Tuesday, 29 March 2011

It's hot, snowy, very beautiful but just a little bit dodgy

We've just had more or less 2 weeks of sun, interpersed with the very odd snowflake here and there. The snowshoeing is still excellent, we've had some fabulous days as the photos show, but there's no doubt that the end of the season is shaping up to be one where you need to choose your slopes carefully and be ready to change plans if you have the slightest doubt.

There's plenty of safe snowshoe walks but you need to know what you're looking for. 3 days in Italy a week ago we saw slopes that were ready to slide all around us. We ourselves were perfectly safe but venturing off the track was certainly not an option.

The snowpack has been shallow all season and the long very cold period early in the year led to the formation of a deep layer of depth hoar. On top of this we have numerous wind slabs, and now that it's very hot the whole lot is ready to go in some places.

However, all that said, it's wonderful to be walking in bright sun with uninterrupted views, warm enough to picnic on summits and cols without wearing 2 coats and 3 hats.

Snowshoeing remains a joy but as with all mountain activities, the deal is - if in doubt turn back. The mountain will be there another day - we must make sure we are.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fantastic snow, great conditions and brilliant company!

I sometimes think I have the Best Job Ever, and that was certainly the case these last two weeks. Obviously good weather and safe snow conditions make for great snowshoeing, but in my job there is an extra requirement - more than anything else the people I am with make or break the day for me.

I have just spent two weeks in fantastic company and I feel very lucky!! Of course that means I have lots to say and want to show lots of photos so this is a big post.

The first week saw the Alps finally have lots of fresh snow and although this meant I had to revise my decisions on where to go every day, the scenery and the descents were that much better for having had a fresh coat of the white stuff. My group of regulars certainly knew how to make the most of it, leaping and bounding down every slope they could find.

We had a memorable night in an unwardened hut when the group were treated to my cooking (well, just the custard actually, but it was a big hit). We also spent two nights at Simplon Pass - whilst the rest of the Alps were bathed in hot sun, Simplon was subjected to fog and high winds accompanied at times by blizzard conditions! But when it cleared......it was amazing. This new (to me) area is one I will certainly be returning to, there is so much to do on snowshoes and the pass itself is steeped in history.

Then last week I headed south to the Dauphiné Alps and spent 6 days in perfect weather exploring the Val Clarée, home to some of the best snowshoe walks I know. We did everything we set out to do in glorious sunshine, with generally great powder under-raquette. Again I can't think of anything to complain about - everyone kept me laughing for the whole time.

All change now - it's already snowing on the south side of the Alps.......winter hasn't said its last word just yet. For this 20th year of Trekking in the Alps it's certainly a memorable season so far. Hope it continues like this.