Video: A French Alps Adventure with Manon Carpenter and Emily Horridge in 'Mount Thabor'

Jan 9, 2020
by Manon Carpenter  

Join myself, Manon Carpenter, and long-time riding buddy Emily Horridge on a multi-day tour around Mont Thabor, a 3000m peak nestled deep within the French Alps with our respective partners, Christian Stenvall and David Billings.

Copyright Laurence CE
Copyright Laurence CE

Copyright Laurence CE
The team.

The French Alps aren’t that far from home for us, even closer for Emily and David who have been living in the French town of Les Arcs for the last 8 years, but they host incredible terrain and mountain refuges for people to overnight in. All you need is a bike and a backpack to find yourself on rarely ridden singletrack, surrounded by amazing scenery and with some big ol’ mountains to challenge legs and lungs. The presence of “hosted” refuges in the Alps means you can experience big mountains without having to carry bulky sleeping equipment and food, so you have a lighter pack and the riding experience isn’t restricted by the weight you’re carrying. This makes bike-packing in the Alps the perfect combination of adventure and real alpine riding, without compromise.

Copyright Laurence CE

The build-up to this trip has taken place over the last few years, with Emily first introducing me to ‘hike-a-biking’ in the summer of 2017. I hadn’t touched a mountain bike in just under a month after stepping away from the World Cup DH race circuit in August, and found myself chatting to Emily and booking a few days to go visit and ride. Emily had moved out to Les Arcs in 2012, and progressed to become the first British woman to successfully pass the French guiding equivalence test in 2016, having been a British qualified guide since 2007. Shortly afterwards, she set up her own guiding/holiday company, The Inside Line MTB. She’s long had a passion for back-country adventures, so joining her and David on a hike-a-bike day trip up the mother of all steep alpine slopes, to swim in a lake at the top and enjoy half an hour of descent back down to the valley floor was exactly what I had needed back then. Prime singletrack that goes on for so long you can’t help but follow the flow and take each corner as it comes.

Copyright Laurence CE
Alpine lakes, the perfect excuse to rest the legs and shoulders…


Copyright Laurence CE
Before the ascent continues.

Since that short trip, while Emily and David have continued their many back-country trips in the Alps, I have been testing the water with Christian with a multi-day ski trip in Lapland and a spontaneous overnight MTB refuge trip near Verbier in 2018. A final, very fun overnight ski trip at the beginning of 2019 sealed the deal, and Emily messaged to say that Christian and I had to plan a hut-to-hut trip with her and David - and that she had had one in mind for a while! Mont Thabor: A three-day bike-packing trip, but with an extra day added in for a jaunt close to the Italian border. 112km distance and 5052m elevation gain all in all, starting at 1800m elevation in Valmeinier and with a mixture of riding, pushing and hike-a-bike to get us up the climbs by good old-fashioned leg power.

Copyright Laurence CE
Early morning sunlight and an easy start before the main climb begins.

Copyright Laurence CE
Views for days and jaggedy, loose rocks for the ride back down.

Copyright Laurence CE
Taking a moment to take it all in.

Copyright Laurence CE

None of us had ridden this route before, and Emily had heard a few mixed reviews of the descent down from the summit of Mont Thabor. As it turned out, every descent was amazing with perfectly varied singletrack made all the better by the effort we had put in to get there. We made the trip in early September, set off in dense mist and returned to the same thick cloud, but the days in between were beautiful. Being out all day in the mountains, with nothing to do but make your way to the top and enjoy the descent back down, all in the presence of great company was brilliant. Each of my very best moments this year have been days spent out in the mountains, more than likely spending the night there too. The Tour du Mont Thabor is going to be a highlight for a long time.

Copyright Laurence CE
Time to head back down...


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And a long way down it was!


bigquotesThis trip was even better than I had imagined. I had wanted to ride in that area for a while, so to finally get to put a trip together on trails that would be new for all of us was really cool. A proper voyage of discovery into a new area with a rad crew of friends. The mountain views and vistas were off the chart, and the brilliant trails made us very happy mountain bikers!Emily

Bonus footage: The full footage from the descent from Mont Thabor summit added up to over 20 minutes. Only a few clips from the descent made it into the final film, so here is an extended version of the best bits, for anyone who wants to get a look in.


Having GoPros attached to four people for the best part of four days ends up with quite a bit of footage - some that should or shouldn't ever see the light of day! More 'best bits' bonus footage from the trip includes some trailside maintenance, a few crashes, some silly exclamations and a solo:


Special thanks go to Adidas Terrex for making it possible to document this trip, to Emily for the route planning and guiding, David and Christian for the great company as ever, and definitely not least to Laurence CE who shouldered his camera bag for the entire trip to make this film happen - and kept good humour while at it!

Copyright Laurence CE




22 Comments

  • 18 0
 I miss Manon on the Wc circuit
  • 12 0
 That was very cool, really enjoyed that. Will definitely check out the hosted refuges idea. Dreaming of my summer alps trip now....... bikes, cheese, wine, mountains, cheese, long DHs, mountains of cheese, jugs of wine.... mmmm...
  • 3 0
 Nostalgia... i used to hike those trails as a kid/teen. Never saw a bike back then!

Manon seems so fulfilled living that new page, and fitter. Brave and smart move to leave WC racing when she did. Please continue to make those dreamy adventure edits.
  • 2 0
 Tour du mont Thabor is one of my favorite 2-3 days ride to do at the beginning of the autumn. fewer people, temperatures are cooler, colors start to change a little bit. the climbs are never too long, even if you have to carry the bike all the way up. The descent from the summit is really fun: not too technichal, but with a nice steepness and the views are really amazing.
  • 1 0
 Do you bring your tent and everything or do you stay in a refuge?
  • 1 0
 @granjak: You can bring only a sleeping bag + a sleeping pad and spend the night in the chapelle at the top of mont thabor. You can also spend the night at the few refuges around Mont Thabor.

Another possibility is to bring a tent: www.expemag.com/article/en-france/tour-du-thabor-a-vtt-bul
  • 1 0
 @jurassicrider: Cool merci!
  • 1 0
 @granjak: when we went up there (i.e when this was filmed, autumn 2019), there was a massive sign on the door of the chapel on the top saying it was unstable and not to go inside. It may even have had the door blocked so you can't, but I can't remember. So don't plan on doing that. It's also way more comfortable to stay at a refuge Wink
  • 5 0
 Thanks Manon for that gorgeous edit. It`s made my day Smile
  • 2 0
 Wow, makes me want to explore and go on more adventures on my bike for sure. Brilliantly filmed and edited and it captures the fun and sense of adventure well. More stuff like this from Manon and Emily pleeease!
  • 3 0
 Gorgeous film! Props to @Laurence-CE for doing the trip with all the photo and video gear!
  • 1 0
 Nice one team...looked like a cracking route...just lovely. Cant wait to get out there again this summer.

The only shame was we didn't see Bernie making an appearance :-(
  • 2 0
 @Gracey I knowww.. but I don't think his poor little paws would have been up to it!
  • 2 0
 Very cool Manon, Epic scenery and a great Edit. Enjoyed that!
  • 2 0
 Had Emily as guide at Trail Addiction years ago and she was rapid
  • 1 0
 When is faff, faff? When it starts eating into planned riding time? And is faff just an excuse for being ill prepared?
  • 1 0
 Living the dream in the great outdoors ???????? looks so so good
  • 1 0
 This was a great watch on a rainy, foggy, PNW January morning.
  • 1 0
 Fabulous! Well done team! Getting stoked for alps rides
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