We did this tour in 3 stages, we had already done the route from Chamonix to Verbier on our mtbs last Autumn as part of the TMB. The write-up here is for Stage 2, starting out in Verbier. All the pictures are here:
NB Riding on Singletrack in the Valais is mostly illegal. Some of it is promoted by the local tourist offices, this does not seem to make it “legal” it just seems to give it some moral standing with us bikers! Either way, if you are going to ride on singletrack in the Valais, keep a low profile and be extra respectful of the other trail users.
Chamonix to Zermatt by Mountain Bike.
Sometimes called the “Haute Route”, in fact the skiers Haute Route is a lot more direct and way too snowy for a bike trip. There is also a walkers route but this is too arduous for bikes too. A little history is available http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haute_Route
Day 1. Chamonix to Zermatt by Mountain Bike
Chamonix to Verbier.
The obvious way would be to leave the Chamonix valley via Le Tour, take the lift (if it is open) up to the Col de Balme and then descend to Trient (brilliant), climb to the La Forclaz and then either push and carry (some good riding) via Bovine to Champex or descend towards Martigny and do a (long) road climb to Champex. From here you can descend on singletrack to Sembrancher (at the base of the Verbier hill. I’m not keen on pointless uphill slogs so would reccomend taking the bus up to Verbier!
OR, why not consider this, suggested by Graham Moss http://www.wood-man.co.uk/
Leave Chamonix and go to Courmayeur (actually Entreves) and start from here. This route is much more rideable than the obvious choice. Ride over the Col Ferret and then descend towards Orsieres and then Sembrancher on plenty of excellent forested singletracks.
Day 2. Chamonix to Zermatt by Mountain Bike
Verbier to Evolene.
The obvious choice (and then one we took) is to use the Ruinettes lift out of Verbier, traverse around to the Croix de Coeur and then follow signs for the “Grand Raid” http://www.grand-raid-cristalp.ch/ for the next two days – yes really! If you want GPX files and stats it’s all on this website!
There will be loads of alternatives, this is really Bike Verbier country so they would be the people to go with.
I’ll flesh this out a bit….. The Grand Raid route up until Evolene is very nice, mostly smooth fire road but with some good singletrack sections linking things together. For someone like me it is good route to get a feel for the topography of the area. It is a bit long though. We peddled for 65km and climbed over 1700m. Even then we didn’t bother with the climb over Sex Pey, that would have been one climb too far for me. As it was we had started quite late (11am) and did not get in to Evolene until 7pm. We stayed at a great little spot http://www.pensionevolene.ch/.
Our diversion around Sex Pey took in some of the best singletrack of the day, it was like the track had been made for bikes. We discovered as the days went on that with a 1:25,000 map to navigate by any walking track would turn out to be great riding. This did make navigation much easier and meant we could be a lot more adventuous than we would have been in France. I guess this is why I’m not going to describe the exact trail we rode. There is no point. A route can be manufactured around the circumstances of the day. Though it does mean the map has to be fairly handy! However in hindsight we would have made one change to the day. We hit the road just up the valley from Euseigne, we should have taken the bus from here to Evolene. Instead I announced that it was 6km and 300m of ascent on the road. Easy! Except we were wasted and the actual stats closer to 400m of ascent. Ouch!
Day 3. Chamonix to Zermatt by Mountain Bike.
Evolene to Grimentz.
We had the luxury of starting early today, a good thing too as it was going to be another long one! I need to check but 1700m of ascent and 65km rings a bell. Again we followed the Grand Raid mountiain bike route, we climbed out of Evolene to Forclaz on wide tracks, descended on singletrack to Eison and then climbed, climbed and then pushed the bikes to the Pas de Lona. Here we had one of the very few descisions to make. We could see on the map that a singletrack led off to the left and took a direct route via the Pointe de Lona and then straight to Grimentz. It looked great but on the map it tipped over a cliff band and then over some rocky terrain. We opted for the sign posted route via the Lac de Mory. We probably had one of the best views of the trip when we got to the Basset de Lona, the descent was mostly wide smooth 4×4 track, we added interest on the cut-through singletracks. Steve added more interest by downclimbing his very own cliff band. We stuck to the jeep track! Well worth it for the views but next time we’ll check out the alternative.
We stuck to the off-road all the way to Grimentz. We hadn’t arranged any accomodation which was a problem as we’d found a pub first. I think in the future we’ll give Grimentz (toy town) a miss and head down to Vissoie or St Luc for somewhere to stay. As it was we overnighted in Mayoux.
Day 4. Chamonix to Zermatt by Mountain Bike.
Grimentz to Unterbäch.
We left our beds early and rode to Vissoie, got on the first bus up the hill to st Luc and went up the funiculaire to Tignousa. From here a route had been less clear to us. Thankfully my Googling had produced
Which had given us some clues. In addition to this we had picked up a free MTB guide in Grimentz which described one of the above routes as “Route 6″. AND Bike Verbier had ridden “route 6″ and told Steve it was good. Decision made then!
I haven’t written up Stage 3 (We did St Luc to Zermatt in September 2010) but all the pictures are here!