Explicit overuse of images warning – I’m going to be massively upfront today about the fact I have lost the plot with this post entirely and rammed it with so many pics that its blatantly ridiculous, or just fucking weird depending on how you like to describe things. Yes, its a MEGA post.
But perhaps don’t blame me… Maybe instead lets blame the sheer epicness of the Aosta Valley and its magical Mon-tons. Yes, Day 3 was all about busting out of my Park rat status and getting back to the big scenery and natural trails. Blow me braking bumps, its time for ancient trails!
Thanks to the MTB Jedi like guidance from Seb Kemp and Gary Perkin, I was able to get hooked up with the only people to see in town for this type of big Mon-ton antics. Don’t fuck about and waste your time, hit the boys at Aosta Valley Freeride, then sit back, relax and know that they are ON the motherfucker in a way that would make Mr Wolf sit up and take notice.
This post is more of a photo epic than me finding inventive ways to use bad language, so join me as we indulge in the hidden goodness of Aosta Valley outside of the park, broken down into a 3 part mini-series of radness.
Part 1 – Seeking Refuge
The usual hook up with the Aosta Freeride crew is in the Pila carpark at the Gondie base. I arrived to find my main man for the day, Fabrizio, doing some daily SRAM maintenance as you do. For those on Shimano that don’t understand what this means, it basically consists of spending time fucking about wondering why your drive train suddenly shit its pants.
Don’t think for a moment that getting out of the park didn’t mean there wasn’t the sweet sensation of uplift happening. Fabrizio outlined the plan for the day, we were heading UP…. Then UP some more before getting amongst one of the favoured DH runs back down to Aosta. You know when the guide smiles and coos “Its so good man… You will love it…” that it will be good times on the horizon.
As we headed up into the real Mon-tons, I reflected that for the roadie followers then Aosta would also be an excellent place to scope out, some rather sensational climbs to be explored, unless of course the new road bike you just brought was a massive fat pig #industrylies #watchthisspace.
As we cruised up to our start point in Vetan at 1,800m and left behind all the small villages and dotted houses, it became clear to me that coming to Aosta was massively the way to go. I almost ended up back in Finale Ligura or a number of other places I had been before, but the decision to head somewhere new was getting more and more justified the higher we rolled.
We were heading towards the Becca trail, but as Fabrizio rightly pointed out, to do so without a cafe stop first would be pure madness, not to mention un-Italian… And there just so happens to be an excellent little spot in Vetan for fuelling up before the climbing starts.
It also gave us more time for SHAM maintenance, something worth factoring in if your friends like marketing over engineering. And yes, I am ignoring the obvious here that Fab was rolling on a… A…. A… I can’t even type the words… But yes, its got 2.8 tires on it. I felt sad on the inside.
The plan? Head up to the Fallere refuge at the 2,300m mark before starting the journey back down to Aosta. As a general rule of thumb from TP, a 500-600m climb will roughly take about an hour on a big bike if you’re not Bandito inclined, so it was time to remain seated, grind it out in the 42 and soak up what was clearly some mind blowing surroundings.
As we kept plugging up the hill trading stories and laughs, we were finally joined by Wolf, its about time we got him on another mission… A little shorter than I remembered, but hairiness was as expected. Fucken #DNglobalcollective in the house!
Quicker than you can say “Dogs of Instagram is really a thing?“, the King of the mountain had latched out to us and decided to climb up to the refuge with us, clearly in search of radness and Insta banger views. Not to mention dog ass photo bombing opportunities.
We pushed on, the gradient not as fisting as one might expect, allowing us to swap stories about what it was like racing mountain bikes in 1993, #hardtaillyfe, with the occasional silent periods as we had to collectively dig in for the inevitable steep pitches. Broken up with laughing at hikers and their sock arrangement.
