After a long day on the winding, demanding and beautiful hiking trail, returning to your hotel room can feel like stepping into paradise. However, before you soak your aching limbs in a hot bath or flop on the comfort of your hotel bed, stop and stretch those burning muscles. If you don’t, you’ll pay for it by either the inability to get out of bed the next day or, worse, sudden injury.
What are you thinking about doing this weekend?
I wondered the same question last week and I decided to go snowshoeing. On the border with France, at the head of the Valle de Canfranc there are some fantastic snowshoeing routes.
I decided to go to “El Bosque de las Hayas” or Beech Forest; between Candanchu and France. You can park at the ski resort and head out from there.
I’m in Chamonix at the moment for the BAIML (British Association of International Mountain Leaders) annual meeting. We have the AGM, a few days training and put the world to rights over a few beers!
I’ve never actually been to Chamonix before so I came a few days early to explore the area a bit. Today I went hiking on a section of the Tour de Mont Blanc. The full trail that is a complete loop of the Mint Blanc – today I just did a short section called the Gand Balcon Sud which is south of Chamonix and gives superb views over the Mont Blanc massif.
A beautiful days hiking. Started with a somewhat strenuous 1000 metre ascent out of Chamonix to reach the trail, but then a lovely traverse at around 2000 metres with just great views the whole way.
There’s not too much snow but at 2000 metres I was hiking in the snow most of the day.
For me the mountain of the day wasn’t in fact Mont Blanc but the Drus – an amazing pillar of rock. It reminded me of the Patagonian spires of Torres and Fitzroy and the late evening light caught it perfectly.
A great days hiking and made me want to come back and have a look at more of the Tour de Mont Blanc. Tomorrow a days ski mountaineering….
Hannah and I (Ken) guide for Hike Pyrenees during the summer, and when working, we’re often asked “what do you do for the rest of the year?”, to which I normally reply “this job pays so well, that we spend the rest of the year on our yacht in the Caribbean.” Well, unfortunately, as much as I’m sure Phil would love to pay us enough to do so, we actually have to work and spend most of our year at home, in the Scottish Highlands, where we run West Coast Mountain Guides, a company that specialises in delivering mountaineering guiding and instruction, mainly in the Fort William (Ben Nevis) and Glencoe area, but also on the Black Cuillins on the Isle of Skye.
Working in the mountains is very season dependent, with the late autumn and early winter (I.e. now), being one of the quieter periods of the year. The days are short and conditions may be neither here nor there, however, right this minute, we’re perhaps in one of the most settled and wintry conditions I’ve experienced at this time of year. It’s been cold and crisp for over a week, and this pattern looks to continue for the immediate future, which bodes very well in the lead up to our busiest time of year, winter.
The hills of the Scottish Highlands are transformed once they’re cloaked in snow and ice, and the challenges they pose far outweigh their modest stature. Conditions can change rapidly, with clear skies and good visibility one minute to strong winds and white out conditions the next, but to the well equipped mountaineer or hillwalker, the rewards and satisfaction of summiting Munros (hills over 3000ft), successfully climbing a snow filled gully or balancing along a snow covered ridge make it all worthwhile.
We offer a number of winter courses for all abilities, from those looking to take their first steps in crampons and learn how to use an ice axe through to introducing hillwalkers to the more technical skills required to tackle steeper gullies and ridges. We also offer private guiding; these are bespoke days for individuals or groups who may have specific objectives and goals. This could be anything from hillwalkers looking to walk up Ben Nevis either via the pony track from Glen Nevis or by balancing their way along the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, through to guiding some of the finest ice climbs that Scotland has to offer.
Once the snow have finally receded, we spend our springtime on the Isle of Skye, guiding on the dramatic Cuillin Ridge, which is unquestionably the most dramatic ridge in the UK. The entire ridge is 11km along, and sports 11 Munros, most of which require scrambling (using hands and possibly a rope) to reach the summits of. We actually run courses and private guiding there right through the summer and autumn too, and will employ other Mountaineering Instructors, many of whom are close friends to run the courses on our behalf.
We also arrange private guiding on the hills closer to Fort William and Glencoe through these months too, such as along the Aonach Eagach or up Curved Ridge, both of which are excellent summer scrambles, achievable by many hillwalkers.
So that’s really it in a nutshell. Hannah and I would be delighted to see some familiar faces (and new faces too!) in the Scottish Highlands, and I truly believe that when the Scottish Highlands are good, they are amongst the finest mountainous areas in the world. Of course, the Pyrenees are too!
Yesterday, the 164 participants of La Vuelta cycled through Valle de Tena for a relatively short but very intense and maybe decisive 15th stage.
Gianluca Brambilla was the fastest in climbing to Formigal together with the current leader of the race Nairo Quintana. They both took part of a 14-rider breakaway that formed in the opening kilometres. At the end, Quintana put 2:37 into Froome that is still in second place, but got now less chances of winning the Vuelta a España.
The riders crossed Biescas and passed by our Hike Pyrenees office around 5pm, in the 90th of a 119 km itinerary that took them from Sabiñanigo to Formigal ski resort.
Some of our guests had the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of this great event that came to the Valley. This morning the Vuelta left the Pyrenees and went more south. Maybe it will come back next year!