Saturday, 18 January 2014

A day off skiing

Well, they did ask for a day off skiing. Not quite sure what they had in mind. As it turns out, it could have been prolonged sessions on the sofa watching rubbish cartoons and munching crisps. But how was I to know that?! The sun was shining, the snow was deep... walking over to towards the Swiss border seemed like an obvious choice to me!

To be fair, we did make it easier on them. Instead of heading up the Petit Balcon and through the woods, we did decide to jump on the train as far as Montroc, cutting out most of the uphill stuff.

Tré-le-Champ is perhaps my favourite spot in the whole Chamonix valley. There's something about the spread out chalets, the open meadow, the views back to the valley, and the waft of wood smoke that makes this a special spot. I see that they have some new residents, though!

 From there it's a short haul over the Col des Montets, at 1461m above sea level.

Lunch on the top in the glorious sunshine and then pretty much downhill all the way to Vallorcine via Le Buet.

We arrived in Vallorcine just as the January sun was about to disappear behind the Aiguille Rouges.  Perfect timing!

All in all a superb snow shoe trip. Not too long, but long enough to enjoy being out on snow shoes. Lots of great scenery and lots of big sunshine too. At Vallorcine there's the cafe at the station where they serve big glasses of beer and very reasonably priced but huge nutella crepes. A fine place to wait for the train back to Argentiere, or for this winter at least, the bus that replaces it on the same timetable.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Snow Shoes are fun!

I've always wanted to have a go on snow shoes, but for some reason it's always eluded me. I've been around snow often enough and for long enough, but no. It's not happened.

So last year I bought some. Still that didn't work. The snow conditions weren't brilliant for much of the season, and skiing always took priority.

With unbelievable amounts of snow this season, it finally worked out. A mere 44 years wait. We hired some kids sized shoes from Stamos Sports in the Grand Roc, and thinking we'd be back in an hour, headed into the woods. We got the camera out and had a bit of fun filming as we went. Here's the finished results.

We finally got back at dusk! It was fantastic! Try some!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Steep and Deep

A little bit of fun with the camera! A shortish video of the kids skiing at Grnad Montets, with a little bit of Le Tour thrown in for good measure!

Hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Has anyone seen our pool?

Here's a couple more photos for you and a quick game of compare and contrast. One of the (many) nice things about the apartment is the open air heated swimming pool in the garden. Open for use throughout July and August, it's a great place to head for after a day on the hot dusty trails and grab a few rays and a nice refreshing dip.

L'Androsace and the swimming pool in the garden.

In the last few years, Health and Safety legislation has caught up (it's not just the UK!) and the co-proprietary has had to erect a fence around the pool. It's not too bad, and it doesn't really detract from the informal pool side atmosphere. Though, it is quite high - as you can see in the pics.

Mont Blanc and L'Aiguille du Midi down the valley make for a stunning backdrop to your swim.

However, it does seem to have suddenly disappeared! Here's Sam stood on top of the fence last week having dug down a bit to find it.

Told you that there'd been a lot of snow! And this is after the fresh snow of the previous week has settled and compacted. It's by far the most snow we've seen lying in Argentiere.

There it is!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Lots of snow!

That the Alps have seen lots of snow during December is probably not new news anymore. The snows came relatively late, with early December looking particularly bare. However, when it started, it forgot to stop.

The storm rages. Icicles on the roof of L'Androsace - and they just kept on getting bigger, and bigger!

Watching the rain beat against the windows with a hurricane force in the Scottish Highlands over the Festive period whilst reading blog reports of all the snow felt a bit cruel. However, as soon as January arrived we were off on our travels again, and another couple of weeks at the apartment in Argentiere.

L'Androsace apartments looking a little bit wintry.

We kept looking at the depth of snow on the garage and wondering just how deep it would get.
Jodie and Sam in front of our garage which is inlcuded with your stay at the apartment.

Keeping the driveway clear required an extra big shovel.

And it didn't disappoint. Snowing as we arrived, a clear first full day to settle in, and then another week of constant snowfall. In all, around a metre fell in the village in the first week of January alone.

What happens when you book an apartment without dedicated covered parking.

There's a van under there somewhere.

Digging out. Nothing like a ton of snow down your neck when you're filling up at the pumps.

