So, long story short, a friend of mine and me went to Briançon (France) by car, trailing the bikes behind, and rode around from there.
Here’s a summary of pics and some words…
Day 1. Easy does it, starting with Col du Sommeiller. Widely regarded as a not so easy track, and the highest you can officialy get in the Alps.
We met some mates on the way up, I knew they were around the area, but still a nice surprise to encounter some friends on a track more than 1000km’s from home.
Reaching the top of the Sommeiller track, the wooden barrier is the end. You are at 2995m.
This is what’s left of the glacier. This glacier is the reason why there’s a track going up the mountain. In the early 60’s, plans were to make this a summer ski resort. They’ve only managed to keep it open untill 1980 when the glacier had reseded to much. They also encoutered way to many troubles keeping the road open.
The Sommeiller track riding back down.
Rifugio Scarfioti, somewhere halfway the track. This is the place where the anual Stella Alpina rally/gathering take’s place. And I encountered three more riding buddies.
After getting back down into Bardonechia, I had the very bright idea of riding up Monte Jafferau. Not using the somewhat easy track starting at Salbertrand, nope, I had the, once again very bright idea of riding up from Gleise and over the ski slopes.
The issue is that you’re faced with a 1000m high climb over less than 10km’s riding. Means going up on an average over 10%. Knowing some parts are almost flat, this means sometimes other parts of the track you’re almost riding up a steep wall. On top of the mountain (in this pic still over 500m higher) you can see the old fortres. Don’t forget, this is still day one, and I told my riding buddy I’ll take it easy to start things of.
My buddy Frank on his BMW F800GSA riding up an easy bit. No pics of the hardest parts, I was just glad to get up there.
During the toughest section, where we both were on what it seems our limits, we met these fellow Belgians. They helped us up the hardest section, att least, they hepled me getting the heavy GSR moving again after stalling the pig on a steep part and burying the rear wheel in the stones. A huge thanks to the guys!
Finally, we made it to the fort Jafferau. My bike (a BMW R1150GSA converted into a R1150GS Revamp) on the roof of the old fortres.
Frank, happy to have made it up to here. Just like me to be honnest…
The track over the ski slopes and parts where we just managed to get by. Some bits really weren’t easy. This was a very bright idea of mine.
But that’s me, I’m full of bright idea’s 🙂
Riding down was quickly descided, we’re gonna take the easy route towards Salbertrand.
We are also going to get through the tunnel section, which is officialy closed now. I’m just hoping we can squeeze through the barriers.
The rest of the track is fairly simple although you need to stay sharp. Nothing compared to the other side of the mountain though. We finish the day with a 30km long stretch of tarmac over Col du Montgenévre heading back to base camp. And a good day it was!
Day two and three are gonna be a two day trip, some of the tracks I had planned are a bit to far to get to in one day and get back.
Anywayz, breakfast on the Col d’Izoard at the Refuge Napoleon, best spot around Briançon to enjoy brekafast, sunny weather providing.
Frank and me enjoying the good life 🙂
Next on the list was the Col d’Agnel. Less famous but higher, and the border between France and Italy.
Some 50km’s into the valley, the first track was about to get in sight, the Strada dei Canonni. It runs from Valmala towards Colle delle Sampeyre over the crests and is about 30km’s in total. After finding the correct track/road, we enjoyed the views over the Po flatlands.
A part of the old military road the Strada dei Canonni is, stay focussed but doable none the less.
A bit further down the track you’re riding either on the left or on the right of the mountain ridge.
Still some km’s further, this is a breeze, I’m really enjoying the scenery and the what has now turned into easy riding.
My buddy Frank reaching the end of the track, on Colle delle Sampeyre.
Since it was allready around 17h00 we just rode down the pass through the amzaing Vallone d’Elva and made camp on the small campsite in the Valle Maira. Camping also means cooking your own meal. And finally opening that bottle of wine I’ve been carrying with me all this time. Shaken, not stired.
Day 3, waking up, making some coffee, setting of, scoring some fuel (bike is bloody thursty and the Revamp tank only holds 19l max) and riding up yet another mountain, looking for the next track.
Just passed the village of Preit, tarmac ’till the summit, from there the fun starts.
On Colle dell Preit, you have to take right, direction of Passo delle Gardeta, even though this pass is closed. The other track just leads you towards a farm some km’s further. No sweat, nice track anyway 😉
This is where the closed track towards Passo della Gardeta starts. A shame it’s been closed, I would’ve loved to get it of my list. Roca La Meya in the distance.
I’m guessing somewhat halfway this 38km long track.
The last bit of the track. Allready made it a few years ago this far, coming from the other side. Loosing my camera on the track (and finding it after an hour of ground scanning riding) and lack of time forced me to take the tarmac road down, this time I made it through.
A few km’s further you’re back on narrow tarmac at Colle delle Valcavera, heading down towards Demonte now.
In Demonte we’re taking a right and ride up the long Valle Stura towards the Col de Larche, a very busy, wide road leading us back into France.
So, back in France we are.
Next on the list is the famous Col du Parpaillon, an old military track/road (as are most of these tracks, with the exeption of Col de Sommeiller) with a 500m long dark ‘n wet tunnel at the top. I’ve done this track several times allready but the tunnel is always a scary moment, always glad when I’m through.
