Archive for the ‘French Alps’ Category

Almost a week’s skiing in the Alps   14 comments

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January brings my little treat of a week-long trip to the Alps for some skiing.

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After a couple of years of less than perfect snow conditions this year was set to be a good one. Tonnes of snow right down to the lowest levels, cold sunny days with a top up of snow forecast for midweek. What could be better

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Not having the flu for the entire time I was out there would have been better. Instead of being out every day I had to try to catch a few hours when I felt well enough to crawl out of bed. For the first few days this was pretty much all the skiing I saw – the view from the apartment balcony

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It probably wasn’t the best idea to head out into -19C cold dry air with flu but I had to try

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I managed a few half days in the first half of the week.

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My friends were the best, they never complained about sharing a flat with a seriously sad and ill-looking mate and were saintly in the way they encouraged me to head out, kept my spirits up and did all the shopping and cooking

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There are worse places to be ill I suppose and many, many people worse off than me so I put a brave face on things, savoured the great skiing that I did manage and accepted the long lay ups in bed to recover. Good company and many laughs still made it a great week

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On the last two days I managed to summon enough energy to ski all day. I paid for it in the evenings but the conditions were superb and as you can see the views magnificent

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The classic view of Mont Blanc to the north, showing just how much bigger than the rest of the Alps it is

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Some wonderful cloud inversions in the Isere valley

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And over towards the Ecrins

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I normally take videos but this year it was as much as I could manage just to get out.

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As I was trying to keep my exertion to a minimum I was skiing much more in control and strangely felt I was skiing better than I ever have done

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It would be easy to look back and be frustrated at how things turned out. seeing the photos now, makes me think of all the good days and half days I enjoyed rather than any regret for the days I missed.

I think I paid a hefty price with my health though. One week after coming back and I’m still not fully recovered although I’m hoping I’ve now seen the back of it. Today has been my first day without painkillers, headaches and a hacking cough. Time to plan some summer holidays in the sun

 

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Annual Trip to See the Snow?   6 comments

End of January means my annual ski trip treat. Just a long weekend this year as TJS wanted to try it but can’t take a week out of college so I thought it a bit harsh to go for the full week while he stayed home.

In truth not best skiing trip I’ve ever had. The runes were bad after a journey to the airport involving a puncture, a closure of the M1, getting the flight time wrong in my head and me making my flight with only 10 mins to spare (exaggerated a little for effect – the flight was 30 mins late so that bought me some time) There has only been two major falls of snow in the Alps this winter and slopes were amazingly bare and thin. Looks like there is plenty of snow from the photos but trust me this is bare by Alpine standards. It surprised me greatly to see such a change in the usual conditions. Perhaps global warming is to blame but my Uncle Donald in America told me that’s just a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese so it can’t be that

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We did have some nice sunny days though and even if the skiing wasn’t as good as it could be it was still great fun. Clear skies and winter air is always a treat and any day spent away from work is a good one

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This does of course leave more time for convivial eating and lunchtime drinking in the sun

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My camera had another fit and went into strange mode for the next few pictures. Not exactly representative of the views at the time but an interesting effect

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A nice sunrise before a cloudy day

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It even rained on my last day – skiing in the rain is even more miserable than walking in it. I’ll leave you with my abiding memory from the trip. The Le Red Wine bar which is now my spiritual home. Gave us a decent excuse to go shopping as its next door to the supermarket. If Carlsberg (or Grimbergen in this case) did supermarkets……

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Fun in the Winter Sun   10 comments

Back to late January for some rather nice photos of mountains, snow, selfies and over-indulgence

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For the first time I went for a whole week’s skiing when fresh snow never fell. Not great for off piste powder skiing but rather good for cruising in the sunshine and topping up the tan.

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Obligatory selfie

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Ski bums

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Blue skies

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Cold beers

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And some skiing

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Snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see

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A proper mans drink and a ladies tea cup

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Blazing sunshine

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The roof of Europe

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Yet more food

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And we even squeezed in a little more skiing

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Mountains galore

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And a slideshow with video footage thrown in for free…..

