Monday, 17 September 2012

There's a BIG snowy mounting

It's called Mt Blanc and we were very near it on our last walk.

First though, the staff were napping yesterday and quite forgot to include this picture of a furry friend.  As we walked up the hill near the refuge on the previous day we could hear lots of sharp high-pitched whistles.  I wanted to know who was making them, but the staff said I'd have to wait and see.  Now that's usually grown-up talk for, "That's for me to know."  But, no he was being truthful, I waited and I saw this chap,  close up. When we'd stopped at the cross for our pictures there was a furry object that let out a very loud whistle and then disappeared, whoosh. The staff chuckled when I jumped.  He said, "That's a marmot, and they usually run away when you get close."  That's not fair, 'cos I thought they'd be nice to play with.  Later on though this chap was much bolder and Alan got his photo.  Apparently the marmots eat lots and lots and lots at this time of year and then they sleep while it's cold. That sounds very sensible to me.  (I really don't think that you need to fatten up young bear.) S'not fair so it's not.  Just 'cos you only eat one meal on Mondays and Thursdays doesn't mean I have to. (You're alright bear, I want to lose 14 to 20lbs and this is a good way to do it and at the same time reduce all sorts of health things like cholesterol and growth hormone 1.  I'm quite enjoying it in a masochistic way and I've lost 6lbs already.)  Well, bully for you, but I enjoy my food.  Back to the story!!!

We started the walk at a later hour than before after we drove round through Chamonix and Argentiere before finally parking on a saddle at about 1400m.  In the car park we drew up beside a car which contained two English men and one partner.  The men seemed rather fragile and a bit threadbare. We reckoned at least in their late seventies or early eighties.  "Hello," the said, "Where are you off to?"  Alan explained and then he asked them the same question.  "Oh we're off climbing.  Enjoy your walk and don't get lost."  With that the picked up their hats and rucksacks and headed for the rock faces, closely following some much younger climbers.

The sun was shining and the path seemed smooth from my viewpoint (Not bad from mine either.)  First of all we climbed through the trees with only glimpses of the mountings and things.  Then we were out in the open and this was the view down the valley.  The big hill with the snow on it Mt Blanc the highest place in western Europe.  Himself would love to go up it if he could find another victim, masochist enthusiast to get up there with.

Up they puffed with great views and some scary drops to the left (Not really, though it was a bit airy I suppose.) At one point the path follows logs fixed to the mounting and he took a photo up what he called the stairway to heaven.  Somehow he and John started humming a tune, I don't know why.  He's threatening a photo show called just that.  Soon we reached the top and found a sign saying 2201m, that's 7220ft in old money. No wonder he was puffing like a steam train.

We really liked the views from up there.  After a little snackeral of bread, cheese and ham we took full advantage of the lovely weather to look in all directions.  Here I am enjoying the vista.  Just beyond the rock I'm sitting on you can see the tiny houses down in the valley a mere 1400m/4600ft down in only a few steps.  I was a very brave bear wasn't I sitting up there so close to the edge? (You certainly were.)

 This picture and the next show some of the very high mountings. He wanted to climb the one in the picture below.  It's called Mt Buet and it's 3096m/10157ft high, but with no Bill they thought it best left to another year. Whoopee, that means we can go back doesn't it?  (It certainly does.  We love the area and there's still lots of walking to be done.)

Soon enough we had to leave what John called, "The best lunch stop ever." He promised both John and me a blueberry tart in the refuge part of the way down.  We got there and his tongue was hanging out; he was fairly slavering, I can tell you.  (Was not!)  Were too! (Was I?) You were. (Oh dear, how undignified.) 
So we settled down for  our tart but there wasn't any!  We could have apple crumble (or crumbel as the French would have it,) so we did and it was not half bad if a bit pricy.

Highlight of the day was John getting a new hat.  I really like the strawberries on it.  It was a bit cumbersome in the wind but I think it suits him, don't you? Alan says something about the red matching his nose, but that's not fair is it?

And, just to prove that I'm not an incoholic I eschewed the beer and had a Coke instead.

We made our way back down to the car park only overtaken a couple of times on the way, and who should turn up at the car but our friends fro the morning.  They hadn't fallen off the rocks or fallen apart, but they had left Mrs Climber somewhere.  I think she got fed up and left them to it.

