Last week saw the successful completion of the 3rd ever Mont Blanc Snowshoe week, led by Tracks and Trails in association with KE Adventure Travel. So what makes a trip a success? Well, for me, it's a combination of several factors. For this week, in particular, the group dynamics has to rate highly on the list - a group of 5, 2 guys/3 girls - all with different and interesting careers, lifestyles, interests and different walking CV's and Rob Wymer, an Aspirant International Mountain Leader, out gaining snowshoe experience with groups in preparation for his leader assessment. Our common denominator - walking in the mountains in winter!
Secondly, as mentioned so many times on our blog to date, the SNOW! Snowshoeing does happen to work very well in snow, not to mention fresh powder and boy did we get our fare share. After our first day up at Chalet Loriaz we had continuous snow for 3 days - which was a perfect opportunity for everyone to have the chance to break trail, learn about essential avalanche safety, route choices and staying safe by reading and assessing the terrain on route. Then following the snowy days we had some blue sky days....all in a weeks work - it's a hard job to beat!
I would also like to mention, which was voted by our team as the best day of the week, our summit of Mont Arpille at 2085m which is actually on Swiss turf. And if that wasn't enough for one day it was followed by a (voluntary....) night-snowshoe to the rustic Savoyard restaurant and Auberge of La Boerne at the hamlet of Tre le Champs where we refueled with 'tarteflette', a local dish made with creamy Reblochon cheese! So if this type of week appeals to you we still have places on our March - Mont Blanc Snowshoe Week.
Catching up on admin is enough to drive anyone out the door! As a goal to get through the emails I organised an afternoon snowshoe with Lindsay, Mark and Cynthia. We saw yet more snow fall in the valley today and I guess some might decide that it's best to stay in on a cloudy/snowy day but in actual fact snowshoeing is an ideal way to enjoy those less than sunny days! Whilst the snow falls in exposed areas it can feel, gloomy and bleak but if you stick to the trees then you can enjoy nature at work and watch the snowfall whilst having the forest canopy as your umbrella.
Our route took us up to the Glacier des Bossons where we had close-up 'wintery views' of the tongue of blue ice that dominates the village of the same name, Les Bossons. The Bossons glacier is famous for several reasons, it descends a total of 3600m, which makes it the largest icefall in Europe, it advances at a rate of 1m each day plus it's margin reaches the lowest altitudes in Europe.
So we walked and talked our way through the woods to a viewpoint where we enjoyed coffee and chocolate. Our 2h30 round trip was enough to blow the cobwebs away and feel like you've got some exercise - not to mention catching up on the Chamonix gossip along the way.
Been off today searching for more interesting snow shoe routes, and had one of the best days out ever - blue skies, powder, and stunning views. Just popped along the road this morning to Liddes in the Swiss Valais region and tackled a route which I had never attempted before on a ridge up to the Creta de Vella. It appeared in a new snowshoe guide which is just out and I thought I would check it out. What a wonderful ascent through the forest with trees coated in light fluffy powder snow. Wonderful views of the Grand Combin, Mont Dolent, the Grand Jorasses and even Mont Blanc sneaking in on the far horizon - absolutely stunning. After a long climb a stop for lunch in the sun and then back down through the powder with the snow flying past my waist. A stunning gem of a route and more or less on my doorstep - what could be better! Snow conditions are definitely the best for years and more to come by the looks of the forecast.
The Adventure Show BBC2 Scotland - dont miss it! BBC 2 Scotland Sunday 22 February 06.05pm and Sky Channel 990
What a day it's been - blue skies, snowy mountains and a biting cold wind on the summit, a day when you are glad to be alive and in Scotland! I left the Alps a week ago to nip back to Scotland to do some media work for the BBC. It included today's expedition into the Monadliath mountains behind Newtontmore for The Adventure Show which is broadcast on BBC2 Scotland each month.
Over the last year I have, on several occassions, worked as a television Director with Cameron McNeish who is often referred to as the UK's best known hill walker! I have to say the man is a treat to work with and I know no one else who has so much genuine enthusiasm for Scotlands' mountains and is prepared to share that enthusiasm so eloquently. Our intention had been to travel to Schiehallion in Highland Perthshire but heavy snow and blizzard conditions put paid to that. After several cups of tea in my kitchen, calls to the Police asking about roads, and calls to the camerman Paul Diffley to find out how far up the A9 he had got, we decided to film in our own backyard in the stunning Glen Banachor.
The Monadliaths are a great rolling mass of heather and bog and perhaps lack the sharpness of the west coast mountains, but give them a covering of snow and they are transformed into a glittering arctic landscape which is home to mountain hares, grouse, snow buntings, golden eagle, otters and red deer. As Director I am responsible for making sure the shoot happens and that we get the necessary material for the TV feature. I had serious doubts about shooting anything and of getting any views, but the more cups of tea we had the clearer the sky became until the clouds parted to promise a good day. In fact, it was stunning and despite the exhaustion of plodding through thigh deep snow drifts to climb A'Chailleach, 930m, we were exhilerated - 1. because of the beauty of the mountains, and 2. because we had pulled it out of the bag despite a rocky start to the day.
Best of all Cameron had opted to wear snowshoes for the filming. It will, I am sure, be the first time that someone has been filmed making a journey on snowshoes in Scotland for national TV. Unfortunately, and dont laugh, but I didnt have any as all mine were in the Alps. On more than one occassion Mr McNeish bounded past saying "aye, you should get yourself a pair of snowshoes!" I nearly tossed my teddy out of the pram! The great joy for me was that he was another snowshoe convert and had heartily embraced this ancient form of winter travel. The fact he was telling his many thousands of fans through the medium of TV that they were to be highly recommended was great.
The picture shows cameraman Paul Diffley, myself, and Cameron on the summit of A'Chailleach. A great place to be on a blue sky day in Scotland.
PS The Adventure Show feature on snowshoeing in Scotland will be broadcast on BBC 2 Scotland at the end of February. I will try and let you know exactly when once I have the details.