Thursday, 18 December 2008

Fantastic conditions!

Day after day of fresh snowfall has given us the best December conditions in many years. There is snow right down in the low valleys at 400m and so you can imagine how good the conditioons are here up at 1300m.

Not without risk though - we have an avalanche risk of 3 or 4 on a scale of 5 and the latest layer of fresh snow has fallen on either wind-blown snow or wet heavy snow from a warm wind which blew last Sunday. But the forecast is good for the fore-seeable future it seems, so the snowpack will stabilise quickly.

Then it's just a question of getting those tracks in before all the holiday-makers who will arrive towards the end of next week.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Christmas Special Discount for my Snowshoeing trips!

The snow conditions are fabulous, what a great start to the winter! There are ski and snowshoe tracks appearing on the hillsides as I write this!
However, I know this is a difficult for time financially for most people and it seems like these hard times will continue for some months or more.
It's great to know that if you come out for a winter break the snow will be there and looking at Easyjet today I see that flights for this winter are still a good price, outside of the half term holidays anyway.
But to make things very slightly easier for people to come snowshoeing, I am offering a Christmas Special Discount on advertsied prices for my 4 and 6 day trips.

For any bookings between now and January 1st there will be a price reduction of £10 on 4 day trips and £20 on 6 day trips. For those people who have already booked, as soon as I get an extra booking that reduction applies to all bookings.
How good is that?

The list of holidays with available places is below. Just email me with the discount code CSD before 1st of January to make a booking and get this price reduction. Places are limited!!!

Private guiding is also possible but I am running out of free days fast.


4 days: Meet 27 January; 17 March

6 days: Meet 31 January; 7 February; 28 March.

For more info go to

Right, time for me to get my snowshoes out and go and make some tracks!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Snow, snow and more snow!

Already by the end of September this year we had had our first fall of snow in the garden. Since then we enjoyed a beautiful warm October, but those early signs were correct and winter has arrived in full force, before November is through. This is what happened last year and we went on to have one of the best winters ever. Winter 08/9 looks set to be the same

After some very wind-blown snowfall at the weekend, last night saw half a metre of windless powder. We could hardly find our cars to dig them out this morning. And now it's snowing again.

Once this snowfall stabilises there will be some fabulous conditions for snowshoeing and skiing. The good thing is that there is already a firm base, which is what is sometimes lacking at this time of year.

I have lots of snowshoeing weeks and 4 day trips lined up, some of which still have places free. Now is the time to book whilst the flights are still reasonable.

Meanwhile if heli-skiing is your thing then it's good to know the heliski organisers' prices are more or less held from last year. Every year there are rumours that this wonderful activity will be banned, and once again the whispers are circulating. Best get those dream descents in before the kill-joys get their way!

Even in these difficult times, when the euro is too strong, and none of us know quite what the future holds, at least if you want a winter holiday you can be sure of good conditions.

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.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Mont Blanc Ultra Trail 2008 - to finish is to win!

Lots of people told me not to do it again, but I ignored them and ran the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail last weekend. It proved to be a success, but what a tough event!!
This race goes around the Mont Blanc massif, taking the trail of the famous Tour du Mont Blanc long distance hike. Generally walked in about 10 days, runners in the event have 46 hours to complete it. 166kms and 9400m of up and the same down - not to be underestimated!!

We left Chamonix at 6.30pm Friday evening and ran through two nights and one day. The weather was very hot which was good for the nights but hard for the days.

Many people abandoned (largely due to the heat I imagine).

I battled on and arrived back in Chamonix at 9.09am.

I suffered badly from blisters in the last 8 hours but was thrilled to succceed in this my second and last time on this race.

The winner was a young Spaniard who blitzed the course in just over 20 hours!! Lizzy Hawker from the UK was the first woman in something over 25 hours.

Many famous names dropped out - who knows why - but to all the folks who reached the finish line, Well Done!!

What a good summer!!

It's been a great summer for Trekking in the Alps. I had wonderful groups and we were rewarded with almost perfect weather.

The treks have gone really well ranging from the Tour of the Jungfrau Region, which is always so spectacular and certainly did not disappoint this time, to the Gran Paradiso where we successfully climbed Italy's highest mountain to the Tour of the Matterhorn with a fabulous ascent of the Breithorn.

