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?