Friday, 26 April 2013

Springtime in Provence

It's been a wonderful week of hot sunshine here in Provence and I feel very lucky to be free to enjoy it.

After the whiteness of winter in the Alps, these colours are a real joy.
Everything is bursting into life, the leaves on the trees get bigger by the hour and the flowers are all blooming. The wisteria is now in full flower and the air is scented.
The birds are all busy with nests and eggs.

It's exciting to see all the flowers and bushes that I am beginning to recognise. The flora here is a mix of alpine and mediterannean and takes is a whole new learning process for me.

 We're greeting new friends again - the pigeons that nest opposite, and of course the Egyptian vultures at the Dentelles who have come back from Africa and will stay until the end of August.


So that's it for now. It's raining today!


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Back to winter!

I can hardly believe it, I am done with the winter season, the snowshoes are safely stacked away until next year, it's over and  I am home safe and sound. A very big OOOOOFF should be heard here. 
It's been an incredible winter season all over the Alps, with LOADS of snow, which has continued to fall regularlly for 5 months.

This has given some fabulous conditions of course and we've certainly never had to worry about ice or lack of snow this year. But it seems to have been snowing most days since mid-March which has meant I have often been walking in deep untracked snow and lately in fog!

Whilst this can certainly be disconcerting, not to mention tiring, at the time, afterwards there is something very special about the feeling of having the mountains to ourselves (no-one else was daft enough to out?!) and we have had some magnificent outings this last week or so.

My groups this season have generally been brilliant fun and these last two were no exception. I was at times frustrated because they so much deserved more sun, but in fact every day we got breaks in the clouds and the photos were very evocative and atmospheric. Everyone was cheerful and luckily most folk have now got the message that photos in the snow look a whole lot better if you're wearing bright colours, and even more so when it's cloudy.

At Gemmi the bearded vulture made an appearance just the once, which was nice.
And to cap it all we finished on a  roll - or several!

I'm now taking a little rest until the middle of May when the Provence Hiking week takes place. Watch this space for exciting and enticing Provence write ups between now and then.
Photo: Louis Pinto

Monday, 1 April 2013

Summer Time ....Snow Time

Just back from my second week this winter in the Val Clarée. What a great place, and what amazing snow conditions!
I didn't expect there to be snow right in the valley at this time of year, but it has snowed on and off for the past few weeks, with a big dump just before we arrived. So we could walk right out of the hotel, just like in January.

In fact there was a little too much snow and the avalanche risk was high which meant we had to be careful - as ever. but this only affected a couple of walks and we made up for this by doing lots of great descents in deep snow.

We had some lovely sunny days mid week which we enjoyed to the full, with an overnight in a charming mountain hut and a fab ascent to a high col next morning. Then a full on sunbathing day in hot sunshine and heaps of fresh snow.

Heavy snowfall again towards the end of the week meant we didn't get the views and the risk of avalanche coupled with nil visibilty stopped us going to a high pass on the last day.
BUT look what we did! Snowshoe Rolls are a TITA speciality!

All in all I think everyone had a blast. This was snowshoeing in all its guises and for the last week of March that's pretty unusual. Thanks to my models for some great performances!

Next stop the Swiss Alps for my last two groups. The raquettes are all lined up and ready!