Featured Post

Washing Waterproofs with Grangers Wash + Repel

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LUCY: I’m really chuffed that as a brand ambassador for Grangers, I get to try their products and write about them. Taking care of my equipment is really important to me. Here’s my first blog post bringing you my thoughts on Grangers Wash + Repel.

I’m pretty hard on my gear. I’m out in all weathers, and most days of the week. My waterproofs have the roughest time of it, having to deal not only with sideways Scottish rain but also sweat, mud, rucksack abrasion, being stuffed in to overloaded rucksacks and generally mistreated. Long ago I realised that washing and reproofing my waterproofs regularly is essential to maintain the performance that I need.

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I usually use a two stage process, washing in a specialist detergent (eg Grangers Performance Wash), and then use a spray on proofer (such as Grangers Performance Repel) that helps me focus on the highest wear areas, which loose their water repellency first, (eg across the shoulders and back). Anyway, to cut a long story short, it’s been a busy few weeks and despite my lack of time, my gear needed a good refurbishment before the winter season got fully underway. Luckily Grangers sent me a bottle of their Wash + Repel treatment, a 2 in 1 product that basically halves the time it takes me to wash and reproof hardshell.

It’s very simple to use, but for best results, you need both a washing machine and a tumble dryer. A 300ml bottle will treat up to five garments. Simply add it to the wash instead of your normal detergent, and hey presto, the job is done. Drying the gear in a tumble dryer afterwards helps activate the proofant. Grangers say that if you don’t have a tumble dryer, a gentle iron can also help.

So does it work? In short, yes! Really well!

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It’s early days, so I can’t comment on the durability of the treatment, but my newly treated hardshell beads up nicely in the rain and feels clean and rejuvenated. I’m so pleased with the ease of use, that I’ve finished the bottle, having washed and reproofed my favourite winter Gore-Tex hardshell jacket, my mountain rescue waterproofs (utterly caked in mud), a pair of ancient waterproof trousers in prep for an epic glueing and patching job*, and my beloved Gore-Tex bib salopettes that were tragicly starting to let the damp in. The whole process is much less faff than using two separate products, meaning more time for me to get on with things I need to do, which definitely includes resting, eating and sleeping right now… between full on days in the hills.

*Making my gear last is both a hobby and a mission!

Cairngorm Soleil et Neige

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Conditions are shaping up well on the mainland at the moment for Scottish Winter fun, and today Wally was working in the Cairngorms with Alban and Hélene from France who wanted to enjoy their first winter mountain experience in Scotland!

The team headed in to Coire an t-Sneachda and took a meandering line to find snow for step kicking, cutting and some ice axe arrest practice, before heading up on to the Fiacaill Coire Cas for an ascent of Cairngorm.

The weather was glorious, but they took the opportunity to practice some navigation anyway. There were occasional expansive views and a rapidly changing cloud and skyscape providing an atmospheric backdrop to the day.

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Winter 2019...Here it comes!

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Betwixtmas… that leftovers laden lull between Christmas and Hogmanay when nobody can remember what day of the week it is. Hopefully folk are getting the chance to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and work off some of those mince pies!

We are in full packing mode, shifting our base up to Fort William for three months in the New Year. What this means for our clients is two things:

  • We can offer winter Munro bagging adventures and winter skills days with more reliable conditions than we usually see on Arran. So if you’ve never used ice axe and crampons before, or simply wish to be guided around the Scottish mountains this season by experienced Winter Mountain Leaders, get in touch.

  • We are still available for days out on Arran, either for wildlife watching or (conditions allowing) winter walking, - so please also get in touch to check availability.

More info about winter walking and skills days here: https://www.arranwildwalks.com/winter-mountains/

Fingers crossed for a good winter season with lots of snowy fun for everyone. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the Festive Season and have a happy Hogmanay!

Working with Grangers!