On the Slopes in France   9 comments

My annual ski trip to France and back to the same place as last year in Mottaret. I think we’ve found our spiritual home for our ski trips.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Some new pals this year. TBF who started skiing before I did came along for the ride. Equal measure of enjoying some time away from the day-to-day grind of mum and housewife and a love of the mountains in winter. Like me she loves the cold clear air of the high alps and the felling of warmth from a mountainous blue skies. Not entirely sure that she completely shares my passion for unsafe velocities on snow but there is hope

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Also joining us was The Yorkshire Gardener. Like TBF she started skiing many years ago after spending some time in Colorado. She hasn’t been for many years but seeing as, like me, she’s approaching the half century milestone, decided to treat herself. Spending a week cooped up with me and Uncle Fester is debatable as a treat but it takes all sorts

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

As always we had a fabulous time. We were a little worried a few weeks before the trip. The Alps up to then had one of the worst snow seasons on record with several resorts suffering badly from a lack of snow. Even in the week before we went the slopes looked bare and rocky. Before and while we there though the weather delivered what for a skier is a perfect mix of regular snowfall intermixed with blue sky. By then end of the week there was metres of the stuff. Luckily we’d seen it coming and moved the car underground. Would have taken us a couple of hours to dig it out had we left it outdoors.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Having some new members of trip was rather nice. It was especially nice seeing TYG enjoying her first skiing for 20 odd years, it really was a special treat for her, although I’m hopeful that she’ll be able to join us on a more regular basis – she gets the croissants in the morning for a start! 🙂

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

TBF was less enthusiastic as she needed some lessons.

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We hired a guide/instructor for a couple of days, the skilled and friendly Rab Macnab.

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We split each day into a half day for TBF to try to get her up to Intermediate level and a half a day for me and UF.  TBF found the learning a little frustrating but by the last day all the tips were starting to click and things were progressing nicely. Now that both our kids are older, again, I’m hoping she can join us on a more regular basis. Whilst she sometimes got a little down on herself, she improved markedly from the start of the week and I think she enjoyed the week – at least I hope she did

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Me a UF had a day on-piste with Rab to help us improve our own technique. UF has had a few lessons over the years but I’ve had just one half day, having been pretty much self-taught. Rab was very generous in his praise after watching us ski but you could see the “but” coming in his assessment from a mile away. Let’s just say I still have a long way to go. Our second half day was off piste and Rab took us to some new little known corners and into one terrifyingly steep drop that we both bottled out of. It was a cracking afternoon though. Rab comes highly recommended and I think it’s a given that we’ll be seeking him out again next year

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

The rest of the week was a mix of blue sky and heavy snow but we got out every day for a full day which is the main thing.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

 

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

 

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

A trip to remember for all the usual reasons but also this time for the different vibe we got from having some new people with us to share the fun. If only I go skiing every week 🙂

Winter Playground – Meribel-Mottaret Skiing   9 comments

My annual “Slide” trip to match my identity. The usual end of January boys trip for some skiing in the Alps. This year was back to our favourite area, the Three Valley’s in France with its huge ski area and modern efficient lift system. We stayed in the middle valley in Meribel Mottaret for the first time in a lovely apartment right on the slopes.

There was blue sky

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There was time for eating (Steak Americaine on the slopes here)

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There were snow-capped mountains

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There was skiing

 

There was more blue sky

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There was some cloud

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There was more eating (afternoon waffles and beer became a mainstay)

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And there was more skiing

 

There were awesome atmospheric days

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There was a whole heap of sunshine

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There was always time for beer

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And amazing views from the apartment balcony

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courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

More sensational views

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And lots of partying – by others – we’re all too old for such things. This the is La Folie Douce in Val Thorens, famed party spot throughout the Alps and always kicking in the afternoon

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Time to reflect and take in the scene

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That included Europe’s highest mountain

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The views just kept coming

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And the sunsets were breathtaking

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And whilst overindulging were common-place

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It was the skiing that lives long in the memory

 

We enjoyed one final day on the slopes before heading home after a an amazing week

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Skiing in Les Gets, Portes du Soleil, January 2013   8 comments

I’m back! Not posted any stuff for a month or so. Call it a lost mojo or the fact that I’ve been busy tinkering with my ever-growing collection of gadgets, editing videos and, well, being out and about generating stuff for the blog. I’m way behind as a result and have lots to catch up. A couple of walks in the Black Mountains and Brecons, a superb day out in the mid-Wales mountains near the Elan Valley and a trip to the Southern Highlands of Scotland with the lads. But before all that a little report of my annual skiing trip to the French Alps. Slight diversion from the majority of my walking relating posts but you can’t have a blog with “slide” in the title without doing a bit. At least the photos were nice

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Uncle Fester and Mont Blanc from Mont Chery

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Uncle Fester in action on Mont Chery

