Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Loads of snow and clean air to go with it!

Great news!! There is loads of snow in the Alps, the conditions are as good as they get - and much better than usual at this time of year. Think cold light powder, natural Christmas trees decorated with snow and icicles, really cold frosty temperatures and snow crystals covering the valley slopes and growing bigger every night.

The skiing and snowshoeing have already been superb and hopefully this is just the start of an exceptional winter season.

The other really good news is that from 2008 France joins many other European countries in making all public places no-smoking zones. So our local hotel in Vallorcine has already taken this on board and smoking is only allowed outside. This is great news for those lunchtime visits for an expresso or the après snowshoeing beer or vin chaud.

See you in 2008 to make some tracks!!

Monday, 3 December 2007

More snowfall in the Alps

After a couple of weeks of calm and sunny weather the snow has returned again with a vengeance today. The snowfall we had two weeks ago had melted at lower altitudes but above 1500m there was already a reasonable base. Snowshoeing has been good, even if skiing was a bit dodgy due to the rocks lurking just below the surface of the snow.
But now it looks like we're in for 30 - 50 cms of fresh snow at 1500m altitude. Right now it is full-on winter conditions.
All this bodes well for the coming season. Snowshoeing should be excellent. Places remain available for many Trekking in the Alps holidays this winter. I also have some free days to guide privately.
Heli-skiing also promises to be spectacular from January until May.
To find out more about what's available this winter give us a call or send a mail to

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Winter has arrived in the Alps!

It has been a superb autumn in the Alps with many days of sunshine, interspersed with the odd cold spell. The high glaciated mountains are in good shape after all the summer snow, but it barely precipitated during October. We were lucky to have fantastic sunny days with crisp mornings giving way to balmy afternoons. The alpine valleys were not always so fortunate - as often happens during high pressure weather here the cold air sinks down into the valleys and stays there, often for much of the day. This gives a sea of cloud that is really attractive when viewed from above.... not so great when you're in it.
Now everything has changed and it has been snowing lightly for two days, with more forecast. Temperatures are really low and there are strong winds - winter has arrived!
Time to think about those holidays in the snow.
There are still places available on many of my snowshoeing holidays and at the moment you can still get cheap flights for many dates. An alternative would be to take the train, and it seems there are some really good deals to be had from Britain to the Alps - Geneva, Turin, Chamonix. With the base it's putting down now we could well have good snowshoeing and skiing conditions before Christmas!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Latest availability for Snowshoeing plus summer programme

The winter is already starting to book and a couple of weeks are full. Here is the full list of availabilty for snowshoeing right now. Cheap flights to the Alps are now available so book early to get the best deals.Next winter I'll be doing the usual 6 and 4 day trips. 6 days is a week, whilst the 4 days trips go over a weekend so you can get a trip over here but only have to take two days off work. New this winter are the different bases for holidays: ranging from Vallorcine near Chamonix, to Aosta in Italy, Martigny in Switzerland to St Gervais in the Aravis range and finally a week in Briançon, down in the French Dauphiné Alps.The basic calendar with prices is shown below. For more info on these trips visit where PDF downloads are available along with gradings for trips.Prices include all guiding, accommodation, travel once here and rental of all gear - snowshoes, poles, and avalanche gear - transceivers, shovels and probes. If you want to know more just email me on .
Below is also my Summer Programme 2008
Mont Blanc Region France - meet in Vallorcine near Chamonix. 6 day holidays, price: £675 995€.
Meet 5 January, 8 March.

Mont Blanc Region Half Term Week based in Finhaut Switzerland. 6 day holiday, price £675 995€.
Meet 10 February.

Aosta Valley Italy - meet in Aosta. 6 day holidays, price: £705 1050€
Meet 16 February

Valais Switzerland - meet Martigny. 6 day holidays, price £705 1050€
Easter Week 22 March.

Aravis massif France - meet St Gervais. 6 day holiday, price £705 1050€
Meet 8 March.

Dauphiné Alps France - meet Briançon. 6 day holiday, price £705 1050€
Meet 1 March.

4 day long weekends in the Mont Blanc Region France
Meet Vallorcine near Chamonix. Price: £525 780€
Meet 23 January, 6 February and 12 April

Summer programme

Tour of Mont Blanc

meet 14/06/08 7 days €985 £660

Aosta Italian Summits

meet 14/06/08, & 9/08/08 6 days €1010 £685

Corsica Northern Summits

meet 22/06/08 6 days €1050 £705

Chamonix Summits

meet 29/06/08 6 days €1010 £685

Tour of Mont Ruan

meet 12/07/08 6 days €995 £670

Tour of the Jungfrau Region

meet 19/07/08 6 days €995 £670

Gran Paradiso Alta Via plus summit

meet 26/07/08 €1100 £735

Tour of the Matterhorn

6 days meet 9/08/08 €1100 £735

Glacier trekking week

(itinerary to be decided): meet 12/07/07 €1250 £905

NB: the Summits trips are non-glaciated trekking summits accessible to all hill-walkers with no technical expertise, and do not involve ropes, crampons or ice-axe.

