Ski Touring in the Orco Valley, southern Gran ParadisoJune 29, 2021
Cover. La Thuile Mountain Guides
Gallery: (12) Courmayeur Mountain Guides
The tour around Mont Blanc in mountain bike is a great project for all ambitious and well trained bikers. The terrain and landscape vary all along the tour, but the gorgeous glaciers and rocky pillars of Mont Blanc are always at close sight.
This itinerary crosses the borders of three countries (France, Switzerland, Italy); it can be considered of medium difficulty, in fact it requires a good control of the bike in some single track sections, and a good fitness as to ride 4-6 hours every day at altitudes ranging between 600 and 2500 m.
We propose here two programmes, with the assistance of a local mtb guide, and overnight stay in hotel or guesthouse at the villages in the lower valleys which, according to our experience, is a far better solution than staying at the mountain huts in the upper valleys. The biker shall bring along his/her personal affairs and one clothes change, with possibility of a laundry service every evening at the hotel. With this approach the group will be totally self sufficient and independent.
Programme A is suitable to experienced and well trained bikers. It includes some strenuous uphill ascents with steep sections and bike pushing. The whole tour is carried out by bike, except the Martigny – La Fouly section ( day 3) where train + bus is utilized.
Programme B is suitable also for the less trained bikers or for those riding a heavy enduro bike. Here the most strenuous and less cyclable ascents are avoided, instead public or private transports by train or minivan are utilized. Indeed we recommend this programme also for the experienced and well trained bikers, since it allows to better enjoy the descents and the environment.
Both programmes A and B can be carried out with muscular or e-bikes, featuring full suspensions and good quality tyres. They are not suitable to hard tail bikes nor city bikes !
Rental of bikes and protection gear is offered as optional.
The tours as described here feature a total of 160 – 200 km approximately and 4000 -7000 m of vertical gain/loss. On average there is a mix of 30% asphalt, 40% unpaved roads and 30% single track trails. We try to reduce asphalt sections to the very minimun needed. Sections with bike pushing (i.e. not feasible on saddle) may vary from 5% to 30% of the whole tour.
We recommend to ride the tour clockwise (as given in the programmes), in order to tackle the various ascents and descents with less effort and greater fun.
Point of start and finish of the tour can be any of the villages set for overnight stay, but mostly we propose either Les Contamines or St.Gervais on the french side (100 km from Genève airport) or Courmayeur on the italian side (115 km from Genève airport, 150 km from Torino airport, 210 km from Milano Malpensa).
Best season for this tour is from june to october, when all the trails are free of snow. In july and august, early booking is necessary due to limited availability in the hotels and mountain huts; in these two months the trails can be rather busy with many hikers around.
WHY JOINING US IN THIS TOUR ?
- We have optimized the itinerary and the choice of overnight stays, after many years of experience.
- We utilize the service of local qualified english-speaking mountain bike guides who can assist you along the way.
- We offer many options as for airport transfers, bike rental, accomodation in hotel or mountain hut, tour duration and itineray variants.
- We form small groups of max. 6 participants (of similar skills and fitness) per guide
- Traditional (muscular) bikes and electric bikes (e-bikes) lead to very different ways on how the progression and the whole riding day is managed. Hence we form groups with either traditional (muscular) mountain bike only or e-bike only, not mixed groups.
- We strictly observe the environmental rules by taking back all waste and leaving no trace of our visit.
OPTIONAL, VARIATIONS AND EXTENSIONS:
- FULL MTB SAFARI, where personal baggage is taken every day by van to the hotel of the overnight stay; in this case the biker will ride with an extremely light rucksack, and find at the hotel his/her new clothes change, bike spare parts if needed, and other personal items.
- overnight in mountain huts, instead of hotel/guesthouse in the lower valley: this choice is obviously less comfortable, but allows a full immersion in the mountain environment and is slightly cheaper;
- rental of bike and protection gear (helmet, knee and elbow protections)
- one or more extra days for enduro and/or downhill in a nearby location: La Thuile, Pila bike park , Chatel-Portes du Soleil, Verbier
- one extra day of enduro or DH school (with qualified mtb instructor) and/ or bike maintenance & repair course
- one or more extra days in the region for trekking, canyoning, rock climbing, paragliding.
We can adapt or change the programme according to any special requirements.
-> Please CONTACT US ahead of time, as to organize a wholly customized tour for you.
