Ok, we can't get all of you squeezed on the blog tonight, but to keep the family happy here is your chance to see Mum in a blizzard while crossing the Jura mountains on her cross country skis! On the whole we had excellent weather and conditions but we did have the occasional snowy flurry which did ensure we had plenty of the white stuff to ski on while doing the GTJ. Jenny was great fun to be with and there was always a smile on her face, apart from when she plummeted between the bunk beds last night - anyway, dont worry she's still in one piece and will be home tomorrow. She tells us that the 'kids' will be returning with her to the Jura to make their own epic journey. Take care Jenny and hope to see you again some day.
So here we are in Giron after 8 days of crossing the Jura mountains on the GTJ. 175 km and more later and 'N' has stuck with it, improved his technique and on the last day was leading the pack to the finish line. The team have been great fun this week and eight stalwarts gritted their teeth in the face of a blizzard this morning and followed Julia through the silent snow covered forests as they completed the final 30 km. A quick stop at the Grange de l'Errance for afternoon vin chaud and excellent chocolate cake and the GTJ was in the can! Well done to all who joined us for this adventurous journey across one of regions best kept secrets!
We are having a fantastic week traversing the Jura mountains on the French/Swiss border. The snow conditions really are wonderful with a great cover providing us with a landscape of silent forests and sparkling snowflakes. We have eight clients who are embracing the challenge of the Grand Traverse du Jura or GTJ, which is a truly classic long distance cross country ski covering just over 170 km. With the luggage being transferred daily to the next accommodation it means light rucksacks and the chance to really enjoying the skiing without carrying too much weight. Each day we are skiing around 25 km, and the team are doing well with muscles settling into the rhythm of skiing. Some team members have demonstrated one or two interesting 'acrobatic' movements which have impressed the Guide!! However, all is well, and there seem to be smiling faces at the end of each day with any aches soon forgotten over a 'vin chaud'. Tonight there may be a bit of a party as we reach the 100 km mark today! We are currently on day four of our journey, and aim to reach Giron on saturday night.
Who said that snowshoeing was all about hard work! I have just had a great time with Sheila and Peter on our Mont Blanc Snowshoe Week which is based in Argentiere. We had blue skies on all the days except one, and had wonderful fresh and light powder. Chamonix Valley was at its best with stunning views to the Mont Blanc Massif, and our two days up at the famous Grand St Bernard Monastery where fabulous with crisp clear days with very few people around. A special moment was on day two when we simply stood looking at the views over to Italy and enjoying perfect silence - something which is not that easy to come by these days! It makes me appreciate what a great job I have to be working with our guests in the mountains, and introducing them to the Alps in winter. At the end of each day there was a hot tub waiting at our accommodation at Yeti Lodge in Argentiere which was a real treat!!
It seems as though Christmas was only yesterday but we are already at the end of January! Which means that next week I leave for the Jura mountains, France and Switzerland’s answer to Norway. These rolling ‘hills’, reach no more that 1600m in altitude and make excellent farmland in the summer. This very rural & less frequented region has an entirely different feel to its’ neighbouring jaggy spires and peaks of the Alps.
So to get in the mood today Karoline, Vicci, with 6 months old Max, and I went over to Samoëns to the Nordic Festival! Max had all the attention, even from the media, as he was the only one travelling in a ‘Norwegian pulk’ – a ski sledge for babies – see picture! It was an excellent day with lots of ‘have a try’ activities free of charge….from snowshoeing, cross country skiing, dog sledding, ski-joëring, to biathlon and dog-joëring. The latter two of which I tried! I have always watched the biathlon events on TV with amazement as to how they are able to lower their heart rate with enough efficiency to shoot! We were given a short race to test our ‘ski to shoot ability’ - it was excellent fun...and then came the husky dog! Each skier had a dog to pull you around the cross country tracks whilst you ski along behind – what a way to travel - my new sport!
Last weekend we ran our January cross country ski weekend in Italy. Aimed at beginner level or those wanting to refresh their nordic skiing skills we spend 3 full days skiing the tracks at different locations in the Aosta Valley. The cross country tracks are in perfect condition at the moment. We've had plenty of snow (and continues falling as I type) and as the temperatures stay cool the pistes are pressed into excellent condition.
