Col du Parpaillon




A day planned for some trail riding and off-roading… although not everything went according to plan!!! After a leisurely start, heading out around 10h00, we gabbed a coffee and croissant en-route to Parpaillon.


Climbing to the section of off-road, we said our farewells to Tanuj who took a road route, and started the ascent. It was technical riding and the silence over the intercom was a sign of the concentration... especially on the loose gravel hairpins!


Without event, we summited at the entrance to the tunnel and had a well-deserved rest, taking lots of photos and congratulating each other on the event-free climb. Venturing into the tunnel on foot, sense in walking the unlit course in advance. 2/3rds of the way in was under a foot of water, though all looked to be fine, so we decided to keep feet dry, head back to the bikes, and ride in. Scott took the lead and all was OK, even as far as the water section, though around 3/4s in, suddenly....


...Scott's down, the bike rising up and crashing down on to one side... against a sheet ice wall. JP and Oli, just behind, raced to check Scott was OK and although skidding around on the ice, managed to get Scott to his feet, checking there were no major injuries... fortunately just a bruise to the shin.


The bike was on its side, stuck in the ice and with the engine switched off, we radioed back to Phil and Tom to turn back. In itself, this was not straightforward, as the width of the tunnel demanded that each bike be turned slowly through a series of small steps. JP and Oli did the same for Oli's bike, and the three of them rode back out the way we'd come. JP stayed with Scott, using the headlights from JPs to assess the best course of recovery - both determined the best way was to slide Scott's bike back, on its side, down the ice.


It was getting cold and wet so deep in the tunnel, when the three others joined on foot. Whilst Phil videoed the aftermath, JP, Scott, Oli & Tom dragged the GSA back, got it upright, and ... it started first time!! Turning JP's bike around 180, when setting off, his GSA went down to one side on the sheet ice, hidden beneath the pool of glacier water. Righting the bike quickly, JP slowly rode out with feet down - getting wet a necessary precaution for the first few meters.


Phil rode out Scott's bike and in the warmth of the sun at the tunnel entrance, all five took stock; amazingly no damage to the bikes - a little scratching to the crash bars on Scotts alone. Breath back and a little drier in the hot midday sun, all set off back down the trail to the valley below.


Heading to a nearby lake for waffles and ice creams, the five returned to camp before a pleasant dinner out in Briancon that evening, followed by a very very good night's sleep for all!!