Well, it's another sunny morning in Tuscany at the villa at Lavacchio. Our guide this week, Kathy Grindrod, is just about to head off on the first day of walking with our guests who arrived yesterday at Pisa airport. The walking here is great with the limestone landscape offering ridges, and jagged peaks and towers, natural arches and bridges. Essentially, the mountainsides are forested by hornbeam and chestnut trees which offer an incredible lushness, but also help provide the contrast between shady walks, and then the openness and views of the summits and ridges. Our guests are a great bunch and there looks like being plenty of humour this week!
As for me - I have been looking at some mountain biking in the area as this is something we hope to offer fairly soon. The terrain is pretty wild and finding the routes is proving very challenging. The maps are, how can I put it politely? - not great! There are few signposts, if any, and the paths are often rarely used. This all makes for great biking and a real sense of exploration though I had more of an adventure than I cared for yesterday when I disturbed a wild boar in the forest! She was not impressed to see me and I beat a hasty retreat. I have also been told that there are wolves in this area and there have been several sightings recently. It would be great to see one but the chances are slim I guess. Anyway, must slap on the sunscreen, dig out the shades, climb onboard and get biking! Lindsay
I have just returned from one of my favorite places on this planet. What better way to end the winter season than to enjoy touring through the remote and seemingly endless hills and mountains of Norway.
I was working on our trip to the Geilo and Finse regions of Norway where skiers from all backgrounds (be it nordic track skiing, alpine or telemark) have an opportunity to come together and learn new skills, advance in the old and then put it all together by going on a traditional hut to hut tour on part of the Hardangervidda Plateau.
This 10 day trip starts with 4 days intensive tuition at Geilo, a peaceful ski resort which holds it's snow late on in the season, where clients were able to develop all aspects of their skiing including the opportunity to begin telemark turning. Then we moved on to Finse, a remote region between Oslo and Bergen, where we based ourselves for the hut to hut 'touring' phase of the trip. Good weather made this even more of an unforgettable experience. It certainly wasn't the cold temperatures you'd normally associate with Norway, it was even possible to get a good sun tan!
I do love the Alps but when you step away from the norm once in a while you are reminded of how beautiful the world is. If you are already a skier and would like to experience a wild, remote, country on skis then perhaps Norway is for you - utter bliss in my book!
2011 trip dates and updated itineraries will soon be available on our ski pages. But for now click here to see some rescent pics:
Being able to combine Italian coffee, food and hospitality with a healthy quantity of snowshoeing is my ideal week! So I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my week in Etroubles, near Aosta with the Austrian Alpine Club members. This is the second year that Tracks and Trails has guided a week of snowshoeing for Club members and as per last year I think I can say that a good time was had by all.
The week started with mixed weather with some snowfall and rather 'Scottish' visibility which in my mind never detracts from the 'snowshoe experience' as simply walking through a winter forest is magical and any additional views are a bonus but not essential! However, later in the week we had stunning weather for our overnight trip to the fabulous Rifugio Bonatti, in Val Ferret near Courmayeur. The hut was built 12 years ago and is so comfortable - with hot showers, and wonderful surroundings. Mara Rizzo and her daughter Sara who run the refuge do an amazing job of providing a great Italian welcome and plenty of delicious homecooked food. Our day out into the Malatra Valley behind the hut was fantastic with blue, blue skies, and fresh untracked powder snow - a really magical experience.
The team from the AAC were, as always, great company and many a laugh was had. This year the usual suspects turned up - Fred, George, Margaret, Pat and Sue - with the addition of newcomers Pat and Oliver. It's always a pleasure when our clients return for another trip into the mountains with us, and the aforementioned are now like old friends! Next year we are planning a Traverse of the Chablais area which will be a six day through trip making a true journey across the mountains. Details will be available soon.
I am just back from doing our first crossing of the Chablais region on snowshoes! This winter we organised a private trip for three of our regular guests and what a fantastic trip it turned out to be. In six days we passed through a stunning winter landscape where we saw a grand total of only two ski mountaineers and two snowshoe groups. For our Traverse of the Chablais we began in Megevette in the St Jeoire Valley, about an hour from Geneva and we made our way across the mountains to Lake Geneva. It was extremely satisfying to make a true journey on snowshoes and to finish by dipping our feet in the Lake! We are now looking at offering this trip as a Scheduled Departure next winter 2011 and it should be on the website soon. Meantime, if you are interested please drop us an email and we will be sure to keep you a place. For this inaugural trip we carried all our kit, very little extra to be honest, and stayed in very comfortable hotels in the valleys every night. We are thinking about offering baggage transfers for the next trip which means your rucksack can be even lighter. I am now in Courmayeur in Italy in the Cafe des Guides just catching up on mail, and about to head to the fabulous Rifugio Bonatti in Val Ferret - more later!!
