Sunday, 27 January 2013

Queyras snowshoeing - a new venue

It's always exciting going to a new mountain range, discovering new walks, poring over different maps, trying to work out new vistas.
The Queyras, situated in southeast France, right up against the Italian frontier, certainly didn't disappoint.

We were lucky to have a good 20cms of fresh snowfall last weekend, beautiful light snow that fell without wind. Then a light top up on Wednesday too. In between it was sunny and cold, just like it should be in the Alps in winter.
The walks took us up through pine and larch forest to cols and summits at around 2300m where we were greeted with fabulous views, notably of the nearby Ecrins massif and the mighty Monte Viso just over the border in Italy, famous for being visible from so many of the 4000m peaks in the Alps.

As usual the photos tell it better than I can.

Photo Joan Morley
I'll be back with another group in the Queyras in 2 weeks - let's hope we enjoy the same fabulous conditions. This will definitely be a regular on my snowshoeing programme. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Winter starts with fab weather and perfect conditions

The Alps have had plenty of early snowfall this season so conditions for my first week snowshoeing were excellent.
We were in the Val Clarée, near Briançon in the southern French Alps based at the tiny and very snowy hamlet of Névache.

The weather was remarkably warm for early January - Névache has a reputation for being one of the coldest alpine villages in France - but this week even out of the sun we weren't really cold.
We did 5 days of good walks which took us to many fine vantage points, climbing up above the tree-line on either side of the beautiful Val Clarée. A rest day mid-week allowed for muscles to reccover as well as a visit to the fascinating fortress town of Briançon.
Fun and enthusiastic people made this week a really inspiring start to the season for me.
Photo: Geoff Armstrong

Happy Christmas!

Sunset on the Dentelles de Montmirail, Provence
Whilst life in Provence continues to be mellow and very pleasant, winter has arrived in the Alps and it's going to be a good one.
There is an awful lot of snow, in some places too much at the moment, notably in the northern Alps, where the avalanche risk is very high.
Further south the recent snowfall has been more moderate, and this, added to the good base already established over the last few weeks, has given excellent conditions in the Val Clarée and Queyras regions, two of the best venues for snowshoeing.

So we dusted off the snowshoes and took ourselves over to the Queyras to check out some routes for this winter. This is a region that has long been on my list of places to visit, and it certainly didn't disappoint.

Wild shady valleys open up to high cwms and tempting cols, often with accessible peaks close by. There was loads of snow, most of it untracked at this time of year, and it was VERY cold!
It was a real pleasure to get out in these perfect winter conditions and rediscover the joys of snowshoeing. The views were magnificent, all new vistas that I will need to discover little by little.
Meanwhile, we mustn't forget it's Christmas! My friend and photo magician Bel Youngson has persuaded Zig, the Trekking in the Alps Mascot, to dress accordingly and she's come up with a lovely Christmas shot.

Photo Bel Youngson