Just in from a day spent cleaning up the bothy in Glenfeshie. Bothies are such a wonderful part of our mountain culture, a place of shelter for many years for those walking and working in the hills, but sadly they are not always well treated. So, off I set with two mates - Heather Morning, who works with the Cairngorm Ranger Service and Di Gilbert, Climbing Instructor - to do our bit for our mountain heritage. To be honest is was a wet day when the tops held little appeal and a walk with a mission seemed a good idea. The bothy looked fairly good, but even so once you start trying to tidy up you realise that folk have still managed to leave enough rubbish to fill a number of bags. There was even an attempt by one group to bury a plastic bag filled with non-perishable goods, as if plastic and tin were going to disintegrate in a short time! They had tried to bury it, which was a start, but it was only 15 metres from the bothy and the plastic was left sticking out of the ground - not a great idea! After a brew we eventually set off home with various bags of rubbish and Di with a broken chair strapped to her rucksack. We probably made a rather unusual site but at least Di had a chair in case she needed to rest her legs, thought the legs were at an interesting angle to the rest of the chair! Please if you are out in the hills this winter DO NOT leave rubbish lying around. Both Julia and myself are keen to impress upon our clients that the mountains are to be respected and cherished for future generations and are not a dumping ground. Ok, I will get off my soap box and just say 'take your rubbish home' even if you think it's not bad to leave a little it all adds up! Enjoy the hills.
PS the photo shows Heather and Di and helper Milly who is a Search and Rescue Dog. If you meet Milly in the hills be nice to her as you never know when you might need her!
Europe’s Grand Canyon - the famous Verdon Gorge – soon will feature as a NEW walking trip for 2009. Having just returned from a rock climbing holiday in the south of France I came back buzzing with tales of the Verdon Gorge. I was climbing and walking there and getting all the logistics together for a new multi-day journey for T&T's next year. I truly think this walk goes through some of the most dramatic and natural scenery in France! The Verdon Gorge is 25km long making it the largest canyon in Europe. The rock cliffs are so impressive and from the top the river below seems so tiny. But from the bottom in the gorge the sky seems like a dot! Whilst walking you can witness griffin vultures swooping around and rock climbers plastered to the rock faces. The trails I went on were very varied from fantastic mountain/rocky scenery to historic mountain villages. The villages are all set in high panoramic venues and have a great selection of restaurants, bars and plenty of museums for local history. The end of my walk took me to the lake at Moustiers where you can have a sunbathe or hire a pedalo for a closer look at the gorge itself. The itineraries in this area are endless what with the famous GR4 and GR5 also meeting in this area and the lovely lavender fields to explore.
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!