Tricky conditions getting the better of me

Col du Granon electric mountain bike e-mtb in the snow

Sometimes you know when maybe you should have just stayed indoors. Yesterday was one of those days

One way or another, I was riding for a fall...

Sunday was the first day of the high season holidays here but even the night before things seemed quiet in the 1420 bar watching England vs Scotland. A friend remarked how their chalet was not occupied and that the Tourist Office had said things are quiet this first week as the regions that are on holiday don't tend to travel to Serre Chevalier.

That said, I opted to go cross-country for the first time in a week, as finally the winds that have been blowing all week had eased.


And the 'Pointless' (Pontelas) car park was not at all busy, so we hatched a plan to take first lifts on Monday as in High Season they a few open at 08:30, so one can get a good couple of hours in on the corduroy before it gets too busy.

Turning up at the parking area we were spoilt for choice as to where to park. However it was the walk to the front de neige by the Chazelay that was extremely precarious as it was so icy. Even though it had been spread with gravel, and even going with great care, probably looking like a nervous tourist, it got me and I slipped over.

Living all season in a ski resort falling/slipping over is one of the paranoid fears that can overtake you, and, unfortunately, it gets worse with age, especially knowing so many people who have done it and ended up in hospital.

A good few years ago, on New Year's Day I slipped, and according to Elaine was horizontal with feet trying to grip the air as I came crashing down severely bruising my lower back/ribs that meant I was off games for a couple of weeks.


So, once we had the skis on, things were a lot more stable, and we skied nigh on totally empty pistes, before making our way over to the Gauthier sector where, in fact, we were greeted with around 4mm of fresh snow that was just enough to cover the corduroy in places. But underneath, with the overnight freeze, the piste was very hard.

Ken and I were out using our Carv systems, and I was trying to better a previous score. An essential element to that is getting the all important edging by almost toppling/leaning over and having faith in the G-force of the ensuing turn holding you up. This is all very well if you don't lose an edge on the hard pack snow, which saw me fighting to recover an edge at around 45kph. I then started to go backwards but, luckily, this time I stayed upright and did not hit the deck!


Once back home, I became restless as I've been wanting to take the E-mtb out to see what the snow is like up behind us in the Granon/Gardiole sector. I thought that with no fresh snow and it still being cold it might not be too difficult an ascent on the E-mtb.

As I was taking the bike out of the garage I did look at my helmet and thought no, don't need it.

Leaving the van in the parking I saw this ski tourer who had just come down, and he was just about to drive off when I noticed that he had left his skis propped up against the back of his car. So I cautiously ran over the snow and ice to warn him, and then we had a chat about how bad the snow was for skiing up there.

The ride up was not that technical, though in a couple of places the snow was too deep, but it was obvious that some rat-tracks / snow mobiles had been up there, maybe army rat tracks?

At around 2,000m I stopped to do a closer inspection of the snow, and it was pretty dire, so hard and windblown. It's going to take a lot of sunshine and warmer temps to soften it up.



Coming down was a Polaris towing a trailer with rubbish bags and provisions etc so that had me thinking maybe they had opened a refuge up at the barracks. I followed the tracks as they branched off from the road, which was now under 2m of snow and was nigh on impassable with just maybe one snow mobile track.

As I came into the barracks there were a couple of guys and I went and said hello, to which they were not too impressed. Instead they pointed out the signs that I should not be there as it was  Zone Militaire and Interdit. They were not actually soldiers but PGHM, I carried on being nice explaining that I was only following an obvious track, and then offered the guy a go on my E-mtb as I could see he was sort of curious.

Once at the Col, I did the ubiquitous selfies, made better by the snow depth in relation to the sign.

E-mtb VTT winter snow Col du Granon


Then it was the descent, and I decided not to antagonise the PGHM by going back down the way I came up, opting for the faint snowmobile track that was following the actual road under the 2m of snow. 


There was a slight rise I had to get over, so I went quite quickly and next thing I was flying through the air as the front wheel dug in to about 30cms of soft snow and I went, literally, over the handlebars head first into the none too soft snow where I landed.

First thing I thought I'd bust my expensive prescription sunglasses, but they were in one piece. Rest of body seemed ok, and then picking the bike up, I thought the all important E-mtb control was fecked, but the impact had merely turned it off. ThenI  felt a bit of goo from my knee inside my trousers and that was later confirmed with some blood and loose scraped skin.

So all in all, I came out of it not too bad, though at the time I did blame the bloody PGHM for having to take that route. That said it would have been ironic if I had damaged myself thereby requiring their services :)

Rest of the descent was somewhat technical as the front wheel of the bike has a mind of it's own in the snow and ice. Once back down I didn't even slip over getting in or out of the bath :)