Les Arcs, where else ?!
  • this way to singletrack heaven
  • words and tales from out on the trails

    23 February 2008

    RHS does Basel

    Rob came to pay us a visit for my birthday. We went for a Chrischona ride yesterday afternoon, and ate and drank lots in the evening. Today we drove to the Vosges for a lovely pedal in the sun. It was warm (one thermometer claimed 19 degrees) and pretty dry.

    taking a break before the Col de Hundsruck

    riding the Deperado trail

    one of the many varieties of Alsacien lager - mmm nice

    20 February 2008

    One day in France, one day in Switzerland

    I woke up very early on Saturday (this is becoming a bit of a habit of mine) to drive down to Martigny and over to Chamonix for some ski-touring with a couple of old high-school friends, the Stewart brothers. We met at 08:30 in Argentière to meet up with the guide that the lads had kindly organised, and get gear sorted out. We then headed for the Brevent télécabine and up it.

    (click pics for bigger versions)

    Mont Blanc in the morning sun

    This first of two day-long tours took us off the back of the Brévent area close to the Col Cornu. After some bootpacking and a short skin, we reached the first descent of the day. This was a very interesting "secret" bowl with a big height differential, plenty of untouched snow, and some very exciting terrain features making the whole thing very whoopy.

    in the secret bowl

    At the end of this, we were funnelled into a couloir which spat us out at the Pont de l'Arlevé. From here we skinned to a small summit, la Tête Noire de Pormenaz.

    skinning

    reaching the top of the Tête Noire de Pormenaz

    From the Tête Noire we descended into and down a lovely untouched halfpipe-like creek.

    5 men, 10 skis

    Now we wanted to descend to Servoz so traveresd into a couloir that would take us that way. The snow here was very choppy at best, but we'd had our fair share of the good stuff. A while later we reached the Châtelet d'Ayères refuge where we enjoyed refreshments before the final push down to Servoz. Being that Servoz lies at about 800m, the last few hundred of vertical had to be walked. This was a very pleasant stroll in the late winter evening sun.

    end of a great day

    We just missed a train and so had to wait 45 minutes for the next one, but it didn't really matter.

    Bright and early on Sunday we all met at la Forclaz where we attached the skins from the outset (there are no lifts leaving from here!). From the Col, we followed a gradually ascending (and in places technical) trail up and out onto the pastures.

    la Pointe Ronde

    We zig-zagged up to a small col and then followed close to the ridge to eventually reach the summit of the Pointe Ronde (2700m) for about 1:30.

    Asmus looks out over the Valais

    We found a nice patch of grass allowing us to enjoy lunch with stunning views of the Trient Glacier.

    Trient Glacier

    After half an hour of lazing about in the sun, we kicked ourselves into "concentrate" mode. Our guide had seen an untracked pitch to ski down, but this would involve traversing part of summit ridge to get there. Despite my lack of touring boots, I really enjoyed this alpine scramble.

    Asmus showing how it's done

    the rope comes out

    After about 20 minutes of ridge negotiation, using a rope for some extra safety in places, we were able to put our skis on. So here started the real reward for our 1200m ascent: a reasonably serious couloir with some pretty good snow in it. Below the couloir and out in the open, the snow was predictably wind crusted in places, but we remedied this situation by heading straight for the scattered trees we could see ahead. The snow here was excellent and the terrain reminded me of Champex and Bruson. Much fun to be had.

    Ten minutes later we were back on the ascent (now descent) trail, and another ten minutes later we were drinking cans of Löwenbräu followed by glasses of Swiss-Piss (Cardinal Lager).

    well deserved beverages at the Forclaz

    This fantastic tour looks a bit like this on paper:

    the route

    1200m of pain

    The weekend's excellent guiding and 1st class local knowledge was provided by Danish guide Asmus Nørreslet.

    15 February 2008

    And all the while...

    Not many MTBing posts lately but yes, I've been getting out at least twice a week for a decent ride since 11th January (that was my first ride of the year). Nothing new to report trails-wise, but much fun has been had on the oldies. And when I say oldies, I mean that literally as I've been biking from Bern on Wednesday lunchtimes with Christoph. Here are some photos from the past month or so of biking (hover mouse over photos for captions)...

    looking out from the Vosges, over the Rhine Valley towards the Black Forest

    PA at rest near the top of the Molkenrain

    Hartmannswillerkopf: the final resting place of 30,000 WW1 heroes

    self-explanatory really... the top of the Ulmizberg near Bern

    Gempen, Basel's 'Hausberg'

    Thann - Thann ...an XC loop in the Vosges (28th January)

    Yes - this was the first time I've done a proper XC loop in the Vosges, rather than trying out bits and pieces or doing car shuttles to reach good bits of singletrack. I took Ali along, who was still with us from the ski weekend.

    me arriving at the Col Amic on the nice fast singletrack from Firstacker

    The general route was Thann - Thanner Hubel (Desperado trail) - Altenbach - Firstacker - Col Amic - Freundstein - Camp Turenne - Thann.

    ... all descents I had done before but this was the first attempt to string it together into a pedallable affair. It generally worked well apart from part of the track between Altenbach and Firstacker being non-existant (below the Goldenmatt farmhouse). This wasted us about 10 minutes.

    One nice surprise was an undulating bit of singletrack between the Freundstein farm and Camp Turenne. This was really fun and Ali said it was very similar to Welsh trail centre riding.

    Oh, and did I mention that the weather was AMAZING :-)

    Tranny at the TransAlpine (26th - 27th January)

    On the last weekend of January, Ali, Doug and Roddy came over for a weekend of Skiing in -guess where- Verbier, that's right.

    We had a fantastic day on the Saturday and found much more fresh snow than had been expected (hadn't snowed for 5 days). In the morning we did Stairway which was fun. In the afternoon, using some very useful local knowledge, we went up and did the left hand couloir off the Mont Fort backside, followed by a steep boot-pack, followed by "Superbowl"... fantastic... the lightest snow I've witnessed this season. Possibly because there wasn't loads of it, but still. All in all, a great all-mountain day.

    boot-pack climb into Superbowl

    questionable technique from yours truly, but look at the surroundings and fresh snow !

    myself, Doug and Roddy waiting to drop in

    The day was topped off when we discovered that there was a rather tall and well-built transvestite staying at our hotel ("le Transalpin") in Martigny. Don't believe me? well on the Sunday we even spotted him/her out on the slopes and got evidence:

    now smoking a cigarillo isn't very ladylike, is it?

    Sunday's skiing was very mogul-intensive, and the skies clouded over a bit in the afternoon making the light flat and making decent off-piste out of the question.