5 NET DAYS PROGRAMMES
PROGRAMME A) “the hard way”
total riding: approximately 200 km and almost 6000 m altitude gain & loss (7000 m with the “strong bikers’ alternative options)
Late afternoon meeting at Les Contamines 1200 m, a charmy mountain village, on the north-western side of Mont Blanc, near Chamonix. Meeting with the guide, check of the equipment, delivery of rented bikes (if any) and briefing. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
Les Contamines – Bionnay 925 m – Col de Voza 1650 m (very steep and strenuous climb)– Les Houches (easy and funny descent)– Chamonix – Le Tour 1450 m. We traverse the Chamonix lower valley through unpaved roads and bike tracks. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse at Le Tour.
At le Tour we ascend to Col des Possettes 1995 m (opt. partially with cable car if open) then descend in swiss territory to Tete Noire 1200 m, then up to the village of Trient 1320 m and Col de la Forclaz 1500 m, then all the way down to Martigny 450 m. From Martingy there is a long asphalt road through the Ferret valley. This is best done by train and bus upto the village of La Fouly 1550 m (otherwise: extra 27 km mostly on asphalt and +1000 m altitude gain); hence from Martigny we take the train to Sembrancher 710 m. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
Alternative for very strong bikers (optional / not recommended by us): from Col de la Forclaz, hard and little cyclable steep climb to col Bovine 2000 m and descent to Champex-bas 1350 m. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
From Sembrancher we take the train to Orsières, then the postal bus to La Fouly .
Alternative for very strong bikers (continuation from day 3): from Champex take the road, partially on asphalt, all along the Ferret valley upto La Fouly.
In La Fouly 1550 m starts the long ascent to Col Ferret 2537 m, the highest elevation point of the tour. From the col we descend to the gorgeous Ferret valley in italian territory, at the foot of the impressive south face of Grandes Jorasses, finally reaching the Courmayeur village 1250 m. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
Cormayeur – val Veny – col de la Seigne 2515 m – Les Chapieux 1550 m.
A wild high mountain traverse back to the french side, through the val Veny, with close view of the glaciers and rock pillars of the southern face of Mont Blanc. The upper part of the ascent to col de la Seigne will require pushing the bike, but luckily the descent on the other side is well cyclable and great fun. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse at Les Chapieux village.
We avoid the classic itineray via the Col du Bonhomme which is nice on foot, but little cyclabe and therefore not recommended by bike. Instead from Les Chapieux we ascend to the Roseland pass 1970 m, then reach the Roseland lake and the Gittaz lake 1600 m. Here we start the dirt road climbing up to the col Entre Deux Nants 2300 m. We continue down by single track to the Perrière cirque 1860 m and briefly ascend to col du Joly 1995 m. From here, various trails lead down to Les Contamines 1200 m where the whole tour started.
In Les Contamines, end of our services, or (optionally) dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
DAY 7 (optional)
Transfer back to the airport or other location for the return trip to your residence.
PROGRAMME B) “the fun way”
total riding: approximately165 km and almost + 4000 / – 6000 m altitude gain / loss (+3500 / – 5000 m with the val Joly resort alternative option)
Late afternoon meeting at St. Gervais 800 m, a modern mountain resort on the north-western side of Mont Blanc, near Chamonix. Meeting with the guide, check of the equipment, delivery of rented bikes (if any) and briefing. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
From St.Gervais we take the picturesque tramway up to Col de Voza 1650 m where we descend by easy and funny single track to Les Houches 1000 m. We then traverse the Chamonix lower valley through unpaved roads and bike tracks till reaching the small village of Le Tour 1440 m. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse at Le Tour.
At le Tour we ascend to Col des Possettes 1995 m (partially with cable car or 4×4 vehicle) then descend in swiss territory to Tete Noire at 1200 m. We continue by bus to Col de la Forclaz 1500 m where we start the long descent to Martigny 450 m.
From Martigny we take the train to Sembrancher 710 m. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
From Sembrancher we take the train to Orsières, then the postal bus to La Fouly ..
In La Fouly 1550 m starts the long ascent to Col Ferret 2537 m, the highest elevation point of the tour. From the col we descend to the gorgeous Ferret valley in italian territory, just below the impressive south face of Grandes Jorasses, finally reaching the Courmayeur village 1250 m. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
From Courmayeur we reach by pick-up truck or van the val Veny at 1700 m altitude approximately (end of asphalt road). From here we attack the long ascent to col de la Seigne 2515 m, enjoying a close view of the glaciers and rock pillars of the southern face of Mont Blanc. The upper part of the ascent to col de la Seigne will require pushing the bike, but luckily the descent on the other side is well cyclable and great fun. Dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse at Les Chapieux village.
