The "Western Alps Tour 2016" has been an experiment... and it has been a nice one.
An experiment therefore, because it has been our first booked tour, which we've done with other offroad vehicles.
Usually Sonja and me are traveling self-guided, means we're planning trips by ourselves and are not used to be in a convoy with different characters. But we thought, it might be a nice idea to be on road or better offroad with a few fellows, who share the same fun and traveling behaviour.
The tour has been a bit short, in this case only 7 days, so we decided to make a small self-guided tour in advance and after the booked tour. As we didn't want our tour to overlap with the booked one, we got in touch with one of the guides and asked him for the coordinates of his tour, which he then shared with us.
Great stuff and at the end we had a tour of approx. 2000KM, which let us be on the road for the next 3 weeks.
OK, so. A week in advance we headed off for the Giger Museum in Switzerland. Hans Ruedi Giger is a well known surrealist and famous for his "ALIEN" designs in the early 80s.
All my life has been influenced by his arts and I'm a big fan of the ALIEN Saga, but unfortunately this great artist died in 2014... what a big, big loss!
Gruyères - H.R. Giger Museum - Western Alps Tour
JEEPetto's Problems And A Night In A Garage
Our meeting point for the official Western Alps Tour should be in Salbertrand at the Grand Bosco campsite, so I‘ve planned a nice route which would lead us to the small village in Italy. The weather, which has been nice in the beginning, got pretty much bad and it rained all the way for the next days. Therefore I had to cancel some viewpoints like the Zermatt or the Mont Blanc.
To make matters worse, our JEEP got its problems with cold and height and from time to time it jumped into emergency operation. It has been getting so bad, that at the Pra Gra Heights, the JEEP only drove in emergency mode and turning the vehicle off, didn't make it any better. While driving with 30 km/h now, I called my technician in germany and told him about the problem and the error messages of my OBDII device. He mentioned that it could be something with the turbo charger.
OK?... whatta do now? We were round about 750 KM away from the garage and the tour should start the day after tomorrow... holy crap!
Hmm... It wouldn't make sense to try to participate in a tour, in a car which probably would make lots of problems. So we decided to drive back to germany and let the damage fix... we still have had enough time.
When we arrived at the garage at afternoon, the technician confirmed, that the problem was caused by the turbo actuator (whatever it is) and needs to be changed. Said and done. We spent the night in the garage and gladly they offered us a place under a roof, because it still rained a lot.
Camping In A Car Garage - Western Alps Tour
Grand Bosco Campsite, Salbertrand, Italy - Finally We Did It
The next morning the weather got better and the turbo actuator has been changed... 750€... yeehaaw. But hey... the chances to get to Salbertrand until 6 p.m grew. Worst case would have been, to not being able to participate in the tour, so we put the pedal to the metal and drove back to italy.
On this 700KM route everything has been absolutely fine and we just needed to drive 3 KMs further and then?... emergency mode... again! What the FU**? We just made a few further phone calls and decided to take part in the tour, no matter what.
Arrived at the Grand Bosco campsite, we weren't the first ones. There already have been some Landrovers and a VW Amarok. Some guys were standing around, drinking beer and talking to each other. One after the other arrived until the whole team was complete. A Nissan, a second JEEP and a Mercedes G.
Western Alps Crew - Salbertrand - Grand Bosco Campsite, Italy
The Tour Begins – Monte Jafferau
The whole team turned out to be very nice... lots of super cool guys and gals and everybody with a rugged car, some of them pretty much able to survive a Zombie Apocalypse.
We got our first short introduction:
. Driving in the lowest possible gear
. Taking care of the following cars
. Listening to the walkie-talkie
. Keeping distance
. Driving with care
The guides were prepared professionally and gave some very good tipps, but I thought to myself: "lowest possible gear... really?" ... only much later, I understood why!
So we headed off for the Monte Jafferau, one of the highest accessible points in the Western Alps. Sonja and me were scared to death. Would the JEEP do its job? Would it break down totally? I began to sweat... the more, the more km we drove, but the JEEP did just fine.
