Trek to the Bontandini
Winter Test to the Bontandini
A Wunderlich endurance test in the shade of the Matterhorn, to the Bontandini Lift, probably the highest points in the Alps accessible by motor vehicle.
I researched the Internet with voraciously to look for information. I had read about people who always wanted to make it up there and some, who actually went. The success of my searches was rather modest; would I even need a permit in the end? Then came the time where I just stopped searching, invited two friends and we simply took off. Each journey needs a beginning or it will not happen and not everything can be planned ahead of time with such an endeavor.
Somewhere in the Alps I kicked out my two friends, Erich and Volker. I continued alone with the delivery van and an electric bike from ZERO, which we also wanted to test some time. The others continued with a R 1200 GS (the cow) and a F 800 GS (the calf) and enjoyed the last beautiful autumn days as they rode along on their massive-bar tires.
We had agreed to meet in Valtournenche, a mountain village in a side valley of the Aosta valley. From there we had planned to head to our tour via Breuil-Cervinia. The access road through the Aostatal was an unforgettable experience. The scenery was spectacular, the warmth of the sun and the smell of the mountains was wonderful.
Once in Valtournenche I gradually approached our undertaking. The lift operator and a policeman welcomed me cordially. They did not object at all to my idea to drive up to the pass the next morning, however, they recommended talking to the municipal office in Valtournenche, since the planned route went through the private property of the township. I was lucky when searching for the municipal office and three beds for accommodation. The man in his mid-forties, from whom I solicited the information, was a great find. He introduced himself as Pietro and was an enthusiastic Enduro rider; right away he wanted to know more about my plans.
His brother ran a small hotel around the corner where we could sleep there; we should definitely not get in touch with the municipal office and maybe wake up some sleeping dogs. This took care of the hotel and a meeting for the following day. Erich and Volker arrived soon after and we enjoyed the evening with Pizza and a few beers, anticipating the coming day with excitement.
Unfortunately, Pietro had some appointments in the morning and was sad that he could not join us.
Off we went: We drove with the delivery van, the ZERO and the two GS's riding behind up to the village of Breuil. There we unloaded the ZERO, released some air from the tires of the "cow" and "calf" and prepared for the ascent. Volker was quite uptight and sometimes found it hard to even smile or talk as he stood in awe of the site of the Matterhorn. Although he was in the best shape among the three of us; he had just recently passed the swim trainer test for which he had prepared and trained for over a year.
His concern arose from the fact that he did not ride a single meter on a motorcycle during this whole time and his Enduro experience from the years before was moderate. He was not chosen to ride the ZERO for reasons of weight. He had already speculated about this for a couple of days, but now his dream of riding the ZERO vanished. Erich was the selected, because he was much lighter. But Volker was not the only one unsure. What would greet us up there in the shadow of the gigantic Matterhorn towering above everything. This majestic mountain with his cloud cap on the top radiated a strength and sovereignty that could be felt strongly.
Nevertheless, we wanted to get up there and so we began our trek - the electric bike, the cow and the calf together on the road that gradually changed into increasingly steeper passages. We arrived at Plan Maison, the intermediate station of the Bontadini lift at an elevation of 2876 m without incidents. From there the ascent became steeper and more demanding. The Boxer showed his displacement advantage, the F 800 in turn convinced not only Volker with its much greater ride-ability.
Erich, who seemed to have blended into one with the ZERO, enjoyed riding back and forth between the two of us and was probably the one able to take in most of this grandiose natural beauty; he just traveled long joyfully and easily.
The track became even steeper; smooth stones, loose debris and snow-covered passages alternated. Volker and I had to get off our bikes several times to help each other, straighten our vehicles and continue the ascent. The small road wound sneakily back and forth, was merely a path now as it continued through the debris; time and again we had to suddenly change direction on a steep stretch not go get off the path. Erich, on the other hand, just zigzagged through the stony terrain, almost with ease. Nothing seemed to be able to stop him... until this trip came to a surprising end. He did not have enough charge on board and stopped all of a sudden, absolutely still. Now Volker and I had to think how to get Erich up the hill. No question for Volker. Immediately he turned over the calf and offered to tackle the remaining 100 vertical meters on foot. We just left the ZERO behind in the snow at an elevation of 3200 meters. It is unlikely an electric bike had ever before reached such elevations in the mountains.
At last Volker was able to apply all the fitness accumulated in over one year of training and he marched with firm legs and the helmet under his arm toward our destination at 3332 m. Even the mountaineer Luis Trenker would have shown respect for such endurance.
As Erich and I negotiated the last bend before the top station of the Bontadini lift, a friend already waited for us; he shouted encouragements as the last stretch become tough again and we almost had to get back off our bikes. As if he knew that we would be coming up the hill with stiff fingers, he had already prepared a fire from scrap wood for us to warm up.
We were overwhelmed by the fascinating silhouettes of the mountain and enjoyed the spectacular view; we would have loved to just stay up there. There we were, with the Matterhorn in sight and the feeling that we could just jump over there. On the Swiss side the ski slopes were being prepared for the next season, while ski trainers carried on with their lessons.
Slowly and somewhat wistfully we left this place and started to head back. This tour and the great images in our minds certainly make it easier than it would have been, to pass the time until next spring, if we had only dreamed about it or planned it on paper.
Fritz Spenner - www.powerfull.de