Well, it's only 1st November and today on Cairngorm it was a winter wonderland. I honestly have never seen so many ski tourers out ever! Winter routes were also attracting plenty of climbers. I saw teams on Savage Slit and ran into Mountain Guide John Lyall who had just done Deep Throat with John Jones. Apparently, the climbing was in great 'nick' and providing excellent fun. I went round the Northern Corries on my skis and the base was excellent - in fact as good as I have seen it. The photo is taken at the top of Ewan's Butress and as you can see there is a good covering. So let's hope the snow stays for while, and certainly with the current cold temperatures it could be here for a while. At present you can ski from and to your car. Off ski touring again tomorrow in the hope of more beautiful snow. It only takes a day out in these conditions for me to be fired up for winter and a season in the Alps. Fingers crossed that more is to come!
Tracks and Trails has been involved in the latest instructional DVD to be produced by the Briitsh Mountaineering Council. It's the third time I have been asked to provide the commentary for this excellent series of films and it's great to be involved in producing educational and inspirational material for outdoor enthusiasts. So far in the 'Essentials' series there has been Winter Essentials, and Alpine Essentials and now soon to appear in the shops is Hill Walking Essentials. Each DVD has a main film usually in the form of a 'day out' where we look at the basic techniques required, but they also have many 'chapters' covering each subject in more detail. You can get the DVD from the British Mountaineering Council or the Mountaineering Council of Scotland However, you may of course have heard enough of me if you have been on a trip with Tracks and Trails!!
It's only early October and the snow has arrived! I headed off to Swiss Val Ferret today for a very wintery walk. We were heading for Le Chantonet which is a wee summit near the Petit Col Ferret. It was very atmospheric as we headed up the first part of the climb with larch trees coated in fresh powder - really beautiful. I think my friend Barry and I got a bit of a shock when we realised how much snow had fallen overnight as we were up to our knees in places. The compass was out for the first time in ages with visibility down to about 20m. We successfully made our way up around 600m of the ascent before deciding that not being able to see anything was a bit of a lost cause. It was, however, a lovely day and after deciding to turn back and return to lower altitude we were rewarded with blue skies and sunshine! It certainly put us into winter mode and I can't wait for more snow to arrive and to get those snowshoes out!
Whoever said that we often take our own backyard forgranted was wrong! I have just returned from a walk in the mountains behind our village of Finhaut in Switzerland and was blown away by the beauty of this crisp autumn day. I set off from the Lac d'Emosson and climbed up through the Gorge de Veudale surrounded by the golds, and reds of the trees and grasses. A stiff hike saw me to the summit of the Cheval Blanc at 2830m. Its a wonderful austere rocky mountain surrounded by the most amazing rock - you can see the layers and folds where the rock has been shaped and formed by volcanic activity. One of the great things about this part of the Alps - perhaps any part of the Alps - is that there is so much to do. Every day offers the opportunity to explore yet another trail, yet another mountain and I really think it will keep me going a lifetime! I had the summit to myself and crunched across the first snows of winter before descending and coming across a herd of ibex - a real treat. I was watching the ibex grazing - mother and this years young - and then noticed a marmot also watching the ibex! The mountains are such wonderful therapy and although I have so enjoyed walking with our guests this summer, but it really is great to have some R&R and have the chance to walk alone for a change - I am sure we all feel this sometimes!
I woke up this morning to a mist filled valley, but with the promise of plenty of sunshine to come once it all burns off. At this time of year its almost as though Chamonix Valley heaves a sigh of relief as the busy summer season passes and autumn sets in. To be honest this is one of the best months to enjoy walking in the mountains - the leaves are just turning gold, yellow and red, and the slopes a kind of burnt gold. The myrtille bushes (that's blaeberry or bilberry to most of us) are also on thier way to becoming a deep scarlet. Anyway, I'm going to have a long coffee and wait until the crag above our village dries out then indulge in a day of swinging around on ropes and scaring myself silly!