Arrived at the Forte Jafferau at 2800m a view revealed, that has been of such awesomeness, that I totally forgot about my technical problems. I’ve never been in the Alps before and even when I saw some very spectacular places, I didn't expect such a brutal beauty.
What a great day!
With my drone, I flew over the whole crew up to the mountains and made some really astonishing shots, until we drove further to the Refugio Scarfiotti, which was supposed to be our first place for the night.
The JEEP did a great Job and we've been super glad, that nothing bad happened.
How embarrassing would it have been?
Monte Jafferau - Western Alps Tour
Life And Death Of A Drone - And End Of The Tour
The next day the Colle Du Sommeiller should be our goal. Driving in a convoy has been interesting somehow, but I wondered about the extreme low speed, even if we could have driven much faster. Driving at this speed took a huge amount of time and I'm used to drive such trails in kinda more harmonic style 😉
Another thing which I noticed is, that the Landrovers were sooting like hell. Driving behind a Landy at such speeds for a long time, would just kill our lungs. Therefore I decided to drive behind the Amarok, the Nissan or the other JEEP as none of them had sooty exhaust gases like the Landy. So we furthermore climbed up the Colle Dell'Assietta, visited the Rifugio Capanna Mautino, the Lago Nero and the Lago 7 Colori, the Col du Parpaillon at 2700m and drove the Maira Stura Trail at 2500m, until some nice 6 days came to an end.
At the end it has been a very nice - and well planned - tour with a great team. We met some guys, with which we are already connected via social media. With the one or other, we already spoke about further tours, but Sonja and me already came to the conclusion, that a guided tour is nice... but not more... and not so much our case.
The cars worked great and our JEEP survived without any error, the only bad thing was, that I totally crashed my drone. I was flying with those VR glasses and didn’t notice, that I was flying against a mountain and it happened, what shall happen. The drone crashed to the rockface and bursted apart.
Offroaders In A Row - Western Alps Tour, 2016
Conclusion - Booking A Guided Tour?
For guys who do not have any experience in finding nice offroad trails or who aren't well experienced with their car, a tour like this is recommended. It's a nice come together with some people, a bit driving here and some nice viewpoints there, but for us it has been too time consuming, a bit too slow and for what we got, a bit too expensive… and much too stinky 😉
1000€ for 6 days plus gasoline, plus food is nothing what one necessarily needs to pay, to make a stunning offroad experience. What else one needs to know is, that it has been a very easy tour, so let's say, it wasn't a tour, where we actually needed an offroad vehicle. Sometimes even Fiat 500‘s or Fiat Multipla's overtook us with a faster speed.
What I mean by saving your money and having a greater experience, can be seen by the following self guided tour.
Western Alps Tour, 2016
Rain, Rain And... Rain - Fort De La Marguerie
So we still had some days left, time for me for taking my laptop and navigating to the points which I found on Google Earth.
Because we already were in the near, we wanted to drive the LGKS, the so called "Ligurische Grenzkammstraße" or Route du Marguareis,
The road was supposed to be a military road in the younger century. The LGKS divides Italy from France and is a not so easy high alpine trail of about 60KM length.
Under some cirumstances the road is closed for the public, but we wanted to try. We followed the Tenda Trail and asked the locals for the right path. They mentioned, that it's already closed because of bad weather conditions. So we drove further to the Colla Megiana, from which we didn't know, that it also leads to Fort Centrale. Fort Centrale is the starting point of the LGKS.
We stood overnight at the Fort De La Marguerie, when it heavily began to rain. Our tent already has been unfolded... too late to fold it up again.
The next day the weather cleared and we drove further to Fort Centrale, even if we didn't know, that we were already on the right track to the LGKS.
Our Place In A Rainy Night - Fort De La Marguerie, Western Alps Tour
"Ligurischer Grenzkammpass" - The Harder One?
Arrived at the fort, we shot some nice photos and made a rest at the Para Delta Club Cueno, where we found a sign, leading to the LGKS... supercool.