Then there was the remote Tour of Mont Ruan where we battled rain for a couple of days but had sunshine for the rest and a fast climb up the Dents du Midi.

Not to mention our annual trekking and wine tasting week which came up with the goods on both counts. We based in Italy's Aosta valley and after some days hiking there we made our way over the glaciated Theodule Glacier to reach Zermatt for a couple of fine days at the end of the trip.

So now I am off to Corsica with a group of regulars which should be excellent.

It's time to think about next winter so check out the Snowshoeing calendar on my website:

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Snowshoeing Programme 2009

Okay so it's full-on summer here at the moment - hot and sunny, flowers at their glorious best, and everyone's revving up to their hiking holidays.

But it's time to think about the winter and snowshoeing!
Remember what fun it is?

Remember those blue sky early morning starts, the only sound your breathing and the crunch of the snow under your snowshoes?

And those summit moments when all the hard work is forgotten?

And then this!

So here's what's happening winter 2009:


NB on the version of this calendar sent to people on my mailing list I marked the wrong week as Easter week. It is now correct below - Easter is 11 April and our Easter week will meet 4 April and finish the following weekend.

NO hidden costs.
Small groups guaranteed.
Expert guiding
All levels catered for including experienced snowshoers.
High summits and hikes
New destinations every year.

Prices include:
guided snowshoeing,
accommodation (bed, breakfast and dinner)
transport during the holiday,
rental of ALL gear: snowshoes, poles, avalanche transceivers, probes and shovels.
Not included:
Travel to meeting place
Hill food
Insurance - eg Snowcard £22

Prices are in € and £. The £ price has been reached on an exchange rate of £1 = 1.25€. In the event that this declines to less that 1.20€ I reserve the right to ask for payment on the € price.
Otherwise you can decide whether to pay in £ or € when you book - if the rate improves it will be advantageous to some people to choose the € price.

Holidays are graded 1 to 3, 1 being the easiest grade up to 3 which means a strenuous grade. However, it must be understood that these grades are only guidelines as the snow conditions dictate more than anything what we do.

6 day holidays £796 995€
Mont Blanc Region
Meet Vallorcine near Chamonix
17 January grade 1
31 January grade 2

6 day holidays £840 1050€
Aosta Valley Italy
Meet Aosta
7 February grade 2

EASTER WEEK: 4 April grade 3

Valais Switzerland
Meet Martigny
21 February grade 2/3

Aravis massif France
Meet St Gervais
28 February grade 2

Dauphiné Alps France
Meet Briançon
14 March grade 2/3

Gran Paradiso Italy
Meet Aosta
28 March grade 3

4 day long weekends
Mont Blanc Region £556 695€
Meet Vallorcine near Chamonix
8 January grade 1
14 January grade 2
27 January grade 3
18 February grade 1

Aravis massif France £599 750€
Meet St Gervais
3 March grade 2

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

It's summer in the Alps

The Alps have now enjoyed more than two weeks of hot sunny weather and conditions perfect for walking.

Until recently there was a lot of late snow cover but that is melting fast and the hillsides are getting back to normal for this time of year.

I have lots of alpine treks going this summer but just two still have spaces, the Gran Paradiso(meet 26 July) in Italy and the Tour of Mont Ruan (meet 9 August) near to Mont Blanc. Details of both these treks can be found on my website or by sending me an email on

For those of you interested in trail running, the Chamonix Marathon last Sunday had a record number or entrants and for the first time was held the day after the half marathon Chamonix Cross. This was much better as the two races otherwise coincide and this leads to crowds on the trail. Upcoming races include the Italian Gran Valdigne Trail near Courmayeur mid July, the Davos 78kms race end of July and of course the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail end of August which somewhat occupies my thoughts at the moment!

Here's what it looks like trekking here at the moment:

If you can't make it to the Alps all is not lost because we have the Corsica Northern Summits week meeting 7 September and there are still places available. So why not some late summer trekking on this beautiful island?

Watch this space for the 2009 Snowshoe schedule which will be posted by the end of this week.

Monday, 19 May 2008


The summer programme is filling up but below are the current treks that are confirmed but which still have places available. All costs are on my website on this link and I am asking for payment in Euros because of the slide of the £ against this currency. However, I can be paid in cash so you do not need to make an expensive bank transfer.