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LUCY: Exciting news here! I’ve been selected to work with Grangers as one of their Brand Ambassadors in 2019. There are nine of us in total, and I’m in extremely excellent company with folk such as hard as nails polar explorer Ben Saunders and my friend and absolute heroine, sea kayaker Erin Bastian. It’s an awesome team of keen as mustard outdoor people who I’m looking forward to getting to know a wee bit during 2019.

Grangers make a range of products for cleaning and maintaining outdoor equipment. I’ve been using this stuff for years as part of my normal routine for looking after my gear. I essentially live in outdoor clothing year-round, and have always looked to Grangers to help me clean and reproof my waterproofs, and re-fluff my down gear, to keep it looking after me when I need it most. This doesn’t just matter to me personally, but also helps to reduce waste, as I’m getting the maximum lifespan I can out of my equipment before it needs to be retired. As a brand, Grangers have solid environmental credentials, their products are Bluesign approved, and they have eliminated harmful PFCs from their range.

As a bit of a gear geek myself, I’m also endlessly enthusiastic about encouraging folk to take care of their own equipment in the same environmentally responsible way. For example, on this blog I recently reviewed the microfibre-proof laundry bag, Guppy Friend, and I wrote a know-how piece on washing a down jacket. As a Grangers Brand Ambassador, I’m really looking forward to writing lots more of this useful stuff, plus trip reports and top tips, both on our Arran Wild Walks channels, and over on the Grangers blog. Look out for the hashstag #WithGrangersYouCan to keep up to date.

6 things I Wish I’d Known About Bike Packing Luggage Before I Set Off

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I’ve been tinkering with the idea of bike packing for a while. It looks brilliant for a start, all that fancy luggage and those beefy trail hungry bikes. Bike touring for extra rugged types, count me in! The luggage ain’t cheap, so after deciding that this might be my new passion, I started collecting bits, and then did a mini mountain bike tour back in the summer on easy trails around Ben Alder. All this was building up to the big one, two weeks in the mountains of Crete in October. So now I’m back, and I have the benefit of hindsight. Here’s what I have learned.

Adventure Bike, my go anywhere, do anything bike.

Adventure Bike, my go anywhere, do anything bike.

1. Start With the Bike.

It’s a no brainer really, if you’ve got a big trip planned, start with thinking about how your bike needs to be set up. For Crete, we knew we would be riding a mixture of tarmac and unsealed agricultural roads with lots of height gain every day. Tracks can be rough and thorny. I’m lucky to have a choice of bikes (n+1 anyone?) and decided that my Adventure Bike would be the most comfortable ride for this trip. It’s fairly light, with a tough aluminium frame, strong wheels, and we fitted brand new Schwalbe Landcruiser tyres to keep those thorns out (which they did, with zero punctures in 2 weeks of riding). Adventure Bike has a triple chainset but with my lack of training, I knew the hills would be my nemesis. I decided that I wanted to bring as little luggage as possible, staying in rooms and hotels along the way. This was a good call as the hills were massive, so I got this bit right at least! However, some aspects of my bike weren’t ideally suited to the luggage I wanted to carry. More on this later. Meanwhile, Wally was riding an adapted Scott mountain bike and had even friendlier gears on the hills, but he compromised with less performance on the rare tarmac flats.

Fully loaded and adventure ready.

Fully loaded and adventure ready.

2. Aerodynamics: You Win Some, You Lose Some…

The point of bikepacking luggage is twofold. Firstly, by distributing the weight around the bike in small packages and using frame bags, it’s possible to keep the centre of gravity low and close to where the rider sits. This is great for rough trails and technical terrain. Secondly, in theory, it is also a lot more aerodynamic than bulky panniers clipped on to a bike rack. I bought a secondhand half-frame bag from a pal, to optimise that centre of gravity benefit, but I quickly realised that it made using my bottle cages awkward. I knew water could be an issue in the dusty heat of Crete so carrying plenty of water would be essential, but no bother, I excitedly purchased an adapter kit that allowed me to fit my bottles to my forks. My bike now looked awesome, and like a proper Adventure Bike! My delight lasted until my first headwind, when I discovered that fork mounted bottle cages are a bit like sails. Great with a tailwind but rubbish in a headwind. My sporty bike with drops and a relatively tucked riding position was transformed in to a plodder.

