Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Fabulous conditions all over Europe

It's great when everything turns out well isn't it? The snow came in abundance in December and now for the holiday period the sun is shining on a daily basis and the snow seems to be pretty well settled and not too dangerous. The temperatures are excellent too - cold at night and really quite balmy in the day. 

Skiing or snowshoeing, it's all good right now, so let's hope it stays that way. More snow forecast from tomorrow but not sure in what quantity.

Meanwhile elsewhere in France it's also lovely and warm and sunny. In the Drôme Provençale the conditions are perfect for flying: 

And in general the only other company at the crags looks like this: 

Happy New Year!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Snow in the Alps sun in Provence

The snow has fallen in abundance this last week in the alps and the ski areas are opening this weekend.This is wonderful news for snowshoeing and as it's forecast to snow again most of next week I think we can stop worrying about a lack of snow.

Meanwhile in Provence, where I have been checking out new walks for an April hiking week, the weather is excellent for walking, climbing and biking.

The photos say it all!!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

An Endless Autumn

Photo: Jon de Montjoye
 There is no end to this wonderful autumn weather. We seem to have enjoyed dry sunny weather since September. On the south side of the Mont Blanc massif, and all the way down to the Med, there was a spell of dreadful weather a couple of weeks back, which caused floods on the coast and in parts of northern Italy, and a high avalanche risk in the mountains. But here in the Chamonix Valley we were protected from the bad weather by the Foehn. So no snow here for the moment. However, when the sun isn't out it's very cold, so as soon as we do get precipitation it will fall as snow.
If you're coming out to snowshoe with me don't panic - it will snow before Xmas and anway we can easily travel into Italy or over to the Italian Swiss border where there will certainly be snow - already people are skiing at the Simplon Pass, which is one of my favourite snowshoe locations, and also further south in the Nevache Valley where my first trip takes place early January.
The larches are losing their needles now but there is still some lovely colour on the hillsides and the light is wonderful at the end of the day.
I don't often post about cats - in fact this is a first - but this story deserves telling. A few weeks ago I noticed a cat and her kitten in our garden and at first didn't pay much attention. but it became apparent they were living wild in an empty house very nearby. Being the softie that I am I started to feed them and this was very much appreciated. The kitten turned out to be a real stunner as you can see.

This went on for sometime, but winter is coming, it's very cold and I will not be here all the time to feed them. Also the empty house isn't always empty....
What to do? After agonising for sometime I sought advice from cat loving friends in the UK - thanks to all of you who took the time to listen and reply! I then went to the vet who told me there is a procedure for this situation. You catch the kitten and take it to the vet where it will be looked after, given all necessary kitten treatment, then a family will be found to take it in.
The mother was fairly wild so she had to be trapped in a special trap which worked remarkably well. The vet then sterilised her, (paid for by the local council), and also found her a place to live with other stray cats. Turns out the mother was very young and had not always been wild, she'd been abandoned.
The moral of this? Such situations can be sorted out and although I thoroughly enjoyed my contact with this little chap, it was unlikely he (or indeed she as it turned out) was going to make it through the winter, especially if the feeding services were unreliable. And if the mother wasn't sterlised we'd soon have a colony of cats.
Voilà that's it for now. Next post will come from the wilds of northern Provence, where I have a hiking trip scheduled for next spring  - places are available and it's a NOT TO BE MISSED WEEK!!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A fabulous autumn

What a wonderful autumn we've been having here in the Alps. I think it's also been pretty good weather elsewhere in Europe and further afield too looking at reports from Yosemite and the like.
But getting back to here, the temperatures are falling and the mornings are now very crisp, but once the sun's up it's a delight to be out hiking or climbing. 


A little cold for biking - the downhills have become an ordeal, but if you're ascending into the sun it's pretty warm. The mountains are snowy but not unduly so and whilst it must be cold at alittude there are doubtless a certain number of suitors on the slopes of Mont Blanc.

