Well, it was a pretty full-on day! But we survived!!! 70Km, 6500m descending, and very sore arms…!
For those that don’t know, the “Passportes Du Soleil” is an event that is organised to celebrate the opening of the lifts in the Portes Du Soleil region to bikers every year. The event covers about 80km, 5 towns, 4 valleys, two countries and about 12 lifts. There is 6500m of vertical descending, and only about 500m of climbing over the whole course. And in each town there is food and refreshments, including beer to enjoy along the way!
The day started off early with the bus and trailer loaded and ready to go by 8:30am, and then it was a short drive around to Morzine. After picking up our number plates and other goodies, we encountered the only real queue of the day, as we waited about 25 mins for our first up-lift of the day. Once we got to the top it was an easy ride along the ridge towards Avoriaz, and then a fun warm-up descent into Les Lindarets. We didn’t stop for long here, but instead jumped on the next chairlift to head into the Chatel Valley.
As would become a running joke, there were “Two Options” for riding here- most took the scenic blue trail called Panorama, which had amazing views of the area, and finished off with a fun run down a steep sloop with jumps and berms aplenty. Geoff, Russ and I chose to tackle the red DH run, but wimped out on the large road-gap. It was a great run, tough, steep and fast, although peppered with braking ruts from people using too much braking 🙄
We then continued down towards Chatel, which was about 10km along a gradually descending firetrack, although we did also come across a couple of hills in this section. The views were awesome, and it wasn’t long before we popped out into the stunning town of Chatel. As people were getting hungry we decided to have a quick re-fuel, and helped ourselves to some local cheeses and meats, and some fruits. After a few glasses of coke we also decided it was only appropriate for us to enter into the swing of things and grab a beer too- they where on offer, and of course it would have been rude to refuse them- after all we only had 45k left to go!
It was then it was onto the Chatel bubble, and a nice fun open trail followed which zigzagged through open meadows, with some awesome views. Then it was up a short road climb before we dropped into Switzerland at Morgins. The group saw why the event was called the Passportes when we freewheeled through passport control and customs- we had nothing to declare, so took the green line!!
A short lift out of Morgins got us to one of the highlights of the Passportes route, as the next section was a stunning traverse along high alpine terrain, with even more incredible views. The trail was singletrack which had just been cut into the mountain side at an altitude of about 2000m with views to the valley below at 600m!
Next, there was a long descent into Champery. Whilst most stuck to the firetrack/road descent, Russ, Steve and I decided to try the other option- ‘Variante DH assez difficile’ – this trail needed to be seen to be believed and was very different to the other DH options on the route! It was perfectly rideable, but was extremely steep and muddy, zig-zagging down a near vertical cliff, with only trees to catch you! Every so often we would pop out into an open area, and you would see how far you could fall if you came off the singletrack. Of course the photos don’t do it justice!
Then, as I came around one corner I found Russ looking stunned 15 feet below the track in a river- apparently another rider had stopped on a narrow creek crossing and left Russ nowhere to go, so he toppled down the cliff! It took a good 5 minutes to pass his bike up and find a way for him to climb back onto the trail. Luckily he was OK, but there was a fairly big ding in his frame.
Once he was rescued, we continued onto Champery to catch the 200 person cable car back up the hill, and back into France. This then left us with another highlight of the route to tackle, the GR 5 trail high above Les Lindarets. It’s a busy hiking trail too, but there are often more than 5 tracks to choose from, so hikers and bikers never seem to get in each others way. If only Australian hikers were so understanding!
Again, the views and trails were amazing……
Then it was the final chairlift and descent back to Morzine. The group finally rolled back into town at about 6pm having completed just over 70km of riding. Arms and fingers were very sore, and everyone was looking forward to a relaxing rest day on Monday!!!
We are already looking forward to next year!!!!
The rest of the photos from the day can be found HERE!!!