There were supposed to be 5 of us but due to some family and work-related problems it ended up just being me and Uncle Fester. For anyone who’s interested we always fly out on a Friday night to get a full 8 days skiing in, flying home the following Saturday night. After a trouble-free QuesyJet flight from Bristol to Geneva and a night in a hotel in Annemasse we headed to the resort of Les Gets for our weeks skiing in the Portes du Soleil. It claims to be the largest ski area in Europe and it certainly does give you a sense of travel as you move around the dozen or so separate resorts. Most of the resorts are very pleasant and the skiing for the most part is superb and uncrowded. The tree-lined runs are top notch and there is everything from easy beginner slopes to some seriously steep stuff (Avoriaz has “The Wall” reputed to be Europe’s steepest marked run). There is a huge choice of slopes but there are several disconnects where you either have to walk, take a bus or do both. Our other favoured area is the 3 Valleys where there is none of that tomfoolery. I’d certainly go back to this area again but in all honesty the range of skiing in the 3 valleys and super efficient, well-connected lift system and slopes is far better. Nice to try somewhere different though and we had a great weeks skiing. Our apartment was also rather splendid (apart from the slippery access road with its entry barrier halfway up an icy hill!) and particularly spacious as it was sized for the 5 of us!

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Our Apartment in Les Gets

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View from my bedroom window

The first couple of days were, clear, sunny and cold on wonderfully groomed pistes, great for getting back into the swing of things and just enjoying the simple pleasures of swooping through the sunshine and adrenaline rush of high-speed activity that I love.

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Nameless Peak from Mont Chery

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Les Gets and Mont Blanc from Mont Chery

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Trees in afternoon light

We spent most of the time in the immediate area of Les Gets itself as we just didn’t feel the need to explore. The first video collection I hope captures the mood.

After a couple of days we got what we wanted, an overnight dump of fresh powder.

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West from Ranfolly, Les Gets

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Cloud and Powder

When I was learning to ski I was a speed junkie, enjoying freshly groomed slopes to whizz down at unsafe velocities usually ending in a spectacular fall that became my trademark. After a lesson on powder skiing I was hooked and nothing beats floating through deep untracked powder after fresh snowfall. This day was as perfect as it gets, champagne powder and after an hour so the clouds parted to reveal sensational views across the Alps to Mont Blanc.

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Mont Blanc above the cloud

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Uncle Fester emerges from the trees

Ranfolly, Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Ranfolly, Les Gets

A cracking lunch and a large beer outside in the sunshine at our favourite cafe completed a pretty much perfect morning. An afternoon cruising around the uncrowded slopes, dropping in and out of the powder finished the day off to a tee.

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Clouds and Mountains

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Mont Blanc framed by clouds

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Evening light

One of my best ever day’s skiing and I hope the next compilation supports that elation I felt when I got back to the flat.

To say we had all kinds of weather during the week is an understatement. After a couple of days of cold clear weather and a day of fresh powder we had what every skiier dreads – rain. The lower slopes turned to mush and it was raining as high as 2000 metres.

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Here comes the rain

Les Diablerets, Portes du Soleil

Les Diablerets

The video clip below is taken from an afternoon of solo skiing as Uncle Fester took his leave and sensibly spent the afternoon in the flat. I’m far too tight to waste my hard-earned and very expensive lift pass so I stayed out and spent a happy couple of hours getting some alternative shots in the cloud and rain. For the uninitiated these shots were taken from a chest harness rather than from a head-mount hence the lower angle and regular views of hands, poles and skis.

Nice thing about a rainy day is that the slopes are deserted so I had the resort pretty much to myself. I did discover on my last run to the flat that what was light fluffy powder the previous day was now porridge causing a rather spectacular face-plant that I managed to capture. The rain also had the rather interesting effect of turning the hard compacted snow on the estate road into watery sheet ice. Very hard to walk on in ski-boots and pretty much impossible in trainers as I found out when I went to do the shopping!

What did we get next? Well it rained all night but at some point it stopped the skies cleared and all that heavy wet snow turned to ice.

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Early morning icy slopes

Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil

Avoriaz

The runs were absolutely rock hard the next day, although the sun was out. Uncle Fester wasn’t at all happy and quickly took his leave of me again. I took off on a solo tour of the area. I don’t mind skiing the icy slopes. It’s much less taxing on tired legs (skiing in powder and heavy snow is hard work) and the runs are slick and fast, ideal for a speed junkie like me.

