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Winter and spring hiking : French Alps

Wed 01 Jun, 2016 6:55 pm

This winter I went out 4 times with my snow shoes. We haven't had very good snow conditions this winter, not enough snow. But that meant I didn't need the snowshoes for 2 of the walks which is good, as snowshoeing is just about the most tiring walking experience you can have. More than rock climbing or backcountry skiing.

The first solo one I did was in Vercors, at a place called La Tête Chevalière. The climb is easy at first, on a gravel road covered in snow, and then it gets harder as there's no track and no real snowshoe marks so I did my own thing based on the maps. You basically follow the side of a cliff for the last third of the walk, which can be pretty intimidating. But it's not a very hard walk, and it's very rewarding.
Last edited by Hallu on Thu 02 Jun, 2016 12:25 am, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Winter and spring hiking : French Alps

Wed 01 Jun, 2016 7:01 pm

Another great hike was in a place called Pointe D'Orsière in the Aravis massif, a little known area near Annecy, or 100 km West of Mont Blanc/Chamonix. The walk was easy because it was spring snow, so very compacted, didn't even need the snowshoes. Only one area was scary, as it's an avalanche corridor and I clearly saw steep slopes and either an iceblock field or a snow-covered boulder field. Not very inviting. But in the end, I saw a chamois, and the views were great.
Avalanche corridor

Re: Winter and spring hiking : French Alps

Wed 01 Jun, 2016 7:07 pm

The last real snowshoe hike I did was the toughest, in the Beaufortain, a mountain range between Vanoise and Mont Blanc. Off track for the first half of the ascent, I ended up making a lot of bad choices. Plus the snow was soft and deep, so I was exhausted. When there was a track, it was thin and awkward, having to walk tilted which is very tough with rigid snowshoes. The final ascent was brutal, like 45°. Again, great views, but this time I'm not sure they were worth the physical challenge.
Mont Blanc in the background
Yeah that's steep

Re: Winter and spring hiking : French Alps

Wed 01 Jun, 2016 7:18 pm

For this last one, it was even worse. It was supposed to be an easy hike (despite the 1100 m elevation gain, but it's quite normal here), crossing a mountain pass and descending towards 2 lakes ("lacs du Rif Bruyant"). The first half, following a raging torrent, was easy, in the woods and ascending gently. But then we encountered some "névés", meaning snowfields that melt only late in the year due to a shaded position. So for hundreds of meter, with us being the first ones to try this, we had to "carve" steps in the compacted hard and slippery snow. It was slow but we managed it. The main problem was at the pass, overlooking the lake. It was just a snowfield below us, very very steep (I'd say between 50 and 60°). I had cheap crampons and a walking pole, but at one point I slipped and basically luged down, accelerating the whole way. I burned my arm on the snow, which isn't pleasant at all. Now I understand why you're supposed to bring an ice axe in spring. But again, it was a very nice area. And on the way back, we took the alternative route which is supposed to be vertiginous and for seasoned hikers, and turned out to be snowfree and easy...
Last edited by Hallu on Wed 08 Jun, 2016 1:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Winter and spring hiking : French Alps

Sat 04 Jun, 2016 8:01 am

Gorgeous images again Hallu. Thankyou for posting. I hope the burnt arm has recovered well.
I look forward to further armchair travels with future trip reports.

Re: Winter and spring hiking : French Alps

Tue 07 Jun, 2016 11:43 pm

Thanks. If the conveyor belt of storms we have right now would take a break, maybe I could finally start the summer hiking season. But it looks bleak at the moment.

Re: Winter and spring hiking : French Alps

Wed 08 Jun, 2016 7:36 am

The weathers not much chop down here either. At least the dams are filling.

Re: Winter and spring hiking : French Alps

Wed 08 Jun, 2016 4:26 pm

Someone, somewhere in the world, is getting good walking weather. I suppose we should be grateful on their behalf . . . :roll:

Another great set of images from some fascinating and beautiful country. Thanks, Hallu.
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