Monday, 25 May 2015

2015 - the news so far!

I can't believe it's been 6 months since I wrote anything here. And yet lots of great trips have happened so far this year, so here's a resumé of the action so far.
The winter was a good one in many ways, although it was made rather harder work because the snowpack was unstable in many areas due to a cold period early winter when there wasn't a very deep layer of snow. Once the snow fell in abundance there was plenty of it but deep down in the snowpack there were some nasty unconsolidated crystals which meant all slopes had to be treated with care. If you knew about this and were cautious then you could find plenty of safe walks and that's what I did.
Going out in the Alps in winter always requires care, and I have no problem turning around if I have the slightest doubt about a certain slope.

Beautiful calm day near les Diablerets

Hot conditions in the Queyras

Fortunately on snowshoes we are not looking for a special descent, not looking to get fresh tracks in the perfect powder, as skiers often are. We're just out for a walk, hoping to get lovely views and to enjoy a beautiful day in clear cold air, with maybe the odd bound down a small slope in nice deep snow if possible. Our aims are more modest, our objectives more flexible and so we can always find something fun to do even if we decide it's safest to stay the whole day in the forest.

A few moments of quiet reflection in the Queyras
  This winter I discovered Dévoluy, which is on the edge of the French Hautes Alpes, not very far from where we now live. This is a beautiful region of relatively low summits, but with some impressive steep faces, giving dramatic vistas. Although Super Dévoluy is a popular family ski resort it attracts a relaxed clientele and has only a limited domaine. This means that there is plenty of space for those of us looking for quiet walks and undisturbed snow.
We did a fantastic week of walking, and I am certain that Dévoluy will be a permanent fixture on my snowshoe programme in the future.

Lots of fresh snow at Dévoluy
A magic viewpoint in Dévoluy
I also did several trips to the Queyras, my favourite winter "office", tucked up against the Italian border in the shadow of the famous Monte Viso. I now feel very much at home in this region, having run trips there for the last 3 years. There are so many different options for snowshoeing, the mountains are very well adapted to what we do and there is always a great walk to be done, whatever the weather and whatever the group. The Valle d'Aosta also gave us a fine trip, with really spectacular views as did the Swiss Diablerets - this latter is a super early winter option....just a shame that the outrageously strong CHF makes any visit to Switzerland so expensive now.

Checking out the view in the Queyras

After the winter I was happy to spend time here in Provence. Springtime is just FANTASTIC here! I am still discovering so many secret gems in the many valleys and peaks just around where we live, it is very exciting.

One of the "new" summit walks I did this month in Provence
It seems there are endless possibilities for walks, long and short, and the flora is ever changing - a whole new set of plants and trees for me, after 25 years getting to know those of the Alps. The more time I spend here the more I am convinced that this northern part of Provence, relatively unknown as a walking destination, is actually a walker's paradise.


A lacewing
I had a small group in early May and we had the perfect week - great weather, warm temps, and the group themselves were fit and keen.
A Provence Summits week is confirmed for October - the first time I have run a trip then - and it will be fabulous. Next spring I will do a gentle trip and another summits trip to cater for all tastes.
I will never tire of watching the vultures here in Provence
The summer is looming. Next up is my Corsica Spring Safari which is a new itinerary, although I have run many trips in Corsica. It's going to be a 3 base holiday and we'll discover the northern part of this stunning island. I am looking forward to going back there, having not been for a few years; My memories of Corsica are all good, from our early visits climbing the granite, to my first client trip there back in the early '90s when we did the whole of the GR20 trek. This was back in the days when there was very little food available on the route itself so we had to carrry everything. I seriously underestimated the calorific needs of my group and we exited at the end of the trek looking somewhat emaciated! After this adventure I researched the most efficient calorie to weight foods and loaded up for the next time around.
Corsica as it was last time I was there
The GR20 is now far too busy for my tastes and we'll be going off the beaten track, enjoying all the beautiful vistas that define Corsica, but not jostling for room on the trail.
I'm looking forward to a bit of swimming in Corsica
The summer Alps trips are looking good although a couple could take more folks. I have no idea why some trips immediately filled (and more) whilst others have only a few bookings. All the trips are equally fact the one with the fewest bookings is probably my favourite Alps trek, the Gran Paradiso trek.
Last year's Gran Paradiso trek ended with this superb lake walk
Next year will be the 25th anniversary of Trekking in the Alps. I am proud and amazed to have got this far. If, back in 1991, anyone had told me that I would manage to make it work and reach this landmark I would have been very sceptical. We're going to celebrate and I hope lots and lots of people will sign up. If not I will be wandering along the trails alone, but I'll still take balloons and cake and have a party because 25 years is a VERY long time.
We're not there yet though. There's still lots of 2015 to enjoy. In our down time we're climbing the local cliffs, trying to get the old bodies up the steepest climbs we can and at the same time keeping a beady eye on our house project which is finally starting to take shape.
Holiday climbing - there won't be much of that now until the house is done. 
I'll try not to leave it another 6 months before I post again! 
Don't make me celebrate the 25th anniversary alone, be sure to come and join one of my trips!!