    17 January 2008

    Skiing 07/08 - the story so far

    I've been caught in a snow-drift, and hence no posts for a while. Well, not quite, but lots of skiing has been going down.

    It was the best season start that I remember. In Mid-December we had 3 days in the Valais...

    On the first of these, we had 30cm of fresh in Verbier where I skiied Lac de Vaux, Ba Combe and various other things with Rob, his mate Greg, and various other people. A long old day with a fair bit of vertical.

    our lines down to the Lac de Vaux

    sugar-coated trees

    Greg in the pow

    hiking the ridge above Ba Combe


    The second "phat" day was spent at Champex. Now what a place this is! 2 lifts servicing a relatively large area of eclectic north-facing terrain, plummetting into the Val d'Arpette. The main attraction here is a couple of glades reminiscent of North America. Rob, Melissa and I sessioned the trees until we dropped.

    me at the top of the glade

    Rob like a pig in the proverbial

    Our final ski day before Christmas was at Bruson. Rob took us on a tour in a southerly direction from the top ridge and down through an open bowl down to some trees and back to the Bruson lifts - names escape me, but from the top there were great views of Mont Blanc Massif and Trient Glacier.

    skinning the ridge

    refreshments at the top

    Rob in front of Mont Fort

    Then was Christmas & New Year in Canada... too much food and large Mochas from Tim Horton's.

    I went up to Val d'Isère and skiied with my Dad and various friends on 4th and 5th January. The snow and weather weren't quite up to scratch for decent off-piste, but some decent on piste-mileage was clocked up, and in good company.

    On the following weekend we spent another couple of fantastic days at Bruson, blessed with another foot or so of new snow. Melissa is becoming quite the expert at caning it through the trees. Skillz.

    more photos to follow!

    06 December 2007

    Grand Ballon - Col Amic - Goldbach

    I was working in Basel on Wednesday, and so I had an extended lunch break and went to the Vosges for a couple of hours. As it was such a nice day, I thought it would be a shame to stay low and in the woods only, so I drove up towards the Grand Ballon to see how the snow level was doing out in the open, along the Route des Cretes.

    le Grand Ballon, highest point in the Vosges at 1423.7m

    I ended up being able to ride down from as high as the Ferme Auberge du Grand Ballon; everything above here was foot-deep snow (partially helped by a couple of snow machines, I might add). I took the GR5 from here to the Col Amic, this was at first quite flat and snowy...

    GR5 from Grand Ballon towards the Col Amic

    ... and then got better and better - what a great trail; rolly, snakey, pumpy... classic Vosges.

    at the Col Amic, end of a great section of trail

    The fun continued on an albeit slightly damper (less sun exposed) trail below the Col Amic, down towards Goldbach.

    the singletrack from Col Amic to Goldbach

    Instead of dropping into Goldbach itself I cut uphill (quite steep) to the Sapinière Auberge/Lama farm place. I then ascended back up to the Firstacker clearing on road, and from here enjoyed a fast mix of open grass and rock singletrack (very reminiscent of something in Northern England) down into Goldbach.

    view from Firstacker across the Thur valley to the Thanner Hubel

    The climb back to the car took a little while but was most enjoyable under the virtually cloudless sky.

    le Molkenrain

    03 December 2007

    First Tracks

    Just back from a weekend of good skiing and great company in Val d'Isère. The weather was better than expected (or worse, depending on the perspective you take... some more snow would be a very good thing at this stage).

    On Sunday I skinned from town up to the top of the Bellevarde slalom course (about 700m vertical) and was rewarded with few nice powder turns to get the season started.

    high quality, low quantity

    30 November 2007

    Col de Hundsruck - Masevaux (18th November)

    This was my first time on the south side of the Col de Hundsruck, i.e. in the "Doller" valley of the Vosges. I had planned a 20km route on stuff that looked like it should be good, i.e. narrow descents. It turned out that some of it was and some of it wasn't narrow; some of it I couldn't tell as there was too much snow on the ground.

    early winter in the Vosges

    ideal bike for around here

    ideal bike for around here 2

    All in all, this wasn't a particularly exciting ride by Vosges standards (I'm VERY keen on the Vosges!), but it was a good to get away from the city for a few hours in
    the hills.

    Lötschberg Südrampe (10th November)

    This Südrampe ride had been planned for a while. I had managed to get a small group together, with the promise of "it is always warm and never rains on the Südrampe". The Meteoschweiz forecast for Saturday had been looking good all week... until I checked it on Friday and of course it now said "snow" for the whole of Switzerland, except for Basel, where it would rain. I decided that, whatever everyone else did, I would still go because I'd rather be riding through snow than sat indoors in a rainy Basel.

    It ended up being just Peter (who had driven to Goppenstein from Geneva) and myself. When we boarded the Regio train at Goppenstein there was about 4cm of snow on the ground. Arriving at the trailhead a few minutes later, we were greeted with a red sign saying "Höhenweg Gesperrt - Wintersperre", meaning, "Trail Closed - Winter Closure".

    hmm

    We decided to go ahead with the ride; you don't do a 5 hour roundtrip on the train for nothing. It all started off OK.

    Peter enjoying the start of the trail

    about to find out why there was a detour

    After 10 minutes, at a junction, we saw a sign saying that we would have to take a detour. We carried on until the trail was totally blocked about 1km later (at the steep ravine section); at this point I realised that we had been supposed to take the detour as of where the sign had been. This cost us some time but provided a rare opportunity to ride the said 1km of trail backwards. The detour itself was highly entertaining: some switchbacky singletrack down a grassy mountainside, followed by a flat trail along a "suon" (irrigation channel), followed by combination of extemely narrow passages and metal staircases up through and across a gorge, back to the main trail.

    suon singletrack

    pipes and planks

    singletrack in the sky

    There were no more detours to be made, and although it snowed throughout (dry snow onto a dusty trail, no mud in sight!), a great ride was had.

    back out on the trail

    Peter on one of the more exposed parts of the trail

    Peter on one of the more grin-inducing parts of the trail

    We arrived at Brig just before the train back up to Goppenstein, which meant no waiting around.

    this way home

    4 inches of fresh

    Mont Jovet revisited (4th November)

    On the way home from a weekend of DIY in Bourg Saint Maurice, Meliss gave me a car shuttle up to the Mont Jovet refuge.

    the view from the way up

    This allowed me, with very little physical effort, to check out some more of the trails that I had been eyeing up on the map for a while. I decided to take the trail southwards along the Dou de Sublet and Mont de Challier, down to la Cour.

    buff

    I had had high hopes for this track; it just looked good on the map and boy was it GREAT. It isn't technically difficult (other than it's narrowness), but this is essentially the flowiest Alpine trail I've ever ridden. Both the open section above the la Cour woods, and the wooded sections down to the village, are absolutely top drawer... straight into the my top 5 favourite trails ever.

    pretty much like a dream

    From la Cour, I took the track across the field into the top of the "Irish Blood" trail which topped off a great hour or so of solid descending. I'm really looking forward to showing people these trails in June and September 2008.