Many folk have headed south so it's quiet now on the trails and the paths. However, the French Toussaint holidays begin this weekend so there'll be a last blast of business for a few days before we settle into the extreme quiet that precedes the winter season.  A time to savour becore it all goes very chaotic and hectic!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

From heatwave to arctic in one fell swoop

Well this time last week it was hot, sunny, it looked like this:  

 Everyone was out hiking in shorts, the mountains were dry as a bone, too dry really, the glaciers were very grey and getting smaller by the day.
But it was great as you could sit out from early morning to evening, wear shorts every day, not think about which crag to climb on as they were all dry anyway. You could even climb at altitude without worrying about being cold. We never saw such conditions in July this year at all.
But of course all good things come to an end and this one had to. We saw those first wispy clouds on Thursday afternoon and by evening the massif was shrouded in thick ominous grey clouds. Friday and Saturday were truly appalling, shocking, the poor cat was stunned when she looked out the door and all her fur was instantly soaked and frozen stiff. The snow flakes came down lower and lower and last night it really settled.

 And now it looks like this: still very beautiful but somehow we'd got very attached to the Indian Summer and are not quite ready for Winter yet.
Luckily it's forecast to warm up again so those snowshoes and skis can stay put for a few more weeks.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The end of my 20th Anniversary and a great year for Trekking in the Alps

I've just finished  my last week, and reached the end of a superb year of work. Both winter and summer seasons were full, with some great groups, wonderful hiking and lots of celebration of those 20 years.
The last two weeks were in Italy. The first one was my Italian Summits week when we achieved 6 summits in 6 days! Then I had a week in the Dolomites based in Cortina d'Ampezzo which proved to be a perfect base for discovering those stunning limestone mountains.


 The photos tell it all really, we've had some really good hikes and enjoyed generally excellent weather. Whilst we didn't see masses of wildlife, on both trips we got really good sightings later in the week: ibex and chamois were abundant in the Gran Paradiso National Park, and in the Dolomites we were lucky to see a sizeable herd of chamois and lots of very fat marmots.

Now it's time for me to catch up on admin, take some holiday and to organise next year - the snowshoeing weeks are already filling up and the summer treks are taking shape. If it's anything like as good as this year I'll be happy.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Sun and Showers but the show goes on

Memories have been flooding back to me during this rather damp summer season of summers spent in Chamonix years ago. Rain lashing against the tent, hours spent mooching around town wondering what to do, hopeful forays through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to see if the sun was shining on The Other Side.
Unsettled weather used to be the norm in the Alps in the '80s and routes and hikes were grabbed whenever a good weather window presented itself.
Then came the '90s when every day was sunny and it was like living in California. We all became rather blasé.
This year we're back to normal and the raingear has certainly been out many days. But there's also been plenty of sun and, once out on the hill, what looked like a bad forecast has generally proved to be great trekking weather - not too hot, reasonable views, with just the odd shower or threat of.

The Tour of Mont Blanc last week proved to be as spectacular as ever, although each time I do it I am struck by the diminishing size of certain glaicers. Having taken photos of the views for the past 20 years I have an interesting record of the regression of the glaciers in this region.
Nonetheless the scenery remains fabulous, the flowers this year are incredible, and the changeable weather gives the high peaks a regular fresh coat of paint keeping them sparkly white and gleaming. 

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Crazy Summer Weather

It's supposed to be July but the last 2 weeks have seen rain and snow every day. Sounds awful? It depends who you go with. I was lucky enough to have a group of 5 incredibly enthusiastic people with me for my second Chamonix Zermatt trek of the season.and they appreciated everything the trek threw at them. After all, when it's cloudy you look at the flowers more; when it snows the glaciers get a fresh coat of paint; when it clears you are grateful for every view you get; and when it's cold it isn't hot for hiking uphill.

For these guys there was no bad weather they were just really happy to be in the mountains. So we had a great trek and made it to Zermatt against the odds and very proud of ourselves.

Thanks folks!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Non-stop trekking leaves no time to post!

It's been a busy time here in the Alps with 3 trips back to back, in generally great conditions. The lack of snow last winter meant that the trails were snow-free earlier than normal which was good for summer walking.

Annecy Summits was a new spring trip last year but this year we went later and were lucky enough to have beautiful weather. The summits aound the lake provide challenging hiking and amazing views Add to that very luxurious acommodation and evening swims in the lake and you get a wondeful hiking holiday - definitely one to repeat in the future.

The came then first of my Creaky Knees Specials, this one the Swiss based gentle week, which featured lots of pleasant flowery walks with a minimum of descent.

Finally, I am just back from theChamonix Zermatt trek which I did with return clients whose enthusiasm and dress sense made this one of the best treks ever.