This years 'between seasons road trip' has taken my husband and I into Spain. We left Chamonix a month ago making our way where the sunshines, through France, Andorra and then the Pyrenees in search of amazing rock climbing, hills to climb on the bike or on foot and catching up with friends along the way. A perfect holiday! We are travelling in style in our custom-made campervan – our well loved home on wheels (fitted out by the other half). I think it's the best way to travel. We have food, a bed, transport and all the 'toys' on board!
For the past week we have been in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees, in a remote village called Rodellar, situated at the head of a limestone gorge. Amazing towers of rock to challenge the body and mind, along with fabulous trails to run on - for the rest days!
Well as summer officially draws to a close in the Alps i've just managed to squeeze in a long awaited trip myself....the 'Routes des Grandes Alpes' (RDGA) by road bike. This fabulous journey was first thought of back in 1909 when the Touring Club of France initiated work on joining the highest possible road cols (or mountain passes) for the new and fast improving motor car. By 1913 work was complete and the inaugural run was made in 5 one day stages. In 1937 a new high pass was opened, the Col de l'Iseran at 2764m, and later the Col de la Bonette at an amazing 2860m! This classic French route officially starts at Lake Geneva and finishes at Menton, along from Nice at the Mediterranean Sea. This amazing journey is some 700km and crosses 16 high passes of which many are over 2,000m. So plenty of ups and downs....but not so many alongs! Many of the Cols are often crossed during the Tour de France, such as the Telegraphie, Galibier, Colombiere and Aravis to name a few! Since it's inception the RDGA is now popular for motor bikes, road bikers and classic cars enthusiasts and along the footpaths of the GR5, which run near the road route, are mountain bikers and walkers seeking to complete this wonderful mountain route. As a party of four we enjoyed fabulous September sunshine and enjoyed an unforgetable adventure through beautiful mountain scenery which changed day by day as we passed through many of France's National parks before arriving by the sea. A hard trip to beat in excellent company! Julia
Some of our guests are talented it song writers it seems.... this is from Phil, Linda, Sally, Pat, Malcolm and Robin who were an excellent team. Many thanks for the great company....
"Lindsay took us up today for a spot of undulation, when we were only half way there we'd all opt for flagellation !
Malcolm he's our racing snake, he's up and round the bend. We only see him twice a day...when we start and when we end.
Jambon fromage again today, orange juice and chocolate toffee. We all had it for our lunch but Pat said "who's for coffee?"
Three of us had gammy legs; that's Lindsay, Pat and Phil. We struggled up the mountain slopes, and cursed our way downhill!
Lindsay gave us stretches every day, we watched Robin, Lin and Sally. It wasn't much like exercise, more like le corps de ballet!
Enfin le tour est tout fini. Nous sommes heureux mais fatigues. Chere Lindsay nous te donnes adieux! Let's meet again some day!
We have had an email from our regular guest Fred Nind suggesting that we instigate a photo competition for the 'Tracks and Trails' t-shirt spotted in the most interesting/weird place! Fred's contribution is his t-shirt on top of the Flat Iron in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. Anyone, able to beat that??
Fred probably has a whole wardrobe of Tracks and Trails t-shirts given the number of times he has now been on trips with us!!
Just back from a hectic stint of filming for the BBC. When I am not gallavanting round the Alps I also Produce "The Adventure Show" for the BBC. This weekend we were filming the British Off Road Triathlon Championships which were held at St Mary's Loch in the Scottish Borders. It really was a great location for the event offering excellent swim, mountain bike, and fell running routes. It was fantastic to be in amongst so many fit, motivated people who just really enjoy being in the great outdoors. As always I had a great team of Presenters (Dougie Vipond and Desiree Wilson) and Camera guys, Paul Diffley, Adam Campbell, Joe French, Chris McHendry, Dominic Scott and Krishan Hukam...thought I had better do the roll call so they all get a mention!!
Julia and I are hoping to run more fitness and health orientated trips next year and attending the Championships certainly inspired me! The Adventure Show will be screened on BBC 2 Scotland in late September.
Oh, the winners this year were - Senior Male - Ian Leitch, and Senior Female - Nicola Duggan who beat her previous winning time by over 20 minutes. Ian was competiting for the first time so an excellent result for him!
Two families joined us last week - one from the US and the other the UK to enjoy some of the best of what Chamonix has to offer. In a week we managed to squeeze in rafting or hydrospeed (crazy swimming in glacial water!), canyoning, rock climbing, mountain biking, rope courses, a visit up the Aiguille to Midi cable car and Mer de Glace glacier and....if that wasn't enought to tire folk out we trekked on 4 of days with a night in a mountain hut! A pretty busy week for all ages not to mention the guide! But there was still time to relax in the hot tub and enjoy afternoon tea to help re-fuel for the next days adventures. Highlights for this group were canyoning, being able to explore and climb with nature, and the night in the mountain hut where the following day we were able to walk onto the adventure park and play on zip lines and the high ropes course. Just another day in the office! For more pictures check out our Walking pages and Family Weeks.
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
This weekend Chamonix is absolutely buzzing. Two weeks ago the valley was really sleepy with just the locals, a few walkers and the early alpinists filling the cafes and restaurants. But this weekend is seen as the true 'start to the summer season' as this is when all the mountain huts & refuges open for business - not to mention the warm weather we are now having. 31 degrees yesterday!
Lindsay and I were joined by a Nordic Walking group from Ashbourne, Derbyshire at the weekend. Working in conjunction with their local Instructor Sam we arranged for a group of 20 walkers to spend a relaxing weekend based in the Chamonix Valley. Using Argentiere as our base we enjoyed walking in 3 countries in 3 days. First stop was Italy & Val Veny where we walked enjoyed a 'latte' Italian style followed by a truely relaxing experience in the thermal baths at the luxurious Pre St Didier - 3 hours of R&R with snowcapped peaks all around. And yes this is 'work'! Our next day was spent nipping across the border to Swizerland where our team eagerly and with relative ease reached the summit of Mont Arpille - pole power! After a birthday tea for one of our group once again there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy the hot tub before another wonderful meal prepared by Emily at Yeti Lodge. Our final day was a walk to Chamonix town itself with time to enjoy the shops and soak up the cafe lifestyle. With that said I am feeling pretty relaxed myself now and ready to start the summer walking season!
I am not long back from a trip to Skye in Scotland where I was Producing for the BBC TV programme, The Adventure Show. We were busy filming the Skye Sportive a challenging 151 km in some of Scotland's finest scenery. Talking of which it is pouring down in Chamonix this morning, so rather Scottish in the Alps today! Anyway, it was great to see so many folk out enjoying biking in what is truly a stunning landscape. First home in the Skye Mor was Ben Thompson who had a great ride in not the most ideal weather conditions. A bit dreach to say the least but he was still smiling at the end. There was also a Skye Beag event for those who didnt want to commit to the 151 km, which was a more manageable 78 km. My friends Fran and Emma did this one, and appeared to enjoy it?!
The programme also features some top tips on road biking from trainer and coach Scot Tares, from Skinny Tyres. To be honest I was surprised and interested to learn there is much more to road biking that I had thought. Not just a case of getting on and pedaling as I had thought!
The Adventure Show will be screening the Skye Sportive very soon. We will keep you posted as to the date.