Summer trekking

It's been a great summer for Trekking in the Alps even if the sun has not been shining every day. Although hiking in the rain and snow is not quite what we have planned, it can be quite an adventure, notably on the Tour of Mont Blanc when we had two days of snow. A big plus about bad weather is that when the sun returns the views are generally quite stunning: fresh snow coats the mountains and everything is very clear and glistening. This was certainly the case in the latter part of the TMB when we had unbeatable scenery.

The Austrian Otztal week was as much a quest for fine wine as a trekking holiday. And we certainly had fun doing both. The hiking was good, although again the sun was a little shy. A highlight of the trip was managing to make our way up to the Austro-Italian border to the exact spot where the 5000 year old ice-man "Otzi" was found some years ago. As for the wine, I can now vouch for the fact that Austrian does have some great wines. There are also lots of lederhosen around and dancing and yodelling.

The autumn has begun here with morning frosts and beautiful clear days. The trees are already beginning to turn orange and days are that little bit shorter. This is a great time for trekking and my Highlights of the Tour of Mont Blanc starts tomorrow. Perhaps we are due for an Indian Summer - certainly we must make the most of these mellow days before the winter arrives as it surely will. Bookings for the snowshoeing season are coming in and some weeks are already full. Check for availabilty and be sure to keep an eye on the latest blog postings.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Davos 78.5kms Swiss Alpine Marathon

The 28 July I took part in the Davos Swiss Alpine Marathon. This is 78.5kms but there are also several other races including two marathons and a half marathon.
The race was extremely well organised from start to finish, with spectators and volunteers doing a great job. We were lucky to have sunny weather, at least for the main part of our race. A storm came in during the early afternoon and got me at the high point of the race, but the organisers were out in force with dustbin bags for those who had no rain gear.
This is one of the best races I have done because the terrain is rolling for much of the way so you can expect to run a large part of the race, and also because the trails are wide and so there are very few traffic jams. When you finally hit single track on the steep climb to the Kesch Hut you are 50kms into the race so the crowds have spread out.
Definitely a highlight of my summer and a welcome treat even though it had to be slotted in between treks - this is after all high season. Highly recommended to those of you looking for a good long run in the mountains.

Successful new treks and plans for 2008!

Trekking in the Alps has organised several new treks these last weeks which have been a great success. The Tour of the Jungfrau Region was a 6 day trek which enjoyed superb hot and sunny weather mid July. This trek takes an intriguing route around the Oberland region, with superb views of the Giants of this massif - the Eiger, Mönsch and Jungfrau among others. The trek is not easy - lots of steep ascents and descents - but the scenery is more than rewarding. After a couple of days in the well-known Kleine Scheidegg area the route heads off to the wider Lauterbrunnen valley and explores the far side of this, including a fine day traversing the Schilthorn summit and also taking us into some fabulous remote and unspoilt valleys. A real classic that we will be repeating next year.

Another big success was the Gran Paradiso Alta Via plus summit week. The Gran Paradiso 4061m is Italy's highest summit and we managed to climb this (just) as a storm enveloped us last week. The rest of the week was fine and sunny and so we were able to do the whole trek as planned including 5 passes of 3000+m. An international group proved to be great fun socially and this was definitely a highlight of the summer for us. Again this will feature on the 2008 calendar.

Finally due to popular demand the Tour of Mont Ruan is already confirmed for 2008. This is a little-known trek in the remote limestone massif on the edge of Mont Blanc. We did this trek in 2003 and the group are still talking about it. I have just had an article published about it in the August issue of TGO magazine. If you're interested in hiking away from the crowds on a demanding trek including several trekking summits - this one is for you.

We are in the midst of several wet and cold days - hopefully the sun will soon be back for the final treks of this season.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Snow, snow and more snow July in the Alps!

The Chamonix Zermatt Walker's route looked more like a winter trip in Scotland than a summer hike in the Alps! We had very unseasonal weather from the start although there was a fantastic respite mid-way through for our day over to Arolla when we had wall to wall blue skies and superb freshly coated white peaks.

The high passes were generally snowy and became more so as the week went on. We all agreed snow was much better than rain but a few more views would have been welcome and it would have been nice to shed the waterproofs more often.

Nevertheless it was a real adventure and a great sense of achievement to stroll into Zermatt yesterday (in sunshine finally) with the Matterhorn soaring above, flanked by clouds on its East face.

The final day was beautifully sunny and we were able to see all the Zermatt peaks.
There is now a considerable amount of snow in the high mountains giving a high risk of avalanche and some cornice build-up. Conditions below 3000m should improve quickly but for the moment there is some snow and ice and the existing nevés have not melted at all for some time.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Corsican sun versus rain everywhere else!

As the rain poured down in northern Europe and the Alps, Corsica lived up to its reputation as the "Ile de beauté". Temperatures were hot, but tempered by a strong wind which we felt on the ridges but which elsewhere was very comfortable. The sea was 23°C I was told, and felt wonderful. Even the rivers were not too cold for a dip.

