Saturday, 17 November 2012

Autumn in the Drôme

It's now 2 weeks since we migrated south to the Drôme and it's been wonderful to discover autumn in this region. We've not been here so early before and so we haven't seen the trees so colourful and the sun so bright.

I went to renew my acquaintance with the vultures of Remuzat the other day and certainly wasn't disappointed. They are such amazing birds I never tire of watching them soar over the cliffs. This time they kept me waiting a good half hour but just as I was about to leave a posse of about 30 arrived and gave me a fabulous display!

Last weekend though saw really heavy rain which led to some impressive waterfalls. The porous limestone here must be riddled with tunnels where the water pours down.
Time to get out in the garden now - November is apparently prime planting time down here, contrary to everything I have known before.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

It's snowing!

After a poor start, October has turned into a lovely month with lots of sunshine and evenn hot temps here in the Alps.
Until today things were looking like this


But as of today it's snowing and is forecast to continue for the next 24 hours, right down to valley level. So the winter is definitely on its way and it's time to start dusting off the raquettes and the skis and getting out the thermals! From January onwards I have lots of Snowshoe trips programmed - check out my website for details.
Of course the clocks are also going back which gives us the very shortlived pleasure of an extra hour asleep (never to be sniffed at I feel) but then months of long dark evenings. Here in the Alps (and down in Provence) those evenings are often not really so bad, often beginning with beautiful sunsets then clear nights and sparkling snow (well, hopefully not in Provence actually). But I do have memories of interminable greyness in the UK - maybe my memories are a bit screwed?   
Anyway looking out the window it looks a bit like this now

So it's time to hunker down in front of the woodstove and read a good book.
Before I sign off though, more thoughts on the Shewee that I introduced in my last post. Whilst carrying a very heavy sack last week it occured to me that this would be very useful when you need to go and don't want to take off your sack - and this does happen when you're hurrying along the trail or your sack is actually too heavy to pick up alone. Squatting down with 25kgs on your back is really not a Good Thing for those knees. So there's another reason to get one girls!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Back from holidays, snowshoeing and a new and essential trekking device

Snowshoeing - the very best way to get out in the hills in winter. Sign up now for next winter!
I don't usually blog my holidays but since it's the in between season here in the Alps there are no treks to blog so let's have some holidays news (including at the end of this blog some very important news about using a SheWee in the wilds, which I was able to do on this trip) - and some news about what's coming up for next winter. Please do read to the end.

The western USA was the venue for Trekking in the Alps to enjoy some great hiking and climbing, around Utah, Idaho and the California Sierra.

The western USA is extremely dry this year, partly the result of a very poor winter (no snow) and then hotter than usual conditions so far this autumn. Fires were burning in some parts of Idaho and it was sad to see much of the vegetation looking drier and more brittle than normal - some of the famous fall colours won't be happening this year due to lack of water.
Good for us to have no rainy days for our trip of course but I would gladly send them some of the rain falling in Vallorcine today.
Here's a few more shots

But now the party's over, it's time to think about serious matters! Who's up for snowshoeing this winter? Loads of trips on offer, take a look at my website or email me for details. Levels range from a lovely reasonably relaxed week in early January to full on racing around strenuous stuff in March. Something for everyone and everyone needs to sign up! Come on, you know you want to! Don't wait too long........

Beautiful walks with fabulous scenery, clear cold air, sunshine....what more could you want in the depths of winter?
Important news for my female clients
Finally I want to tell you about my experience using a device called a SheWee. This is for my female clients really, and I know there are lots of you who'll be interested. These devices have been around for a while and sometimes people do ask me if I have used one. Well finally I have. Now what's it all about?
Well it looks like this (didn't think we needed a shot of it in action!)

