Both these climbs are key challenges of the Morzine Sportive, but while cycling through both looked like grand places for a wander hence todays excursion ‘au chiens’.  La Vernaz is a 20-minute drive down from Morzine through St Jean D’Aulps and past the Pont Diable, you can take the first signposted turn to Vernaz, its shorter, but I think its worth carrying on down the gorge another mile to the second turning and take in a longer and more attractive climb to the small village and parking area by the church.

IMG_4366

There is a handy map in the carpark showing the local ‘discovery’ walk, also reproduced here:

http://ete.valleedaulps.com/images/prestataires/8427-sitraLOI833194_305019_le-sentier-decouverte-de-la-vernaz-winter-gb.pdf

The walk goes up through the village to the peak, then dives into the woods.  On a day like today, roasting, this was a real bonus!  After an easy saunter, the track descends down a steep path before opening out into bright tracks full of butterflys.  We were lucky to see a pair of Bonnelli’s eagles enjoying the air currents, before they were dive-bombed by a black kite.

Having given away a lot of height, its now payback time though the trail is well-marked and easy going, following a stream around the field edge.

IMG_4355

The trees are full of mistletoe and the local farmers clearly enjoy the art-form of log piling.

IMG_4357 IMG_4360

As is typical with all these villages, there are some fab old farmhouses which effortlessly combine the new with the old: IMG_4361

The only thing missing after a steady 90 minute loop was a cafe for re-fuelling. So we headed off back down the switchbacks, right and then hard left to take in the Trechauffe area where i knew there were a few choices.  While the Sportive ride comes from the opposite side of the mountain, climbing Grand Taillet and descending down to the gorge road before climbing again to Vernaz, the full climb to Col de Trechauffe is a good 5Km extra above Grand Taillet, and the overall average is about 8% so its a tough challenge at any time.

IMG_4369

Still the rewards are immense!   The views as you climb above Grand Taillet are staggering, as the full vista to Lake Geneva opens out.  The road starts to peter out at the viewpoint, or you can do another stretch to get to the Auberge Trechauffe (cash only!) at the end of the road, where there are also a number of footpaths to take you onwards and upwards.

IMG_4380

Footpath map:

IMG_4379

View back towards Seytroux and St Jean:

IMG_4372