I am just in tonight from a two stunning days doing a recce of the Tour de Matterhorn. The autumn weather, blue skies, no wind, crispy mornings, and a dusting of early snow made the trip memorable. The fact we only met two other people made it even more special. I really think mid to late September is a brilliant time to walk in the Alps - so few people around! This morning the valleys were echoing to the sound of the red deer stags roaring in the rut. We saw a beautiful stag high in the corries, probably resting from fighting the other 'guys'. Another special moment was a very close encounter with a massive male ibex. It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly graceful these mountain animals are. They make crossing potential treacherous terrain look like a stroll in the park! Basically, I spent two days doing the section from the Col Collon on the Swiss Italian border, over the Col Valcournera down to Breuil-Cervinia. These are often regarded as two of the toughest on the trip and whereas, yes, they are over rough terrain they are also absolutely wonderful. A real mountaineering adventure! We aim to be able to offer the Tour de Matterhorn in 2009 for those of you with a true sense of adventure!
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!