The skiing was mostly very good as a result, although visibility did warrant a bit of Jedi skiing at times. However, heading for the trees above Plan Joran at the Grand Montets and playing in the powder in the steep gullies proved a big hit, even in the worst of the weather. Winds stopped play (first time I've seen this in the last 5 years of regular visits) and while many moaned about the queues for the Pierre a Ric, we found ourselves down at Flegere having one of the most fun days on skis we've had in years. Whilst there was only two sheltered chairlifts running, we didn't need anymore. Only a handful stayed to play in the bottomless powder between the trees. Yee har!

In the woods behind Argentiere.

When the legs got too tired we opted for a walk. Popped out for an hour, came back at dusk! I've always fancied having a go with snow shoes, and it's taken 44 years to make it happen. I've been missing out! More on that in due course.

At the Aire de Jeux

The depth of snow meant that the slide wasn't too exciting!

Off piste snow shoeing above Argentiere. Huge amounts of fun.

But soon enough high pressure arrived over the Haute Savoie, the clouds cleared and some big ski days came our way. 2 weeks flew past faster than ever, and now it's time to plan the next trip to Argentiere. Can't wait!

Evening view from the balcony. Temperatures dropped to -13 degrees overnight this last week.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Haute Route

Read around our web site a bit and you’ll find that we’ve been coming to Argentiere since 1986. That first trip was a bit of an adventure. The Chamonix Valley was just somewhere that I’d heard of and sounded like it was a place to go. Free camping on Snell’s Field, a climbing guidebook, plenty of the blissful abandon of youth and a wealth of experience of Alpine climbing – all gained from tales of daring do in the bar back home. (I’ve chosen to ignore the fleeting visit as a 5 year old, passing through at Easter 1973 on our way to Pisa in a Ford Cortina. All I can really remember is a snowball fight outside the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel and a chicken running round a farm yard somewhere in rural France just after having it’s head chopped off.)

The Chardonnet Glacier and the first col to cross.

That trip was many things and, bits of it at least, I remember well. The photo we use for the StayInChamonix banner photo was taken on the trip during a foray into the Vallee Blanche. A bivi in the ruin of the old Cosmique Refuge and an ascent of the North Face of the Tour Ronde followed that shot.

Revisiting the North Face of the Tour Ronde 25 years after I climbed it.

One of the things it did do was open my eyes to the wider world of mountains. I heard about the Haute Route, the high level ski traverse from Chamonix to Zermatt. At the time, skiing was prohibitively costly, and not something that proper mountaineers - like what I was, would entertain. But still, it sounded like a bit of a journey, and from that point on, the idea of doing it was logged.

Dawn on the Chardonnet Glacier, looking back to the top of the Grand Montets above Argentiere.

I do think that it’s important to have goals to work to. Some take longer than others to achieve, but nonetheless, so long as you keep moving in the right direction… It’s now 2011, some 25 years on, and finally I’ve done it! I’m not long back from a traverse of the Classic Haute Route.

The hardest part was probably parting with the cash required to buy into ski touring. Just when you think you've bought all the Alpine ski gear, you find out that you need a complete set of other gear to even think about ski touring. And it’s even more expensive! And then you find out that ski touring is mostly about going uphill, and you feel a bit cheated to find that you had to buy new skis at all!

How hard can it be? Starting off your ski touring career with the Haute Route did seem like a bit of a silly idea to some. But if you can ski, you can walk up hill for a long time, and you like being really dirty for days on end, then surely you’ve got what it takes?

Classic touring on the Haute Route heading towards the Valsorey Hut

It was a great trip – fairly full on from start to finish. Straight off the plane, up to the Argentiere Hut, and into the route itself. A bit of acclimatisation would have helped, but so would a clean bill of health – the one without the hacking cough to start off with. The weather was fairly kind to us, as was the snow (despite the relatively lean season) and we made it to Zermatt in 6 days. Days off don’t come into it when you’re on a boys trip (even if there’s at least a token girlie on it) and so day 7 was up the Breithorn and day 8 was a plod to Col Freshfield in the Vallee Blanche.

Nearly there. The Matterhorn on the final afternoon above Zermatt.

Tick! Haute Route done. And boy did I sleep when I got home!

See the Haute Route Photo Gallery on our StayInChamonix web site.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Thinking about the summer

Winter is far from over, and we've got a few ski trips planned yet. But the odd glimpse of the sun, and a burning desire to get back on the bike, and we can't help but dream of long summer days...


Mountain Biking in Chamonix from Jason Chambers on Vimeo.

With thanks to Jason for this clip. Check out his web site for more.