Bikerafting in the red and the black
Bikerafting provençale style, from the red rocks of the Alpes-Maritimes to the black earth “Terres Noires” of Digne-les-Bains. Alternating between MTB and river descents, Anthony, Pascal and Sébastien hooked up for a stunning trip through the Daluis and Haut-Verdon gorges.
Text and photos: Sébastien LANGLAIS
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Leaving late from Puget-Théniers (in order to let the storm pass), we arrive in Auvare after nightfall on our bikes loaded up with our packrafts
We wake up to this great view of the pretty Alpes-Maritimes village, nestled on the mountainside and basking in warm sunshine.
We gain some altitude on a mix of singletrack trails and fire roads.
Arriving at a mountain pass, the panoramic view stretches to the highest summets of the Mercantour, from the Dôme de Barrot to the Cime du Gélas (3143 m).
The grey rocks of the Southern Alps give way to red pelite.
One last climb before traversing under the Dôme de Barrot, towards the Gorges de Daluis.
The trails in the pelite are super flowy, with a few rocky sections to keep us on our toes...
…allowing us to discover some pretty hamlets, reminder of the once intense agricultural activity in the area.
A great singletrack trail literally plunges down to the Gorges de Daluis, 1000 metres below.
A traverse offers a birds eye view of the Clue d'Amen, a renowned Alpes-Maritimes canyon.
We spot some Cobweb Houseleeks dotted along the trail side!
End of the first MTB stage. The river looks fairly wild as we blow up our packrafts and load up our bikes.
The Var River rushes into the magnificent Daluis Gorges. For 7 or 8 km we're enchanted by the passage throught the deep, red-walled canyon, far from civilisation. We could be forgiven for thinking we were somewhere in western USA.
After a good night's sleep at the end of the gorges, we continue descending the Var through more open landscape.
The water level on this class II (II+) river is ideal for our bikerafting setup.
Time to look for somewhere to land, before heading off again on the bikes.
A small country road leads us to the village of Castellet-les-Sausses, and more singletrack and fire road trails.
Minor Turk's Cap lilies, caracteristic of the Southern Alps.
It's not mountain biking if there isn't a bit of hike-a-bike!
With daylight fading fast, we drop our initial plan of camping at the Lac de Lignin. We make the most of this pretty shepherd's hut to sleep under a solid roof.
The Lac de Lignin in the early morning light, with a few snow drifts still hanging on in late June.
Lignin : the "altiplano" of the Alpes de Haute-Provence.
The Baisse du Détroit (2472 m) trail, though tricky at first, becomes progressively more flowy as we descend.
The singletrack trails are superb, moderately technical but never too much.
Pascal lets loose on a descent!
Arriving from the plateau, we didn't see a "no bikes" sign. We descend the sheer gorges to join the Verdon.
The water level on the Haut-Verdon is ideal, and we get to admire the Font Gaillarde tuff waterfall.
Built in the Drôme by a team of passionate packrafters, the Mekong packrafts are perfect for bikerafting.
A final bivouac before descending to the River Bléone.
The "Terres Noires" of Digne, a superb MTB destination.
We inflate our packrafts one last time for a wild and scenic section of the Bléone, but with a water level a little low to really make the most of it.
The ammonite fossil wall, in Digne-les-Bains, marks the end of our adventure, before we hop on a train home. The red and the black. From the red pelite of Daluis to the black earth "Terres Noires" of Digne: 5 days of autonomous adventure, mixing mountain biking on great singletrack with some superb river descents. What more could you ask for?