    The Northern Jura (2nd November)

    This was an extended Friday lunchtime ride. The weather was great and I had for ages been meaning to go to Reigoldswil to have a look at the bubble-lift, and the riding that can be accessed from there (as well as the other trails in the area).

    green

    pines and limestone

    top of the Jura

    The scenery was, as ever, first class Jurassian vintage... the riding however, always seems to be a disappointment in this part of the world. What is marked or promised to be singletrack is invariably wide and/or chewed up, or if a section IS nice, then it's far too short. Maybe I'm just getting picky in my old age - it WAS still very nice to get out in the sun for a strenuous XC spin.

    autumnal

    falcon?

    impressive craggy outcrop

    Mont de l'Arpille (27th October)

    This ride started with invite from RHS to "ride the best trail in the world ever". How could I refuse? After very very early start for me in Basel, we caught an 8am PostCar up to the Col de la Forclaz.

    Martigny

    Arriving at the Forclaz, we already knew we were in for a treat, with the sea of cloud below us in the Rhone Valley, and cristal clear views of all the big boy peaks around. We pushed our bikes northwards for about 40 min onto a ridge, after which we were able to ride to the summit of the Mont d'Arpille, which we reached 15 minutes later.

    riding towards the summit

    nearly there

    From here, the view was truly outstanding; we could see as far as the Central Swiss Alps in one direction, and of course Mont Blanc and friends just behind us.

    The descent was, at first, pretty steep and rocky... it possibly seemed harder than it really was as we didn't yet have our descending heads on (...and Rob was just back from a lengthy period out due to injury so that really is a fair enough excuse).

    RHS

    harder than it looks!

    a faster, easier bit

    After another short climb to the ridge and onto the north facing side of the hill, the really nice bit started: very fast singletrack with really nice fast switchbacks (naturally banked in places!). This seemed to go on for ages, and eventually lead us down into the Trient Gorge, where we stopped to have a good look at the stream and then climbed steadily to reach the final balls out, steep and rocky part of the trail, which spat us out by the Martigny-Chamonix railway depot at Verneyaz.

    steep and rocky down to the finish line

    From here, we took a gentle trail along the base of the hill back to Martigny and found a suitable sun-soaked terrace for well-earned swift half a lager.

    So was it the best trail in the world? it was very very good, but there isn't a best trail in the world because it's far too much of a subjective thing... but what this ride did make me realise more than ever before is...

    1) (especially in combination from the previous weekend's experience on Mont Jovet) how much amazing terrain there is to
    be ridden in the Alps (and elsewhere), and that one lifetime isn't enough
    2) how much I love the Valais (especially its weather)
    3) as long as it's not raining, Autumn is probably the best season for riding

    Mont Jovet (20th October)

    I have wanted to go for a ride in the Mont Jovet area for ages. We were finally able to do this on 20th October and it was exciting to have Pat and Leslie join for the outing at very short notice. Starting in Bozel, we drove 1 car, 4 people, and lots of kit up to a farm half way up the mountain. From here we rode up past the Mont Jovet refuge and over the ridge into the la Plagne area.

    Pat on the Pas des Brebis singletrack

    Leslie above La Plagne

    Mont Pourri dominates the scene

    Melissa above La Plagne

    Ash above La Plagne

    After various trails across the top of the resort villages, we crossed back over onto the south side to access what the long descent back towards Bozel. This ended up being better than I could ever have imagined, with the introduction of two new "trails":

    First up "BC this" a fast, flowing and VERY swoopy (but not steep) ribbon of hardpack goodness (the name being a reference to that fact that the trail looks a trails in the Chilcotin mountains in British Columbia, which I might add, I have only seen in photographs).

    Leslie riding BC this

    Secondly "Irish Blood", a continuation of "BC this" which is different enough to have it's own name (named as such because both Pat and I have crashed on the trail, him being Irish and me being part Irish). This is still flowy in places, ducking and diving into and out of the Bonrieu gorge. However, it is much harder than BC this, because of the drop into the stream (psychological) and the switchbacks where the going gets steep (technical).

    Melissa riding Irish Blood

    If you're reading this and like the sound of riding these trails, go
    here to find out more!

    Mont Salève (6th October)

    Peter Karlsson very kindly showed us to his local trails near Geneva (he also put us up and fed us well at his house the night before). Mont Salève has a cable-car giving an altitude boost of 800m or so.

    not a small hill

    Unfortunately the view from the top on this Saturday was not great, but this we were here to ride! The trails were really interesting and in fact very challenging, so it's a shame that I really was not on top of my game AT ALL. Steep, rocky, slippery, rooty, damp, and a bit more slippery were the adjectives of the day. We will be back sometime to do the place a bit more justice.

    the team, minus me

    Peter takes on a medium-sized drop

    03 October 2007

    Big Bike / Little Bike

    On Saturday I managed to sneek out for a quick blast around Chrischona, taking in a fast new section of the Westweg (which Oli told me about)...

    on the Westweg by the Hirzenleck tower

    ...and also testing out my new tree-ramp on Rake's (which definitely adds to the flow of the trail as you no longer have to dismount :-)).

    a very dangerous piece of north shore

    On Sunday we dug out the full-sussers and went to check out the new Lac Blanc freeride park near to le Bonhomme in the Vosges (an hour away from Basel). There is some really interesting stuff there, of varied difficulty, and they have certainly made the most of the 300m vertical served by the lift.

    Miss M.M.

    obstacles in the forests of 68

    17 September 2007

    Chrischona Trails

    I've been home for over two weeks now. I can't complain about the amount of riding I've managed to squeeze in. The weather has been great and I can't complain too much about the trails either - I've really got back into the XC stuff north of the Rhine. It's been a combination of finding new bits and pieces of singletrack (which in places need clearing), and re-riding old favourites. My first bit of Northshore is due to be installed sometime in the next week; full report to follow.