Well that was it for this year.  Just time for me to show a couple of photos of me in my snug walking compartment.  It's quite tight but, when he leaves the zip open a bit, I can get a great view out - and of course his right ear is just there for me to sing at. (And don't I know it.)

Back soon,



Sunday, 16 September 2012

Snow fun

Well it is fun getting to play in the snow, and that's just what I managed to do on our next walk up near the Lac d'Anterne.  First though we had a day of mooching about.  He said they were tired after two days walking.  I said I didn't understand that, after all I felt perfectly fine and for me it had only been ONE day. (You're not going to forgive me are you?) Nope, why should I? (Ah get over it there's not a lot we can do about it.)  I'm going to huff for ever.  (No you're not, you're a happy bear and happy bears can't manage a petted lip for very long.) Well, OK then, you're right sticking out that lower lip was getting a bit tiring. Shall we get on?

After a day of mooching around and reading and stuff it was time for the hills again.  The weather forecast was good so I got to go, though when we set out in the car the cloud looked a bit low and misty.  It reminded both John and himself of 2004 when they had walked from Samoens all the way to the lake and to the next refuge.  We drove and drove for what seemed like ages and dodged the road crew who were laying tar and stones until we finally made it to our car park quite high up the mountain at 1180m/3870ft in fact. In 2004 they had walked all that way first and the cloud only lifted when they walked through it after the lake where we finished up.
It was still a bit gloomthy when we set out through the woods, but as we got higher up the sun came out and suddenly we were above the clouds.  Staff says it's called a temperature inversion, but how can that be when we weren't standing on our heads.  We were definitely the right way up, so that can't be right.  (It just means that the valley temperature was lower than that higher up so all the mist was down low and it was sunny up on top.) Well it's to clever  by half, and much too much for a bouncefill brain.
We stopped for a break to take in the view and I got to sit on John's rucksack for a few minutes. Isn't it pretty with those mountings sticking up through the mist?  In the second picture you can see that I'm taking on plenty of water.  You have to do that when you're walking and I hoped John wouldn't notice.  (Well, he did notice later when he ran out of water just about this point on the way back down!) Oops, sorry John.  (No harm done, I think he's forgiven you.)
On we walked, and on and on. Before he says anythin' I suppose I should say - on they walked and on and on. They walked off the track so we could see this view of the valley.  Isn't it gorgeous?  It was a bit scary standing down by the cross, because just beyond it was the very quick way down to the valley. The cross was already at 1818m/5965ft and the valley just behind was at about 1318m/4325ft, and that's a long way down in one step!!!!! About 640m/2100ft up from the car park and more to come. 
My tummy was telling me it was time for a little something, and just in the nick of time we reached the Alfred Wills Refuge. Now remember that genepi liqueur? Well it turns out that the Mt Blanc Brewery makes genepi beer, so we just had to try some and very very tasty it was too.  He and I are licking our lips at the memory of it.  It slipped over very nicely indeed, but at 5.9% we decided that one bottle would be plenty.
Lunch when it came was a fantastic plate of charcuterie, two types of sausage, dry cured ham and three sorts of cheese.  Coo, it was all we could do to finish it.  I liked the gherkins too, but they made me burp later on and he complained about that.
He has written a blog about the organisation of these refuges on his work website It's something to do with Lean processes, but after we finished all that food we weren't feeling lean, quite the opposite. He witters on about how the people who run the refuges have to be very smart and plan to get the food, beer and wine up there on donkey back. Not to mention the gas for cooking.  It's all very clever and he thinks so too.
We were soon finished and try as I might I couldn't get any more out of that beer bottle!

On we went even higher and we rushed on ahead of John. I was able to get my photo taken on he path to the top of the hill at 2120m/6955ft before we dropped about 50m/170ft to the lake, our final destination. If you look beyond John you can just make up the huts of the refuge where we had our lovely lunch.

As were neared the top of the hill I saw this friendly rock so I sat on it and had my photo taken again. Well it looked friendly, but maybe it was the beer that made me feel that way.

I had to be careful where I sat 'cos lots of dirty birds had been there and the rock was quite besmirched, poor thing.