Cross country skiing can be adapted to suit all levels. But the fitter you are obviously means you can have longer days out. Skiing with me were fell runners from the UK who had tried cross country skiing before but wanted to learn the right technique for future adventures. Once they had gained enough skills to cope with a variety of snow conditions and terrain we went on a 25km journey on day 2! Our last day together was spent on skates but still they had the energy to get some km's in their legs. In total we skied about 70km in 3 days. Nordic skiing is not only fun and an opportunity to enjoy the snow but is also perfect cross training for other sports. And whilst in Italy we benefit from excellent cuisine to top off a great weekend!
Our next ski weekend is 18th-22nd February - Happy New Year.
The Alps have seen a white Christmas Day. Today my family joined me for a very wintery walk on snowshoes! We now look forward our Christmas lunch and to clear skies and sunshine tomorrow.
Whilst Chamonix thickens it's winter coat in time for the festive season.....
Lindsay and Julia would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with adventures in the great outdoors!
Janet and I spent a further 2 weeks continuing our training in preparation for the big day. In the Gokyo Valley we ascended Gokyo Ri at sunset and visited the glacial lakes surrounded by views of the Everest range and Cho Oyu, 8201m. Runners were able to take things at their own pace depending on their acclimatisation. Some runners, more accustomed to road running, had more than just the altitude to test them. My test was whether i'd last another 2 weeks in a tent! Now on my 8th week camping I was dreaming of my warm comfy bed and wondering what it would be like to not have to sleep in two down jackets and in a down sleeping bag (not to mention all the layers underneath to combat the overnight cold of -20)! That along with walking uphill for weeks on end didn't register as my 'normal' marathon preparation! In the meantime we kept our minds busy testing the lovely bakeries along the way (carbo loading I believe it's called?) and by soaking up the culture of the region visiting monasteries and enjoying living in the mountains.
Each runner was required to have a medical the day before the race to be deemed 'fit to run' the 42km course. As expected, many runners were recovering from stomach bugs, chesty choughs (commonly known as the 'Khumbu cough' due to the dry air in the Solukhumbu), altitude headaches and loss of sleep - but thankfully by race day most of us were given the thumbs up to race. Finally we arrived at our destination, Gorak Shep, 5140m, the race start and the Basecamp setting for several 1950's Everest expeditions. Here we all slept in simple teahouses and were woken at 4.30am with breakfast tea and porridge in bed - a luxury! The time always flies on race mornings and by 6.15am we were all stood waiting for the signal to start. At 6.30am we crossed the line, anyone would have thought the local Nepali runners were only running a 100 metres, they shot off out of sight. One lady was also wearing her regional dress over her running tights! The first mile I would say was technically the hardest due to the altitude and crossing the glacial moraine but thankfully on fresh (ish) legs - then we began our descent. Our route was mainly on good trails but being that high means when you are going down you can still feel the lack of oxygen. The descent meant I ran a little too hard at the start so my legs definitely suffered when we began the 1100m of ascent! The local support especially from the bright cheery children and regular drinks stops was really appreciated. Not to mention negotiating fully loaded yak trains on route! As the temperatures rose and we neared Namche Bazaar (3440m) I got my final boost of energy to see my tired legs up the last hill to the finish line crossing it in 6h36, 3rd non- Nepali lady. Anna Frost a pro- runner from New Zealand swept up breaking the female record flying round the course in 4h35! Janet excelled and came in 7h42, 6th non-Nepali lady and the first male was local Deepak Raj Rai in 3h59. The hardest bit was the 6 hour hilly walk out the following day!
Welcome to Nepal, Solukhumbu Valley, Everest Region! I have just completed a fantastic 5 weeks leading treks to Everest Basecamp and up the famous Everest view point Kala Pattar (5550m). What with wonderful scenery, challenging climbs, beautiful people and culture I already know that I will soon be coming back!
But for now I am preparing for my own challenge – the Everest Marathon! Joined by fellow running friend, Janet Lefton, we are currently amongst 80 other runners from around the world, medics and support crew who will all walk in and acclimatise together to Basecamp (5200m) where we will begin our 42km race back to the Sherpa Village of Namche Bazaar (3450m). Ok so it’s mainly downhill but it still definitely has its’ challenges along the way. Apart from acclimatizing and staying healthy the race start point has temperatures as low as minus 20 and moving at 5200m can feel like you are literally crawling along the trail, not to mention the cold/dry & dusty air that’s pouring into you with every breath.
Today is an another acclimatisation walk to 4000m, to the Everest View Hotel which gives an amazing panorama of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and awe inspiring Ama Dablam. Tomorrow we set off for a training run and higher camp and begin our ascent to the start line….!