Within my circle of friends are quite a few people telling me that I have to go to their Walhalla Trails: Les Hautes-Rivieres, just across the Belgian border (in France) in the Ardennes. They claimed that this area offers more technical challenges than the average trails in the Alps. To be honest, I just ignored it, no way that was possible…
Unfortunately because of our busy life, family, work and more off that we can’t travel to the Alps with great regularity. Martijn and I will participate again this year at the Shimano Epic Enduro in April and it seemed therefore sensible to arrange a training weekend. Along with a few bike buddies we finally heading in the direction off the “claimed trail paradise.”
Together with a group of 6 men we leave early in the morning so we can ride some French trails in the afternoon. The agreed location was reached from Arnhem within 3.5 hours and is near to the river Semois. The sun broke through just as we changed to riding gear. Ready to leave for the first climb towards the top of the hill. Just on the bike and the sun is covered bij clouds and it starts to rain what turns into hail and later even snow. Fortunately, this was the prediction so we are fully geared up and well dressed, we climbed the first approximately 300 to 400 meters to the top. The area is characterized by easy and organized climbs. All paddling between 30 to 45 minutes.
What reveals on top is fantastic. We start with a technical and steep descent with a lot of mud and slippery roots. Full concentration needed! The first day is entirely like that; half an hour to forty five minutes climb and then treated to the most beautiful singletrails with technical very big challenges. Halfway through the day we drove no trail 2x. The variety is so great here, we came across all types of surfaces. Loom, mud, gravel and rocks. Each trail is littered with roots. Since the tech level is so high, it’s difficult to get your flow. No problem! We just take a nice flow downhill, with great speed. The choice is huge.
On the first day we did 6 climbs/descents and after a restless night at the inn in Bouillon (Belgium), we drove the next morning for 45 minutes on winding roads to the starting point. It’s possible to stay overnight closer tot the trails, but they were closed due to off-season. We started this morning from another lot, again on the river Semois and immediately start a climb. “Semois” that does ring a bell doesn’t it. Yes, the Enduro de la Semoy; a two-day enduro race (annually in June). The trail builders there make a new trail each year to keep the race new.
Today we take a kind of round-trip, after every climb is a beautiful descent and it then comes out with a new climb to a new peak. Nothing is done twice! This day we are treated again to all at the greatest possible variety. From highly technical to high speed and flow. Fortunately, everything is already slightly drier than yesterday so a little less slippery today. We drive this day six times up and six times down. to get something to eat in one of the restaurants is no possibility. Everything is closed, fortunately we have genoet eat with us.
On day 3 Bram and I sadly have to leave earlier, so today no time for another 6 runs. Have you counted? We’ve been on 12 runs in one area without shuttles! And no, today we are not at the same trails. Day three we again park in the same parking lot as on Day 2. From here we climb up to 3 times toward the same summit from where we take three different trails. From the original group, there are only 4 riders, but with the addition of three members of the Hunters Trail we have a nice group together today. After riding the Mad Max trail, Bram and I say goodbye to the group. They will ride some more runs, we return to the car. Quickly pack up our belongings and return home with big smiles from the adrenaline rush.
YES it’s true. Les Hautes-Rivières is a real trail mecca! We drove 15 different trails in 2.5 days each with a wide variety … and there are even more. This is an area where you can work perfectly on your skills. If you can bike here you can put it anywhere!
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