At the lake we had a well earned rest and I decided to go down and maybe think of a paddle.  The water was very cold so I didn't go in.  It's a snow melt lake and there had been some recent snow though you couldn't tell it that day.  We saw  the curious sight of lots and lots of big plump tadpoles swimming in the shallows as we approached.  Imagine seeing tadpoles this late and not in March.  Aren't the hills behind the lake special?  Just beyond them is a dessert desert.  (That's right it's not a creme brûlée it's a dry place where it hardly ever rains and people come from far and wide to see it - though we didn't.) Those hills are the Rocher des Fizz, maybe you have to drink champagne when you climb them.

Then we looked around and saw some snow!!!! "Hooray," I said, "I want to make snowballs." I scampered over there as fast as my wee legs could take me. It was a bit warm really for snow and it was a bit soggy, but I got to sit beside it on a stone to stop my bot getting wet.

So that was about it. We had a lovely little sit down, but soon enough the rucksacks were slung on backs and off we tramped all the way down to the pub at the car park, where we just had time for a quick beer before we headed back into the village for our well deserved dinner.

Until next time, hugs from me,

Saturday, 15 September 2012

I love to go a wandering

Among the mountain tops, and as I go I love to sing (Out of tune, and you're just behind my ear.) Shan't stop, especially after I've had a few beers. You shouldn't leave those bottles around for me to get at, should you? (I don't, you just manage to be in the same place as the bottles.)

ANYWAY, as I was saying, there I was in the Alps where Himself was having a walking holiday with his friend John. Better (very late) than never, here 's the start of the story.

Day 1 - I got left tohind in the apartment.  It was a very nice apartment with a balcony and a lovely view, when you could see the mountings.  He left and went to a place called the Bout du Monde - that's The End of the World to you and me. Anyway he says it was wet - a fine excuse, I think he just forgot to take me.

(It was wettish - honest and we thought it might rain, so I left you behind - sorry.  I got this nice photo though.)  Humph! It is a nice photo but why didn't I get to see it in the fur?

Day 2 - He behaved himself and off we set.  We climbed and climbed and it was quite a hard job for wee legs. (And more for mine since I was carrying you!)

Here I am sitting on a wobbly bridge over a stream. Someone tried to walk over it from the other side and I nearly bounceded off into the water.  It was a near thing, but himself just about managed to save me.

Finally we got there at about lunch time.  I had to leave down my walking poles and have a little rest on top of his rucksack.  (Whose walking poles are those?  Mine I think and you travel in style inside the top box with a space for you to see out.)

Well.... Ok I did ride in the rucksack and it was a very pleasant way to get up high, though sometimes you do swing a body about.

Eventually we reached a place called the Refuge du Folly - wasn't that a funny name.  Here I am sitting on the signpost for the footpaths all around. The refuge is at 1558m - that's nearly 5000ft up in the air.  The day before's rain turned into snow high on the hills behind me.  Isn't it pretty?

Here I am when we went even further up the hill. He was puffing and panting - not fit you know. (Excuse me, but who has the big tummy?  You, I think. But you are right, I'm not as fit as I'd like to be.  It was so nice to be up there in the sunshine so I didn't mind.) John stayed below waiting for us.

When we got down it was TIME FOR LUNCH and a good thing too, 'cos I was getting a trifle peckish. (Not trifle I think.  The French don't understand trifle - mille fueille, iles flotante, creme brûlée, that sort of thing, but not trifle.) Enough rambling get on with it. (The rambling had stopped - it was lunchtime stupid.) Who are you calling stupid? You're the one wittering on, not me.

First I had a little drink 'cos all that riding around in rucksacks is thirsty work.

But then the beer arrived, hooray.  They have these interesting closures on the bottles.  It means that you can swing on them when you've had a few too many. Yippee.

After a couple of bottles it's time to rest.  We had very nice diots de Savoie - herby sausages cooked in a white wine sauce and he had a special 'tater pancake with bacon bits, prunes, apricots and onions called farcement. Super tasty it all was, and it was followed by tarte au myrtilles - blueberry pie, yummy. No wonder I was in need of a zizz.  (Well done for helping me out specially with the beer, though the last bit was what mattered eh?)

You bet!  Himself asked for the bill and it came with a glass of genepi  This is made from Alpine herbs that only grow above 2000m.  It's very tasty indeed, (and very alky too!) and it was all I could do to share mine with himself.  (Ahem, who was sharing?  Me I think.)

But then it was hup we go on his back and down to the valley below. Singing all the while, but then that's where we came in isn't it?

Tune in again soon and catch up with my next adventure.