The perfect bread carrying solution?

The perfect bread carrying solution?

 3. Improvise

As we got the hang of things, Wally’s handlebars became the perfect place to store fresh bread and delicious Cretan pies, snuggled safely between a map case and his bar bag.  To be honest though, from the word go, our gear was definitely a bit DIY… Proper bikepacking luggage is gorgeous and exciting but also very expensive. My set up ended up being a bit of a mishmash of off the peg luggage (love the Koala 13 from Alpkit), and bits cobbled together from drybags and assorted straps that we collected in the run up. I strapped a drybag to my handlebars using segments of alkathene water pipe (thanks to a plumber friend), to hold it off my bars and leave space for my hands, (I bought an Alpkit Joey handlebar harness to help with this). I carried a small roll of gaffer tape, which I regularly applied to protect the bag from an exposed section of brake cable. At the last minute before we left, I found an old lens pouch for a camera which strapped on to my bar bag and could be filled with snacks, and a luggage strap that held my flipflops on to the saddle bag, so that I was always beach ready!

Front end, with asymmetric bar bag…

Front end, with asymmetric bar bag…

4. Do Dummy Runs

I left my dummy run until too late, and discovered that my number one problem was going to be the interaction of my bar bag and my road style gear levers on my drop handlebars. Adventure Bike has narrow profile Bontrager bars, designed for women and other people with small hands, which I absolutely love, and have improved my confidence when descending. The massive down side which I had not appreciated until I was in the thick of it, is that if you strap a bulging bar bag to them, you can’t easily use the gear shifters. This was a particular issue from my front (left) shifter which needs more room to travel than the right. Getting the set up right so I could push the levers required lots of trial and error every morning, pulling on the straps to deform my bar bag to exactly the perfect dimensions for my gears to work. This was intensely annoying, for my companion as well as me (I swore and grumped about even more than usual in the mornings) and I’m keen to hear from anyone who has solved this problem.

The daily kit faff before we can set off.

The daily kit faff before we can set off.

5. It’s a Big Faff

Which brings me to the thing I really hadn’t appreciated. Panniers fitted to bike racks are easy. They are big buckets of happiness ready to accept whatever kit you throw in them. It doesn’t really matter what order your gear goes in to a pannier because you can always have a rummage about later. In contrast, bike packing luggage is a total faff. The bags are smaller, and odd shaped things like tools or guidebooks will only fit in certain places. Some of your gear is going to be totally inaccessible all day without dismantling the entire set up, so packing requires planning. And then each bag needs fitted and tensioned perfectly to withstand the bumpy ride it is going to get on those fun trails. I’ve realised that although bikepacking gear definitely looks the epitome of rugged adventurousness, if I know I’m only going to be on tarmac, I’d much prefer to tour with panniers and a bike rack. That said, a bikepacking set up really is superior on rough and technical terrain.

6. There’s No Such Thing as the Perfect Set Up.

I’ve been doing lightweight trips on foot for decades and I am still constantly honing and improving my gear. I’ve come to realise that in this respect bikepacking set ups are the same. What works for one person, on a particular journey, will not work for another, and tinkering on the road is also absolutely going to happen. I’m looking forward to hanging my nose over other people’s set ups, and if anyone reading this has some top tips they’d like to share, I’m all ears.