    Here are some pics from yesterday's ride; 28km, 630m vertical, fantastic 25-degree weather.

    me in the Buchswald

    ascending the side of the Unterberg

    Melissa enjoying the Creek Trail

    St.Chrischona abbey

    Summer 2007

    Well it started with visits to the Lötschberg, Verbier and Pila...

    the lads in Verbier, innit

    The middle bit was made up of 8 action-packed weeks in Les Arcs...

    an interesting La Varda shot courtesy of Ewan Panter

    And it all finished with a very interesting visit from a Mr. Seb Rogers who took lots of photos and took part in our "Everest in a Day" challenge (which we completed successfully - look out for the article in What Mountain Bike magazine sometime in the coming months!).

    me, Tsantaleina, and an Orange 5

    Ali and I at the Lac des Moutons

    Oh and we called in at Pila and Verbier on the way home too :-)

    23 June 2007

    Slack !

    Well... slack in terms of keeping this thing updated, anyhow.

    A lot has happened since end of April, but it's flown by and now, all of a sudden, I'm leaving Basel for 10 weeks at 5am tomorrow.

    The has been another weekend in the Maritime Alps (17th - 20th May, ascension), including some more good stuff in the Vesubie Valley. Best trail was the fantastic section of the GR 510 from Col de la Porte down into le Suquet. Just fantastic. The GR510 down into Suquet from the GR5 junction (Brec d'Utelle) was also good but extremely technical. Mont Ferion above Levens, was a bit disappointing.











    The weekend after, we were in London for Chloe's christening so I took the opportunity to get up very early Saturday and head down to the Surrey Hills with Gary Smith. We met up with a few others at Dorking, and by the time we stopped for food at Peaslake, it was rather a full group of CF lads. First time down there for me ... really fun trails considering the size of the hills.





    10th June, I took Christoph to the Vosges and showed him Thanner Hubel (Desperado) as well as the two main trails off the top of the Molkenrain. He seemed to enjoy it - I certainly did.



    May and June have also featured some more Chrischona riding (although not loads) and one really cool visit to Magglingen where Christoph showed me the new "Technischer" :-)

    30 April 2007

    Les Arcs season opener

    First Tarentaise weekend of the season, accompanied by lovely sunshine, a visit from Mr. Hardcastle, and a FREE working funicular (on the Saturday). This was our first spring MTB weekend staying at the new place... absolutely great having direct access to the hill in the mornings.

    Saturday: Black 8, White 8, Chicane Left, Girl Next Door, Chicane Right, Black 8, White 8, Secret Garden (newly "sanitized"!) = more than 6400m vertical !

    Melissa on Chicane

    me on Black 8 shortcut

    evening sun on the Beaufortain


    Sunday: we did a car uplift for the final 35%-ish of HEIDI (starting from "Plan Bois" on the Sainte Foy ski area), followed by lunch at the Orient Express, and then an uplift to Pré St.Esprit to do the Moist Nun (including helping a French couple get their Citroen C3 out of a ditch :-))

    Steve on HEIDI

    me on HEIDI

    25 April 2007

    trailAddiction in the Sierra Nevada

    Ali and I, plus Melissa and a bunch of "the lads" hit the Granada side of the Sierra Nevada this weekend just gone (some of us were there 4 days, some of us 5). It was my first time down there and I must say I'm massively impressed. What really got me was the variety of terrain... e.g. one minute riding across moorland akin to something in Northern England, the next minute through barren shrubland as if in the Middle East.

    The general riding style is, I guess, what you'd class as "enduro" or "all mountain" these days: a morning uplift to access the tops of the fantastic trails, followed by making the most of the "free altitude gain" during the course of day-long predominantly descending XC rides.











    13 April 2007

    Vosges

    What a great morning's ride on the Thanner Hubel and lower sections of the Molkenrain. Gotta start coming here more often.

    me on le Deperado

    Simon railing past the hut at Place Zundel

    Simon getting semi-air on le Desperado

    Thann

    12 April 2007

    The Maritime Alps Revisited (Easter Sunday and Monday)

    First thing Sunday we headed up to La Colmiane and set off on the GR5, traversing Mt. Chalancha and Mt. Tournairet on our way to Granges de la Brasque. The going was tough in places - the ground was soggy due to recent snow melt and there was even some snow remaining on the less sun-exposed slopes. The weather was threatening which provided a bit of an atmosphere (!)







    The descent from Granges de la Brasque to Lantosque was fantastic in every way. One of the longest descents (i.e. NO uphill) I've ever done on some of the most varied singletrack I've ever witnessed. I'm hoping that there are many more like this in the Vesubie area. We will find that out in May.



    On Sunday I was left to my own devices as Melissa had gone to the beach early. I ascended out of Sospel to the Baisse de Scuvion (1168m), descended to the Col de Razet via a narrow trail with exposure to the left. I then turned right onto a rockier, more challenging track to the Col St.Bernard before taking the silly steep and loose option down towards Monti and then on to Menton (& Melissa). The final section of this was very pleasant singletrack through fields, hamlets and orchards.







    Esterel (Good Friday and Easter Saturday)

    We arrived in Cannes (well Theoule-sur-Mer to be precise) in early afternoon Friday, had a spot of lunch and then headed up into the Esterel, following the route of the "VTT Rallye de Theoule". What an amazing place this is - so dry yet so green, very nice gradients for biking, and trails all over the place.







    On Saturday we did another route from the 1001 Sentiers website which took us on a loop around Pic de l'Ours (the highest summit in the area). One of the allegedly "better" descents turned out to be a bit overgrown, but it was a great day out with ascents very well suited to MTBs (not too steep but narrow enough to still be interesting).





    05 April 2007

    Rhine-Line

    Already been up there twice since, but Sunday was a Chrischona ride with a difference. This time, on top of the usual stuff, I did about an 8km loop on the EAST side of Rührberg, i.e. well into Germany. This culminated in a hill called "Hirzenleck" from which there is:

    1) a great view down towards Rheinfelden (and the Feldschlösschen brewery), but more importantly...

    some Reynolds 520 at about 520m altitude

    2) a fantastic skyline-type undulating singletrack, back in the direction of Rührberg. Gotta work this into a greater Chrischona Hills loop (which will of course also include Rakes' Progress).

    04 April 2007

    Dorenaz in the Valais

    Our first freeride day of the 2007 season took place this Saturday gone (31st March) in the Valais. On the recommendation of RHS and Lucy from BikeVerbier, Meliss, Christoph and I hit some nice trails served by the Dorenaz lift just north of Martigny.

    top of the lift

    Mr. Bojangles

    not the worlds biggest lift, but it works

    the chain trail

    30 March 2007

    New Border Trails

    Been up to Unterberg / Chrischona quite a few times in the last few weeks. We've found some great new bits of trail and are starting to make good progress with our work-in-progress "Rake's Progress" trail, which is going to be cracker when finished.

