March 2016. Powder, overnight in a mountain hut, wonderful summits, breathtaking vistas. It doesn’t get better than this. Here’s a short daily diary, with a gallery of photos for each day.
Day 1 Ali, Jos and Julia go to play in the powder at Les Houches. With fresh snow and Avalanche risk high, this is a safe bet. Reaching the top of le Prarion, we choose the steep powdery slopes through the forest back down to the ski area, and learn how to use our snowshoes clipped in, to descend at speed. Then a circular tour to Tete de la Charme, charming indeed.
Day 2 We take a scenic route to the Loriaz refuge via the cascade, Sur le Rocher and Les Granges, then through forest and snowy meadows. It’s fabulous that this refuge has decided to open in winter, despite the need for some regular and serious digging to keep the place accessible, or even visible! Cheese fondue 🙂
Day 3. Wake up in the refuge, climb down from the perch, breakfast and off up to le Charmoz 2366m. Spectacular cornice at the top and amusement at the miniature French flag planted at the top (by the refuge gardien’s friend). More swishing back down, then up to the next little summit, Tete de la Chevrette 2039m. Then avalanche rescue practise on the sunny meadows. At one point trying to locate a moving target innocently walking along the path behind us. Home on the train from le Buet.
Day 4. Julie and Sally join the group. Off to Servoz to to Lac Vert, a quiet lake and nature trail in the forest, then on to le Chatelet, cafe on the snowy meadows facing Mont Blanc in all it’s glory. 2 magnificent birds of prey were soaring on the thermals overhead, most likely vultures from the shape of their tail, possibly bearded vultures. Onwards to Ayers Les Pierrieres with breathtaking views of the towering cliffs of the Pointes d’Ayers.
Day 5. Now we are six! Chris joined us today, and we drove through the the tunnel to Val Ferret in Italy, walking from Plancipieux up to the refuge Bonnatti, admiring the Grandes Jorasses looming at us on the opposite side of the valley. Loved the photo of Walter Bonatti ready to climb the Matterhorn in his woolly jumper. Found a very fancy bar in Courmayeur where we had undoubtedly the most impressive appetisers ever.
Day 6. Finally I managed to get to the top of lovely little Mont Truc (mount thingy) which has eluded me in the past not because it is hard to walk up, but because it’s hard to get the car up the Contamines valley in the snow. And what a lovely thingy it is, with marvellous views of the Aiguille de Bionassay and Plan Glacier. The plateau of l’envers du Truc was calling to us, and we walked a little way, but time and tired legs called a halt, and we found a pretty little forest track for our descent. The snow is starting to melt fast now, we saw our first blueberry bush peeking out, and a glimpse of a deer.
Day 7. A final day for Jos and Ali; they asked for a good long walk well away from the skiers, out in the wild. Les Contamines delivered nicely, starting at Notre Dame de la Gorge. We walked up the gorge seeing natural and Roman bridges on the way, ice sculptures and spectacular water chutes. On above the tree line to ‘le Plan de la Fenetre’ a spectacular high mountain plateau just below the col. Tempting though it was, we decided against a climb right up to the col: it would have involved walking below a very unstable looking steep south facing slope. So a final slide and swish down a tasty snowy gully, no doubt impassable by summer but now nicely filled in, and we rejoined the Tour de Mont Blanc trail. A fitting end to our snowshoe week.