Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Pormenaz Bivouac Ride from Tom Rowntree on Vimeo.

Had a lovely ride last Thursday night (22 August) after work. Sneaked out of the office a shade before 5 and a few minutes later I was on the gondola up to Planpraz. 40 minutes of hard work followed, riding pushing and carrying up to the Col du Brevent.

With the bike laden as it was I probably only rode 30% of the climb. I spotted a few bouquetins near the top of the col and managed to catch one of them on the Gopro. They weren't particularly shy.

After a few photos at the top I set off down. The trail was 95% rideable, but with some steep tight switchbacks that I didn't attempt. It wouldn't be the place to fall and hurt yourself. I spotted a marmotte scurrying to its burrow part way down here.

This enjoyable trail brought me down to the pont d'Arlevé with the last section down into the gorge being some of the most challenging. The change of environment with the changing altitude is very noticeable. Near the top it was bare rocks and a few snow patches left over from last winter, while close to the river there were trees and a real alpine meadow feeling.

Once across the bridge the trail climbs again up towards the refuge Moede Anterne. This trail is much more rideable than the earlier climb to the col, but still a bit of pushing was required. This brought me past the chalets de Moede and then after turning left off the main track going to the refuge a grassy trail brought me towards the lac de Pormenaz.

There were already 5 or so tents set up around the lake, but I found a quiet spot in the south west corner of the lake. Refreshment was required, so I stripped off and went for a swim in the lake before I had a chance to cool down. Once out of the lake the evening started to feel a bit cooler, so wearing all the clothes I had brought I quickly boiled some water for a cup of tea and my dinner of pasta and pesto.

Unfortunately I discovered at this point that the bivouac bag which had been rolled up around my thermarest and lashed to the handlebars had been holed in a few places by a rough edged bolt on my brake lever reservoir. Not a disaster as it was a dry evening. Some insulating tape around the brake lever was sufficient to prevent any further damage.

Soon after 9 the skies dimmed, so I found a comfortable spot to lie down. The stars were not so bright as it had clouded over by this time, and the moon was on its way to rising. Some bright satellites cruised across the sky which were visible in spite of the thin cloud.

I woke a few times in the night and noted the moon (just past full) making its way accross the sky. The final time I woke and checked my watch - 5.45 and nearly time to get up. A cup of tea and a cereal bar set me on my way at 6.30.

First a slightly awkward push and carry to get over a small hill before a descent to the chalets de Pormenaz. Here the trail becomes much better trodden and the sun could be seen touching the upper slopes of Mont Blanc. The rest of the descent to Servoz was all rideable - just a few dicey steps which challenged me! I had to stop and rest my aching forearms a couple of times down here. The gradient is pretty relentless, so fingers are almost constantly pulling on the brake levers.

I was back in Servoz at 7.30 and managed the climb back up to Les Houches and home in half an hour. This gave me an hour to get a quick shower and change of clothes before riding into work for 9.

A fabulous night out! Couldn't have wished for it to go much more smoothly. My estimated timings which I had not been confident about (the alps can sometimes seem to distort time somewhat) had worked out nicely, arriving at the bivvy site before dark and getting to work on time with even a bit of time to mess about with photos and video.

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