It all started with a 03:50 wake up in London, swiftly followed by a not enormous taxi arriving to take us to the airport. It was early, there was a lot of head scratching followed by mild panic however years of tetras paid off and we were finaly on our way with 2 bikes, 10 panniers and 2 people headed for Heathrow.
Things followed a lot more smoothly after that and before we knew it we were trying to figure out how to pedal out of Geneva airport. Luckily a pre downloaded google map saved the day and after a bit of road negotiating we were leaving the city and headed south to Annecy.
Now I would like to point out that the vague plan of the day had looked a little like this..
- aim for the south end of the lake
- MAYBE cycle up Col de la Forclaz (8km / 655m) to get to the refuge at the top.
The cycle to Annecy was a little lumpier than expected however we were still on the high of ‘yay we’re actually here’ so we pedalled on our merry little way, stopping a couple of times for Peggy’s Christmas cake and a much needed Fanta. Upon arriving at Annecy it started to dawn on my legs that it was about 16:00 and all I’d eaten that day was a 5am airport breakfast and some christmas cake in a lay-by. I say it started to dawn upon my legs, what I actually mean is I was rapidly turning into Grumpy McGrumpus BIG TIME. Cycling along a very beautiful flat cycle path was beginning to cause me real trouble and I was frequently stopping just to bury my head in my bar bag. Herbie helpfully, was cycling along about 100m ahead, a safe distance from McGrumpus.
Eventually after numerous ‘discussions’ about how long this bloody lake was and ‘are we nearly there yet’ we pulled in at the next cafe to feed Grumpy.
Now it’s amazing what a sandwich, a bad coffee and two Scottish ladies can do for morale. The Scots didn’t come as part of the cafe however they must have heard my complaining english and decided to have a chat with us. Turns out they were on a girlie holiday ambling the cycle paths and enjoying the sun. Absolute delights they were, so much so that as we left I had a renewed confidence in my little legs and just maybe we’d give the mountain a go.
Now the closer we got to the base of the mountain, the more Herb asked me ‘are you sure you want to give this a go……. we can camp at the bottom…….. I’m pretty tired myself’ So of course my answer was ‘YES!’.
As we cycled through the village of Versonne a couple of cyclists overtook us and asked if we were going to the top. ‘Maybe’ was my answer. The following look I got was a mixture of disbelief and admiration, actually no. There was no admiration, more like ‘you’re an idiot’
I looked up and saw the sign, average gradient for the first kilometre – 13%
What happened next, is quickly erasing itself from my brain. What I do know, is very early on I LOST MY SH*T at Herbie, at cycling, at mountains, at France, everything. My exact words to Herbie are best not typed here however one thing was for sure, I was hauling myself up that mountain even if it killed me. At my request (and for safety) Herbie cycled at least 100m ahead of me at all times. I saw him stop occasionally to make sure I was still there which even though I was seething I was grateful for him to do so.
Luckily for me, being a girl upon a fully loaded touring bike, wobbling all over the road and inching myself upwards, every cyclist, car driver and motorbike gave me shout of ‘bravo’ ‘allez’ beeped their horns and on one occasion a fist bump.
As we reached Montmin it was only the last 2km up to the refuge, Herbie was sent ahead with the tent as I was left to tackle the last 2km in my own world of misery. I was going so slowly I’d come off my bike, push uphill, cry, try to find a spot to get back on, cry, pedal another 20/30meters, come off again only for the process to be repeated. After what seemed like an eternity, the road turned to gravel and the refuge came into sight, I handed over my bike and cried.
What made me feel a little better was hearing that Herbie also had to push his bike most of the way up the last hill and I had the best cold beer known to any human.
Onwards and upwards.