souvenirs
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Wed Jan 01, 2003

2003

New year - new journal!

Sat Jan 18, 2003

New Year

We were in four, the car small and our bags large. But somehow we united into a single mass and parted for Chamonix.

And so it was we arrived on New Years Eve, slightly crumpled but happy to be in the mountains. The weather was damp, and it wasn't until we arrived at Argentiere that we found snow. We were staying in the Gite Belvedere which in all honesty could have done with a lick of paint, but was friendly with a good atmosphere. We ate here, and we ate rather well. A vegetarian course was prepared especially for us veggies, it was a welcome surprise to be catered for, and the meat eaters seemed well content with their meat products.

We decided to greet the New Year in Chamonix village. First impressions were a bit disappointing, the streets appeared lifeless and most bars were charging a kings ransom to enter. However we found one where we could enter for free and kill time in warmth until the time came to be in the main square. The village was now alive, full of people (to my ears mostly English), hugging kissing and setting of fireworks in a rather haphazard fashion. 2003 had arrived, we took the last bus home, and tired went to sleep almost immediately.

The following day, after a rather dull breakfast of bread and jam, we went skiing on the slopes of Les Grands Montets just 5 minutes walk from the gite. The weather was clear and sunny, but the snow was a little skied out. But it was easy to imagine that the off piste here is fantastic, great wide slopes that seem to go on for an eternity.

The weather then broke somewhat and there followed several days of snow and high winds that foiled our plan to ski the glacier blanc. At least the powder was building up, which made the rain in Chamonix a little more bearable, so we occupied our time with some short walks, reading and coffee. Due to high avalanche risk the pistes opened slowly with only 20% of the Grands Montets lifts running. However we went out and had a fantastic day. Low visibility made the runs challenging, but the snow was great fun and especially forgiving when you got carried away.

On our final day we choose to snowshoe along the valley from Argentiere to Le Tour. Considering the high avalanche risk we decided to stay low in the forest. It was my first real trial with snowshoes, and what a wonderful experience it was. They didn't quite float on the snow as I was hoping, but in fairness the powder was really soft. The weather had also changed and we were treated to fine views of the mountains that had up till now proved to be elusive. Breaking trail was hard work, but really enjoyable, and the forests were beautiful in their winter blanket of freshly fallen snow. It was a memorable and Christmassy experience.

Thu Jan 30, 2003

Valsassina

I felt like I had been shut away for weeks, which obviously wasn't true, but it was with great pleasure that I accepted Ellas proposal for a walk in Valsassina. I had been thinking all week of traversing Resegone, that razor toothed mountain that stands guard over Lecco, and this would provide a good opportunity to check out conditions. We arrived at Ballabio in good time for a cappuccino; normally it is a prerequisite for a good day however on this occasion it didn't even help us find the start of the path. It was number 31 on our map and marked with a big red dotty line, I have always thought that Kompass maps are less useful than a sheet of toilet paper in the mountains and today was not going to change my opinion. We concluded that the path just didn't exist, so throwing caution into the wind and the map in the waste we launched ourselves for a full frontal attack on the heavily wooded hill side of the Mt Due Mani massif.

And so it went on, tree after tree passing by and no sign of a path. The opposite side of the valley was bathed in sunlight whilst we were crawling up a wooded hill side, something was wrong, was it really going to continue like this all the way to the top? Of course not, because then we found some coloured dots, we had found a path. So for lack of any better alternatives we followed these little spots to arrive at a clearing, (must remember to note the good looking icefalls in a nearby gully for a return visit). Re-salvaging the map it appeared we were back on track, but this didn't last long, as no sooner had we left the clearing the spots disappeared and the wide track turned into 101 possibilities.

Once again we made slow progress, eyes pealed for coloured spots but it was in vain. The opposite open snow clad sun-baked slopes of Grigna mocked us until finally we found ourselves on the shoulder of Zucco di Desio. At least we knew where we were, and stopping for lunch we were content that we now just had to follow the shoulder to the summit. We couldn't possibly lose the track again; it was huge. Wishful thinking however as the track soon disappeared under deep snow. We were longing for snowshoes as the thin crust gave way under our weight; we were crawling our way through the forest. It was no longer fun, as we finally broke into another clearing to see the summit still at least another 1 hour in the distance.

Enough was enough and thats what we had done, lets just take in the fine view. The weather was perfect as we regarded the Resegone ridge line whilst finishing our coffee. The snow was obviously to deep to consider doing it tomorrow, and with our heads held high we turned to face our tracks.


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