Salsa sponsored riders Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle are taking a five-week bikepacking tour of the Alps. In this post, Kurt shares his first impressions from the trip. -Kid
L'aventure Alpine - First Impressions
Strung across the narrow alley-like main street, along which we sit sipping our second round of cappucinos, is a banner that reads "Demonte 800 anni - 1214-2014." This is just one example of the countless impressions and new experiences that the first days of riding through the French and Italian Alps have delivered.
The French and Italian Armies of the WWI and WWII eras knew how to build road/trail. These routes still exist today, in arguably better condition than many mountain roads and trails in North America.
Despite 4,000-5,000' of relief, there is a way up and down every pass. We've been humoring ourselves by counting switchbacks as we climb. 70 in one day is our record. Despite excellent trail construction, we have found ourselves hiking plenty.
Kilometers-thick sheets of limestone and underlying rock were thrust upon one another 60 million years ago, and in the subsequent time, rivers and glaciers have cut deeply into this uplifted mass. The result? Everything is steep. But the landscape is anything but consistent. In a single day, we might pass through...
...vibrant alpine meadows...
...bizarre karst uplands...
...deep valleys with raging clear rivers and lined with springs...
...and Medieval villages perched on steep slopes and nestled in narrow canyons.
Contrasting starkly with the landscape, everything human-made is small and/or narrow -- vehicles, portions, living spaces, roads, farm fields, and mountain bike wheels and handlebars.
France has been tougher for us to negotiate. We were immediately scolded with, "No velos!" when we tried to walk our bikes onto the Mediterranean beach within just an hour of arriving in Nice. And mailing two parcels at the post office took us an hour. Italians have been far more helpful as we fumble with learning basic phrases.
Buying food in villages has consisted of visiting the butcher, baker, tiny general store, and one of several cafes.
We continuously find ourselves saying, "I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but this sure wasn't it." This will surely continue as we leave Demonte and make our way up the next 6,000' climb.
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After growing up in Minnesota, I’ve been lured away by the rugged charm of the mountainous west. I relish every opportunity I find to spend a day (or days) on the bike, linking together unknown trails and forgotten routes through deserted country, enjoying the simplicity and unpredictability. When driven to race, I am growing ever fonder of pushing the limits of endurance and sanity. www.krefs.blogspot.com