Sunday, 7 October 2018

Still here!

Well it's been a long time since I last posted. I quite often think about it but then either realise I
don't have time or realise what I had imagined writing is better left in my head rather than voiced out loud!
But it's time for a catch up. 2018 has in many ways been a great year for Trekking in the Alps and Provence - lots of really successful trips winter, spring and summer, with fabulous groups. Lots of fun, lots of exciting hikes and amazing views.
As ever, there are days that are great and days that are just good and the odd day that is best forgotten. But this has also been a year when I have made some important decisions about the future, the main one of which is that I will be doing fewer trips away in the Alps. It's time to ease off a little and spend more time hiking and climbing for me, and also working nearer to home here in Provence.
But the future is really bright because this means that whilst we move away from quantity, the trips will remain of the highest quality. I am very excited about this - working with my regulars is such a pleasure and an honour - the Trekking in the Alps and Provence Community is a fabulous group of people who come back to hike and snowshoe with me, some every year others just from time to time. Friendships have been forged on my trips and people now form their own groups to return together, whilst new people sign up each season. I am very proud of this and look forward to planning trips as long as people ask me to.

The winter was a real learning experience in many ways. The weather was never stable in the Alps, and pretty much every day the avalanche risk was relatively significant. This doesn't stop play on snowshoes, but it is hugely important to be flexible on where we go. For this reason I do not offer snowshoe treks where we would be locked into an itinerary that may not be the best choice on a given day. My method is to have an idea of where we'll go each day but to be ready to change that plan even at the very last minute if conditions do not seem right to me. Having been snowshoeing for almost 30 years I think I can say that I am quite good at changing my mind! But what this winter really showed me was that you don't have to have a definite route to have fun on snowshoes; you don't need to go to a summit or col, to have a memorable day out. Snowshoeing is so many things...the snow of course, and  the hike; but also the light, the silence, the wildlife, the sun glinting off the snow crystals, the shapes created by the wind, and just being in such magnificent and beautiful surroundings. I can honestly say that this winter I rarely did the walks I had in mind on the day I had in mind, but I had some of the very best snowshoeing I have ever had - sometimes in the forests but much of the time high above with far reaching views. I know I had very happy groups too. Looking at these shots makes me being to look forward to next winter...although I do intend to make the most of autumn for now!

The spring trips were wonderful, with Corsica taking centre stage for the abundance of swimming as well as the hiking! I will not go to Corsica in 2019 but the trip is already confirmed for 2020 with an almost full group. It's great to know this far ahead what we're doing and to have plenty of time to plan for it. One advantage of giving myself a little more time between trips is that I can think about how to improve on the programmes and have time to recce any new ones. And maybe even to post more than once a year on my blog.

Next summer will feature a couple of real high quality trips, notably my Southern Summits which is going to be amazing. It's exciting to be discovering new areas to hike after so many years in the business. Here's a couple of taster shots of where we'll be going:

Finally, like I said at the start of this blog post, I often think about blog posts I might write, but mainly they stay in my head...the sort of thoughts that once you've processed them in your mind for a while, you find you've worked them through anyway. But one incident from this summer has stayed with me. A member of one of my groups, someone who had very little experience of being out in the high mountains, objected to some advice along the way and came out with a comment that in all my 28 years of guiding here I have never heard: "I've paid so I will do what I want".This really did get me thinking...where could such an attitude lead? You pay your money so then you have some sort of insurance against anything happening to you? I think you pay for a guided trip so as to learn, so as to give yourself the best chance of getting the most out of your trip, so as to be able to let someone else take a large part of the responsibility for decision making, planning, organisation; you pay for that person's experience and can choose to learn as much or as little as you wish. But paying doesn't absolve you from being sensible in the mountains, from listening and heeding advice. In this situation it wasn't dangerous at all, I just wanted to share an approach to hiking where we make minimum impact on the terrain, but I am certainly glad I haven't heard that too often on my trips - once in 28 years is enough!!

On that note, I will take a break for a while and here are some nice shots of this year's Alps, Provence and Corsica memories. Looking forward to the next round.