Thank fuck the Nomad 3 pedals and climbs a shit load better than it feels when you pull it off the shuttle trailer. I may have made mine a little bit piggy, but in a strange parallel universe arrangement that not even science can fully grasp, it somehow likes these big alpine climbs more than anyone expects. An excellent outcome when this is your view for an hour…
If you’re a skin suit clad Bandito on a Scott 29er hardtail scenario, then you’re likely to arrive at the Fallere refuge in 45 minutes or less. But if you’re as ENDURO as absolute embarrassing fuck, then you’ll grace its front entrance around the one hour mark, or 57 minutes if you put on a burst at the end because you’re feeling weirdly in form and over excited…
Allow me to get misty eyed for a moment with big Mon-ton love: Its fucking awesome up here. Sure, 2,300m isn’t basecamp everest levels of epic, but its high enough to be safe from cunts, snivelling passive aggressive people from work and to just spend some time standing around being amazed at what a stunning location your bike has bestowed upon you.
Grab a cappuccino and then get busy with a frothing photo frenzy, much like I did here as we let words become redundant as you embrace a zone that encapsulates what real freedom is all about. Holy fuck this stuff makes me more philosophical than your LinkedIn updates:
I could have stayed up there a lot longer marvelling/Wanking over the mega Aosta valley scenery, but we had more traversing work to be done before we would arrive at the REAL Becca trail DH action, so zip that shit up cunt and get back to it, its Go PRO time…
Just when you think this place can’t get more rad, nek minute you’re cruising through fields of wild herds with their epic scent filling your nostrils with goodness… Holy fuck I’m sounding like an absolute hippy for fucks sake.
I have to say, it was absolutely rad to be rolling as a two man sniper team with Fabrizio, significantly less fucking around, no waiting for anyone, except me of course as I had to stop every couple of hundred meters to try and grab another Insta Banger. Fab taking it all in his stride and as stoked as I was to be up in this unshaven haven.
After a little bit more traversing and trekking, we were finally at the jump off point that we had so eagerly sought out… Anticipation was peaking out, as was the view of course. Out of sight somewhere way the fuck down there below lay our destination: Aosta. The path to get there? Rad as fuck single track shredding…
It was time to stand around taking 47 different photos of pretty much the same thing. To be honest, the view from up at the drop in point is pretty fucking insane and you’ll have to spend some time drinking it in with your eyes first before being able to work out which way to shoot it. This is some serious 360 deg alpine porn right here.
Part 2 – Get your ass to Aosta
Commuting done… Bars eaten… Knee pads on… It was that time once more, that tingling sense of anticipation that after just a couple of pedal strokes and you were going to be losing yourself into an ENDUROgasim of blind natural trail that you know is going to go on and on and be finished off with a fisting. It was GO time.
As we hit the Becca trail, I was reminded that as experience has shown, the top of these massive alpine descents is always a bit loose and fiddly, with definition not really coming until you get into the tree line. Well, add to that ‘steep’ and you have the opening Stanza of the Becca well covered.
Meanwhile down in Aosta a bad ass hamburger with my Dirty name on it awaited…
We worked our way through the slightly stop/start nature of the top section, which combined brain melting steep & high speed sections with grass slalom courses and some rocky pinch climb.
But there’s always a moment when you know you’re about to enter the trees and everything becomes pure trail action… Fabrizio popped off anything that resembled a jump and I saluted the Mon-Tons for their goodness.
And then suddenly we were encapsulated by forest… Not your commercial forestry arrangement, more trees that have always and will always be where they are – They own this part of the Mon-ton and you’re just lucky enough to cum and visit for a fleeting moment as you plow down through their radness as quickly as your index fingers will allow. As this sequence tries to demonstrate, it felt endless:
Beam me back to that awesome Trans Provence vibe, this was fucking mega and we had only done the first bit! Not a braking bump in site and I was head over Shimano clad heels in love with this trail and the terrain it was laced upon. But more was to come and it was time for variety… Out of the loamy upper forest action, it was time to get loose and dry on it as rocky road was served up for the second course.
