​Little red riding hood and the tale of the woodland wine cooler

Story by Beth Bryn Hodge

Jun / 30 / 2016

Following my glorious #giroproject experience with Alain and Keith, I returned with them to beautiful Valais in Switzerland for a few days to help out with a project for the Valais/Wallis Promotion, a network of exciting new bike routes across the region that will be announced soon. On returning to France I’ve been busy in my ‘mountain office’ writing and developing some project ideas. It was time for a mini adventure in between all this laptop time.

Such a classic English subject - the weather. We’ve been waiting for the weather to change for quite some weeks as we settle into mountain life. Fluctuations of baking hot days then seemingly endless days of cold rain, clouds clearing to reveal yet another fresh layer of the white stuff atop of the craggy peaks that surround our base camp.

In the endless quest for summer, we’re knee deep in planning a high alpine bikepacking adventure, which will take us further south in July where the sunshine filled hazy days are guaranteed- I think. What has been needed as part of this planning is training. And not just ‘physical’ training (although I always need more of that) we’re talking mental training, which mostly means “can I survive a proper adventure without taking 5 outfit changes?”.

Now let’s get one thing straight, when this whole bike thing first took over my life I cycled from the Alps to Paris, on a heavy ass Trek (called Frank) in a format familiar to I’m sure many of you known as ‘winging it’. That adventure was fun, scary, wet (weather again) and I had no idea what I was doing. I’m missing this in my life. Now don’t get me wrong, quitting a job and not knowing what’s next- that’s quite an adventure and quite possibly I am winging it, but that doesn’t involve wearing one jersey for 8 days solid.

The weather came good- finally! Unbroken sunshine was forecast for 2 days solid, summer had arrived and we were going wild camping in the backyard*.

*I now consider the entire mountain we live on to be the back yard…

The location had been clocked on a run I had done recently. I now class my running more as cyclocross route recons, working out whether it might be rideable and then reporting back into HQ where we get out the maps and work out how far and how high we could ride. This particular location is quite frankly one of the most beautiful on earth. An ancient farming hamlet known as Le Monal is nestled at the mouth of the Clou valley high up on the mountain. It faces the magnificent snow topped massif of Mont Pourri and is surrounded by a larch forest. It’s like something from a children’s story book. You expect little red riding hood to come walking by at any point.


We made camp next to an icy cold stream, for the photos of course, but more so to be able to chill the bottle of wine. Priorities. With camp made and the wine chilling, we hopped on the bikes to go and explore the village and catch the beautiful evening light from the saddle with no fixed agenda apart from to be back before it got dark. No lycra, no lids, no garmin. Just riding for exploring. I felt like a kid wizzing along the gravelly tracks with the breeze in my face.This is what riding is about, right?

After dinner ( pepper and bean stew in homemade wraps) we sat out in the growing dark as the stars started to appear in the unclouded sky. Why do we not give enough time in life to look up I questioned as the sky became more alive. Incredible.

The morning light came soon enough and it was time to get up and go and ride a route we had spotted on google earth (this time with lycra). We now spend more time on google earth than we do on Netflix. So much to explore!

Riding up the gravel lined ski runs that are admittedly easier to ski down we had to admit defeat on the grand plan of reaching a col as we were woefully understocked on food and didn’t quite realise how much walking would be needed. Also I’ve realised my shoes that I use for racing cross ain’t gonna cut the moutard on a multi day trip as pushing up steep bits were agony. *Adds yet another item to the never ending kit list*.

So the great thing about not quite meeting the goal is the learning. We learnt so much on this mini micro-adventure that will all be ploughed into the planning for the big one. We still had fun, wizzing around ‘our’ local tracks, finding new ones and enjoying the confidence in knowing the bends and dips on the ones we knew. Always pushing the boundaries of the comfort zone on every trip, learning, training and exploring. Always exploring. Looking forward to telling you about the ‘big’ one soon.

Beth

- to be continued -

Take a short break and join Grand Tours Project in the Alps: participate in the Maratona dles Dolomites or ride and watch the Tour de France in Switzerland!