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Western trans-alpine crossing – pure adventure on your mountain bike

Xavier

Western trans-alpine crossing – pure adventure on your mountain bike

Mountain Biking Collection by Martin Donat

6-13

days

3-6 h

/ day

216 mi

40,675 ft

42,250 ft

Do you sometimes feel like a real adventure 🤠🏔️🚵 ? It happened to me once again in any case. I dreamt of desert trails in the mountains, far away from organized tours and far away from typical tourist hotspots. Cozy mountain huts, wide alpine meadows, picturesque valleys, and magnificent panoramic views – I searched and I found it: The Western Alps seemed to offer all of that. The area here is still contemplative, traditional, and original whilst the gigantic mountain landscape leaves an unforgettable impression.

The "Grande Traversata delle Alpi" (GTA), an ancient military route that is now marked as a long-distance hiking trail, has served many a biker as the basis of an unforgettable Alpine adventure. This was also the case for me. My plan started in Susa, a city to the west of Turin, and led through Piedmont to Ventimiglia on the Italian Riviera. Seven days, 348 kilometers (216 miles) and almost 12,400 metres (40,700 feet) of altitude.

As I began to put together my Alpine adventure, it became clear that there isn’t one ultimate western trans-alpine crossing. As different as every rider is, so is their idea of a perfect bike Tour. For many, a proper ride through the Alps includes a decent hike-a-bike section whilst others must have gnarly trails or wide gravel roads with perfect views. First, I ‘read up’ a bit on the various trip reports that you can find online. I studied various GPS tracks and started putting together a bikepacking trip that I might like. The result is the seven stages of this alpine cross Collection which I would like to present to you here.

Route character and difficulty
All Tours are, as far as the distance is concerned, kept rather short. The stages usually include a lot of elevation gain and when you take into account your luggage and extensive hike-a-bike sections, your average speed will probably be quite slow. With a good basic fitness level, which is, of course, a prerequisite before you go to the Alps, all stages are manageable in one day with enough of a time buffer for any unplanned incidents. Despite thorough planning, you should never expect that everything will go smoothly high up in the mountains. For example, a landslide could mean that the planned trail is just gone. Unexpected changes can always happen so make sure you always plan enough time for a detour – or else it can be fatal. If I’m going faster than I expected, I just use the time to take lots of nice photos on the way.

Arrival and departure
Both Susa and Ventimiglia have a train station 🚂 with good connections. This is super convenient as you can easily and comfortably return to the start point of your adventure from Ventimiglia (it takes about 5.5 hours by train). Alternatively, you can plan the whole trip by train. The Interrail ticket (4 day global) is a cheap and flexible option for booking trains. This allows you to use all participating rail services for a total of four days in one month. The ticket is also a nice backup if your plans change along the way.

Accommodation and meals
Along the GTA route, there are all kinds of simple stage accommodation called "Posto Tappa". In most stage towns, you can even choose from a variety of hotels and guesthouses. Whether you plan your accommodation in advance or prefer to stay spontaneously is up to you. If you want to book in advance, remember that time in some small mountain guesthouses ticks a little slower and communication can be more complicated than as you are used to with large hotels in tourist strongholds. As for food, you can look forward to the delicious cuisine 😋🍕🍜 of Piedmont, for which the region is known. For your daily provisions, you pass by supermarkets en route, just don’t forget to take into account the ‘rural’ opening hours and lunch break.

Bike and equipment
Listing everything you need to think about on an alpine Tour would exceed the number of words for this article, so I’ll just give you a few tips. Firstly, your bike should be reliable and comfortable. A lightweight all-mountain bike would be my first choice for such an adventure. In addition, you can pack your light bikepacking bags with a change of clothes, weatherproof clothing (this is especially important in the mountains!), as well as emergency tools ⚒️🪚💣 and a few spare parts. Depending on your accommodation, you may also need to pack a light sleeping bag or liner and similar gear. Don't forget to download all maps on your navigation device at home and to make all komoot routes available offline as you mostly won’t have internet connection on the road. Pack a power bank and charging cables for your electronic helpers. A few cable ties, small tension belts or Velcro straps don’t weigh much and have already helped me out of many problems. Last but not least: Leave everything at home that you don't really need on a bike trip in the middle of nature. You’ll think of these words by the time you’re tackling the first long climb, at the latest, if you don’t consider them before you go.

I hope that this information helps you to plan your own Western trans-alpine. I look forward to feedback and your own experience reports and wish you a great time in the mountains.

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Westalpencross: Pures Abenteuer auf dem Mountainbike

216 mi

40,750 ft

42,350 ft

Last updated: December 20, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    06:43
    28.9 mi
    4.3 mph
    8,675 ft
    3,625 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Let's go: my western Alps adventure begins today! In the typical Italian town of Susa, the day starts relaxed. Here you should check your material again and fill up your supplies, because you are about to drive into the mountains, there is not much.

    

    About the first half of the approximately 46-kilometer

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    by Martin Donat

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  • Difficult
    03:43
    18.4 mi
    4.9 mph
    3,825 ft
    5,425 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    For the second stage to Abriès, I have found a few options. This is probably the most relaxed option. At just under 30 kilometers (and almost 1,200 meters in altitude) it is quite short and "only" leads up to the Col Mayt. If you want to travel a little longer, you can, for example, from Sauze di Cesana

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    by Martin Donat

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  • Difficult
    05:09
    28.1 mi
    5.5 mph
    5,625 ft
    4,475 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The distance of the third stage on my western alpine cross is manageable at around 45 kilometers. Lots of vertical meters, but above all some challenging terrain, ensure that it can be a day-long program. Some carrying passages should take a lot of time and energy, but they will also lead you into the

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    by Martin Donat

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  • Difficult
    06:07
    34.3 mi
    5.6 mph
    5,500 ft
    7,975 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    55 kilometers and almost 1,700 meters in altitude - these are the key data of the fourth stage of my tour through the Western Alps. The route is divided into two parts: the driveways to the Col du Vallonnet and the Col de Mallemort are quite demanding and again include one or the other carrying / pushing

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    by Martin Donat

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  • Difficult
    04:17
    30.4 mi
    7.1 mph
    3,750 ft
    3,925 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    There are also different variations for the stage from Sambuco to Trinità. This one is a relatively easy tour that initially takes you down the Val Stura in a very relaxed manner. With the Madonna del Colletto, there is at least a real pass road on the program, which today only brings you to around 1

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    by Martin Donat

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  • Difficult
    06:56
    30.1 mi
    4.3 mph
    6,600 ft
    7,725 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    This stage leads over two passes from Trinità to La Brigue and you slowly get closer to the destination Ventimiglia. On the way there is everything that belongs to an alpine cross: long climbs with exhausting carrying passages, wonderful views and a great trail that leads you down to the stage destination

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    by Martin Donat

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  • Difficult
    07:16
    45.9 mi
    6.3 mph
    6,700 ft
    9,100 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    There's really something to do on the last stage of the West Alpine Cross. But: Firstly, you do most of the vertical meters right at the beginning and secondly, this stage is much more downhill than uphill. In addition, from a scenic point of view, the track is the absolute highlight of the entire tour

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    by Martin Donat

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    216 mi
  • Duration
    40:11 h
  • Elevation
    40,675 ft42,250 ft

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Western trans-alpine crossing – pure adventure on your mountain bike

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