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Old 08-14-2012, 01:39 PM   #1
Gnarly Adventurer
DinX's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Oddometer: 304
Short trip through the Alps

Well, maybe not as spectacular as many of the reports here, but I thought I might share it with you guys.

On friday aug 3 I left for a 1 week trip through the Alps (hence the title ). My goal was to do the Route des Grandes Alpes, a bit offroad and the Gorges du Verdon.

Day 1: Zolder (BE) - Thonon-les-Bains (FR)

This day was meant to just reach the start of the RDGA. Thonon-les-Bains at Lake Geneva. From where I live (Zolder, Belgium) about 850km.

The bike all loaded up with camping material.

I left pretty early (6:30) so I would have a nice afternoon of rest from the 850km of highway. Not a lot of pics for that day, nobody wants to see hours of Autoroute
Found a nice camping with free hot showers, real toilets (not those French crouching holes in the ground), lots of space,..

The Lake was at 200m, the weather was great. Wonderful start off my trip.

Day 2: Thonon-les-Bains - Bourg-Saint-Maurice

The Alps were allready visible at the horizon. Half an hour after leaving Thonon-les-Bains they were there

It was everything I expected from the lower Alps. Nice green hills, the high Alps in the background,...

Lots of tourist locations with again stunning views

When riding alone you have to be creative to make a quick picture of yourself

I reached Bourg-Saint-Maurice pretty quick as excpected. I unloaded my bike, put up my tent and went for the Col du Petit Saint Bernard.

An hour after reaching my camp spot again all hell broke loose. A heavy thunderstorm with lots of rain which lasted all night.

Day 3: Bourg-Saint-Maurice - Bardonnecchia (IT)

My goal that day was Bardonnecchia in Italy. Not part of the RDGA, but I wanted to conquer the Col de Sommeiller. the highest, legally reachable col in Europe.
Part of the route was the Col de l'Iseran. The highest col reachable over asphalt. This was the worst day of the trip weather-wise. The thunderstorm from the night before was stil going on, heavy rain straight from the start. I was soaked before I reached Val d'Isere, and then the col still had to come.

Half frozen I reached the top.

Bad weather results in a whole new atmosphere.

I decided to do a quick detour towards Susa, passing Lake Mont-Cenis.

The weather was getting better, although I returned back to the RDGA in thick fog. The clouds you see abocve the lake here reached road level at that time.

I decided to take the (very expensive) Frejus Tunnel to Bardonecchia (not taking the col).

Day 4: Bardonnecchia

My plan was to do Col de Sommeiller and Monte Jafferau that day. I shall mention that I don't have any offroad experience
Early in the morning I left for the Col de Sommeiller.

It started off pretty good (with my experience). Not that much rocks, good weather. I made good progress.

A waterfall here and there

Wonderfull views

For being a offroad novice the road went from bad to worse

Some experienced KTM riders passed my by with roaring engines, going up about 5 times faster then me

1,5 hours after leaving the camping I reached the top

You can see some could forming. I knew what was coming after yesterday, bad weather. My guess was right. They took my picture in the sun and 10 minutes later the rain started to come down. The road quickly turned into mud and slippery rocks. I reached the top with virgin crash bars, I returned at the valley with used ones. I couldn't keep the rubber down in 1 of the slippery hairpins on the way down. Notohing bad though, just a little scratch on the right crash bar. Thank you Givi

Quite desolate

It was around 13:00 when I reached the start of the road to Monte Jafferau. I started it, but decided to turn back. It kept raining, and road conditions were worse then those going to the Sommeiller. Also nobody to be seen anywhere in the surroundings, I didn't trust it.

I passed fort Exiles and was hoping to be able to visit it ... but it was closed on mondays ...

And guess what, 1 hour after reaching the camping again the whole sky cleared up.

Day 5: Bardonecchia - Barcelonette

Continuing the RDGA today. Some very, very nice cols planned here (Télégraphe, Lautarette, Galibier,...). This region just breathes the Tour de France. Cyclists everywhere, painted names on the asphalt, stunning views, wonderful weather.

Nice when you open your curtains in the morning here

Lots and lots and lots and lots and ... twisties later I reached the top of the Galibier.

