adventure! I stopped just long enough to take a final couple of photos which summed up Martigny – the Tour de France & stylish art on the roundabouts.
I hope you’ve enjoyed following my progress & as the sun sets on this adventure, I’m already looking forward to doing it all again somewhere new next year.