Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Possibly the best hike ever

The French Alps: fabulous hiking
Yesterday the sun shone on the snow on a cloudless day and I met a new friend: my guide par excellence, Christian. Finally I got out on the mountains to see what the skiers had been raving about, and they were not exaggerating. Indeed, they were under-aggerating (if I may coin a spell-check challenge). The few pictures I can post here really do not do the day justice. A more expansive album has been posted on Facebook, and you may be able to see it here.

The day dawned completely cloudless and with unbelievably bright sunshine - this alone would have been enough to have me content. But there was more. I had thought of a short gondola ride up the mountain, a bit of a walk, lunch, then down on the chair lift. But Christian had other suggestions. We drove for about 15 minutes to the backside of the mountain, he heaved the snow shoes out of the car, and off we set. He also provided walking poles, totally essential. Up the hill we went, crunching on snow that hadn't seen a new fall for about three weeks, wending our way along snowy forest paths and around antique wooden chalets. Each of these had once been a working farmlet, and some still run a few goats and cows in the summer. Some now feed skiers and tourists, and others are pretty much abandoned - at this time of the year, anyway. All are ridiculously picturesque.

Snow shoes on the feet of your blogger
Did I mention the snow shoes? This was a novelty for me. I had tried them once before, years ago in the Canadian Rockies, egged on by some Canadian friends (I will skip lightly over the belly-laughs at my attempts to walk on them). This time, I found them a huge success. This is not to say that I didn't - quite often - step on my own snow shoes and tumble over. But generally speaking I got on very well, and felt very secure trudging up the slopes. My usual emotion trudging up a snowy slope is complete terror at sliding off. This excellent piece of equipment, and a few pointers from Christian, enabled me to really enjoy going up the hill and across the snowy fields.

There may be some of you out there who are amazed at this - I know I am - but we hiked all the way up to the skiers. We caught a skiers' chair lift for a few meters (avoiding another 1 hour walk - it was lunch time, after all) and alighted at a place called L'Alpette (as in Little Alp) which is at 1895 meters (Megeve Village is 1100 m, so that's a reasonable ascent). At L'Alpette there is - trust the French - an excellent restaurant on the piste. 

After what was admittedly a long lunch - Christian and I split a bottle of Savoie white wine - we were on our way again. We could have walked a short distance and then taken a gondola down; but instead we headed on up; and then - at Christian's suggestion - off the skiers' trail and into the backwoods again. Our trail took a different circuit down the mountainside and back to where we had begun. We spent about three hours coming down, as the shadows lengthened and the deer came out on the hillsides. The snow was deep, the forests magical, the views spectacular, and Christian kept saying "a voila!"

Mont Blanc comes into view

Christian checks the back country views

Your happy blogster on the trail

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