The Summer-Summary

So summer has come to an end and it’s time to leave Morzine and start getting ready for winter, which is a bit of a shame and also the problem with the summer in the Alps, it is too short, it feels that as soon as it starts, it’s over. On the plus side the weather in the second half of the season has been better, more sunny days and less rain, well anything is better than rain everyday!

There is so much to do in the Alps in the summer its hard to try and fit everything in really, especially with work and the weather, these being the two factors that often get in the way. Having said that we have plenty of free time to get out and about, heres a bit about what we have been up to……….But as opposed to blabbering on about everything, I will hopefully let the pictures say more!

We managed to find the bouldering in the Prodain valley, which the most interesting thing was probably the access, a cable over the stream, which we had to shimmey across, with no topo or route info it was almost a bit of a shame, however we made up a traverse and I gave some overhanging route a go, a worth while trip, but we didn’t rush back, at all.

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Becky hanging-on en-route to the bouldering

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Me bouldering in the Prodain Valley

One thing that morzine has in abundance is mid-altitude hikes, there are so many to choose from and so little time to get any done, we managed to get out into the hills over the last few weeks to tick a few off the list.

One of these such hikes is Les Hauts-Forts, a summit that sits above Avoriaz very near to the boarder with Switzerland. It sits at 2466m which is the highest peak in the Haute Chablais region, so a good one to tick off the list! Having not done much research about the route apart from glancing at the map briefly the day before, we weren’t really sure what to expect. The weather wasn’t great, very grey, chilly and cloudy, not the idea weather for a big hike but it was either that or let a bout of cabin fever sink in again. The walk up wasn’t to bad, just a long slog uphill, gaining around 400 vertical meters before the fun really started.

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Reaching the col just about to wrap-up

Having no idea what was going to meet us, the first wasn’t such a pleasant surprise, 40mph winds as we got to the ridge, after layering up and sort of working out where the route went, we set off. The next surprise was steep and exposed scrambling, almost climbing in places, with safety via-Ferata-like cable to clip onto.

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Becky at the start of the scramble, high above Avoriaz

With the wind buffeting us around we scrambled up the ridge for about 30 minutes before reaching the summit, where we huddled down as low as we could to avoid the wind, had a spot of lunch (very quickly) and then headed down. As soon as we were down out of the wind we were met by what was,comparatively, a nice warm temperature. The route took us 4.5 hours in total, with a total vertical ascent of around 700m, which we didn’t think was too bad for an afternoon!

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Summit!

In our last week here in Morzine we managed to squeeze in one more big hike, the Roc D’Enfer is quite a well know peak due to the way it looks like two horns, and with such incredible panoramic views from Lake Geneva to the north and the whole Mont Blanc range to the south we were hoping for a good weather day, and as though we had arranged everything, we woke to a clear blue, sunny and warm morning!

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About as arty as my photography gets, an old gate with Mont Blanc in the background

We parked at the Col de l’encrenaz at 1433m, and much of the approach is through the fields, with the animals grazing around, which is very pleasant and with the most superb views of the Mont Blanc range behind us.

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Last bit up the ridge before the summit

For the last 45 minutes, it turns to more scrambling, or very steep walking terrain, and for sections the ridge has steep and long drops on either side, for the last few hundred meters leading up to the summit (2243m). We sat on the summit alone for nearly an hour watching the clouds swirling in the valleys below, but fortunately Mont Blanc stayed clear throughout the day, it was almost mesmerising, after that we walked back to the car flowing the ridge line nearly the whole way and and a well deserved beer before heading home.

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Incredible views from the summit over to the Mont Blanc range

Apart from that, a few shorts trips to other places in the area, such as Samoens and the Fer-a-cheval nation park near Sixt, which has some amazing scenery.

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Fer-a-cheval national park

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Ice creams in Sixt

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Wandering around the streets of Samoens

I was lucky enough to give Parapenting another go, which was amazing, and when the instructor gets you so close to the ground, you can feel the grass on you legs, it really does give you a buzz!

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Flying high above the fields with Morzine in the distance

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Chopping wood for a night-time fire

We made a short edit of the footage we have from the summer, there is no way that we could put everything in the video, but there are spits of (nearly) everything we got up to.