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Mountain Leader Training in the Lake District

Lucy: Last week I was observing a Summer Mountain Leader Training course with Graham Uney in the Lake District. This was a thrilling opportunity for me, to watch an experienced ML trainer at work, pick up some navigation coaching tips, and excitingly, it was also a bit of an extended job interview. Ever since I passed my own Summer ML eons ago, my life has been defined by my work in the mountains. I’ve been inspired by the excellent training and support that I received at the time and have been waiting for an opportunity like this to become involved with training future mountain leaders.

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Graham runs Graham Uney Mountaineering, based at Bampton near Shap, but ranging all over Snowdonia and Scotland too. We’d never met before but in the small pond of outdoor instructors in the UK he’s a well known figure. He was joined by Charlie, who is working towards his Course Directorship for ML awards, having worked on a number of courses around the UK and who runs his own company Your Mountain Challenge.

The Mountain Leader Training course follows the syllabus as set out by Mountain Training, and although it isn’t possible to cover every minute aspect of the syllabus in six days, a huge amount is covered, plus the core skills of navigation, leadership and dealing with summer mountain hazards are trained in depth. Candidates should have accrued a minimum of 20 Quality Mountain Days before training, giving them the prerequisite experience needed to get the most out of the course.

On Day 1, after some time spent in the classroom looking at the syllabus and scope of the award, we headed out on to the hill to practice some basic navigation skills. Most of this was easy revision for the candidates, and it was great for me to observe Graham using his methodical approach to teaching about the compass and map. As navigation coaches, we all have our little tricks up our sleeve, and we are always happy to borrow other people’s ideas! Day 1 was also a good time to introduce the responsibilities of the leader, and how to manage a group in the hills and around common hazards such as short rocky steps. We were blessed with the failing light of November and even managed to squeeze a bit of “night nav” in before tea.

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Day 2 was a magnificent day to be in the hills so we headed to the big mountains for a circuit of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge and the summit of Helvellyn. This is a classic Lakeland route, but quite serious in places and taking the Mountain Leader in to the”grey area” where a rope may be required in certain situations. It was a good opportunity to discuss a range of thorny issues, such as use of the rope (it’s a tool for emergencies only for MLs), the scope of the award, and managing groups in hazardous terrain. As a quality mountain day it had a bit of everything, including some navigation, despite the excellent visibility. Graham is one of the Fell Top Assessors for Helvellyn in winter, so knows the mountain like the back of his hand. It was pretty cool to be up there with him!

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On Day 3 we headed to Mardale to look at steep ground hazards. On the way, Graham let me loose with his precious candidates and I spent some time with them looking at contour interpretation. We navigated our way up to a boulder field where Graham demoed some emergency rope work before the candidates practised using different types of anchors and body belaying for themselves. Finally, they tried out “Classic” and “South African” emergency abseils. Fun/scary (delete as appropriate) under friendly conditions, useful to remember if an unforeseen problem arises.

Day 4 was a nuts and bolts kind of a day, including emergency procedures, and confidence roping. The weather was pretty brutal so we were happy not to wander too far from base, and even to spend some time in the classroom.

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The final two days of a Mountain leader Training Course usually contain the expedition element. This involves a night out camping, and some night navigation. Last week the weather was very cold, and windy, and with fresh snow high up later in the week, we headed to a relatively low lying area (600m or so) and planned a camp not too far from Mosedale Bothy. Bothies are not for use by organised and commercial groups, but it was good to know that shelter was nearby for the team should the weather become a serious problem. On the first day of the exped we did experience quite a bit of sideways sleet and even snow, but by the time we got down to the valley floor conditions had calmed, and after a hot tea, we headed out again in to a starlit night for night navigation practice. This aspect of the ML syllabus often intimidates candidates (it did me) but these days I see it as a huge adventure. I love being out at night and navigation is a fun challenge. The key is to be methodical in your approach, keep your navigation legs short and use good strategies. Also chocolate and a hot drink help!

