Col Vieux Descent


Trail photos

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Trail stats

5.77 mi
Elevation gain
692 ft
Technical difficulty
Very difficult
Elevation loss
3,632 ft
Max elevation
9,210 ft
Min elevation
5,668 ft
Trail type
One Way
2 hours 3 minutes
October 21, 2008
September 2008
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near Grange dell'Agnello, Piemonte (Italia)

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Trail photos

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Itinerary description

This descent came well recommended with Nico Vuilloz himself saying it ‘knocks the stuffing’ out of Mega and Maxi Avalanche courses. With just over 200m of climbing needed for this outstanding 1200m descent it is a must.

The weather looked normal down in Guillestre, but as we headed into the Queyras we could see a dusting of snow on the peaks at the far end, our destination. Sometimes when the Lombard wind blows in from Italy it picks up moisture on the Po plains and drops it on the eastern edge of the Southern Alps. We hadn’t planned for this, but had just about enough warm clothing to manage.

It was really bitter winter conditions on the 150m climb from the car park near Col Agnel (at 2744m the highest cross frontier col in the Alps) up to our 2806m high point at Col Vieux. We didn’t hang around at the col for long and were soon stuck into the snow covered descent towards lac Foreant. It was reminiscent to both Tim and I of early season riding up at the Brevent in Chamonix where there is often still patches of snow to cross. For Jackson it was his first time riding snow and he quickly got the hang of it in these testing conditions.

At lac Foreant the conditions had changed somewhat, with the warm sun coming out and starting to melt the snow it felt like we had ridden out of winter and into spring. The section from here down to lac Egorgeou was super technical with some big rocks to negotiate, all while traversing above large cliffs dropping down to the valley floor. Lac Egorgeou is a site of special botanical interest with some very rare flowers in the marshy area around the lake, so it is very important here not to stray off the marked path.

The next section from lac Egorgeou brought huge smiles to our face, fast and flowing with some little tricky sections thrown in at regular intervals to try and catch you out, it was properly riding on the edge. There was about 400m of vertical in this vein with the lead constantly swapping till we reached the last small climb. A climb of 50m up to the caban Peyroun, where there was a picture postcard view up the valley to Mt Viso, at once thought by the Romans to be the highest mountain in the world. By now the hot sun had burnt away any snow that had come down this far and we had ridden out of spring and into summer. The only season we hadn’t truly experienced on this descent was the current one – autumn.

The final descent from here on down carried on in much the same vein. Mostly fast and flowing with the odd technical section thrown in until just after the chalet de la Medille where there was an incredibly technical rock garden that caught both Tim and myself out but Jackson managed to clean it in outstanding style – hats off. A few more interesting turns and drops and we were spat out at the car park at l’Echalp and our waiting van.

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