    Basel from Germany

    Simon on 'Black 7.5'

    15 March 2007

    a bit warmer than this time last year...

    ... Tuesday evening: a great little ride up at Chrischona, taking in the Weissherren, Rakes and (as always) the Graveyard trail to finish. Absolutely loving the orange bike at the minute, so good on the narrow snakey stuff.

    orange bike in Germany, with Feldberg (Scharzwald) in the far distance

    orange bike in Switzerland, with Rhine Valley and Swiss Jura behind

    Verbier

    Saturday morning we were up at 5:15 so as to get down to Verbier in time for 1st lift. Oh how it was worth it :-)

    RHS on the stairway

    Met up with RHS at the top of the Medran bubble and he took us on three fantastic off-piste runs: Stairway to Heaven (inluding a 15 minute hike in), Highway, and another I've forgotten the name of.

    Hamilton-Smith and Smith at the top

    Mark and Melissa arrive

    Rob getting ready to drop in

    We also happened to be blessed with 20cm of fresh which, all in all, rendered it the best day of the season for me :-)

    me on Highway

    05 March 2007

    Chamonix (again)

    Rubbish weather on Saturday (very mild and raining), but a great few hours of skiing at le Tour on Sunday joined by Kimberley and of course Melissa, and an Australian lad called Karl.

    that (left to right) is a vertical drop of about 3.758 km

    We couldn't have asked for better weather, and the snow on-piste was mainly good. Off-piste was pretty much no-go due to a damp top layer that had fallen in the mild temperatures Saturday and then frozen overnight, resulting in a really weird crust effect and general uncertainty.

    26 February 2007

    Birthday Weekend

    Thursday Night: Doug arrives and we go for a kebab, and watch a rather disappointing piece of "comedy theater" in the middle of Basel.

    Friday morning: off to the Valais for another dose of the Lötschberg Südrampe. My 4th time down there now and I'm still amazed by the place. I think that Doug rather enjoyed it too.

    dropping into one of many canyon-type tributary valleys

    techy singletrack after Ausserberg

    tunnel close to Lalden

    Friday Night: Dad arrives for a night's stopover on his way to Chamonix. Four of us enjoy a rather nice meal of marinated tuna steaks, and then out to a couple of small Kleinbasel pubs. Home too late.

    Saturday morning: late-ish start and we get to Andermatt by 11:45. Mixed weather but pretty darn good snow and the 2 or so hours of bright blue skies we got made it well worth the trip.

    Andermatt Knoll

    Saturday night: out to see DJ Woody at the Kaserne in Basel. A few vodkas were consumed and the drunken (and very bad, on my part anyway) b-boy gymnastics commenced.

    Sunday: fried eggs and ham + fresh croissants + Lavazza coffee

    What a weekend. Still knackered now :-)

    18 February 2007

    A week off sick

    It all started last weekend in the Maritime Alps. Wasn't feeling great on Saturday, and by Sunday afternoon it was a full-blown fever lasting until Tuesday/Wednesday, followed by a lovely bout of Bronchitis. Back to work tomorrow though.

    Here's a shot taken on a lovely walk we did last weekend, near La Colmiane, just before my health started to deteriorate.

    Cime des Lauses

    07 February 2007

    Snowy singletrack skinning

    Sunday morning was a slow one after Saturday night's FearNada festivities, but we had decided we wanted some exercise and were able to find ourselves a trail to climb up on Skis & Skins. This took us up through some woods on the south side of the Rinerhorn, the summit of our little excursion being a random little hut where we devoured our sandwiches.

    Descending the 500m-odd that we had gained back to the car was a bit awkward - with it being really quite difficult to know what method to use (skins on skis, which binding mode, etc). In the end I just took the skis off and stuck them on my pack, using poles for support on the (at times) very rocky/icy ground. Melissa kept the skis on and beat me down :-)

    seems that this would ride well in Summer :-)

    skis at rest at the top

    FearNada !

    Blimey it's Wednesday already - better write an entry for last weekend.

    Saturday was spent taking part in the "FearNada" in Davos. If you think the Megavalanche is silly, check this out: all DH, all on snow (actual ski pistes), mass start (OK only 60-odd people), un-timed and with one winner (everyone else is "2nd"). Biking on real (i.e. deep) snow is a lot harder than I expected, especially when the sun has warmed and softened the snow a bit (which was the case for the actual race which started at 15:30).

    Suffice to say that I did badly - Christoph did marginally better but it also wasn't best run of his career. However, it was all a bit of a giggle and, apart from the bruised chin from the Kobe landing on my face during one spectacular stack, no major injuries sustained so all in all, a bit of a result.

    FearNada particpants (spot Christoph)

    our weapons of choice for the day

    02 February 2007

    Gempen

    A quick blast up and down the Gempen this afternoon, with some great views of the Central Swiss Alps from the top (100km away as the crow flies).

    Dialled Bike, Telescope and Jura

    Jura and Central Swiss Alps

    Even at the top (759m) it was well above freezing today, so the snow is quite slushy and any ground no longer covered by snow is very muddy. Great ride though.

    Schartenflue singletrack

    29 January 2007

    Engelberg

    Saturday morning and we were straight in the car down to Central Switzerland for the first powder weekend of the 06/07 snow season.

    Visibility wasn't great on Saturday, but there were one or two clear breaks allowing us to find the good stuff (in about a foot of fresh) under the Jochpass where not many other people had had the opportunity to ski things out.

    Meliss in the pow

    Sunday was a total bluebird, so we took the opportunity to ski down the front of the Titlis glacier. This involved some careful negociating (read: straightlining) of ice couloirs, but we were rewarded with some lovely little pockets of snow, again about a foot of fresh or possibly a bit more in places.

    Ash on the glacier

    Looking North from the top of the Titlis

    Sunset in Central CH

    Melissa's skiing has totally transformed over the course of a month and she's literally learned in one weekend how to ski off-piste properly.

    Chrischona Snow

    The winter is finally here proper in Northern Switzerland.

    Managed to sneak out for some of Friday afternoon. Gempen was a bit too ambitious of a prospect for the given time window, so I headed up to the Chrischona border trails.

    Absolutely fantastic riding. Can't think of anything much better than riding on hardpacked snow covered with a 3-inch layer of light powder.

    a field in Germany

    the Rhine valley with the start of the Jura mountains behind

    the way back to Switzerland

    Chamonix

    Weekend of 20th January - we had planned to meet up and hit the snow with the boy RHS.

