While taking part in the Jura Enduro recently, Hannah met Tito Tomasi, a self-supported rider and illustrator living the van life, travelling around Europe writing and creating pictures. To make things a bit more challenging, he decided to do without the van for three weeks and see if he could cross the Alps entirely self supported. Here’s his account of the whole trip.
Here’s a short video he made about it, see below for his full account, a 20 minute version of the video, and plenty more photos.
(Video not visible? Try this link.)
TITO CROSSED THE ALPS
1650 kilometers and 58800 meters of elevation in 21 days.
Since 2012, when I crossed the French Alps on the famous GR5 trail, I had in mind to go to Slovenia and finish the job: to cross the Alps from begining to end, finishing at the Mediterranean. So I planned my trip from last year, keeping some time in the summer. The preparation was done with three things in mind:
1. Get the right bike. A rocky Mountain Thunderbolt will be perfect, with a 140mm fork it makes the bike a bit more safe in the rough terrain. That bike is fun, efficient and strong. To be ready I rode this the whole winter.
2. Get all the logistics ready, having everything I could need, with parts, new kit, new shoes. Prepare the itinerary and a back up, so I bought a GPS and prepared the route on my phone too.
3. Get the man ready for it. I know myself very well and my weakness is that I ride too much, so sometimes I can be overtrained and get fatigued. So I did not rode in January and March, to keep a lot of energy. But in April and May I rode a lot, doing long and technical rides (about 30 000 meters or 90 0000 feet of elevation per month) . June was more normal to relax.
June 27, I’m in the plane, wearing my bike kit and shoes. I landed in the afternoon. As soon as I touched the ground I got my bike box, unpacked it and started my ride. Straight to the mountains, I was feeling free and so happy to start a new chapter.
I cannot lie, after only one hour of ride the rain came and I put my rain kit. But I was not feeling bad about it, it was the start and I was making the most of this new adventure. The landscape was beautifull with small mountains, deep forest and some kind of castles everywhere. I left the Ljubljana area and and quickly started to cross remote and mountainous zones. I loved the rough trail and the nice villages. Rode the first three days in the rain. I lost my phone and camera in a big thunderstorm probably due to a lightning. Well Slovenia was a short part but sure was intense.
I entered Italy on the trails, trough a beautifull canyon where they have built a path centuries ago, it was rough and almost dangerous. But after the rain came the sun and I passed Venzone with a blue sky. The itinerary brought me to Sauris lake area, where the riding was as good as the food! Awesome riding to enter the Dolomites. I was so happy to enter the famous region, discovering the iconic cliffs and mountains from far was emotional. I had a really good time in that range and eventually crossed Alta Badia area before entering the Sasso Patto small range. Here the landscape was unique with green meadows and deep forests dominated by white and massives peaks.
This was the beginning of the South Tyrol area, a beautifull place where I was happy to find so many good trails. I passed Moreno where I bought a new camera and took the road to Stelvio pass. It was a long long day on a bike lane with a big pass at the end, so I took the detour to find the balcony trail. A useless 500 meters detour because the trail had gone in a landslide years ago. When I was going down back to the road I had a stupid crash and cutted my calf quite deep, and I had to ride 18 kilometers to get to the hospital. Four stiches later I was back on the bike and climbing the road. The downhill of Stelvio pass was incredible, riding this carved trail was impressive! I had a tone of fun and after a few big passes entered the Livigno area to ride a few smooth trails.
Right after the Livigno area there is a pass at 2694 meters of altitude where I entered Switzerland and the Uris canton. After crossing the Saint Moritz valley and beautifull lakes I entered another mountainous area, crossing two or three passes every day. I had been on the trail for more than ten days, but was still feeling very fresh and ready, despite the rain, the efforts and camping nights. After Andermatt I was lucky to change my route and admire the Rhône’s glacier, trails up there were sketchy and rocky, but the vew was worth the pain!
The storm came back and hammered me, changing the atmoshere into a end of the world landscape, with cold rain and clouds everywhere. This was just before entering the Grindelwald area, a unique place, very impressive with deep valleys and massive mountains. Riding near the Mt Eiger was nice experience, there the profile is rough with huge climbs (plus 1100 meters each time!) and so good steep downhills! But the view on the waterfalls, the cliffs and glaciers was awesome. I finally entered the Valais region around the resort of Les Diablerets and was pretty happy about that because from there I know the people speak french! A beautifull zone, with awesome riding. I went trough the region quite fast and reached the tour du Mt Blanc fast. Which meant fantastic riding with some of the best views in Europe! After Val Ferret I entered Italy for a quick visit, where I know a balcony trail that gives me a huge smile every time. I was so pumped to be so close to France and to realise I was actually crossing the Alps for good.
When I passed Courmayeur and the Italian Mt Blanc, I crossed the Seigne’s pass and entered Fance in Savoy. I had to stay high in the mountain and cover a large distance in the Beaufortin range, famous for it’s cheese but not for the alpine trails. It was the third time I was actually crossing the French alps, so I knew about the options, the climbs and the downhills. I made my way trough Tarentaise valley, then Maurienne to finally arrive in Galibier range and make a stop in Briancon right before starting the last part of the trip. Toward Queyras it’s entering the southern Alps, but also the best part of the Alps, with beautifull landscape, warm and dry weather and most important awesome trails! Balcony trails following the valley were a ton of fun. I passed the different and classic cols of the Queyras to enter the Ubaye region.
I saw the landscape changing again when I got into Verdon valley, with high alpine trails, massive mountains, the different vegetation and the Mercantour national park very near. I love that place and always have a good time there! The closer I was getting to the sea, the dryer it was, with rocky trails and warm weather. The twentieth day was the longest and most crazy one with almost 4000 meters of climbing. I camped near Valberg for that very last night, and my dad actually joined me for company. It was a good time, and emotional also as I was getting to the end of the trip ready to finish with it, and close this chapter of my life after planning it for so long. This feeling of achievement is strong and on the last day, it gave me so much energy. I needed it, this last day was hard and hot, and especially because I choose to climb one last mountain. This mountain is also the mountain where I learned about big mountain biking also twenty years ago.
I rode the last mountain, crossed the river and followed the Var river to the sea. Riding the bike lane, I was realising my trip and what I did, from where I started three weeks ago. I ended on the beach, happy, shivering and tired. My mom and one of my best friends were waiting for me there too. I don’t have many words to say about that. The moment was strong and represents why I do this: for the adventure, for the achievement, and to share it.
I hope my story will inspire you to get on your bike and ride.
(Video above not visible? Well that’s risible; here’s a link).