We’ve all got a favourite mountain bike destination. Morzine, Les Arcs, Alp D’Huez…

But would you ever consider Tignes as a must-ride mountain bike holiday spot? Nope, us neither, until now.

In Part 2 of Hutch and Pete’s trip, they explore the trails away from the bike park under the watchful eye of the Grand Sassiere.

Words by Chris Hutchens | Photos by Pete Scullion.

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Every good adventure starts with a good old pour over the maps. French maps are some of the best out there, making it easy to pick out the kind of trail you’re looking for.

Arguably the highest rideable peak in Europe, Aiguille de le Grande Sassiere is an imposing lump of rock that sits on the far side of the dam to Tignes.

After the forecast threatening rain, snow, thunder and lightning, it’s always great to wake up to blue skies!

Nathan ‘Lizard’ McComb would join us again for our big mountain adventure and set about showing off his trials skills early on around one of the smaller reervoirs that feeds the Lac de Tignes.

Hutch scythes his way through a blanket of mid summer Alpine flora. There’d barely be a cloud in the sky early on in the day, and the pace was high as we’d shuttled this section on day one as the sun set.

An easy corner for everything to go wrong on certainly looked pretty enough. An awkward double stepped entrance with a sheer drop to the Lizard’s left made this far less appealing than it looked.

The Grand Motte glacier visible in the background and our home for the 4 days in sight, a lizard sets about making tracks towards the bottom of the valley. Still no sign of the storm that would see us ducking out early.

Far removed from the buff, groomed singletrack higher up the hill, and that of the bike park, we were soon into some serious terrain with plenty of rock underfoot.

The Lizard loves back wheel. Not pictured here were the swarms of bright blue butterflies that choked the air. This really felt like summer!

Hutch takes time to reflect on the madness of the last two days in the bike park as it fades into the distance. This is when we started to feel slightly out in away from the rat race.

Style for miles off the most insignificant trail feature, Nathan McComb can turn it on demand. We’d topped out and started our charge towards Hobbiton with the Grand Motte keep an eye on us.

Nowhere near lunchtime, by the Lizard lays the table anyway. Hard not to when natural jumps present themselves. We’d been moving a few hours by this point and the altitude was starting to tell.

Hutchens also loves back wheel. The architect of the trip would push the Lizard every inch of the way whether it was on bike park booters or gnarly singletrack. Hutch always had an extra gear where required.

Follow the goat’s cheese to Hobbiton.

Lunch above the trout ponds before the cloud moved in and the rain arrived in earnest. This grassy plateau holds the isolated village of Le Monal that looks straight out of a Tolkein novel.

Dodging the wasps and the rain, Nathan, our guide Rab and Hutch tuck into the usual French fare of cheese and ham in some stiff bread.

As soon as the rain had come, it had vanished again, leaving us with views like this. There’s something about glaciers that make mountains mesmerising, don’t you think?

When in doubt, get the maps out. As the forecast became steadily less pleasant, we started considering bail out options. The high alpine is no place to be when the weather kicks off, regardless of the time of year!

In the 20 minutes we’d stopped for lunch, the clouds built and we stopped for the typically sub-par attempt by the French at coffee. Bizarre how close you can be to Italy and still get coffee this… Interesting.

The boys leave Hobbiton (Le Monal) as the skies darken further and summer seems like a million miles away.

6400 ISO and Nathan McComb. More turnbars than you can shake a stick at on this old trading route up the northern flank of the valley.

The last few precious turns over carthorse prints a thousand years old before bit lumps of electricity started falling from the sky.

Rab’s hair is indicative of the amount of water we experienced in diving out of the woods to the shelter of this cafe. More options considered, but this time, it was get some food and have a lazy one before our final day of madness.

Thanks to Mountainsun

Hutch and Pete spent the week of their Tignes trip with Mountainsun – a holiday company run by Brits and based in the mountains. They were kind enough to cover the costs of the trip.

Mountainsun cater for snow and dirt holidays all year round and offer short or longer breaks – including 3 day / 3 night trips with guiding, uplifts, transfers and bike hire for £340 per person.

You can learn more about them on the Mountainsun website.


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