Monday, 27 October 2008

Winter is coming so let's think about the summer!

October has been fantastic in the Alps - much better than September which was cold. But apparently it's all about to come to an end, with snow forecast at 600m or even lower. Everyone is out in their gardens digging up the last of the veggies and restocking the wood piles ready for the cold evenings. Putting the hour back only adds to the impression that winter will soon be here.

Obviously this is good for snowshoeing and there are lots of places left for this winter's trips.

But it's also not too early to think about the summer. The programme for Trekking in the Alps summer trips is available on so why not take a lot and start thinking about those long balmy days in the mountains.

Meanwhile, I had better get out and prepare for the white stuff. There is already a good covering in the high mountains and now it looks like the middle mountains will get their first fall. At this time of year any snowfall above 2500m is unlikely to melt even if warm weather returns. So a good start to the winter seems likely. Prepare the snowshoes and skis!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

September is more like a really good October!

It was sunny for most of the last month, but it felt more like late October than September. With 0°C flirting with the 2000m mark, conditions have been cold and crisp and extremely beautiful.
The high sumits have a considerable layer of snow, with 80cms reported above 4000m. There are even photos of people ski touirng in fresh powder over in Austria!
The non-glaciated summits are just perfect right now, despite a powdering of snow in places.
The Arpelistock provided me with a good ascent last week and the views were superb.
Over on the other side of the Col de Sanetsch, the Cabane de Prarochet was also worth a visit, if only for the fantastic limestone pavement littered with deep blue pools - they looked great for a dip but I not that brave.
From tomorrow there is light snow forecast as low as 1200m but hopefully this will not signal the end if the high hiking and climbing - surely it will warm up again for some more good activites in October......

Corsica provides great end of season trekking

When you mention Corsica to walkers they always think of the famous GR20 long distance trek that takes the rocky spine of the island. However, there is a whole lot more to Corsican hiking than that, and in fact my latest visit in mid September confirmed my own feelings that the GR20 is not really the place to be right now.
With a small and very fit group I had 6 excellent days of hiking. It was unseasonally hot - more like August temperatures than September, and unusually for Corsica it was also quite humid. But the upside of this was that we could hike at any altitude without being cold, and the swimming opportunities were a delight.
It hadn't rained for the whole summer though, and the rivers were amazingly low. The water supplies at the huts were also worryingly low and this led to problems on the GR20 - reports of illness were becoming more and more common, especially towards the middle of the trek.
It seems to me that anyone going on the GR should aim to filter or treat water supplies, especially later in the season.
I no longer offer the GR for several reasons, one of which is the number of people on this route. From what I saw it was pretty crowded this September, although the hut guardians told me it had been quiet all summer until then.
Friends doing the route whilst I was over there told me many people gave up at the midway point, having become ill and also having found it very tough going. I am told the huts were low on food supplies - probably because there were too many people there in September.
So I am very happy that we were not doing the GR. we touched on it a couple of times, and my group told me they were relieved not to be spending the week following the red and white waymarks with everyone else.
There is so much more to Corsica than that. We did several summits, none of them big names, but all giving great views and none crowded - in fact most days we saw no-one else on the trails!
We also spent a night at a gite on the beach, and took in a very remote hut far from any crowds at all.
Corsica is a brilliant place - if you go there take the time to discover all aspects of the island, and to get to know the people and the culture.