It enables us to wee without having to squat down and drop our pants. Now why would we want to do this? Well think about it - freezing cold winds, horizontal hail, crowded trails, vast snowfields with no trees or rocks in sight, bad knees....the reasons go on and on. It takes a bit of practise but once you get the hang of it it's amazingly convenient. I think it's going to find its place this winter snowshoeing. I am hoping to be able to write my name in then snow....sorry, just kidding, forget I said that....but I will keep you posted on how it performs in the snow.
Girls, you need this - go to SheWee's website or email me for the contact. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

A hot end to the summer trekking season

Mont Blanc

It's been a hot and sweaty week on the Tour of Mont Blanc trail. The media warned us the "canicule" was coming and we should keep old people and pets hydrated. Last weekend saw the temps soar to well over 35°C in the valleys, obviously considerably less in the mountains, but nevertheless my fellow hikers were seeking out the shade.
But what luck to have such amazing weather! We were never cold and could sit out in the evenings watching then sun go down. Our sacs were light as we had no need to carry lots of extra layers.

Herens cow at the Col des Posettes

Getting close to the Grand Col Ferret and the Swiss Italian frontier
Clearly we had to carry more water but not a ridiculous amount. My group coped really well and were rather spoilt by great views from the start.

Storms were forecast from mid week but somehow we managed to always miss them and only had real rain overnight a couple of times. However we did hurry along a few times when black clouds cloaked and thunder rumbled down the hillsides!

Storms clouds over the Mont Blanc massif

Admiring the view from the Val Veny

Conditions were probably better where we were than in the high mountains. With a freezing level at 4600m the glaciers have become very open and icy, and there have been reports of considerable rockfall on certain slopes and gullies. Also the threat of storms will have stopped play these last few days.
All that is about to change with snow forecast this weekend at 2000m - I had to scrape ice off the car windscreen this morning!

Mont Dolent from the Grand Col Ferret

Monte Bianco

Taking it all in above Refuge Bertone

Onwards and downwards!

This marks the end of my summer trekking season - somewhat earlier than usual but everyone needs a break sometimes. Trekking in the Alps is heading off on holiday for a few weeks - time to hang up the boots and lie on the beach (in my dreams anyway!)
However, don't panic, the winter and spring programme 2013 is already up and bookings are coming in. Go to this link:

Sunday, 12 August 2012

2 days of rain then paradise returns

What do you do when you have a fab week revisiting some walks you've not done in a while with a wonderful group of kind, funny and good looking folk? You make a very long blog post with loads of photos!!
This was a Creaky Knees Special based in Chamonix, but none of the members had creaky knees (well not really anyway) so we just made it a week of adventurous hikes around the Mont Blanc region.
Photo Tracy Fantham

Okay so we did have rain for the first two days, but after that the sun came right back out and it was perfect - I mean really perfect.
A hotel based week like this allows me to go wherever I think we'll have good views, the right sort of walking and get away from the crowds (it's high season now so this is important).

3 days in the Chamonix valley area right opposite the Mont Blanc massif gave us great views of all the glaciated peaks. Then we headed over to Vallorcine and did an adventurous trail near to the impressive Emosson lake. The views really were excellent and the flowers too. We also got to see some wildlife - ibex and eagles on these walks, supplemented by more of the same and chamois and a ptarmigan later on.

The Aravis range provides a real contrast in many ways to the walks near to Mont Blanc and we all enjoyed the rocky scenery and totally different views of the Mont Blanc massif seen from here.
All in all a real blast - I hope the group enjoyed it as much as I did!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Sun and storms

This is what we walked around - the mighty Monte Bianco
Really busy time here, barely a minute to write up the blog. Luckily though I have lots of photos as ever. For this post the photos will have to tell the tale of what we've been up to lately: great sunny trekking with the odd storm thrown in for good measure.

Crossing from France into Italy at the Col de la Seigne

Pink T shirts on the trail

On the Mont de la Saxe

Me and Skip, my favourite dog, guardian of the Rifugio Bonatti
Beautiful Queen of the Alps

First day after a storm, beautifully clear

Pending storm