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Click the picture to watch the movie

 

Mid-Summer

So I’m back in Morzine for my second summer and now we’re about half way through and there have been some good adventures so far, but with very mixed weather, to say the least, well it’s been pretty pour actually (hint hint). Unfortunately there has been a lot of rain, and being in the mountains, surprise surprise, nearly every enjoyable activity is based outdoors, so it has been the case of getting on with it and getting wet, or sitting inside being miserable, I have managed to balance out the 2 quite well.

My start to the season included working for 5 weeks solid, without a day off, taking care of the maintenance on the chalets, fortunately I managed to sneak in a few bike rides and runs during this time, to keep myself sane more than anything else.

Biking above Lac Montriond

Biking above Lac Montriond

Evening trail run in the mountains

Evening trail run in the mountains

Since then we have been into the swing of it, taking (mostly) clueless guests out on activities and answering the usual stupid questions of ‘do I need a waterproof?’ To which you some how have to politly respond to, without saying ‘what do you think? look out the bloody window, it’s pouring!’

But it’s all fun and games and there is plenty of free time to do as we please!

After not climbing at all last summer and following on from a great trip to Chamonix, I have been really keen to get out climbing and get back into it a lot more. There is a good sports crag just 5 minutes down the road called L’Elephant (The Elephant for those who can’t translate french) it’s a good crag with lots of routes, many of them multi pitch. We have had done some great routes here and there is still a lot more to tick off.

Becky leading at L'Elephant

Becky leading at L’Elephant

Top of a multi-pitch route at L'Elephant

Top of a multi-pitch route at L’Elephant

It has been a lot of fun climbing more, popping out when we have a spare couple of hours or after work climbing late into the evening. I would like to say my climbing has improved, but I’m not really sure, confidence it growing which helps.

There has been plenty more fun other than climbing. Lake swimming, slacklining, hiking and mountain biking just to name a few. Earlier in the season, after 6 days of solid rain and cloud in the valley, Will and I decided to go out for a hike, we wanted to venture up towards the col de coux, so in the pouring rain we set off. Reaching the col after a couple of hours, which actually sits on the boarder between France and Switzerland, we were met with views that stretched as far as the eye could see (about 20 meters thanks to the cloud). A quick snack of sausscion at the top (standard mountain snack here in France) we then scarpered back to the car and then home to dry out.

 

Above the Col de Coux

Above the Col de Coux

Bouldering at Prodain

Bouldering at Prodain

Lake fun in Les Gets

Lake fun in Les Gets

Above the Ranfolly bowl in Les Gets

Hiking above the Ranfolly bowl in Les Gets

Evening slack lining

Evening slack lining

We also got a great trip out canyoning as part of our ‘training’ week, it’s one of the best activities that we get to do! There a short video below, so if anyone hasn’t got a clue what it involves, then click the link below.

Canyoning short edit, click the picture above to view

Canyoning short edit, click the picture above to view

With the weather being so miserable, my mind is slowly looking towards the ski season already; what ski tours, big lines and other adventures we have in store for the coming winter is motivating enough to try and get a bit fitter and be a bit healthier, so that’s my mid-season promise for now!

First Summer Ride

The first ‘proper’ bike ride of the summer. I cycled up to Le Lac and cut back above the Bus Stop run from winter. It was a great ride going from 2200m down to 1550m along some flowy, narrow and in some places technical single track.

Click on the image to watch the movie

Click on the image to watch the movie

 

 

Cham In A Van

The end of the ski season had come around and not wanting the fun to end, we hatched a plan (not that complicated) to head off on a climbing trip. A few areas were mentioned Font, Verdon and one that kept repeating itself, Chamonix. Only 2/3 hours from Tignes, with more climbing than we could ever dream of and even with the ominous weather forecast, that was it we were going to Cham.

We arrived to rain and cloud and wondered what we had let ourselves in for, but it soon cleared up while we wondered round the town and with the views of the mountains, it became clear why we had come here. Huge peaks and glaciers rumbling into the valley, looking around the scenery really was awe inspiring.

