Lindsay and I have enjoyed a great winter here in the Alps, meeting new faces and catching up with the regular ones too. We've visited some of favorite locations and have been exploring new areas too. And next season will have a few more regions to visit either on snowshoes or skis.
The Alps are blossoming as we speak, there's still snow high on the mountains, but the valleys & middle mountains are enjoying the sun and warm temperatures taking shape ready for summer. Everything looks lush & green ready for walking, biking, hiking and relaxing!
So it's our 'inter-season' at the moment. Time to play & enjoy a little bit of Tracks and Trails staff training be it on our bikes, running you name it! Lindsay's just back from a rock climbing trip to Provence and is desperate for a new road bike. I on the otherhand enjoyed a weeks ski mountaineering last week, exploring and getting height to acclimitise for a challenge i've had in mind for sometime. To ski Mont Blanc!
I spent 5 days skinning to high places and enjoying, the spring snow ski touring in preperation for a 2 day hit on Mt. B. I've always been weary of the ski descent due to it's threat of serac falls and large crevasses. We had however heard that the conditions were good and what with a great forecast and good snow covering it was time to give it a go! So last week I went up to the Grand Mulet refuge with my husband Olly which is at 3,000m for the night. It's situation above the glacier is amazing, the views/sunset alone are worth it! We woke for a 1.30 breakfast and by 2am were back on our skis skinning in zig zags gaining height. The skies were clear and all you could see were the lights of headtorches of others on the same mission. Our summit of 4810m seemed along way off at this point! After a couple of hours we switched to crampons and axes and strapped our skis to our backs to ascend the ice pitch the 'Arête Royale'. This section is a little bit of front pointing & walking but steeply rises along a knife edge (probably a good thing it was still dark!). But the track was good and the ice very 'grippy'! This section is a good 700m or more of the climb and as it's pretty much vertical you gain altitude very quickly.
This finally eased to enable us to switch back to our skis and skin the flatter section to the Col du Dôme. Here we were back on crampons passing the Vallot Hut which sits 4362m for the final climb to the summit. The sun was now up and the views of the 3 Monts and panorama around us was opening up to view many great peaks like the Gran Paradiso, Grand Combin, Matterhorn - you name it. The ridge to the summit was cold to say the least! We took our pictures and felt the warmth immediately as we left the top to return to our skis and sarnies. Now for the ski down - the Glacier des Bossons, from the Col at 4280m back to the Plan d'Aiguille at 2310m. I've skied many glaciers but this one is huge. I've looked at this glacier so many times and wondered what it's like up there. But I felt so small in this massive ice field. What with creeking noises as the ice shifts, the serac debris to slalom ski around, ice pillars to ski under, crevasse holes to negotiate & jump over(!) you almost feel the glacier is moving whilst your on it! But the snow was good, some cold & soft and then spring snow towards the end. The ski was fun but felt very commiting, a great memory to share with your other half. It reminded me of how the mountains are still on the move and we are there to both enjoy but respect them!
Read Harriet Gordon's article on the walks every American should try. Well rather than keeping it just for our friends in the US take a look at Harriet's article for some worldwide hiking ideas this year.
Whether you are looking for have an adventurous weekend or cross something off of your bucket list, nature is, and probably should be, involved. One of the best ways to get back to it is to go on a hike. With literally thousands of trails taking anywhere from hours to months to complete, it can all be somewhat to very confusing. With little money and less time at stake for most hikers, what is the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck/minute?
Well, it's been an interesting few weeks tackling Mont Blanc from all sides! First, there was my epic (well, epic for me) road bike ride around Mont Blanc taking in many of the Cols made famous by the Tour de France. Three and a half days solo with over ten hours in the saddle each day due to my lack of preparation - most fit folk seem to do around a maximum of 7 hrs on the stages! But it was certainly an experience and apart from a very sore rear I finished in good form. In fact it really got me into road biking and I am now planning my next epic!
There then followed a hiking Tour du Mont Blanc with a great bunch of clients. To be honest my clients are always 'nice' - I wont have it any other way..... ! We were lucky with the weather and had a week of stunning views and a whole lot of laughs. I really enjoy the trip even though I have now done it many times. Each trip is different depending on the group dynamics and the weather which means there is always something new to consider/enjoy. In fact the last two TMB's have provided the most diverse and interesting conversations from literature, film, poetry, to medical ethics, and the philosophy of law - you name it and my 'gang' seem to have covered it.
Finally, Mont Blanc was tackled full on by myself and my great friend Kathy Grindrod when we did the classic traverse over the summit itself from the Aiguille du Midi station to the Gouter Refuge. 5 hrs to the summit on a stunning morning with the descent to the Gouter. After 15 years of looking at the big white one I decided it was time to climb it. It was great to be a team of two girls amidst the groups of guided parties and feel like we were doing it under our own steam. Some exciting moments were had on the ice pitch on Mont Maudit, and crossing the infamous Gouter Couloir but we lived to tell the tale. An absolutely amazing experience! Lindsay
Just back from a ten day Tour de Mont Blanc with a great bunch of guys. Interesting for a female guide to deal with an all male team, but they were no trouble! According to Russ he was in no doubt who was in charge! We had great weather for the trip with glorious sunshine and some stunning views of the glaciers and peaks. We were a Scottish guide, two Canadians, two English and an Irishman. I have to say we had great laughs and sent young Cody up a few extra peaks. It's always tricky when one of the team is younger and more energetic than the majority but as a 22 year old Cody coped extremely well with his more mature team mates and totally repaid the trust I placed in him which allowed him to always be a hop, skip and a jump ahead of the rest of the group. He waited at every junction and never once did I feel that he would abuse the 'slack' which allowed him to be a wee bit ahead. If you read this Dad, you should be proud of him. Despite trying to load him down with group kit he still had so much energy. Kevin, the Irishman, was a shining example of someone who had put in so much effort to get fit for the trip, and credit to him for his efforts which more than paid off. Russ and Richard were experts on beer and their sense of humour provided many humours interludes. Anyway, guys - I had a great trip and thanks to you all for your company!