Whilst Lindsay traverses the Chablais on snowshoes with members of the Austrian Alpine Club I am based in Chamonix running our last Mont Blanc Snowshoe week of the season. Last week we experienced litterally buckets of fresh snow making the roads a nightmare but the skiing & snowshoeing excellent! This week we are having 'mixed' conditions - from blue skies and sunshine to fresh 'atmospheric' dustings of fresh snow. But in general the weather's definately calmed down alot. On our Mt. Blanc snowshoe week we head to various locations to enjoy the views and differing cultures of the region. On Tuesday we made use of the good weather and headed over to the Swiss/Italian border to the Grand St. Bernard pass and monastry (or hospice) where we spent the night. We started our walk at 1927m and made our way to this historic location at an altitude of 2472m. The hospice sits high on the mountain pass and is circled by mountains whose highest peaks are Mt. Blanc and the Grand Combin. Good weather is not common due to the pass being the meeting point of so many peaks. We were in luck this week what with a window of good weather making our trip away unforgetable as the views were amazing.
Last week I was joined by Leslie from the US, Arletta from Poland, Team SA (from South Africa) and Susie from the UK on our multi-activity winter week. There truely were an international feel to our week. Over the 6 days the group stayed in a luxury chalet and were able to enjoy getting to grips with both cross country skis styles - trying both the classic and skating - and experienced days out in the mountains in winter travelling on snowshoes. The holiday is based in France but as we are so close to Italy we are also able to nip across the border for a chance to sample a little Italian snow and of course not forgetting the cuisine too. Team SA were able to add on a few days and experience a little of what Switzerland has to offer and when they left us headed off to Zermatt to alpine ski under the eyes of the Matterhorn. I'm waiting to hear how they got on?
Last week we were joined out snowshoeing by journalist Tamsin Omond writing for the Guardian Newspaper. Today her article was published in the Guardian Travel section and also at Guardian online (http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/series/green-list-2010). Not only were we selected for this piece but also now feature in the Guardian Green Travel List for 2010.
The piece, featuring eco-friendly travel companies wanted an insight into accessing the 'back country' with little impact to the environment. Click here to read Tamsin's review on her day out with me.
What a weekend of glorious weather! I am just back from running our Snowshoe Safari in Switzerland where we had a group making the journey from Leysin to Chateau d'Oex. We were blessed with blue skies and sunshine and some wonderful snow conditions with light fluffy powder shimmering in the air as we walked. The weekend, which involves a three day journey, is a great introduction to snowshoeing and we make it very easy with all luggage being transported by taxi between our accommodation so only a light day sack is required. It's always great fun to introduce guests to a new activity and it was really satisfying to see everyone taking to this ancient form of winter travel. Thanks to Angela, Christopher, Alun, Marion and Katie for the great company! PS girls you really were the 'luge' stars - excellent technique!
I'm just back to the Chamonix Valley after another great ski trip to the Jura mountains where the snow continues to fall and the temperature is staying low - keeping the tracks in excellent condition. Our 'extreme team' (The Mackenzies and Janet) have just completed approximately 100km on skis in just four days. We began our ski in Mouthe, at the source of the Doubs river, and enjoyed skiing on pressed tracks all the way to Giron which sits just north of Geneva, making it easy to depart for their late flight home. Our journey took us through a variety of mountain villages, farms & pastures used for grazing in the summer months, hilly forested areas and flat valley bottoms. Travelling with only a small backpack enabled us to enjoy skiing both the ups(!) and the downs along the way. The accommodation we use is in a mixture of rustic farm houses and small family hotels where you can enjoy local dishes, cheese and wine. The trail is also close to many wonderful coffee and cake stops! To add to the ambience of our journey we even caught up with skiers training for one of France's longest cross country ski races, the Transjurassienne which was also held over the weekend.
Just in from a fabulous blue sky day with Megan, Ali and Louise. A great girly day out with lots of banter and things to catch up on. I last saw Megan two years ago when she was 5 months pregnant ....when we snowshoed and cross country skied in and around Chamonix ...she didn't allow her pregnancy to stop her from getting into the mountains that's for sure. So today, with Dad babysitting, we made the most of the clear skies, still air and masses of sunshine. We made our way up Mont de l'Arpille on snowshoes which sits at 2085m just over the Swiss border from France. With 360 degree views we were spoilt for choice as to where to look for our lunch stop. Tomorrow we are off to Italy for some xc skiing where 2 year old Freyer will get a chance to ride in style in a Norwegian 'pulk' / sledge.