Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

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boxelder
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Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:05 pm

Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by boxelder »

A mate of mine retired from teaching in July and not being the type for pipe n slippers, he planned a VTT route from Montreux to Nice, sticking to the GR5 as much as was sensible. As it was out of school hols, I was able to tag along as the youngster :grin:

I'd never been away on a bike for more than a week, but we were staying in refuges, hostels and hotels, so less to carry. The Spearfish with frame bag was perfect, with only one puncture to deal with. Not carrying camping gear was great, but always having to reach somewhere before a certain time was less relaxing, especially for the slower team member, who was just about cooked by the end.

Day 0 - Fly Edinburgh to Geneva. Train Geneva to Montreux. Youth Hostel (posh one).

Day 1 - Montreux to Trebantaz refuge. 50Km, ^ 2800m
Spin around the lake shore to Saint Gingolph (our official GR5 start). 900m road climb in hot sunshine to La Planche, then push/pedal/carry over Col de Base and Pas de la Bosse. Sweet descending to Chapel d'Abondance and another lengthy climb to the refuge Trebantaz. Lovely rustic refuge, run by Norbert, his wife and charming daughter. Just made it for dinner.
Some early HaB (Lac Leman/Geneva in the background)
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The Trebantaz Refuge
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The Refuge Yaks, used to keep the scrubby veg under control
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Day 2 - Trebantaz to Refuge d'Anterne. 62Km, ^ 3100m
A hilly day over several cols - Col de Coux and Portes de l'Hiver etc - skirting Avoriaz and Chatel. Brilliant woodsy descent to Samoens. Some confusion over how far it was to the refuge, as locals assumed we meant Chalet d'Anterne (Albert Wills). Ours was an extra 500m over a few Km further on. Alistair and I left the others and pressed on so as not to be late. Just made it for dinner... The unreliable hydro power supply made for lots of alarms sounding and lights going on and off. Beer was needed.
Sunrise from Trebantaz
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The trail ahead, in hot sunshine
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Day 3 - Refuge d'Anterne to refuge La Balme (Contamine). 50Km, ^ 2500
A hilly day over several cols (a pattern emerges...). A fun descent from the Anterne led abruptly to a long diagonal climb to the Col du Brevent. Joolz was worried about this one, but as it angled up the hill, there were rideable stretches and not too much carrying. Slightly disappointing descent to the Chamonix Valley, but some fun along the Balcon trails. We had our only conflict with a walker here, who blocked the trail, even though I'd stopped and given way, and then he hit me with his walking pole as I passed. I assumed, as I was last man, that the others had annoyed him, but not so. I stopped and chatted to his wife around the corner - no surprise to find they were English :roll:
Chairlift from Les Houches and lunch in Contamine were pleasant, as was the steep climb to the refuge - pretty much all rideable, but some very steep concrete. I remember flying down it 24 years earlier with Dales Divide Chris, on a Tour de Mt Blanc. Refuge was busy, but sat at dinner with a couple of lasses who were on Huw and Annie's Cairngorm Loop in June.
First glimpse of Mt Blanc
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Nearing the Col du Brevent
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Day 4 - La Balme to Rosuel. 54Km, ^ 2050m
A hilly day......... Some really memorable riding, but The Captain had heat exhaustion and was struggling. Over the Col du Bonhomme took us to some fairly high stakes ridge riding and fun descending, before things started to unravel. We were aiming for 4pm in Bourg St Maurice for a bus/chairlift to Les Arc 1800. The Col du Coin had other ideas for The Captain and Christian though and we rolled into town an hour too late. Faced with a 700m road climb, a taxi was called upon. I drew the short straw and got the front seat, so had to chat to Joe le Taxi while he showed me his holiday snaps on his phone, as he negotiated the mountain hairpins at urgent speed. I was wishing I'd pedalled. Lovely hostel though and I scavenged some foam packaging to protect the vertebrae I'd skinned on the early carries.
Looking forward to the Crew de Gittes from the Bonhomme
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The Captain on the Cret
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More relaxing sections
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Last glimpse of Mt Blanc
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Day 5 - Rosuel to Forneaux. 100Km, ^ 2500m
With cycling being 'interdit' in the Vanoise Park, we'd to find an alternative route around it. After sneaking up over the Col du Palet, to the sound of cow bells as the herd was brought in, we headed east to Tignes. Accessing the VTT trails we whooped and hollered down a blue trail to Val d'Isere, then climbed the Col d"Iseran in the afternoon sun. Miles of road descending took us to our Air BnB in Forneaux. Pizza and beer refuel.