Into the second half of the Becca and Fabrizio outlined that this part of the trail was regularly used by a couple of local lads who race World Cup downhill… It only took a couple of brutal turns to work out why…
It was around that point that the cuntwheels screamed enough and promptly evacuated all their air, necessitating a plus sized stop. My hands weren’t complaining, perhaps one of the rare upsides of rolling with someone on 27.5+? Yes… I’m reaching…
If you think the top is smooth, flowy, steep and generally rad, then the bottom is all those sort of things as well, but swap out the smoothness for Gnar. Lots and lots of gnar, the kind that rips knobs off soft tires and makes tired arms squeal like pigs when they hear the acronym ‘BLT’. Once again, massive flash backs to Trans Provence.
When you drop 1,473m over 7km’s, the stoke factor is massive… Especially when you have pinned it with a rad dude like Fabrizio. It was time for that trademark moment of course, another one added to the 2016 Dirty Montage.
The only thing that wasn’t so stoked was that new e13 rear ties I’ve been testing out… I think this was its 9th ride? Let’s only count 3 of those rides as being real, the Bali dirt hardly being hard on tires. Fair to say that based on the wear you can see there the e13’s are best left for race day. The bigger issue however was the Maxxis like hole in the top, as the Mecca of Becca claimed another rubber victim.
Part 3 – Valley bonus run
Fabrizio was stoked – Not only had we made excellent time in the morning mission, but there was still scope for an afternoon thrash on the other side of the valley, an unintended bonus of radness. My body was sort of saying no thanks, but when a local is this stoked and wants to show you more of their secret goodness, its your job to nod and say “Lets roll motherfucker“.
Downing a killer burger at Cafe du Velo (a must do when in town), a quick trip into town for a new rear tire from a company that shall remain utterly fucking nameless (#iamoutofoptions) and then back on the Pila gondie express to scope new shit out. Its a dead heat on whether or not you bang out which cliche first: Yeooowwwww or YOLO. Fuck, just smash both.
It was time for another hand and brake searing run down from Pila station back to Aosta, but this time not solo and with Fab outlining that we were going to take some detours to hit some of the old school shit. It was fairly obvious early on that Fabrizio had been down here thousands of times.
I had avoided the aptly named “Sam Hill line” the last two runs down the hill, but Fabrizio made the call we needed to nail it and so the game was ON. For those that have ridden Queenstown bike park, think ‘Ants’, but perhaps a little longer and even made a touch steeper with more roots? And yes, it was actually made by Mr Hill when he was training here years back.
Pretty soon though it was off the main trail highway and its brake bumps and into Fabrizio’s private collection. Once again – Respect the fuck out of the local knowledge as there was GOLD in them there hills and I wouldn’t have found it without following the flying Fab.
Apparently these are the old school trails that used to be a staple around here pre bike park. I have to say, without doubt this was a much radder way down the hill than the usual trail. High speed gnar anyone?
Holy fuck, magic trail section after section just kept flooding us in a tidal wave of radness… I couldn’t believe the variety or how well me and the Nomad were soaking it all up. Fabrizio and I hooting like clowns on meth determined to terrify children as we carved our way down through ancient trail and fabulous forests. This shit had everything, including massive fuck off berms!
Towards the end about the only thing that we hadn’t done was a rip through a vineyard I thought… Still, I guess you can’t have everything right? Get fucked, you totally can – With a sharp right and a drop in, nek minute we’re in shred mode through the vines. WTF, it doesn’t get more fucking Italian than this I suspect.
Bravo if you’ve made it this far in a post which got out of its cage and went monster all over the place with too many pictures and reused superlatives. But, to wrap up, 2 things:
- Get the fuck out of the bike park and amongst the goodness of the Aosta valley – you will be insanely rewarded
- Don’t fuck about and waste your previous holiday time – Hit the Aosta Valley Freeride crew of Fabrizio and Massimo for the best time. Thanks boys for a fucking wicked day rammed full of amazing trail, mind melting views and good times.
Just one of those days where you get to appreciate how awesome Mountain Biking and Mon-Tons in general are.
Its now time to chill and get ready for 4 huge days in La Thuile at EWS Round 4, I don’t think I could have asked for a better build up, so its time to recharge and then get into the madness ahead!