    Got to Cham too late to attend the photo competition that Rob was in... so he had to enjoy free booze all night pretty much on his tod and by time we got there it was far too late to even bother playing catch-up with him :-)

    Saturday was a not at all bad day out on the Brevent with some actually very nice patches of spring-like snow.

    Dru Twighlight

    Sunday it rained so we drove home via the Col des Montets and Martigny.

    Les Arcs

    Still trying to get up to date on blog entries for various weekends in the Alps...

    A nice little weekend in Bourg St.Maurice - Les Arcs on 13th-14th January. It was nice to finally stay in the Bourg apartment with all the major re-furb work finished (although there are some finishing touches to sort out).

    Got lots of KMs covered on VERY empty pistes (nothing but nothing to be had off-piste) and it was good to catch up with some of the Peisey crowd.

    the blanc from the blanc

    24 January 2007

    December 2006

    Not a great month for biking (for me) - lots on at work including preparations for some major tests in Lucerne.

    However, I managed to finally get hold of an Alfine rear hub just before the holidays and tested it out in Chamonix between Christmas and New Year.

    Dru and Aiguille Verte

    at the top - note the lack of snow on this south-facing slope

    heading down towards the Petit Balcon Sud

    Valley floor

    November 2006

    November and guess what... still in shorts and t-shirt.

    The first Saturday of the month was spent in Central Switzerland, doing a route from Stans which mainly traversed the west flanks of the Buochserhorn. Some of this was steep as anything and the views in this part of the world are something else:

    the trail out of Niederrickenbach, with the Brisen (2404m) in the background

    Brisen panorama

    Buochserhorn singletrack

    The next weekend, Christoph and I took the opportunity (in still great weather) to hit the Lötschberg Südrampe for the 2nd time this Autumn. This has to be one of the best XC trails I've ridden and because of it's unique geographical position it has a true mediterranean feel to it. Has to be seen/ridden to be believed:

    Ash

    Natz

    View from Kandersteg

    The rest of the weekend consisted of lugging stuff to the Bourg St.Maurice re-furb job. Got some photos along the way though:

    The crags above Trient

    In the middle of November we had another weekend of lugging stuff southwards but managed in amongst all this to sneak an afternoon off and visit the Bozel valley. The highlight of this ride was a VERY exposed cliff edge trail between Tincave and le Châtelard. I like this valley - it's going to be the scene of trailAddiction's "Vanoise Enduro Day" as from July 2007:

    Ash on Bozel singletrack

    singletrack heading down to le Châtelard

    Meliss on the easiest bit of a very tricky trail

    October 2006

    And so the Indian Summer continued in full swing...

    The highlight was possibly an afternoon off on the 9th where I decided to head as far south on the Gempen plateau as possible. I reached the reputed Chaltbrunnental just before dusk and followed this back towards the Birs valley. The Chaltbrunnental (Cold Springs Valley) is a wonderful limestone stream valley with a mix of narrow and wide singletrack running down it and water which, depending how far along the valley you are, can be roaring off a 10 metre step one minute and swirling quietly in a large pool the next.

    No photos of the Chaltebrunnental as it was getting too dark, but here are some from out on the plateau:

    looking deep into the Jura

    Caotina starts here

    descending towards the Chaltbrunnental

    Simon and I only did the Gempen classic route once all autumn and that was 12th October. Actually it wasn't strictly speaking the classic as we managed to sneak in Ingelstein too. This was also the day I finally got the latest Dialled prototype frame built up and ready for a beating. It is nice. It has cool dropouts. It rides like a PA, i.e. very well!

    a new bike from Surrey

    a view over most of the Gempen classic route, with the city of Basel in the background

    Simon enjoying Ingelstein

    Sunday 15th I put together a great little SwissMap/GPS route in the Jura to the east of the Ober Hauenstein pass. The highlight of this was a descent from the 1088m Belchenflue.

    new orange bike at Allerheiligenberg

    Southern slopes of the Belchenflue

    September 2006

    A great month for biking - Basel was blessed with great weather (OK pretty typical for Southern Alsace / Black Forest for this time of year, but interesting to see that it is constantly one or two degrees warmer here than on the Swiss midlands, and often sunnier).

    Looking Southwards into Switzerland, from Swiss-German border

    Did lots of biking in the Chrischona area with Melissa and Simon. Ducking in and out of Germany we managed to find two great new trails and some other potentially nice offerings, but which need some horticultural work (!). All of this stuff is perfectly sessionable mid-week because of how close it is to the city, so no excuses not to get out there really. Oh, and we found a new kebab house on the way home.

    The way up to St.Chrischona

    No Steve McQueen antics required although some lanes around here are patrolled by the Grenzwache

    Kobe in the sunset

    Meliss rips the Unterberg border trail

    Chillin'

    One September weekend excursion took us into the Jura where we checked out the trail from the Rechtenberg westwards towards Delémont. This consisted of a very long ridgeline singletrack with some tough climbs (often too steep if I'm honest!) and not many good views as nearly the whole hill is in forest... some of the descending, however, was excellent. Would go back if there weren't a thousand and one other places to go.

    top of the Rechtenberg

    some Jurassic singletrack

    The month was rounded off with a fantastic (mostly sunny) weekend in the Tarentaise, where we got to introduce nine very friendly and enthusiastic lads from the West Midlands to the wonders of Les Arcs.

    Meliss on Joe's Repose

    Me

    Let's get this thing going again. No more cyber-lazyness!

    Well it has been far far too long since I've updated this thing and all of Autumn 2006 is missing.

    So here's an attempt at bringing things back up to speed - starting from the return to Basel at the beginning of September.

    Actually... it's gonna be easier to do a quick month-by-month summary of September through December. Here we go.

    04 October 2006

    Summer 2006

    1000 photos, 1000 memories, the best summer yet...
    Here's a nice picture taken on the H.E.I.D.I. route, courtesy of Mark Graylish:

    Sick!

    22 May 2006

    GPS test in the Jura

    Sunday: a bit of a perfect weather day in so far as the morning was cloudy whilst we nursed hangovers, and the afternoon/evening were glorious. I was finally able to make my new GPS (Garmin Geko 301) communicate with the Swiss digital mapping software, which was nice. So I planned a short route around Balsthal to test the whole thing out. Fantastic result: it really does do exactly as it says ont' tin: no fannying around with the map. The 11km route contained about 5.5km of flowy singletrack, so all in all, not a bad day!

    Sick!

    Jura, Midlands, Alps

    Typical Jura Landscape

    Lunchtime in Lucerne

    Another work related day spent in Lucerne, with nothing to do between noon and 15:30. Rude not to have a ride up towards Pilatus then. "Towards" being the operative word - I made it to about 1300m (the top is 2132m). Nice views out onto the the Vierwaldstättersee. Not sure that I found the best of the trails back down - will have to have a closer look next time.

