Last week I was complaining the snow was too deep! Not this week - the snow in this area of the French Alps is fairly hard and compact. Now this makes it really easy to go uphill, but coming down is not so good - you don't sink but you surely do slide around. It requires a fast leg turnover to keep yourself on a good descent trajectory and to not end up legs akimbo.
One of my group said to me, you really need different snowshoes for different conditions. And he's right. In the deep stuff you want enormous shoes, especially to make the trail uphill. But in this harder snow it's very difficult to descend on big shoes, especially if they are long at the back, because you need to be able to dig the heel of the shoe into the snow to descend without sliding. Personally today I took out shoes which are made for children and they were perfect!
The forest tracks are packed down hard and icy and it's tempting to think you don't need snowshoes at all. But at your peril! Our snowshoes have great traction, being liberally supplied with crampons and other spiky bits, and these are proving to be awfully useful for descending these footpaths. We took our shoes off today a tad too early but five minutes later, seeing my group sprawled ignominously across the track I quickly issued a "put the shoes back on" advisory before injuries occured.
Pretty damn useful these raquettes!
But the upside of these conditions is that the views are to die for, it's warm enough to linger on the summits at lunchtime and the avalanche risk is diminishing by the day!