We avoid the classic itineray via the Col du Bonhomme which is nice on foot, but little cyclabe and therefore not recommended by bike.
We rather take the same itinerary as in programme A, or alternatively we go by pickup truck or minivan to Roseland lake, Beaufort village, and to val Joly resort 1247 m. Here we ride the bike up to col du Joly 1995 (optional: chairlift). From the col, various trails lead down to Les Contamines 1200 m and eventually St.Gervais 800 m, where the whole tour started.
In St.Gervais, end of the tour or (optional) dinner and overnight in hotel or guesthouse.
DAY 7 (optional)
Transfer back to the airport or other location for the return trip to your residence.
The programme may change in relation to the conditions of the mountain, the trails, the wheather, the current availability of accomodations and local transports, and to the team’s requirements. The definite choice of an itinerary will be taken on site considering all safety criteria as appropriate.
Services & Notes
Accomodation: hotel or guesthouse (opt. mountain huts)
Local transfers: train, public bus, cablecar or chairlift, private pickup truck or minivan (according to the programme)
Services included: all accomodation in hotel or guesthouse or mountain hut; all breakfasts and dinners; assistance of a mountain bike guide; planning of the itineraries and maps; local transfers as per programme.
Optional services: flights; insurance; rental of bike, helmet, protections; mtb safari option; customized airport transfers (biker + bike + luggage); variations or extentions to the programme.
Special notes: teams will be made up of bikers with similar characteristics of skill, fitness, and biking style.
See “KEY DEFINITIONS” for detailed definitions and extra information on the above.
PROGRAMME A: FITNESS 3 TECHNICAL 3 ADVENTURE 2
PROGRAMME B: FITNESS 2 TECHNICAL 3 ADVENTURE 2
See “KEY DEFINITIONS” for the explanation of the above scoring
Tour period and dates
The period (month of the year) given for the tour is indicatively the most recommended for optimun conditions for the planned activities. Different periods are possible.
If the tour is included in the Scheduled Tours list (yearly planner), the departure date is the one given in the planner; otherwise it will be decided according to the requests we have received. In any case we suggest to contact us for more precise information. In customized tours, departure date and duration are established according to customer’s request.
By means of the scores given in the tour decsription sheet we wish to provide an indicative assessment of the challenges to be expected, divided in the following three categories:
- Grade 1: adult performing a minimum sport activity (4-8 hours/week), or teenager in medium fitness conditions
- Grade 2: adult performing sport activity (8-16 hours/week) or teenager in good fitness conditions
- Grade 3: adult performing regular sport activity (16-20 hours/week) or teenager in very good fitness conditions
- Grade 4: adult only, regularly performing sport activity and intense training (more than 20 hours/week)
- Grade1: no prior experience in the activity is required, just a natural predisposition
- Grade 2: prior experience in the activity as beginner to medium level
- Grade 3: prior experience in the activity at medium to high level, with regular practice since min. 3-5 years
- Grade 4: excellent technical skills with long experience in the activity (more than 5 years)
- Grade 1: no prior experience in adventure travel id required, just a positive attitude to adapt
- Grade 2: prior, yet limited, experience in adventure travel, with a strong attitude to adapt and determination
- Grade 3: prior experience in adventure travel including remote area and wilderness, or extreme wheather, or uncertainty in route finding
- Grade 4: prior experience in adventure travel including remote area and wilderness, or extreme wheather, or uncertainty in route finding, strong determination to overcome unforeseen events
The type of accomodation as planned is indicated in the tour sheet (hotel, lodge, tents, etc..).
The means of local transfers are indicated as planned (flight, bus, 4WD vehicle, ferry, etc.). Some changes are possible in relation to the actual availability on site and/or wheather conditions and road access.
Service included and Prices
We do not have a price list. Quotes are sent on request only. Details of services included, excluded, or optionally available, will be specified in the quote and confirmed at the time of booking. Prices depend on the number of participants and on any specific requirements by the group; they will be definitely set at the time of booking and after definiton of all tour details and confirmation of dates.
Special prices may be granted for pre-established groups, clubs and associations, guides with own clients, active athletes, tour operators and travel agents, journalists, physicians, rescue operators, schools, staff of organization running an humanitarian or research project.
Watch here a nice video in english by Matt Hunter