Anyway, Col du Parpaillon it is. Frank leading the way.
About halfway the eastslope.
A bunch of 4×4’s coming through the tunnel. When there’s someone or something coming through the tunnel, you’d better wait your turn.
Everyone is gone, our turn to take the tunnel.
Made it through, some more 4×4’s riding in the tunnel.
Riding down the westslope, a totaly different landscape.
After the gravel and stones of the track, you’re welcomed by this cool view of Lac du Serre-Ponçon.
We’re both getting a bit tired, we descide to head back to base camp the easy and thus also boring way, just riding the N94 towards Briançon. We end the day in the resto on the campsite, another two great riding days.
Day 4, another day in (as good as) paradise. I mean, it’s almost halfway September in we’ve only had clear blue sky and temperatures going between 15°C early in the morning and 28°C during noon. Even at the highest summits (reaching almost 3000m high, which is high in the European Alps) we’ve had around 20°C during the day. Honnestly, the weather just could not be any better!
Anywayz, an easy day’s riding today. We’re gonna tackle the Assietta road, a 40km orso long gravel track that runs between the Colle delle Finestre and Sestriere.
First we’ve gotta get on top and over the Colle delle Finestre. Cool mountainpass, crazy amount of hairpins on the tarmac bit, the last 7km are easy gravel road where you can really enjoy a bit of sliding and drifting if you’re up to. I was, felt great 😀
Frank is taking it a bit slower, we’re in no hurry anyway.
A few km’s down the summit you’ve got the choise, left is tarmac ’till the valley, right is the entrance of the Assietta track. From there it was just an amazing ride, easy gravel with just enough stones and so to keep concentrated, but still easy enough to enjoy the ride and the amazing views around.
This is just such a great ride, if you’re ever around this area and you’ve got a big all-road bike, don’t hesitate and just get up here.
So, we made it to Sestriere. A bit of an outdated ski resort, nothing to see really. And it’s way to early to head back towards the campsite.
“Ok” I said to Frank, “interested in more?”
– “Hell yeah, keep it coming” was his reply.
So we carry on.
From Sestriere there’s a road leading down to Souze di Cesena, but halfway you can turn left and enter the Valle Argentiera. It’s a dead end valley, but it’s a big adv bike heaven. A long very wide fast gravel road for the first half, easily topping 80kph and beyond.
There’s also a river in this valley, needles to say we had to cross it. Twice, ’cause we didn’t really “need” to cross it 😉
A bit further the road becomes narrower, just a cars with, and it really starts going up the mountain. At the next bridge you can choose, right is the easy track going up, left is the narrow and steep part. Just in case Frank was up to it, I had stopped earlier on and taken a photo of the narrow track winding up the mountain.
Frank doesn’t mind at all. After the Jafferau on day one we ‘re convinced we can handle this track. So of he goes…
The last bit is steep and has two tight hairpins in it, which makes it not that easy. We’re both happy and excited to reach Pian Alpe, the old farm in this valley. A dozen 4×4’s are also at Pian Alpe, they saw and heard us coming up the track and are impressed we made it with our big adv bikes.
They are going down the track we just came up.
At Pian Alpe, we enjoy a cool Coke. We get the company of the farm cats and dogs, they’re used to people visiting.
A few smokes later, we carry on, taking the easy track higher up the mountain, aiming for Gran Miol. Which is nothing more than a cow shed at the end of a track at 2550m high. No luck, this late in the year the animals are the boss, the fence is blocking the track and we descide to turn around. I’ve been at the top, nothing to see really, just a “been there, done that shit” thing.
Riding down we’re quickly back at the fast wide gravel road, Frank is following me, we’re just having a blast!
In the village of Bosson I pull over and ask Frank if he’s up to some more stuf. Once again resulting in us riding up a mountain, this time towards Lago Nero.
Now, this track is fun. I mean, it’s rocky, twisty and has a few technical stretches, but overal it’s just easy enough to keep the bike rolling and dritfing out of the corners.
The lake itself (Lago Nero means black lake) is by no means worth it, but the ride getting there was fun.
From here it’s back down for a few km’s and than left, heading via Sagna Longa towards Claviere, riding over the ski slopes.
Half an hour later we’re back at base camp with a cold beer in our hands, talking about what was pro’ly the best day so far.
Day 5, Saturday, our last day. Normally we’d be up another mountain but honnestly, we’re getting a bit tired and Frank would like to head back home this night. Meaning we can only make a short ride.
No prob, got something lined up. A spot I saw on the map years ago and always wanted to see, but just never took the time.
Croix de Toulouse it’s called, and it’s a dead end road, ending in a gravel road, ending in a view point over Briançon.
And the view is worth it.
The bikes are standing next to an old shed.
We just sit there, enjoy the great view, enjoy a great week’s riding with no problems, not getting lost, not falling down or tipping over, perfect week in any which way you look at it.
After half an hour we head back down. During the afternoon we put the bikes on the trailer, break up camp and around 18h00 we’re heading back home. On the motorway between the Tunnel de Frejus and Chambery we encounter the first raindrops. Resulting in a nice view to end this trip.