Had a nice picture taken on the way to it

The view from the top: amazing

Be careful coming down though, you might find this right behind the many corners

Col de Vars

Found a great camping some miles from Barcelonette. All Dutch people there, finally somebody who could understand me (I only speak Dutch, English and French. The Italians: Italian). Great spot next to the river.
The plan was to also do the Col du Parpaillon, but I didn't have the time for it. But I'll be back someday

Day 6: Barcelonette - Menton

This is allready the final stage of the RDGA. The standard RDGA can easily be done in 3 days.
After leaving Barcelonette you go for the Col de la Cayolle. For the people planning to do the same trip: refuel in Barcelonette. It's not a very steep col, so that means lots of km to ride, in the midddel of nowhere. The next gas station is maybe 70km after leaving Barcelonette. I reached my reserve fuel level record: 55km...

For the Americans who complain about fuel prices in their country:

That's a €37 fill-up at €1,83/l.

The landscape changes at this point. The rocks turn red, and you see alot of gorges.

My GPS sent me a bit off course, but that was a good thing in this case. I wouldn't have seen the Gorges du Cian otherwise.

Reaching the end of the Col de Turini, the end of RDGA was there. The Ligurian coast.

Day 6: Latte (IT)
This was planned as a rest day and can be summarised in 1 picture:

I stayed on the beach from 9:30 till 17:00 (I can still feel it ). Temperatures of 30-35°C, not a cloud in the sky, able to bake an egg on the rocks on the beach.

Day 7: Latte - Nice - Cannes - Gorges du Verdon
The final stage of my trip (besides returning back home). I decided to take the coastal road, which wasn't a good idea. Traffic was terrible, traffic lights everywhere. I felt the sweat running into my boots and gloves while guys on naked bikes and MP3's passed me wearing slippers and short pants.

I didn't make that much pictures. They just didn't look that spectacular after being in the high Alps for a few days.

Soon after leaving the coastal area you reach the Gorges du Verdon.

Not that many km after the "Point Sublime" I reached the end of my trip: Lac de Saint Croix. Very beautifull.

It was around 15:00 that time. My first plan was to rest at a camping and leave the next day, riding 1200km back home in 1 day. But being so earlly and so hot I decided to allready start the way back home.
The fastes way was to go via Marseille, so you ride across a bit of the Provence that way.

My next goal was to get the remaining km under the 1000, that would be somewhere around Lyon. Temperature was 34° in the shade at the point. I didn't feel like riding in those temperatures for 1000km the next day, so decided to do an all-nighter and just ride home. I did almost 1400km and got home around 3:20.

Well, a short trip, but definitely worth it. I still can't believe there's this kind of scenery so close to home. For all you West and central Europeans: do it :)

I just picked some of the pictures I made. You can find all of them here:

DinX screwed with this post 08-14-2012 at 01:44 PM
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Old 08-14-2012, 03:10 PM   #2
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Madrid, SP
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Yes, it is... spectacular as other Alps RR
Great pictures and cool bike!

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 08-14-2012, 03:41 PM   #3
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Nice views! Great report
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Old 08-14-2012, 05:50 PM   #4
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Awesome ride! Thanks for the report and pics!! Great bike you have there!!
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Old 08-15-2012, 04:52 AM   #5
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Spectacular! Thanks for sharing the trip
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:59 AM   #6
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Joined: Dec 2008
Location: belgium
Oddometer: 80
Nice pics and story !
It's crazy to see that I've done a similar trip on my own just some weeks before. (and I was'nt able to reach the summit of Colle de Sommeiler because there was a large snowfield just about 100 meters from the top.)
I can imagine it's tricky to going downhill in the rain. It was already tricky for me doing it on a dry surface with my KTM 990 SM (on roadtyres however).

If you are going to make a second attempt for Monte Jafferau, let me know. I'm in for it (but not on my own)

thanks for sharing your report

My Balkan adventures

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Old 08-22-2012, 01:05 PM   #7
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Oddometer: 304
I made an everytrail profile and put my pictures on there, so every picture is on a map :)

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

No map for day 7. My lazy bum on the beach

Day 8

DinX screwed with this post 08-22-2012 at 10:37 PM
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Old 08-22-2012, 03:57 PM   #8
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Location: northern Arkansas
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Looks like a great ride DX. We didn't make it to that part of the Alps last year (we could see the weather moving in and went east instead). Nice to get a feel for what we missed; perhaps I will get another chance to visit.
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Back to the Alps in '11
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