.............not all those that wander are lost..............

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Hobbling around Provence....

Not much to say!

Managed a few walks but I've been hampered by a pulled muscle in my back.

The route with the 8 runged metal ladder hammered into the rock was interesting - especially with the dodgy back! I had to climb it 'cos I wasn't going back down the way I'd gone up!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Best and last of the season.......

Finally, the high pressure arrived giving us the best weather of the whole season. Blue skies and perfect snow conditions at last! This has to have been one of the poorest winters for getting out and about since we started coming out here for the season in 2001.

The good weather coincided with me using my new cross country skis for the first time. The skis are a bit shorter and wider than the old ones so they took a bit of getting used to - but I've persevered. The problem with this kind of skiing is that I find the skis are less stable and harder to control than downhill skis. Consequently I find myself feeling anxious and having the wobbles far more often than is necessary. At the end of the day I feel as though I've 'got away with it' again - until the next time! Great exercise though especially for my feet and arms which usually do quite a lot of the work.

{First time on the snow}

{Approaching the first corner....}

As the weather improved so did the snow pack so that the avalanche warnings lessened and I felt I could safely go out on the snow shoes. This involves a whole different set of muscles than skiing. By the end of a session my calves ache a little and I'm glad to finally stop the 'stomping'. I stick to well used routes as I'm usually on my own for this.

{Peaceful lunchtime resting my legs}

{Didn't risk this slope - I could see how unstable it was}

{Warning signs to help...}

The downhill skiing in the past ten days has been particularly good. Longer days mean brighter sunshine and the views are magnificent. We have had to start earlier so that when the snow softens we can come home. Old legs don't really like soft snow conditions! Much too much like hard work.

{At the top of a tow at Ceillac}

{Blue sky and snowy mountain tops.....perfect!}

Packing up to come home to Scotland now. I'm going south first though for a bit of a recce of the area around Greoux les Bains in Provence. There's an HF lead coming up for me there in April and I'm going to have a look at some of the walks I'll be doing. If I can, I'll post some of the routes here.

All good training for the Challenge in May!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

At last, a blue sky day.......

Downhill skiing on my own isn't something I normally aim to do but, up to this morning, it had been two weeks since the weather has been good enough and more importantly, the roads had been clear enough, for me to set out for any of the ski resorts in the Queyras.

After the last three days which have been particularly miserable with snow and sleet almost all the time I could hardly believe the blue sky which greeted me this morning.

{The view from the windows this morning}

As the van hadn't been moved since Sunday morning I knew the first job (after breakfast, of course) was to dig it out from about 50 cms of snow plus the stuff the snowplough had pushed up beside the wheels. This took me about 45 minutes of work. Fortunately the snow was quite light and hadn't frozen into heavy lumps this time.

Then I sorted my rucksack, made some lunch, packed my ski boots and for good measure, threw in my snowshoes too. I gingerly drove down the hill; the road was still mostly white and a bit crusty in places. As I made my way along the main road into the Queyras I was extremely grateful for 4 wheel drive and the winter tyres!

I decided to go to Arvieux - it's the nearest resort without too much climbing on dodgy roads. Arriving without any problems, I set off to ski the runs at the top of the hill. There was loads of fresh snow - it had all been pisted but was still quite soft and loose in places. This makes for skiing which is slow but can be hard work and a bit 'catchy' on the edges. I managed about six runs in all before my legs began to protest - they haven't done much work lately after all!

{Heading downhill}

{The main tows - not exactly busy!}

The whole resort was very quiet. It won't be like this next week - the school holidays begin this weekend coming! I had parked in the small car park near the bottom of the pistes. The sun was still shining and I decided to take off the skis and drive further on to the car park at the bottom of the road to the col d'Izoard. The road is shut this time of the year and should be pisted for cross country and snowshoes.

I had my lunch in this other car park, sitting on a camping chair in the sun. A rash decision was made to put on the snowshoes and attempt to walk up the road towards the place they call 'La Casse Deserte' on the way to the col.

{Borrowed this photo of la Casse Deserte}

As you can see from the photo above this is quite an amazing place and I fancied seeing it in its winter garb. The sign told me it was 5 kms of snowshoeing to reach it. I set off but it wasn't long before I had to stop and take off my jacket. The climbing wasn't too bad but after an hour and a half I still had not reached the end of the walk. The sun was threatening to drop behind the mountains so I turned round and went back down - just reaching the van as the light changed.

{The start of the col d'Izoard road}

{Brilliant conditions, fresh snow, blue sky and no wind}

It's quite a popular route. I saw several skiers who passed me on their way down, a whole group of snowshoers, and a couple of walkers. When I got home I checked the map and there was probably only about a kilometre left to climb when I turned back.

{Looking back down to the village and the downhill skiing}

 The walk had taken me about two and a half hours. It was possibly another half an hour to get to where the piste stops and you can look down at la Casse Deserte. If I hadn't been downhill skiing first I would have had more time and more energy. But it was most enjoyable. Perhaps when my new cross country skis arrive I'll try them out on this route.

Next time I'll run the Viewranger to keep track of where I've got to - the signs weren't much help - they all said 5 kms!

{Signpost - repeated all the way up the piste}