If you want to come on one of these treks then please go ahead and book your flights and your time off work. If you need to ask any questions then please use the following email address: and your questions will be answered as quickly as possible. You can also ask for detailed factfiles on all the trips below. If you decide to book please let us know on the above email address.

So here are the treks:

Gran Paradiso trek and summit meet 26 July in Aosta. Fly to Turin, or Milan or Geneva, Turin being the best option. We meet at 7pm in Aosta and from Turin or Milan I can organise a transfer to Aosta which takes 1hr15 and 3 hrs respectively. If you fly to Geneva you need to take a train to Martigny and be there for 4.30pm. You do not need prior experience in glacier walking to do the summit. There are 3 places free on this trek.

Tour of the Matterhorn meet 2 August in Zermatt. Fly to Geneva or Zurich and train onwards (about 3hrs). We meet 7pm in Zermatt. This trek includes 2 glacier crossing and the ascent of a glaciated 4000m peak, but no prior experience in glacier walking is required. There is 1 place free on this trek.

Tour of Mont Ruan meet 9 August in Finhaut Switzerland. Fly to Geneva and train onwards via Lausanne and Martigny (about 3hrs) to Finhaut. We meet 7pm in Finhaut. This is a great trek, very remote, including sevceral trekking summits. There are 4 places free for this trek.

Corsica Northen Summits meet 7 Sept in Calvi. Fly to Calvi or if necessary Bastia. For direct flights from Britain contact mentioning Hilary Sharp Trekking in the Alps. A fab week exploring Corsica's trekking peaks, away from the crowded main trails. There are 5 places free for this trek.
NB: there is NO single supplement payable on any of these treks so do not hesitate to come alone.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Spring Sunshine in Mallorca

Having enjoyed an excellent winter season in the Alps it was time to rediscover walking on trails. What better place to do this in the spring than Mallorca with its rugged mountain range, the Sierra Tramuntana.

We had 6 days of hiking and every day was hot and sunny. The final night saw the passage of a storm but the sun was back next morning.

Mallorca offers fantastic walking of all levels from strolls through olive and almond groves to summit scrambles to multi-day mountain treks, not to mention beautiful coastal walks discovering remote sandy coves and rocky headlands.

Staying in 3 different bases enabled us to really get to know the northern part of the island, which is where the most spectacular hiking is to be done. We had a memorable night at the Lluc Monastery, situated in the midst of the highest peaks, and therefore a great starting point for the trails.

Some of the braver members took a dip in the sea although for most of us the water was far too cold even though its azure blue depths looked really inviting from the surrounding mountains.

Mallorca is definitely Mediterrannean walking at its best and will have a place in my programme for spring 2009.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Amazing end to the snowshoeing season!

There is snow in abundance and the winter conditions are as good as they get, but all good things come to an end. I have just finished my final snowshoeing trip for winter 08 and it's not without a twinge of regret that I am hanging up my snowshoes for now - although the great snow cover could well tempt me to get them out again in the next week or so.

It's been an amazing winter season that started way back in November with wonderful cold snow that formed a perfect base for the following months. We have had some fabulous days out, from forest walks in heavy snowfall to summit ascents on those dreamed of sparkling blue sky days.

Lots of regulars have returned to snowshoe with me, but there have also been a fair number of walkers who were new to snowshoeing who came to see what it's all about. Everyone seems to have had a blast and hopefully we'll do it all again next year!

Now maybe a few days of rest (and catching up with admin!) are in order.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Mixed weather gives amazing conditions for Easter

Okay so the weather forecast was hardly very promising over Easter but in fact the periods of bad weather were interspersed with sunshine and we were able to have a great week of snowshoeing, culminating with an ascent of Mont Rogneux 3084m in perfect fresh snow conditions.

On Friday we left the Caband Brunet as the sun came up in a cloudless sky, the air was crisp and cold and the snow was deep and light.

From the summit we had a full 360° panorama, which stretched from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn and everything in between. The run back down was a dream, with vast swathes of untouched powder leaving us spoilt for choice - plenty of room for snowshoers and ski tourers alike, leaving loads left for the weekenders.

This is what it's all about in the mountains - those perfect blue sky days - made all the more perfect because they cannot be ordered up and sometimes we have to put up with cloud and precipitation to get these fantastic winter wonderland conditions. But it sure is worth it!!