    Wasserturm & Pilatus

    Vierwaldstättersee

    Trails in the Krienser Hochwald

    Les Arcs

    A belated entry of LAST weekend's riding in Les Arcs (well, Bourg St.Maurice really). First time down there this season and the highlight was our Sunday XC route to north of Bourg (Grandville - Vulmix, etc) which involved some superb snippets of dusty trail that we've never seen before. There was also a sketchy stream crossing late in the day which kept things interesting.

    Southside Finale

    Steepville down from Grandville

    DUST! anybody? no? DUST!

    Aerial Dust

    09 May 2006

    Haute Route Day 6: Vignettes - Zermatt

    First day of non-perfect weather. In fact quite foggy. Started with climb to Col d'Eveque (3395m). Descent passing through a few hundred metres of Italy before turning right onto the upper reaches of the Arolla glacier to start second climb of the day to the Col du Mont Brulé (3213m)... the final 150m vertical were with skis on backpacks but thankfully no crampons needed. This was followed by a very short descent onto the middle of the Tsa de Tsan glacier (Italy once again) before starting the final climb of the tour to the highest col, Col de Valpelline (3557m). At 3557m, it was by no means over: we now had to negociate very carefully down the Stockji glacier with large crevasses literally just to the side of the skiied trail and the visibility still poor. The visibility improved as we descended toward the Zmutt glacier, giving way to some very impressive scenery under the Matterhorn's north face. The snow ran out rather quicker than we had hoped and the tour ended with a 2 hour walk with skis on packs, down into Zermatt.

    Crossing in and out of Italy

    They think it's all over... 3 hour walk to Zermatt anyone?

    Day 6 Route Profile

    Haute Route Day 5: Dix - Vignettes

    Biggest and possibly the most difficult climb of the Haute Route, all the way to the Pigne d'Arolla (3790m). From the top of here, the most encompassing view of the alps I've ever seen: Matterhorn and Dent Blanche now close to the East; Berner Oberland to the North; Jura to the North-North-West; Dents du Midi to the North-West; Mont Blanc Massif to the West; Grand Casse (!), Ruitor Glacier and possibly Grande Sassiere/Tsanteleina to the South-West; Aosta Valley and Gran Paradiso to the South. Very nice isn't the expression. This was followed by a reasonably quick descent down the eastern flanks of the mountain to the cliff-perched Vignettes refuge (3160m) and Rösti for lunch.

    Dent Blanche and Matterhorn (Italian Ridge)

    The Vignettes Refuge

    Day 5 Route Profile

    Haute Route Day 4: Pra Fleuri - Dix

    Start with climb to Col de Mourti (2908m) instead of the planned Col des Roux (2804m). This height would give us some decent skiing and help with the southward traverse of the Dix lake. This traverse was however difficult at times, especially having to remove skis and cross avalanche debris/rocks. We were relieved to reach the southern end of the lake where we could start the long couteau-equipped climb to the Dix refuge (2928m). There was a guitar here so that kept me occupied for most of the afternoon - even got a bit of sunburn on my legs.

    early morning above Pra Fleuri

    traversing the Dix lake

    Mont Blanc de Cheillon (3870m)

    Pie Supply

    Day 4 Route Profile

    Haute Route Day 3: Montfort - Pra Fleuri

    Early start with long climb to Col de la Chaux (2940m) before short descent to Lac du Petit Montfort. Superb views of Grand Combin to the south. Long climb to Rosablanche via Col du Momin. View from the top (3336m) was nothing short of amazing: first views of Matterhorn and surrounding peaks - Mt Blanc once again visible to the west. This was followed by a really nice ski down the Pra Fleuri glacier to the Pra Fleuri refuge (2657m) for our first early (12:00-ish) finish of the tour. Enjoyed the sun and kipped in the afternoon.

    Ash and Grand Combin

    Day 3 Route Profile

    Haute Route Day 2: Trient - Montfort

    A shallow ski down the Trient glacier and very short ski-less scramble up to the Col des Ecandies (2793m) to enter the top of the Val d'Arpette. A fun, scenic and long descent through Val d'Arpette. Walk from Arpette down to Champex for lunch by the lake. Minibus from Champex to Verbier. Cable car from Verbier to Ruinettes followed by long boring ascent to Montfort refuge (2457m). Would have been good to arrive a little earlier to enjoy the sun.

    Ash at Col des Ecandies

    Lunch in Champex

    Day 2 Route Profile (part 1)

    Day 2 Route Profile (part 2)

    Haute Route Day 1: Chamonix - Trient

    Met at 08:45 at Chamonix guides office and up to Argentière to jump on the Grand Montets cable car. Down the Rognons glacier on some very hard and choppy snow. Across the Argentière glacier to about 2500m, put on crampons and climbed to first pass, Col du Passon (3028m). Down onto Glacier du Tour for lunch trying to shelter from wind, followed by climb to the Swiss border at Col du Tour (3281m). We actually climbed just south and higher than the Col du Tour and ended up entering Switzerland via a steep gully which most were roped down. Traverse the southern end of the Trient plateau under the Aiguilles Dorées to the Trient refuge (3170m) which required one short final climb at the end.

    Dad looking eager on Day 1

    looking back at the Trient plateau from the Refuge

    Day 1 Route Profile

    23 April 2006

    Vosges

    Our first time in the Vosges this year (except for some ski touring in January) and some great weather to mark the occasion. The trails are much easier than those on the Riviera last weekend, but anyone who passes through here MUST try the "yellow cross" trail from the top of the Thanner Hubel. It's some of the fastest singletrack you'll find.

    a typical view in the Vosges

    Dreimarkstein XC loop

    Thanner Hubel, yellow cross trail

    Gears !

    Although not yet in final build guise, the Kobe now has some gears (about 14 or so I reckon). This very strange (but good) concept was tested out on Saturday during a run of the mill Gempen - Ingelstein - Gempen - Schönmatt - Basel loop. I got absolutely peed on half way 'round whilst Melissa sat in the cafe...

    Nuglar

    Friday evening XC loop on the plateau, including singletrack down to Nuglar which has now been resurfaced and is actually ridable. Good.

    Kobe at 19:30

    19 April 2006

    Easter Monday

    Two more trails in Sospel before departing to go home. Firstly the black No.7 which although mainly flowing and easy, has some very tight switchbacks and at times incredible exposure to the deep gorges of the creek bed! After lunch we rode the lower section of the GR52 down into Sospel, from which the lower section of the bermy Sospel DH course can be reached.