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After a cold night, we headed out for a final mission, back to the car park… with lots of navigation in complex terrain, building up to assessment conditions. The candidates were able to put all that they had learned in to practice, completing a two day mountain journey during which our feet barely touched a mapped path. A huge well done to everyone on the course, it’s a full on experience, totally immersive, and a big milestone on their journey to becoming mountain leaders.

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It was also a fantastic learning experience for me. I’m hugely grateful to Graham and Charlie for sharing their knowledge and experience with me, and to the candidates themselves who were great fun and super keen. I loved being part of Graham’s team. Training future leaders is where it is at for me in terms of job satisfaction, and I’m delighted that 2019 is looking to contain lots more of this sort of stuff. Excitingly, there will even be a Summer ML running over split weekends in the Lake District and on Arran!

For more info about Graham’s Summer Mountain Leader Courses: http://www.grahamuneymountaineering.co.uk/Mountain-Leader

To read Graham’s Course Report from last week: http://www.grahamuneymountaineering.co.uk/course-report---mountain-leader-training-nove

To find out more about the Summer Mountain Leader Award: http://www.mountain-training.org/walking/skills-and-awards/mountain-leader

Review: Guppy Friend

As we develop this blog we plan to bring much more than the occasional trip report to the site. We already have a section of Top Tips for enjoying the outdoors, and this is the first of our Reviews, which we hope will include our favourite tried and tested pieces of gear, as well as new products that we think are of interest. The Guppy Friend laundry bag, which costs £25 and is available from Surfers Against Sewage, is something we've been trying for about a month, and in that time we've been getting the hang of using it, and finding out how it works. 

The ocean, is ultimately where microfibres end up. After that... who knows?

The ocean, is ultimately where microfibres end up. After that... who knows?

What (and why?) is the Guppy Friend?

The Guppy friend is, in short, a bag designed to catch microfibres, that you put your synthetic (polyester, fleece etc) laundry in, before shoving it in the washing machine. If you've already heard of the scourge of microfibres then you may already understand why this is important, but concerns about the problem that microfibres present for our environment are only just becoming widely known.  The problem is, that tiny pieces of fibre break off our clothes every time we launder them, and are washed in to our water systems. The concern about synthetic microfibres, is that like plastic, they persist in the environment for an unknown period of time. A 2017 IUCN report in to Primary Microplastics in the Oceans, estimates that 1.5 million tons of microplastics enter the oceans every year. Of these, 34.8% come from textiles. They slosh around the oceans and rivers, picking up toxins and entering the food chain.  Some are so tiny they can even cross cell membranes.  We have no idea at this stage what this means for human health but the potential problems are scary to say the least. For those of us that live in synthetic outdoor clothing, the realisation that we may be part of the problem is worrying.  The Guppy Friend was invented by some German surfers to try and help solve the problem.  It's probably only part of the picture- but the bag is intended to catch the microfibres in the wash, and stop them from going down the drain. 

My extreme Guppy Friend test. 

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Before getting a Guppy Friend, I spoke to a few people who had already used them, and asked how they found them.  "Easy" was the common response, but also "I think it works, although I can't see any microfibres in the bag". How to tell if it works?  I decided to give it an extreme test, using an extremely old, and frankly environmentally diabolical, fleece blanket, that is so degraded, it leaves a fine mist of microfibres where ever it goes. The first problem I ran in to, is that the Guppy Friend is only supposed to be half filled when it is used.  My blanket is pretty big (its a blanket) but I decided to make an exception this time, and hoped that I wouldn't destroy my washing machine. 

Microfibres from one wash of the blanket of doom. 

Microfibres from one wash of the blanket of doom. 

After a cool wash (as recommended by Guppy Friend), I pulled the blanket out of the bag.  It was dripping wet, the spin cycle seemed to have been completely ineffective. I've since learned that this is a consequence of overfilling the bag. A quick check around the seams revealed a horrifying amount of green fluff, all caught in the bag. Guppy Friend are keen to stress that you should never wash these away as it negates the whole point of the bag.  Put them in the bin without delay!

