Trekking in the Alps
Alpine Exploratory is a British company specialising in organising treks in the Alps. Many holidays run on a
self-guided basis, whereby clients walk the routes under their own steam.
Accommodation is booked in huts and hotels; route cards, maps and local information are provided. The company aims to take the work out of planning your trek, and to heighten the experience during it.
Tour du Mont Blanc: Alpine Exploratory groups walk the full Tour du Mont Blanc route. We don't skip any sections - it's all too good to miss, and we seek the satisfaction of completing the trek in full. We link up the pleasant hamlets and huts that sit along the TMB, as well as stopping in the larger villages and towns of Les Contamines, Courmayeur, Champex and Argentiere.
Chamonix Mountain Walking: The Chamonix valley makes a superb base for a walking holiday. The backdrop of Mont Blanc, at 4,808m the highest peak in Western Europe, is present throughout. Some of the most famous views reachable by Alpine walking are sited above the valley.
Other areas covered include the Valais region of Switzerland and the Julian Alps of Slovenia.
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The Mont Blanc Tour
Alpine Exploratory give us a taste of the guided walks provided by the holiday company as we accompany the founder Simon Stevens on the Mont Blanc tour.
Mountaingoers are used to rapidly changing weather. My week in the Mont Blanc region of the French Alps was no exception and gave me a taste of autumn in all its forms. I arrived to find solid rain and snow, and forecast to coninue for the next three days; after that were to come three days of high pressure, bringing crisp sunshine to the hills. And so it turned out.
My last day in the area saw me walk a stage of the Tour du Mont Blanc, the famous long-distance path. My aim was to reach Les Houches from Les Contamines, across the Col de Tricot. As so often happens on Alpine walks, the first steps are through trees. Walking through the forest above Les Contamines my senses began to wake up as I gained height. The gradient made the distance pass quickly, and soon I reached the hills proper and the first revelatory view. Through the clear air, from among the silent chalets on Mont Truc, I saw the Chaine des Aravis in profile, and far away beyond St Gervais, the Tête du Colonney. Later, in a hidden valley with just a glimpse of the outside world, I arrived at a collection of beautiful huts, houses and barns known as the Chalets de Miage. All was quiet, the summer season having been and gone.
Time to climb
And so to the main event of the day. The Col de Tricot proved to be demanding, with an unrelenting 560m climb, but the path was a good one and I knuckled down. At an altitude of 2120m this pass rarely troubles summer trekkers, yet just six days before my visit it had been covered in snow. As I reached the top I found it green and welcoming.
An exciting suspension bridge crosses the Torrent de Bionnassay, an outflow from the glacier of the same name. The glacier itself was unmissable high on my right, in an expanse of pure white. After reaching the Col I’d known that the main work of the day was done, the main climbing under my belt and the main barrier crossed. Now I had time and great weather, and the walk, mostly downhill now, was one to savour.
I passed a flock of sheep, grazing quietly behind a makeshift electric fence. They seemed unconcerned by my presence, until suddenly two sheep leaped up, barking. They were, of course, not sheep but guard dogs among the flock, and excellent ones at that; their camouflage was perfect.
At the Col de Voza workers on the ski lifts were taking a sociable lunch break. This col is a veritable Grand Central Station compared to most mountain passes in the area, with a hotel and a café to serve the lifts and the halt on the Tramway du Mont Blanc. From here it was downhill all the way; tracks lead down to the Arve valley at Les Houches, not far from Chamonix. The scale and beauty of the views made me want to savour the time up here instead of rushing down, so often as happens near the end of mountain walks.
Next summer’s trekkers should experience altogether different weather over the course of their fortnights – but I hope the variety remains.
© Text and pictures by Simon Stevens from Alpine Exploratory, 2008
Alpine Exploratory Limited
7 Victoria Street,
Settle BD24 9HD,
+44 (0)1729 823 197
E-mail : email@example.com
Visit website : www.alpineexploratory.com
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