    Sospel - Menton (Easter Sunday, afternoon)

    We'd been toying with the idea of doing this route down to the coast since starting to plan our Riviera trip. Adrian and I clubbed together to define/design the route. The idea was to take in as much singletrack as possible with a mix of human and vehicle-assisted ascending. I'm glad we decided to go ahead with it because as luck would have it, this ride with it's combination of all types of singletrack imaginable, as well as the stunning views of the coast, turned out to be the highlight of the weekend. Total vertical descent was about 2000m with a long tough climb in the middle. Total length was 32km according to Adrian's GPS.

    Nasher & Melissa at Col de Farguet

    Melissa, PA, and technical singletrack

    Ash & Melissa on singletrack to St.Siméon

    Melissa attacks the trail

    Chillin' in preparation for the final climb to 1100m

    Preparing for take-off down to Roquebrune and Menton

    Sospel (Easter Sunday, morning)

    Having arrived in Sospel on Saturday and waited out the afternoon rains we were desperate to get out on the hill first thing Sunday. First trail was the long descent of the black No.2 trail from the boundary of the Mercantour National Park back down to Sospel via Mont Agasien. With one or two small rock gardens, this was mainly quite flowy and some of it even reminded me of a Scottish/Welsh trail centre.

    Sospel

    San Romolo (Easter Saturday)

    Another fantastic descent, this time from Mt. Bignone, the mountain above San Romolo, again under the Nasher's expert guidance. With more of a mediterranian feel to it (big slabs and dustyness), this was harder than any of Friday's riding and can apparently be extended into a full on route all the way down to San Remo. Very impressive.

    me negotiating the slabs and switchbacks

    Nasher shows Melissa how it's done

    Val Argentina (Good Friday)

    First stop on the Easter weekend, a visit to Badalucco in the hills north of San Remo on Italian Riviera. Boss of Riviera Bike, Adrian Nash showed us two incredible trails (the very technical Terra Rossa and another I've forgotten the name of) by means of vehicle uplift. A great way to kick start the season followed by real italian pizza and some beers with the locals. Very Nice.

    Melissa on Terra Rossa

    08 April 2006

    Gempen Hills XC loop

    Saturday, and finally a chance to show Melissa all the new trails I've found this week. Great weather too. We slope-styled it all day long!

    Top of the Schartenflue, looking to the heart of the Jura country

    Sketchy line on Ingelstein

    Melissa on Ingelstein

    Twisting down into Münchenstein

    07 April 2006

    An Historic Night at the Riverside

    Didn't think I'd ever put any chavball on this blog, but after careful consideration and a stunning performance from the boys, I'm making an exception.

    Middlesbrough fought back from a 0-3 aggregate deficit to overcome the Swiss Champions FC Basel 4-3 and storm into the semi-finals of the 2006 UEFA cup.

    After 12 years of following the 'Boro closely, this is by far the best display of theirs that I've ever seen. One might say that this doesn't take much doing, and one might be right - however, it was undeniably a fantastic match, a great fight back and a fairy-tale 90th minute finish.

    Roll on Bucarest !

    the moment when the impossible became reality

    Fresh Powder

    Well wet slush actually... yes, it's snowed yet again!

    Yesterday evening: I did the Ingelstein trail for the 2nd time with the intention of checking out the long descent from Hintere Ebni afterwards. Progress was however slow due to the very slippery slush and after three hours of it I was fed up of having soaking wet feet, and so called it a day.

    I cannot wait for all this snow to finally bugger off as these Gempen Plateau trails really are very good, not least the new ones I've found.

    Ingelstein: a different world to 46 hours previous

    04 April 2006

    Finding singletrack in the Jura

    is like finding a needle in a haystack. However, my efforts were rewarded tonight with an absolute gem of a new trail on top of a big crag called "Ingelstein". Technical, flowy and following a tight ridgeline: three very good attributes for a trail! I'll be working this one into my ultimate Northern Jura XC loop then...

    Kobe on Ingelstein

    '674' marks the start!

    Basel...

    ...less mountains, more water.

    River Rhine, Mittlere Brücke, Trois Rois Hotel

    Bern...

    ...not a bad place to work if you like views. This is what we could see from lunch today:

    Eiger 3970m, Mönch 4099m, Jungfrau 4158m, Swiss Federal Parliament Building 590m

    Trails Slowly Drying

    The first weekend of April and yet another two days of very changeable weather. It has however warmed up a bit; the damp left in the ground by three solid months of snow cover is slowly but surely evaporating from the hills above Basel.

    Sunday saw us find a very nice "new" trail from the Hochwald campsite down to Dornach, steep and rooty in places! No photos yet (I was too busy trying to keep up with Melissa) but I'll see if I can do something about that next weekend.

    looking towards the Passwang under threatening skies

    28 March 2006

    trailAddiction AGM

    Ali came over for a weekend of very hard work, however we managed to squeeze in a tiny, tiny bit of playtime as well. This consisted of some skiing Saturday and Sunday (including Melissa's first proper off-piste adventure on skis and not a snowboard), followed by the year's first snow-free bike ride on my local Basel trails, on Monday.

    Meliss on glacier off-piste

    a Geordie levitating over Central Switzerland

    Meliss looking smooth

    Central Swiss Alps from Lucerne County

    22 March 2006

    Haute Route

    I've just received an invite to join a group (which includes my Dad) to ski the famous high-level backcountry route from Chamonix to Zermatt at the beginning of May. Well chuffed!!! It's 6 days, overnights in mountain huts, and a fair bit of vertical up and down I suspect. Time to have a closer look at the route...

    looks well easy to me !

    Lugano Sun

    11th & 12th March

    Jon & Cass booked a flight to Basel well in advance of what turned out to be yet another cold and miserable weekend in most of Switzerland. So we decided to make the most of an unlucky situation head to the south side of the Alps for some sun.

    Some better knowledge of the area and a bit less snow would have helped but we rode a few great trails and it was fantastic to be out on the bike again proper after a long, cold and snowy winter. We will be back soon for sure, after the lifts open in April.

    Lake Lugano

    the prawner in a corner

    21 March 2006

    Engelberg Powder

    7th March

    The first weekend of March saw record snowfalls on the Swiss midlands, and needless to say silly amounts of precipitation in the Alps. It would have been rude not to take a day off work to go play. I got an invite from mountain guide Martin Simioni at lunchtime on Monday and by 10:30 am on Tuesday we were at the top of Mt. Titlis (3028m) ready to ski Central Switzerland's "best off-piste run" amongst others

    looking up from inside the main couloir

    looking up the couloir from the bottom