As we take to the road, its not long before we start to climb. Craig shouts out “19”. We take the routes des Pierres Fortes de Savoie with Mont Pourri to our right. Deep in the valley several small villages with church towers rising high above the stone chalets. Craig shouts out “23.4”. I silently wonder what he is referring to. We continue to climb and reach Lake Chevril before we drive under a of series of avalanche tunnels. Gushing water cascades over the roof, its like driving under a waterfall. Craig shouts out “26.9”. Perplexed, I look and ask “What are you on about?”. “Fuel consumption, of course” he replies. Craig is watching Vin’s digital fuel gauge count up as we climb. By the time we arrive at Val d’Isère Vin is supping 29 litres of diesel per 100km. What’s that in MPG…next question, please!
We stretch our legs and take a walk through the town of Val d’Isère. Is completely shut and not one hotel, cafe or shop open. Its deserted. The ski resort attracts the rich and famous due to the varied ski conditions in and around the resort. However, it completely shuts down for 6 months of the year. It feels rather weird, if though every one closed for the day and just forgot to return. Window displays with designer ski gear all still labelled up and ready for sale.
Col de Isere wiggles to 2775m, the highest road in the alps. Motorbikes zoom around 36 curves and climb over 3,000 feet to a dizzy 9,000 feet vantage point on the Pointe des Lessière. This is nearly twice the height of the highest fjord road. Vin prefers the steady climb. The rapidly narrowing road climbs tortuously up above the snow line, slicing through snow walls at the end of a glacier. Fast flowing streams of melt water tumble under the road before being flung into waterfalls below. The sun is occasionally blotted out by drifting grey clouds revealing the terrifying climb, so far. After much huffing and puffing on my part, we eventually reach the top of the pass. Marked by a small stone church, gravel car park and Col de Isere plaque. (click to enlarge the photo’s)
We park up and admire the view. Just over the peak the Italian side of Mont Blanc and a chain of peaks. After lunch of ham and eggs, Mac n Tosh go play in the snow. Craig takes Eor a spin back down the mountain pass. Walking in the mountains at this time of year is my idea of heaven. Great views, clear air, sunshine and nice temperature. Mac n Tosh seem to agree as the play ‘chase me quick’ in the snow. It isn’t long before my views are temporarily obscured by a sea of clouds. So I focus on the smaller things. Lichens on boulders, the sound of water trickling over rocks, clumps of snow. I let my mind go where it wants with the wind on my face and the sun on my back (click to enlarge images).
My walk is cut short by a honking horn and waving hands. Craig returns with a frown. “Our GoPro isn’t working” he shouts. That’s the 2nd bloody gizmo to break in just over a week – GoPro and the reversing camera. On top of that Eor our little motorbike is chocking for air. It needs time to recalibrate for the altitude. Craig attempts to restart the camera following the instruction manual but nada. When instructions fail he reverts to a prod, a poke before a final fling on to the floor. The GoPro joins gizmo graveyard and now awaits an alternative life.
We set off down the other side of the mountain pass and in to the Arc valley. The road on the other side is a lot bumper with a sheer plunge to the valley below. We ease down with the help of endless sweaty palmed hairpin bends. As we wind down in to the valley it feels wide and light with very little trees and lots of grey bare rock. Harsh weather clearly takes it toll on this side. Further down we start to see steep green meadows hanging in the shadow of huge crags.
By mid afternoon, we arrive on the valley floor and not long before we find an parking spot. One of the most spectacularly beautiful and consistently butt clenching journeys I can remember draws to an end. Craig looks down at the fuel gauge and smiles “14.3, not bad eh!”. And the reward is amazing. A plain and simple patch above the tumbling waters of a mountain river, completely surrounded by snow capped mountains . I was right. It is somewhere special…we may be here some time!