Col du Palet descent
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A fair few roadie bike packers on the Iseran
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Joe le Taxi driver reckons these crocus are a sure sign of Autumn
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Day 6 - Forneaux to Bufferre Refuge. 37Km, ^ 2600m.
Another road climb past a beautiful church to Val Frejus ski resort, where once again everything was 'ferme'. Ride, push, ride up over the Col des Meandes and Col du Vallon for a fantastic 1000m descent to Nevache - rocky, swoopy mates racing at it's very best. Delayed by the local shepherd and herd and then steep push/pedal up to the gorgeous Refuge Bufferre. A seemingly short day, but a couple of the others were beginning to really struggle, so slow.
Border defences - we passed lots from here
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High point
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On the big descent
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Sheep break
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Day 7 - Bufferre to La Schalp via Briancon. 50Km, ^ 2100m
Over Col du Bufferre and onto military roads and then tarmac to the Col du Grannon. Another amazing 1200m descent around and down to Briancon - partly on the VTT tour of the Ecrins, which should be a great trip in itself. Finally cafes open for lunch (salad Chèvre chaud for me). Another big up and down over Col des Ayes to La Schalp - shower, dinner, beer.
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Briancon old town from way above
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Day 8 - La Schalp to Fouillouse. 55Km, ^ 2700m.
A skip over and down the fun descent to Chateau Queyras and a long climb up Col du Fromage. Much of this was rideable, happily, but the boys at the back were suffering and slow. Great descent to Ceillac (lovely village and cafe). Big carry/push up Col Girardin (steep scree to finish) the yahoo vroom, vroom down to Maljasset. Alistair and I pressed on from the top, worried again about missing dinner. Lovely road climb over a scary high bridge to Fouillouse, where the host was like a younger farmer Bishop from the Detectorists. Lovely place, odd service.
Chateau Queyras
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Day 9 - Fouillouse to Vinadio. 65Km, ^ 2500m
Another detour to avoid a no cycling National Park - the Mercantor. This was to be a high altitude day with a superb long final descent to Vinadio. Thunder storms had other ideas though and after some beautiful climbing trails past lakes and wartime defences, we'd to bail from the high ridge for a wet road descent. Amazing €1 espresso from the Gardena Refuge.
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Day 10 - Vinadio to Rimplas. 65Km, ^ 2500m.
After a quick look around Vinadio (now not raining), it was up the huge road climb to Col della Lombarda. We were on this for 4 hours, though I don't think I was pedalling for more than 2.5 - still a decent climbing shift. Fascinating defences at the top, then yahoo down to Isola 2000 - everything 'ferme'. The climb to Baisse de Merlier was totally rideable on lovely contouring, switch back singletrack and the descent to Isola was mental - a bit of everything, including sequences of steep switchbacks where you'd to commit to 3 or 4 at a time - thank someone for dropper posts. Also got among a herd of sheep with 7 big, scruffy, growling guard dogs, wearing barbed collars - turned out to be friendly beasts. Lots of ongoing work here for MTB trails. Coffee and tiramisu in Isola was followed by time trialling aero tuck road descent and then a lovely climb up to Rimplas - beautiful old village - and the best red wine I've ever enjoyed.
Vinadio old stuff
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Lombarda summit
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Rimplas
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Day 11 - Rimplas to Levens, 50Km, ^ 2200m.
A slow day, as Christian had stomach/toilet issues and rain arrived again for a couple of hours. Now in Provence, autumn had arrived, with lots of fallen leaves and aromatic herbs - mint, sage, lavender etc. The riding either side of Utelle is amazing old mule trails, contouring the hillsides. Rocky, fast in parts, steep hairpins and scary drops. We had to stop a few times to rest braking and grinning muscles. Final steep climb to Levens. Having, at his insistence, abandoned Christian on the mountain, he finally rocked up at 8pm as we sat down for dinner. He barely managed half of his food before dragging himself off to bed. One short day left, luckily.
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Day 12 - Levens to Nice, 25Km, only ^ 600m.
An easy day, with cafe break, though a steep climb acres cafe and the rocky descent to Nice was a test. The Captain smashed his carbon rear rim on the final rocky plunge. Timing!
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Leerowe76
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by Leerowe76 »

