There seems to be a common thread in this trip. It rains, we move, drive a sketchy road, get lost, ride sick trails, move on. Well this next stop was no different. We left Livigno, Italy in a downpour of rain in the valley and snow in the high mountains. Perfect day to drive over the mountain passes of Switzerland in our city car.
We made it into Switzerland without being searched by the border patrol. Win. As we progressed towards Zermatt through beautiful country we hit traffic. Loss. Then our car decided to stop moving. Not running, but moving. Big loss. With two lanes of traffic sitting bumper to bumper we pushed our little rig over to the side of the tollway and hoped. "Let's let her sit a minute". I guess she just needed a break. Our little blue rig started right back up and moved along as if nothing had ever happened. Win! Wish I could tell you what happened to the car but I know nil about cars, motors, stuff, things. We actually made our way back into traffic and found ourselves ahead of the cars we had been next to prior to breaking down. Short lived win. As we made it out of traffic we couldn't find the right road to Zermatt and were forced to head back towards traffic again. Stoked! Fortunately we found the correct road towards Zermatt before we hit the traffic again, unfortunately we realized we didn't need to wait the first time around.
Long story short. The next leg to Zermatt passed over another high mountain pass with high winds and freezing weather. At one point Heidi turns to me and says, "riskofice". I reply with "what does that mean?", thinking she was using her German on me. Having been in Livigno where as much German is spoken as Italian my brain did not comprehend. RISK OF ICE, you idiot. Great, I thought, we have no tread on the tires and the roads are icing up. Well, we made it to Zermatt.
The last time we came to Zermatt was winter and the Matterhorn didn't come out from behind the clouds until we got back on the train to head home. This trip we had perfect weather the entire time. Bluebird skies, no wind, perfect temps. All ideal for mountain biking in an area with some the most spectacular alpine views in the Alps.
When we arrived in town we bought a three day pass to ride all the available lifts and trains with our bikes. This would allow us to see and ride just about everything Zermatt had to offer. We passed on hiring a guide at 375 swiss francs a day, per person. Zermatt is not cheap. Most of the riding in this area was pretty much up and down. Zermatt is surrounded by glaciers and high peaks. To tour over the ridges would require some skis and we weren't really prepared for that. Go up using the cables and train, and find your way down. This worked out very well for us and we never found ourselves lost or on a trail we didn't enjoy riding.
Everyday we explored a new area of trails that surrounded Zermatt. We'd ride up a new lift or tramway to the top, pick a good route off our maps and apps, and take off for a two hour plus descent into town. Since we didn't want to spend the 99 swiss francs per person for fondue we chose to grab lunches of local meats and cheeses from the grocery stores in town. This gave us enough time to replenish and rest before our afternoon descent.
The trails in Zermatt are pretty rugged but all are rideable and offer a ton of variety in both the alpine and terrain below treeline. But watch out for the water bars! The trail system is pretty extensive and it seems like they pride themselves on maintaining the trails. So making sure water is running off the trails and not down them is a huge effort. But to do this you have to use huge rocks to divert the water. For some reason they also like to use the sharpest rocks they can find and also make sure their facing up for bikers to ride over at nuclear speeds. One day I had three flats and used up all our replacement tubes. We couldn't be bothered. We charged on and made it through the day.
Obviously coming to a place like Zermatt you're going to have other folks who want to come too. After our first day of asking politely for hikers to move in whatever language we could think of, we bought a swiss trail bell. A small bell that hangs on your handlebars and sounds like a cow bell as you ride, letting folks know you're getting ready to barrel them down. It wasn't that bad but the areas where people could easily hike downhill from one station to the next were quite busy.