What next for the blanket of doom?

These recommendation above about how to dispose of fibres might help answer a burning question that I have about what to do with the offending blanket. Should I continue to use it (microfibres)? Should I bin it (and add to the landfill burden) or return it to it's hiding place at the back of our airing cupboard? I decided to ask Twitter, who preferred the out of sight, out of mind option.  For the moment, I'm hanging on to it, in case some form of redemption can be found. Creative ideas welcome...

Guppy Friend extended test.

Meanwhile, the Guppy Friend has seen a lot more normal use, and we've been getting the hang of it's little idiosyncracsies. After each wash, I run a tissue around the seams and wipe out the tiny microfibres. The main problem I have is due to the type of laundry that we generate- which is very heavy on the synthetic fibres, with lots of fleece, and technical outdoor gear. The guppy friend will only take about one set of thermals (tops and bottoms) and a light fleece.  Any more than that and it affects the spin cycle.  I've taken to putting what I think are likely to be the worst offenders in the bag, and running the rest through as normal.  I've not tried using a second bag as yet- at £25 each it's quite an investment. 

So what else can we as outdoor consumers do to prevent microfibre pollution from our laundry?  Evidence is emerging that if we wash our gear a bit less, reduce the temperature, and slow the spin cycle, we can help reduce microfibre release. Buying good quality gear is also key- cheap fleeces that pill and bobble in the wash are releasing microfibres much more quickly. If buying new, then its worth considering biodegradeable alternatives where appropriate, such as merino wool, or biosynthetics like Tencel Lyocell. 

Wintery spring

Lucy

Lucy: I've been back in the UK for a month and I have to say, it's been a bit colder than I expected!  When I left France I was longing for a bit of green and some proper Scottish spring flower after a winter of monochrome but what I got was the Minibeast from the East, and then the Easter Beast. I'm a bit disappointed to say the least!  This is me camping in the peak district last weekend, working for Adventure Expeditions.  It was cold. Very cold.  Amazing work by the young people completing their Gold Practice in these conditions! 

Anyway, today there was a lull in proceedings. Client Carole came over with her camera to enjoy some of the best of Arran's wildlife. As always, it was dramatic, but made us work hard for our sightings.  We got a soaring golden eagle having a bust up with kestrels and buzzards,  and then later a couple of otters braving the rough seas. The icing on the cake for me was a male and female hen harrier quartering the moors above the Ross Road. As usual, I failed to take any photos of the wildlife, but I did get a few of Arran looking spectacular in her wintery spring garb. Just in time to make me feel bad about heading back to France at the weekend! Adieu Arran, see you when spring is a bit more sprung. 

 

Goatfell
Glen Rosa

International Mountain Leader

Assessor Helen Barnard and my fellow candidates. 

Assessor Helen Barnard and my fellow candidates. 

Lucy: The exciting news here for us in the French Alps is that I have passed my International Mountain Leader Award!  Its been a time consuming and often challenging process, that has taken me just under two years to complete, with two 5 day training courses and two assessments as well as a speed navigation test and months of personal consolidation.  Preparation for my final assessment was one of the ulterior motives in our relocation to France this winter. 

A break in the clouds on Mont Chery. 

A break in the clouds on Mont Chery. 

My last assessment began in Morzine a week ago, and I joined 15 other candidates and four super professional Plas Y Brenin assessors for five days of navigation, digging in the snow, avalanche transceiver searches and nature appreciation. The assessors kept us busy, scrutinised our skills, and gave us plentiful opportunities to demonstrate our knowledge. Thank you PYB instructing staff: Helen Barnard, Mark Tennent, Helen Teasdale and Rob Spencer. 