Mont Blanc and Bossons Glacier

Mont Blanc and Bossons Glacier

Having not lead or even climbing properly in 18 months I was keen to just get some miles on the lower grades to get used to it again and remember what on earth all this kit was for. After a few climbs on lower grades, I soon remember what to do and we both soon got bored of the easier scrambly stuff and wanted to get back into it properly.

Neither of us really had any ‘goals’ as such, just wanting to get back into the swing of things and to prepare for, what will hopefully be, a climbing packed summer. The bonus for us is that climbing at the same level really helped as we could push each other, if one of us lead a climb, the other didn’t want to miss out (or secretly be ‘beaten’ by the other).

Leading at Les Galliands

Becky leading at Les Galliands

Bouldering at Col des Montets

Me bouldering at Col des Montets

We managed to get 7 days of climbing in, which we were both happy with but we didn’t even scratch the surface, not even slightly. The climbing areas we explored were throughout the valley. From the boarder with Switzerland to the low farmlands further down the valley and with one day of wet/rainy weather, we didn’t think we had done too bad and even managed to check into a camp site for a bit of added comfort as opposed to sitting in the van all day.

Becky abseiling at Galliands with with the Aiguille du Midi in the background

Becky abseiling at Les Galliands with with the Aiguille du Midi in the background

Spot of slack-lining

Spot of slack-lining

Unfortunately the trip was cut short, the weather was changing, rain was forecast (and a lot of it), the temperatures we dropping, so we scarpered back to Tignes. It was an amazing trip to a stunning area of France, and an area that I will, for sure, spend more time in the future.

Sunset

Sunset

We made a short movie of the trip, click below to watch.

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Click on the image above to watch the movie

Touring Adventure

With the temperatures remaining high Paul and I were still thinking the best snow was going to be found on higher north facing slopes. After looking through the maps and guide books to try and find a suitable face, we started to focus on La Tsanteleina, a peak that sits right on the French/Italian boarder.

Standing at 3602m we knew it would be an early start and a long day as the nearest we could park was at 1875m which was 8km away from the bottom of the face.

4.15 am getting kitted up at the car before setting off

4.15 am getting kitted up at the car before setting off

The alarm went off at 3.40am, picked Paul up at 4am and headed off, we started hiking at 4.30am in the pitch black, with the melt/freeze it meant the start was easy to hike as the snow was frozen solid, we then picked up the summer access road and started to skin from there.

Getting ready to start skinning

Getting ready to start skinning

My view for the first 2 hours

My view for the first 2 hours

As we were skinning up it became apparent that the face was highly unlikely to be in a skiable condition, it was obvious the wind had been very strong over the last few days and we were sure that the face would be stripped of snow. We decided to continue anyway as it was a good fitness test and with such beautiful scenery it would be silly to have turned around.

The sun starting to show its face, the peak in the centre is the Tsanteleina

The sun starting to show its face, the peak in the centre is the Tsanteleina

Paul skinning up

Paul skinning up

We both felt good and kept a good rhythm, a lot of it was was flat, but from around 2500m it started to get steeper and we put ski crampons on as the snow was very compact, we continued up to around 3000m and the last section was concrete-like snow and almost too steep to skin so we put skis on our back, ice axe in hand and continued the last 150 vertical meters to the plateau below the north face.

Me half way up the boot pack

Me half way up the boot pack

Once at the plateau we could see all of the north face and it was obviously un-skiable, there were huge patches of glacial ice and the little snow that was on there would have been bulletproof, so we found a nice rock, sat down and had some lunch with great views into Italy and beyond.

La Tsanteleina North Face, plenty of ice and bad snow

La Tsanteleina North Face, plenty of ice and bad snow

Nice view for lunch into Italy and beyond

Nice view for lunch into Italy and beyond

After eating and rehydrating we set off back to the car. The snow was really bad 99% of the way, we took a fall each as skis decided to go different ways. I think I made about 10 ‘good’ turns so for 5.5 hours up it was a lot of effort for the reward. Fortunately we managed to ski/skate the whole way back and didn’t need to put skins on again.

Skiing back to the car above Lac du Chervil

Skiing back to the car above Lac du Chervil

It was a good test and really interesting to head into terrain that neither of us of had been to or seen before. It is probably the most beautiful tour that I have done and will definitely be heading up there again at some point, even if its just for lunch again.