Our last day in Zermatt added a little extra adventure to finish out this leg of our trip. The morning stated off pretty normal. Delicious breakfast at the hotel and off we went to ride to the top of the Rothorn tram. The first ride of the day we planned to descend from the top of the ski area and then traverse down to the next town down valley, Tasch. The first half of the ride was spectacular, lots of great single track and plenty of panoramic views of the valley. This was going to be awesome! When we reached our next intersection to head towards Tasch it was obvious the trail was closed. The thought crossed our minds for a second to continue but we wisely made a route change back to Zermatt. We later learned this trail had been closed for a couple of years due to a major rock slide and that you'd have to have a death wish to try and cross under the area again.
We made our way back down to town in time to grab some lunch to eat while we waited for the next train up to the top of the Gornergrot. I really loved the views from the top and the riding from there had been some our our best. We also wanted to take a different route down this run to explore the area a little more.
Again, the trails were amazing and we loved the new route and the veiws they offered. We knew we were coming into a section of trail that was going to require a dismount of the bikes and some hiking down hill over steep, gnarly, rocky terrrain. As we approached this area we started walking with our bikes downhill and noticed a few people gathered below us. We made it through a couple more switchbacks as the terrain got steeper and noticed these people were huddled over a person on the ground. Obviously someone not having a good time. I started to recount what we had in our first aid kits and immediately wondered why I took my SAM splint out of my bag for more room for my camera. Basically climbing down to the scene, I noticed a women in her 70's on the ground with her son standing over her on the phone. I put my bike down to notice the pool of blood on the trail along with some broken eye glasses. I told the son that I had a first aid kit and some medical experience and asked if I could help. He immediately answered yes and said he was only a physicist. I had a quick chuckle inside. I pulled the two small paper napkins off the women's head to a pretty serious head injury. She had fallen down the trail and made direct contact with one of the sharp rocks around the train. Her right cheek bone was visible below the four inch gash next to her eye. This was in addition to the inch long tear or cut (maybe from her glasses?) on the outside of her eyelid making her eye a bit more exposed. It was a good one. I luckily had a thick surgical combine pad and a roll of gauze. Her son suggested we first clean out the wound with the quarter bottle of water he had and I suggested he keep talking to his semi conscious mother. I dressed her wounds and laid her back down to notice she was already starting to soak the pad with blood.
The son was calling for a rescue helicopter when we arrived so we kept his mother calm and comfortable until the heli arrived. As we heard the heli coming up from town we signaled we were the folks in need and they made a couple passes to figure out where to drop the medic form the heli. Landing in this terrain was not an option. They winched the medic down with a vacuum mattress and his med pack. I helped him gather his footing and he gave me the mattress to bring to the scene. The medic made his assessment quickly and ran an IV of fluid into the women's hand and never touched my dressings on her head. The medic asked if I was the one with medical training and asked if Heidi and I would help load and prep the women for evacuation. We all loaded her into the mattress, pulled the air out of the mattress to stabilize her, and got ready for the winch cable to arrive from the heli to lift her away. The medic quickly asked where I was from and after learning I was from Colorado said he had been to ski some place called Beaver something. I asked if it was Beaver Creek and he said yes. Small world. I told him that's where I worked as a patroller and we got a quick laugh out of it. When the heli circled back around I grabbed the winch cable for him and off he and the injured women went flying through the air on a thin steel cable. No big deal I guess. Thanks for all the training Beaver Creek crew!
Didn't expect that to happen! Heidi and I gathered the son's equipment for him and wished his mother all the best and continued down the trail to finish our ride. What a weird way to finish a trip to Zermatt.
That evening we had a few drinks and a delicious, cheap dinner in town. We had been watching the weather forecast that week and knew that the next day was going to be rainy and overcast. So what does that mean? We out! We asked our hotel if we could cancel our last night and they obliged us. They had been full all week and surely had more folks wanting rooms. A couple of days prior we decided we make an effort to go to Bourg st. Maurice and visit our French pals in Savoie. Before we were to head there we had a couple of days to kill. After some research and German suggestions we decided on Le Thuile, Italy. NEXT!
Don't forget to click on the Flickr icon at the bottom of the page for more photos from our trips!!!