Whilst much of the IML award involves taking the skills that I've developed as a working mountain leader and applying them in an international setting, I've also learned absolutely loads. Emergency summer rope-work at this level can be more complex, and there is an expectation that IMLs will be slick and safe in dynamic situations. My understanding of the alpine snowpack and avalanche avoidance has increased exponentially (this is a subject where there is always room for more learning), and I've deepened my understanding of the flora and fauna of Europe. The best thing is that I've also had some awesome adventures on the way. The key for me I think was having a supportive community of fellow candidates to train and practice with over the last year or so, and ample preparation time to build up my experience whilst out here in France. Huge thanks to everyone who has joined me on the journey.  

Sub optimal conditions above the Col d'Encrenaz. 

Sub optimal conditions above the Col d'Encrenaz. 

Looking ahead, I'm excited to be going home to Scotland next week and returning to the mountains that I love the most on Arran. Nature is best for me when it's on my own patch, with birds, mammals and plants that feel like old friends.  However, I'm also blessed that this new qualification is going to bring me lots of thrilling work in Europe and the next few months are looking busy. I'm raring to go! 

A White Christmas!

Lucy: We've heard a rumour that has travelled all the way from Scotland to le Bourg d'Oisans... Apprently there has been a White Christmas in some parts of the country... We hope that many of you have been able to get out and enjoy the snow, as we have over here. Today sadly,  it is mild and raining so we are hiding at home.  Above the house they are blasting loose rock to clear a road that was blocked in the last big storm. Tomorrow another epic snowfall is forecast.

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I've been absolutely blessed with a fantastic welcome and a great new snowshoing companion. Kirsten and I made the most of the interim good weather over the weekend in the run up to Christmas. On Saturday I was a guest of the Grenoble-Oisans sector of the Club Alpin Français on one of their regular saturday meets.  This active club enjoy a lot of Snowshoeing and Kirsten is a regular particpant. On this occasion we met on the outkirts of Grenoble and headed in convoy up to Engins, in the Vercors Massif, for a snow shoe hike up to the plateau above Sornin.

As we set off the mist hung thick in the valley and it was a dark and depressive atmosphere in the forest.  It's quite a pull up to Sornin but once above the hamlet the mist began to disperse above us, and it wasn't long before we popped out of a cloud inversion in to brilliant blue skies. We paused at a chalet to "casse le croute" and also for some transceiver/probe/shovel practice, with the wise Francis patiently coaching us all on our technique. After lunch we continued in a circuit through the woodland on the plateau before eventually descending in to the mist once more. For me, this was an excellent experience- once more I was made to feel very welcome, and I enjoyed practicing my dodgy french on the group. It was also very interesting to see "how the locals do it", and I am grateful to Francis for sharing his knowledge and experience.

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The following day Kirsten and I were a little tired! However, we managed to muster up some energy and Kirsten skillfully drove us up the steep snowy road to Villard Reymond from where we could easily access the small but steep little summit of Le Pregentil, that looms above the valley where we live. It was late afternoon, the sun was beaming at us from across the mountains, and we lingered for a long time on the summit taking it all in.

Yesterday of course was the big day, and we decided to spend the daylight hours outside, knowing that it would be the last good day for a while. Wally and Lee joined us for an ascent of La Quarlie, a 2322m summit above the village of Besse with incredible views of Le Meije. The sun beamed down on us and at times it was so hot we felt we were snowshoeing in the Caribbean not the Alps in December. The Quarlie itself is a big rounded lump, dare I say it a slog, nevertheless dwarfed by everything else around it. Again, we lingered on the summit, and the sun was setting as we raced back down to Besse so as not to miss our Christmas Dinner.

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The coming week looks a bit mixed for us out here, with bands of rain and snow coming through and topping up the mountains with their winter garb. We hope that all our friends and clients have had an enjoyable Christmas, with lots of time to spend with family, including some time outside having fun. In the closing days of 2017 we are reflecting on a busy year for us, and to looking ahead to perhaps our busiest yet to come. We would like to thank our customers for choosing to book their outdoor adventures with us and to wish them all the very best in this festive season.