Posts Tagged ‘canyoning’


As extreme sports and extreme vacations go – Chatel has it all

June 16, 2009

Instead of talking about one extreme sport today, I am going to wax lyrical on an area which supplies just about everything you could possibly want to do on an active summer holiday (we’ve already covered this region for the winter season) – Chatel in the Haute Alpes.

In the whitewater sports they offer canoeing (two-strong team), canyoning (jumping, sliding, daredevil abseiling), hydrospeed or whitewater bodysurfing (a slippery, fast, exhilarating experience), rafting (a 7km ride down the Dranse) and kayaking.

Then there’s bobluging… a 650m descent with 7 bends, an average speed of 7m/sec – definitely a fun-filled thrilling descent. There’s a chairlift to get you back up to the top. The bobluge is open from 28th June to 31st August – weather permitting, and closed over the lunch hour.

And then of course there’s the ubiquitous mountain biking.

The Portes du Soleil has around 650 km of marked mountain bike trails and seemingly endless single track to explore. Using the 24+ lifts that are adapted to carry bikes in the summer,  you have access, from Chatel,  to almost every resort in the Portes Du Soleil including Morzine, Les Gets and the Swiss resorts of Morgins, Champery and Les Crosset – this really is prime mountain biking country and  ideal for mountain biking holidays.

ffredt gives us an idea of what the mountain biking is like:

There are also many downhill mountain biking tracks. Châtel bike park is situated at Pré-la-joux and accessible by Pierre-Longue and Rochassons chair lifts, it consists of 13 trails of all levels of difficulty (including 12 downhill courses) and one “Cross park”.

The 27th and 28th June will see the  PassPortes MTB event celebrating its 6th birthday. More than 20,000 people have now participated in this 80km circuit. The event takes place at an altitude of between 1000 and 2250m and covers resorts in France and in Switzerland discovering the Portes du Soleil area and its fabulous landscapes.

You can check out the link here if you’re interested in taking part yourself:

There’s a second competition on the 3rd, 4th and 6th July called the Chatel Mountain Style contest.  Professional and amateur riders will compete over the 3 days on the 300 metre long “Face” course. 22 Pro Riders from all over the world have already entred the competition.


There is also a good range of climbing routes available in the area.

Plaine Dranse is an excellent place to learn with more than 26 routes, but its the Essert waterfall which will suit our readers I think. You can abseil and canyon at this 250m landmark, with two semi-wet and wet routes and six 30-50m descents. Plus the Pas de Morgins which offers 50 climbing routes of 10m-40m and with a difficulty level of 3 – 7.

Of course there are artificial climbing walls too…

And then there’s the Fantasticable…

This is for the thrill seekers, the  adrenaline junkies of this world. Dizzying speeds and astonishing heights in a ride that is unique in the Alps. Safely harnessed you can fly over the Plaine Dranse hamlet at nearly 100kph, 240m up. The length of the first run is 1,200m and the second one is 1,325 and participants must be no less than 35kg and no more than 120kg.

Watch TheBukakeMaster experience the Fantasticable. I love the superman music and the euphoric laughter!

And, of course, paragliding where you can go for a first tandem flight with a professional.

As adventure holidays go, or an extreme vacation for that matter, what more could you possibly want? Discos?  Well of course they have that too: Le Sloopy, to name but one, and to add to the fun they have theme nights throughout the season…

White-water rafting and hiking in the Cotahuasi Canyon

January 27, 2009

Another extreme location, another extreme vacation…

The Cotahuasi Canyon in southern Peru is the deepest canyon in the world – 3501m or 11,488 ft.  It is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States, but the canyon’s walls are not as vertical as those of the Grand Canyon.

The  Canyon is covered with unexplored Incan and Wari ruins. In antiquity, this canyon was the most direct route from Cusco to the Pacific and was used by the Inca for trade with the coast. There are many Inca and pre-Inca terraces remaining, and still cultivated, along the less precipitous canyon walls.

The Village of Cotahuasi

Over the years the old Inca trails have deteriorated and now the best way to explore the canyon is by rafting down the class 3-5 rapids that separate the ruins – this will take 6 days.

You can drive down to the village of Cotahuasi, an extreme journey in itself with its torturous switchbacks, but, since we are into extreme sports and extreme vacations – we would prefer to hike down – following old Inca trails where possible. It is about a 10-hr hike down to the bottom of the canyon and be prepared for the heat – 40 degrees at the bottom.

Inca Trail to Quechualla

The large network of ancient trails that connect all the villages makes a wide variety of day hikes or multi day loop hikes possible, depending on your interests and style of adventure. There are challenging climbs up steep ridges, craters and 16,000 to 17,000 ft peaks. And then of course, there’s the opportunity of white-water rafting.

Very little was known about this area and even less about the canyon until a kayak/raft expedition first ran it in 1994. It is considered one of the most dangerous rivers in the world with its combination of icy cold waters and Class 5 rapids.

Very few people have rapided this river, which makes it that much more of an extreme vacation and an extreme challenge. The river flows from 12,000 ft in the Andes, West to the Pacific Ocean. The Canyon was the only link between Cusco, the ancient Inca capital, and the Pacific Ocean.

The adrenaline rush experienced during a 6-day Class IV-V white water rafting trip on the rapids of the Cotahuasi River will be an experience indeed – a non-stop, heart pounding descent, through 80 miles of continuous class 4 technical whitewater. The class 5’s are scouted before running them and some are walked around.

An added bonus is that the canyon is a place of great natural beauty. As stated above, it is the deepest canyon in the world and yet, just 24kms (15 miles) to the southeast, the Nevado Ampato, a snow-capped extinct volcano, rises to 6,288m (20,630 ft). It is also home to the endangered Andean Condor.

This challenging expedition encompasses real adventure with the natural wonders and fascinating ancient history of the region. If I have given you any ideas for an extreme vacation – bon voyage!