Brilliant pics looks an epic trip mate, wouldn't mind something along those lines in the future having rode the RDGA Geneva to Nice on road bikes a few years back :-bd
Last edited by Leerowe76 on Sun Sep 24, 2023 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Rasta
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by Rasta »

Great write-up. :-bd

Never thought I would hear the name 'Gingolph' again. Did some very deep solo diving there.
Leerowe76
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by Leerowe76 »

What/how were the logistics for this trip mate
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boxelder
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by boxelder »

Flights to Geneva and from Nice. Train to Montreux is regular from the airport. Mate booked huts, hostels, hotels and we ate in/near them. Packed lunches from hostels etc, as didn't pass open shops/cafes as often as we hoped. Not exactly cheap for 'bikepacking'. I reckon I could have ridden it in 8 days, but it was meant to be a holiday :lol:
jameso
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by jameso »

Really enjoyed seeing this, some great shots too. 3 of us rode a fairly loose GR5 route in 2012 and I recognise some of the sections but not others. The Crete Gites was amazing and I remember a tough morning up to the Col Anterne! We rode pre GPS and used maps or followed VTT trails we saw along the way so we went off-route, eg into Nevache area and also around Mont Thabor.

If you had a GPS of your route I'd love to see it? I've been meaning to re-create our route or at least the parts I can remember.

Some pics of our ride here - https://www.flickr.com/photos/67338272@ ... 1189677422
boxelder
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by boxelder »

Sorry James, just seen this. If you pm me an email address I can send gpx or if on komoot I can share Julians original plans.
Your trip looked great - forgotten how much I love the Alps. Very tempted to go back next year and ride the Tour of the Ecrins over a week.
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thenorthwind
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by thenorthwind »

Missed this before, but glad it popped back. Looks and sounds ****ing amazing. I know "inspiring" is overused, but I really want to go ride up and down some alpine cols now.
jameso
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by jameso »

boxelder wrote: Sun Oct 29, 2023 8:35 pm Sorry James, just seen this. If you pm me an email address I can send gpx or if on komoot I can share Julians original plans.
Your trip looked great - forgotten how much I love the Alps. Very tempted to go back next year and ride the Tour of the Ecrins over a week.
Thanks - james.olsen.remote at hotmail. co. uk - a mate of mine wants to do an Alpine MTB trip so I'm starting to put a route together and it'd be great to see where you went. Our GR5 took a different route around the Mercantour I think, we stayed in France there though the riding generally wasn't as good after that point. Tour of the Ecrins will be great, my favourite area of France.
Last edited by jameso on Mon Oct 30, 2023 10:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
jameso
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by jameso »

I've been meaning to memory-map our GR5 ride so I'll try to get as much of that as I can down and I'll post it up here if anyone's interested. A winter rainy Sunday project, I still have the tattered IGN maps we used on the shelf here.
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benp1
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by benp1 »

Nice trip report, Andy. Looks like a fantastic trip

The exposure in the pic on day 4 would have me absolutely bricking myself riding my bike. I could walk that no problem, but I wouldn't be thrilled on a bike. It's like a very high stakes boardwalk!
boxelder
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Re: Riding the Gr5 (ish), Montreux to Nice

Post by boxelder »

benp1 wrote: Mon Oct 30, 2023 10:54 am Nice trip report, Andy. Looks like a fantastic trip

The exposure in the pic on day 4 would have me absolutely bricking myself riding my bike. I could walk that no problem, but I wouldn't be thrilled on a bike. It's like a very high stakes boardwalk!
You should have seen some of the stuff in Provence! The old packhorse balcon routes there are amazing.
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