Les Diablerets, Portes du Soleil

Les Diablerets

This final video captures that solo day and I’ve left the sound on the clips so you may be able to hear the sound of the skis carving across the ice.

The rain returned the penultimate day although rather than the light drizzle of before it was now a ceaseless downpour that even I wasn’t keen to experience. We did venture out after lunch on the assumption that surely it would be snowing higher up. It wasn’t and Uncle Fester left me to it after a couple of runs and went back. I stayed out to make the scientific and clearly obvious discovery that skiing in heavy rain is deeply unpleasant. Skiing gear is designed to be windproof and warm, not to keep you dry in a downpour. As I sat alone on a chairlift, soaked to the skin and with water dripping out of my gloves I decided that I’d proved my point and been quite foolish enough. Unsurprisingly, no photos or video footage from this little excursion.

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Sunset

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Farewell

The final day was a cracker with more fresh powder to play in, but distinctly cold and windy. Not a bad finish to a fun week with very mixed conditions, great learning process as I always say, normally when lying face down in the snow after a fall. Roll on winter 2014

French Odyssey Part 12 – Ridges & Frontiers   2 comments

After our fabulous walk the previous day we were hungry for more. My Cicerone guide had a walk above La Tour around the Col  de Balme that took in 3 small summits and I could use the uplift to gain the height. Plan formulated we set off on another clear sunny day with just a few wisps of cloud and a strong breeze. This time the trip on the upper chairlift was slightly chillier but the kids still enjoyed it.

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Chairlift with Aiguilles Rouges behind

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Time to get off

Once up at the top the views were again stunning and we could clearly see our route for the day, up to the craggy Croix de Fer and back over the Tete de Balme and a smaller un-named grassy hill.

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D, Tete de Balme and Cros de Fer

There were only a few people about, some walkers, a few climbers on their way to higher routes and mountain-bikers using the lifts to access the steep downhill routes now a major alpine activity.

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Aiguilles Rouges and Mont Buet

We walked across to the Col de Balme where the route enters Switzerland.

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Aiguille Verte and Mont Blanc

The kids found the idea of standing with both feet in two different countries highly amusing but I suppose the idea of walking from one country to another was a novel one for them

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Straddling the border

We continued on a steady climb up to the col between the Croix de Fer and the Tete de Balme, all the while the views back along the Chamonix valley to Mont Blanc and across to the Aiguille Rouge and Mont Buet (another one of my successful summits) were stupendous.

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Climbing to the col

As we reached the col we also got a view of the Lac de Emosson and its huge dam. Not an area I’ve visited but it looks superb and my guidebook had lots of walking routes in there.

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Lac de Emosson

We set off along the narrow grassy ridge towards the Croix de Fer, pleased that we were the only people about.

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D on the ridge to the Croix de Fer

Pretty soon it was clear that L was a little nervous so she and Jane returned to the col while D and I carried on to the summit. It’s quite narrow and rocky in places but so long as you have a decent head for heights very straightforward (although in wet weather or snow it would be a different proposition.

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Route of ascent

D was well chuffed that he had climbed an alpine peak albeit a small one but the views all around and over into the Rhone valley in Switzerland were breathtaking. Alas I had a grubby fingerprint on the camera lens so the photos are not as good as I’d like – one of the downfalls of my Panasonic FT3 and its lack of a lens cover

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D enjoys his first alpine summit

Satisfied we rejoined Jane and L and walked over the easy grassy slopes of the Tete de Balme and it’s un-named neighbour.

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Croix de Fer

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Summit of Tete de Balme

The views back across to Mont Blanc from here were particularly grand.

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Mont Blanc and the Chamonix valley

We were on the look-out for a decent picnic stop but the wind had picked up through the day and it was pretty cold. We spied a small tarn below us and headed down, managing to find a sheltered spot. Had it been warmer I’d have been tempted for a swim as the water looked clear and inviting.

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Picnic time

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Fancy a swim?

Time to head back though and we retraced our steps and back around to the Col de Balme and the chairlift down, still marvelling at the views and for me as always very reluctant to head down.

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Jane and L, Aiguille Rouge behind

It was incredibly windy on the chairlift and we were glad to reach the warm shelter of the gondola on the lower stage.

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Hold on tight!

Our time in Chamonix was over. We had an absolutely stunning couple of days but I felt flat as we got back into the car. I wanted more. I could have walked for days in this area and the possibilities are endless. I’ll be back, but we still had one final day to enjoy and we headed off for the Jura mountains for the last proper day of our holiday

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