Let's hope the next week is equally good.

Friday, 21 March 2008

From spring to winter in the Alps!

Until yesterday we thought spring had arrived early in the Alps. The sun was shining, the crocus were poking out in the lower meadows, whilst the mountains remained well snow-covered - life was good!!

Today, the first day of spring, life remains good but considerably snowier - winter has returned with a vengeance. Heavy snowfall all day today today is forecast to continue overnight and intermittently all weekend. Easter 2008 is to be a snowy one.
The road from Vallorcine to Chamonix is closed for avalanche risk and there is a muffled silence as everyone huddles indoors waiting for the storm to pass through.

Nevertheless we had a great day out today in the forest where the snow-laden trees and wind drifts reminded us more of deep dark December days than late March.

Once this latest snow has settled we can be sure to have excellent late season conditions. So all those people who since January have been wondering if the snow will last out - have faith, this is one of the best winter seasons we've known. We just need to take care now for a few days as the avalanche risk is going to be very high.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Gret wildlife viewings whilst snowshoeing

The Gran Paradiso area is renowned for its wildlife, largely because it is a designated National Park and hence no hunting is allowed at any time.

Known especially for its large population of ibex, the Gran Paradiso is also a paradise for chamois, hares, foxes, deer and, as we saw last week, the rare lammergeier vulture. Recognisable by its huge wing span (2.8m) and its orange underbelly (the result of contact with iron oxide in water and mud), the lammergeier, or bearded vulture is still relatively rare in the Alps, despite an on-going programme of reintroduction. So we were very excited to get this sighting during a snowshoe walk near the Cogne Valley. (Photo: Alistair Wylie).

The usual suspects were also present - lots of chamois in the forests and ibex on the sunnier denuded south-facing slopes. Seeing the wildlife in the winter is a real privilege and whilst last week the snow conditions meant they were having a fairly easy time of it, that's probably about to change now with forecasts of heavy snow for the next few days, so we will be careful to watch any animals with binoculars from a distance so we don't scare them into running away in deep snow and hence using up all their precious energy.


February has been a superb month of sunshine, but cold temperatures at night kept the snow conditions excellent. We have been snowshoeing in the French, Swiss and Italian Alps and have been continually surprised by the amount of untracked powder snow, even several weeks after the last snowfall.

These conditions have made the snowpack very stable and so we have been able to snowshoe summits up to 3000m with little worry at all.

The Aosta Snowshoe week went particularly well, with a full group and wide age range, but everyone being very fit and keen to get high up into the mountains. By the end of the week everyone was running down the slopes of powder. This group was quickly followed by a private booking, again in the Aosta Valley. This region offers excellent possibilities for snowshoeing, but any visit there should also include the opportunity to sample the region's specialities - notably the superb red wine, cheese and ham. We made sure we gave our full attention to this aspect of the trip too.

March seems set not to herald spring but the return of winter: two days of rain have not been kind to the snowpack at lower altitudes, but the forecast is for lower temperatures from next week and we expect considerable snowfall at all altitudes. So it's out with the woollies again and we can look forward to several more weeks of fun in the snow.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Snowshoeing off to a great start in 2008!

The snowshoeing and skiing season are off to a superb start this month with good snow cover everywhere and lots of sunny weather. We had a good open week from 5th January: although this week started with rain at 1500m (almost unknown here in January) this soon turned to snow and after a day of cloud we were treated to better weather for the rest of the week, with fresh snow to run down every day. Everyone in the group was new to snowshoeing but even on the first day with hardly any views the general consensus was that snowshoeing was a great activity - in fact the actual quote from our Irish member was that "Snowshoeing is the dog's b***ocks!!". So that more or less settled it for the week and conditions just got better and better.

Last week I had a private group snowshoeing in Switzerland around the Val d'Anniviers Val d'Hérens region and we found some excellent new (to me anyway) walks on snowshoes. Conditions could not have been better - fresh snow, sunshine and virtually no-one around, so no human tracks - however there was an abundance of wildlife activity.

We managed to reach a 3000m summit on the last day but the red morning sky correctly forecast the following day's snowfall, adding another top-up to what at the moment is perfect snow cover for this time of the winter. Let's hope it lasts!