We didn't know whether it was opened, so we just tried and followed the path, which has been a bit harder than what we drove the days before. After a few kilometers we already saw the barrier, where one usually needs to pay a smal entrance fee of about 15 €uros and yeehaw... the road has been accessible... great.
Alright, I checked the gasoline and we decided to finally drive the LGKS. The trail has been absolutely stunning, but not hard to drive... not in any way. Sometimes the road got pretty narrow, but nothing to really worry about. Amazing views, fantastic mountainous surroundings and less tourists. 60KM of pure awesomeness, but it still should come better.
Ligurische Grenzkammstraße - Western Alps Tour
After we finished this easy trail, we were heading slightly back to the north. On our way, we met several offroaders again, which we already met at the locations, we were before.
Cool thing is: They paid for it and we did it by our own.
Days later we saw them again and again and obviously they had the same plans as we had.
Our routes have been nearly the same.
(got it? 😉 )
The ab-so-fu**in-lu-te-ly best place in the Western Alps, which we've seen so far, is the area between Rocca La Meja and Gias Bandia.
I expected nothing. For me the alps always just have been the alps, but WOW! WOW...WOW...WOW!
We immediately searched for a higher point for getting a nice overview and we stopped at a bend anywhere along a wider gravel road. For me it was clear: we will stay here for the night! I need to do some timelapses. So we unfolded the tent, we took our chairs, Sonja cooked something nice and I made my timelapses, while drinking a beer.
Grange Pieccia, Sambuco - Western Alps
"Too Good To Be True" - Or - "When William Wallace Enters The Stage"
Suddenly a gasp of wind came up from the north, while I was shooting and the music inside the car - which I turned on before - suddenly played (what a coincidence) "A Gift Of A Thistle" from James Horner.
And all of you, who know "Braveheart", are knowing, of what song I'm talking about.
This moment has been absolutely magic. We were alone...nobody around us... a magical sunset and then such a song. We got goosebumps immediately and some tears almost ran over my face.
(yeah... I know... stop it... I already know, that I'm a pussy 😉 )
Those moments are the reason for us to travel. In the right time at the right place, for enjoying moments of joy, freedom and harmony.
Exactly this is, what makes our journeys so special... and we had dozens of such moments and hopefully will have in the future.
Anyway, I'm noticing, I'm getting sentimental, so let's talk about the rest of our Western Alps journey 😉
When Guys Already Know You And You Have No Clue, Who They Are
The next morning we didn't want to hurry and drove such great roads for further few hours until we reached their end. Again we met the adventure-teams from days before and had to laugh, as they already recognized us: "Hey... you are the Kuttig, right?"
I said: "Sorry, WHAT?... why the hell do you know me?... in the middle of nowhere?... I don't know you, so I'm a little bit amazed"
He said, he knows me and my JEEP from Facebook. A few seconds later a guy in a JEEP behind him flashed his lightbar and greeted me.
He laughed and later on - when we were at home - he told me, that he is also one of my friends on Facebook, hahahahah... we had to laugh so hard 😀
What to say about the Western Alps?
They are just stunning!
I never expected such a great landscape, such vast and beautiful mountain ranges and I rather thought, they're quite boring... but they're definitely not.
Some people often tell me, what lucky guy I am, that I can make such journeys.
I just say: It doesn't cost the world... take your car, a tent, some clothes, some food, take your family and have a great time. You definitely don't need an offroader to make the same experiences. Especially not in the Western Alps.
So many trails are accessible by a standard car and in the mountains you can camp nearly everywhere.
You do not need to book such a tour. You do not need any guiding. The only thing you need, is a bit of imagination, a friend on your side, an open heart, an open mind and the will for having a good time with mother earth.
Our TOP Destinations In The Western Alps So Far:
.Col Du Mont Cenis
.Colle Du Sommeiller
.Route du Marguareis
.Col De Lautaret
Reminder: On TRAVELcandies.com you'll find much more images in HiRes and with GPS-coordinates!