Beating the Heat on a Two-Day Tour du Mont Blanc

I recently rode my mountain bike around the Mont Blanc massif here in the French Alps–a solo adventure that involved mountain biking 100 miles of alpine terrain in two days. I’d been wanting to take on this challenge for several years, and I finally got motivated to do it in order to meet up with my sister and her friends, who were hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). The TMB is an amazing hike of just over 100 miles; it’s a circuit that people usually start near Chamonix, France, hiking during the day and staying in mountain huts and bed-and-breakfast-type places along the way. The trail goes up and down and up-up-up-down-down-down through France, Switzerland, and Italy.

I left Chamonix on Day One, riding my mountain bike away from my summer living quarters with a tiny backpack on my back. By the end of the day, I’d spent 10 hours on my bike, descended some excellent terrain, and ridden over a big road pass in the hottest part of the day. I met my sister and her friends at the Rifugio Elisabetta in Italy, arriving at 8:00 in the evening after sprinting over a big mountain pass, pushing my bike to outrun a storm.

I was super excited to see my sister and her friends, who were completing the third day of their twelve-day journey. We shared some Italian food and wine together but then went to bed early so that we could get up and get back out on the trails early again the next day. I walked my bike for a bit in the morning to chat with my sister while my body woke up, but then I knew I needed to ride so that I could make it back to Chamonix before dark.

Day Two ended up being mercilessly hot. It took me about six and a half hours to reach Martigny, and when I got there, I felt suffocated in the valley, which was reporting temperatures between 90 and 92 Fahrenheit. Then I had to do a full-sun road climb out of the valley, up and over the Col de la Forclaz. The heat made me feel woozy, and I stopped several times when I caught sight of little shade patches in the areas where I could get off the road. I really think these stops kept me from passing out (I’m not being overly-dramatic here. It was that hot. And I was pedaling that hard.)

I had to bust out my mental Kung Fu to make it back to Chamonix, even though I’d done everything to protect myself in the heat, including resupplying my water frequently, eating the right food, wearing sunscreen and appropriate clothing, and cowering in the shade when I could in the hottest parts of the day.

The experience in the heat on the second day of this trip, especially as I climbed up from Martigny, inspired me to write an article about surviving hot climates on the About.com Survival Skills site, so check out the link below to read more on that topic.

What to know more about surviving superhot temperatures?
“How to Survive Extreme Heat”
Know how to protect yourself in a hot environment by planning ahead, protecting your resources, and choosing the correct gearclick here to continue reading

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

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