had said that we needed to get to the Gite at Ferret by 1.30pm
in order to allow us enough time to make dinner at the refuge
in Italy, missing it would result in a serious sense of humour
failure so timing was now crucial.
We rocked up at the gite at 1.15pm, Italy was on. Slumping down
next to a water butt we took 30mins to eat, stretch and rest.
It was fair to say we were both well tired, for those of you that
have done 24hr racing you will be with us here, that constant
sick feeling and serious loss of appetite was making itself known.
We were at around 1700m and the Col that marks the border between
Switzerland and Italy is at 2537m, our path to dinner and a bed
just so happens to go over it.
Ferret would normally mark the end of the second day on the "normal"
T.M.B and we were certainly having to wrestle with our inner demons
not to stop there. However bookings had been made at the Refugio
Monte Bianco just outside of Courmayeur for the night, so 3ltrs
of water were shoehorned into the camelbacks and the painful acquaintance
of bum and saddle was made once again.
climb to the col is split into two main sections. The first is
a 4x4 effort up to a cheese farm. We had swapped the normal middle
ring as the weapon of choice and had succumbed to the mighty granny.
Dodging the sheep pooh which I swear added another km or two to
the climb, (or so my sun addled brain told me), we reached the
farm but declined the customary tour, preferring instead to attack
the beast of singletrack that climbed v steeply to the Col.
It had been a while since I had last ridden the climb and in that
time the efficient Swiss had graded the trail. This made the going
an awful lot easier but we still had to walk large sections. This
I might add is down to our extreme knackeredness, not the technicality
of the trail. All of this aside, its one of those climbs that
when you look around behind you is breathtakingly beautiful. The
valley climbs steeply on both sides with the trail carving perfect
twisting lines all the way to the Col.
The going by now was pretty slow and that combined with the wind,
which had now picked up made my mind drift off and have fantasies
about food and much needed sleep. Fish and chips, curry, nah chinese,
no hang on, a packet of Hobnobs ooh no a big bottle of beer at
the refuge. It was settled then, a beer was the carrot on rope
that got me to the Col.
Standing at the Grand Col de Ferret you can't but have an immense
feeling of accomplishment. All and I do mean all of the effort
is worthwhile. Huge vistas of Switzerland and Italy, glaciers
and mountains open up before you. Bones and I both had self-assured
smug grins now as we knew we were going to make it to the Refuge.
The descent down into Val Ferret is pretty damn technical and
10 hours on the bike resulted in a fair few dabs and heart stopping
moments. All of the walkers on the T.M.B were smiling and waving,
a few even clapped when we cleared technical sections. Everyone
was happy, the sun was shining, my bum wasn't sat on the saddle
the rollercoaster ride from the top of the col, the rest of the
descent down the valley is a much more sedate affair, high speed
road, and rocky 4x4 was all very much needed by the 10fifty boys.
This side of the Mont Blanc is very different compared to the
French side, a whole load rockier with a lot less forest but still
More eye bleeding fast singletrack took as to the town of Entreves
and a quick blast through the cobbled streets Italian Job stylie
brought us to the supermarket. What a nightmare, you know when
you shop for food when you are starving hungry and can't blummin
decide what to buy! Far, far too long later I emerged with swiss
rolls, biscuits and little bit of fruit, well you got to have
the healthy option sometime.
Arse and in this case quite literally, a 400m steep as your Nan
road climb lay before us. At the top was the Refuge and that big
beer and at the bottom, well yes I think you get the idea.
grind, grind, out the saddle, push push push, grind gri..... onwards
and upwards the road twisted, memories from long ago distorted
by time, constantly gave me false hopes of, I'm sure its just
around the corner. Then there it was the beautiful red shuttered
Monti Bianco, Bellisimo. 4600m of climbing in 12 hours was over,
we wearily dismounted and sorted out our room, bought a big beer
and took in the amazing view. Dinner was destroyed with as much
bread as we could lay our hands on and then it was early to bed.