We spent a day or two on the GR20, staying in one of the huts on this route. As usual there were a fair number of people intent on doing this long distance trail as fast as they could. As soon as we left the main trail we were alone and we climbed several summits with no-one else in sight.

A two day trip on a horse-shoe ridge walk with a night in a gite at the beach was a highlight, as was the final night spent deep in the mountains after a long walk, some of it off trail, and with a visit to the famous "mountain with the hole", Capu Tafanatu.

Now back to the alpine treks. The mountains look green and beautiful and the flowers are at their best. The sun is forecast to come out later this week. Chamonix Zermatt, followed by the Tour of the Jungfrau Region should provide some of the most scenic trekking in the Alps.

Friday, 8 June 2007


It's only early June but already I have to start thinking about the next winter season. Last winter we had such superb snowshoeing that it's really an exciting prospect. We'll go back to many of the classic areas but also investigate lots of new ones.

There will be weeks based in Valais, Switzerland, Aosta Italy and Briançon France, as well as trips from my village of Vallorcine.
There will also be all levels from beginner to advanced. Those who want to take it gently can do so, but even so we'll generally get above the tree-line and, conditions permitting, will do some nice rounded summits. Others who wish to push themselves to have some exciting climbs will find their thing too.
The programme will soon be published on the website. More snowshoeing shots and info can be found on


The summer is almost here now and in a couple of weeks my treks will start. We have some exciting trips going, first of which is the Corsica Summits 24 June. Whilst the GR20 is the well-known trek over there, and is certainly very spectacular, there are many lesser-known hikes to do on this mountainous island. Trekking peaks abound and these are what we're going to explore, along with some great spots off the trail. The aim is to discover as much as we can about Corsica, the mountains, the culture, the food and wine and the sea.

Next up I'll be en route from Chamonix to Zermatt via the Walker's Haute Route. This exciting journey takes us through beautiful mountain terrain with spectacular glacial scenery. From Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, we get to see all the high mountains along the way.

Not much of a break for me before I head off on the Tour of the Jungfrau Region. This is a new trek for me this year and will take us on a magical trek through the mountains of the Bernese Oberland, getting very close to the giants of the region - the Eiger, Jungfrau and the Mönch. There are a couple of trekking summits to do along the way and I expect the scenery to be very varied, ranging from pastoral meadows to high alpine slopes.

The rest of July is taken up with private groups, firstly in the Aosta region of Italy then on the Tour of Monte Rosa.

After that we have a new version of my Gran Paradiso Alta Via 4 trip. This year we are including an ascent of the Gran Paradiso summit, 4061m, Italy's highest peak. There's no doubt this will be busy mid summer but it is a fantastic viewpoint. It is probably the only place on the trek where we'll encounter crowds, the rest of the trail generally being very quiet. Known for it's wildlife, the Gran Paradiso usually gives us lots of sightings of ibex and chamois which is a crucial part of this trip.
Later in August we'll be on the classic, and justifiably well-known Tour of Mont Blanc. This is without doubt the most famous alpine trek, and for this reason people often think it must be very crowded. But this is wrong. There are lots of variants and so many different places to stay, so I find it easy to find reasonably quiet trails, even mid season. This year we will be on the trek just before the start of Europe's biggest trail race, the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail. having done this race last year I will relive many memories of my adventure.
Austria is my next to last trek of the season. This is a slightly different trek to my usual Otztal Alps trip as we are going in search of fine wines as well as fine views. Having had a similar research trip last year in Northern Italy, with very satisfactory results, the quest continues. We'll also do some great hiking in this wonderful mountain region, right next to the Austro Italian border.
September features private groups, in and around the Mont Blanc region.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Corsica GR20: 3 people die in cold weather

The recent bad weather in Europe has led to the death from hypothermia of three hikers on the GR20 trek in Corsica. The three people died in independent incidents, two in the north of the island one in the southern part of the trek.

Although the GR20 route is way-marked, these pain marks quickly become difficult to see in bad weather and once off the trail you are on very rough ground. In normal conditions it's difficult to imagine dying of cold on this trek - usually people fear the heat. But the weather can change very quickly and these are very serious mountains where it can be really hard to get down to safer terrain if the weather turns bad. I have experienced snow in Corsica in the middle of July - people had to be rescued by helicopter from the Cirque de la Solitude. And since the trail is so rocky, conditions underfoot quickly become slippery and progress can be very slow.

Just a reminder really to all of us that these mountain treks demand respect, even though they seem to be increasingly popular and more and more feasible with guidebooks describing every step of the route.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Snow at 1300m end of May!!

We had snow in Vallorcine at 1310m this week and the snowploughs were out!
Conditions in the mountains have been poor for most of this week although a lot of the lower snow quickly melted when the sun came out. But more snow if forecast above 2000m so trekking and climbing above this altitude is not recommended right now.
If it's lower walks you're after then the flowers re well ahead of normal and valley walks are superb.