Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Autumn has arrived

In my last post I remarked on how wet it had been in the Alps all July. Well that didn't really change until the end of August, it was a wet summer throughout Europe. However, September and October have really made up for that and it's been really warm and sunny for weeks now, breaking all records for high temps.
But today it's raining, autumn has finally arrived, it's snowing in the higher mountains, so I figured it's time to look back on the summer and forward to what's to come.
The Alpine summer was not all damp gloom and doom, we had some fabulous treks and trips, some superb mountain days. But the raingear certainly made its appearance on a regular basis.

I did the Tour of Monte Rosa trek which I hadn't done for a few years, and we were very lucky to have a week of almost perfect weather which meant we got some great photos for the forthcoming guidebook revision which I am doing (new guide due out next spring). This circuit is truly one of the greats and is so much quieter than the more well-known alpine tours (so clearly my guidebook hasn't made any difference to the crowding of these trails!)

Now I am looking ahead to the winter and also to next year. Living in Provence means I can change my programmes a little and offer new areas aswell as remaining loyal to the Alpine roots of my business. I am really trying to promote Provence as a hiking area. Already very well known to the French, I think maybe the average British hillwalker doesn't know how great the hillwalking is over here. Many people associate Provence with the Côte d'Azur and think of crowded beaches, seaside, Monaco and fast Ferraris. But northen Provence is the exact opposite, there is no seaside, there are no crowds, Monaco is a world away...and although we do see the very rare Ferrari or similar, tractors are a far more common sight on our roads.

Along with my regular May Provence Hiking Holiday I am now offering a new trip to be based just further north on the border of Provence and the Vercors region, known for its fine limestone pleateaux. This trip, called Peaks and Passes of the Alpine Foothills, takes us to the famous Forêt de Saou region which is an amazing area for walking with a wealth of summits to go at.
For the Summer I have a new trip the Queyras Summits which I hardly need to bother promoting right now as it's booking up fast. But since this will most likely feature ever year on my programme it's worth telling you about it. The Queyras region of France is tucked away in the south-east corner, and is already a popular snowshoeing venue for my winter trips.
Although the spectacular peaks and valleys of the Queyras owe their beauty to the effects of glaciation, those glaciers are now long gone and this gives us total freedom to roam The terrain is made for hikers, with wooded valleys leading up to grassy meadows often encircled by rocky peaks which very often are accessible to walkers, at least those with a reasonably head for heights and a sure foot. Many of these summits flirt with the 3000m mark and provide belvederes of outstanding beauty, with vast endless vistas stretching in some cases way down to the plains of Italy or towards the northern French Alps. This will be a really good challenging mountain week, just what Trekking in the Alps does best.
The summer will also feature the classic Tour of Mont Blanc circuit and a foray into the Italian Gran Paradiso region. I went back there last summer after a few years away, and just loved it, despite mixed weather. So it's back on  my programme. It seems I am also going to do the Tour of the Matterhorn mid August if I can get a full group - this by request!
But before any of that happens there's a winter of snowshoeing ahead. I hope people are going to sign up fast, some trips are filling but others are waiting for bookings. Never mind, if there are no takers I will just go by myself!!!