Monday, 17 July 2006

Alpine Summer (part 3)

Week 2 in the Alps - Le Grand Bornand  

After our week at St. Nicolas de Veroce, we moved on, with a stop en route for the (big) kids at the luge d'ete at Megeve (left) to a superb chalet at le Grand Bornand (below).

Our balcony looked out on to the jagged ridge of the Aravis range.  

Hmm - which of these might be climbable by mere mortals?

A look in the guide books suggested that our target should be Tardevant, a pyramid shaped 2500m peak right in the middle of our view.

Monday morning looked promising, so Iain, Julie, Cat and I set off early by car round by Les Clusaz to a high car park at head of our own valley.  A circuitous route, but getting us up to 1400m at the start of the walk.

Despite getting to our starting point at 8.45am, the heat was already building up.

From the car park at Les Confins, a track gave us a good start as far as Paccaly d'en Bas (1490m), then we branched off on to a lovely climbing path, partly shaded by trees, and with the views across the valley to Mont Lachat opening up as we progressed.  

Next we passed the high farm of Paccaly d'en Haut (1671m) and climbed on up to the Chalet de Tardevant (1787m).  

By now the heat of the day was on us as we continued up a series of steep zig-zags into a high valley surrounded by limestone peaks.

Suddenly, the steep gradient eased off, and there ahead of us was the beautiful Lac de Tardevant, its surface reflecting the clear blue sky overhead. 

It might have been tempting to dive in for a refreshing swim, but the ice field at the far end suggested it might be too cold for comfort!

A large group of schoolkids and their leaders were having their lunch, so we didn't stay for long.

We were now at 2210m, so getting high, with the summit only another 300m above us.

From the Lac, the path continued up through rougher ground (left) and over patches of hard packed snow to a col on the main Aravis ridge.  

The ridge snaked away to the south over some rugged peaks, and in front of us, the ground dropped away steeply over crags.

Unfortunately, the Mont Blanc massif, which should have been in plain view, was shrouded in cloud.

From the col, we turned left (north) up a small peak, L'Ambravettaz - cliffs on its east and north side, and steep grassy slopes to the southwest.  

The others followed the narrow path as it swung across just below L'Ambravettaz's summit, while I made a detour to the top, an excellent photographic vantage point for the final ridge leading up to Tardevant's summit:

Halfway up the final ridge, I turned to see the view, and there was Mont Blanc, apparently floating above a bank of clouds, looking impressively high above the silhouette of L'Ambravettaz (below).

Soon reached the dramatic summit of Tardevant, and enjoyed the views down to the Lac de Tardevant below us (left), and to Le Grand Bornand further down the valley (below):

Eventually managed to tear ourselves away from the summit, and descended by the same route.   Fantastic day!

(written 13/03/10)

Friday, 14 July 2006

Alpine Summer (part 2)

After our ascent of Mont Vorassay, we had a few other good walks from our base at St. Nicolas de Veroce.

One day we drove up the valley beyond Les Contamines-Montjoie, took the cable car up to L'Etape (1470m), then on up to Le Signal (1900m).  

From there, an easy walk up to the Col du Joly (2000m), with superb views to the Mont Blanc massif:

Cat and I continued up to the Tete de Roselette, then up some rougher paths across boulder fields and snow patches to the Col de la Fenetre (left and below), which had a real mountain feel, away from the day tripping tourists.

Unfortunately, we had to retrace our steps, but it would be worth returning another time and exploring further.

The following day, a very hazy and hot day, we walked from Le Bettex up to Mont d'Arbois - but on gravel paths all the way, and with a stop for ice creams and drinks at Hotel Chez La Tante at the highest point!  Hardly mountaineering!

Les gorges de la Diosaz was a spectacular low level walk, with wooden walkways above dramatic waterfalls and cliffs.

Our final day dawned bright and clear, so we drove up to Chamonix, and took the cable car up to Plan de l'Aiguille.  A nice way to ascend 1300m in 8 minutes.  Now, according to Naismith's rule, that would be about 2.5 hours!  

From there, we followed the Grand Balcon Nord path along to Montenvers.  Lovely path (left), with spectacular views.

At Montenvers, we descended to the glacier (Mer de Glace) in a bizarre cable car - each cabin was like a traditional red phone box!   

The glacier had certainly retreated since I was last there, back in 1973!

We admired the views, but decided against climbing the Dru (right) - I know my limits!

(written 13/01/10)

Monday, 10 July 2006

Alpine Summer (part 1)

Not many Munros this summer - we were in Germany and France for much of July and August ... but that was no hardship!  Apart from enjoying the sun, visiting old friends and being tourists, we climbed two very memorable "hills", well worthy of Munro status!

Mont Vorassay - Monday 10th July 2006

The first of these was Mont Vorassay (the green hill in the picture), which is an outlier of Mont Blanc (hidden at the back), at the end of the ridge which stretches west over the Aiguille de Bionassay (the snowy peak) towards St. Nicolas de Veroce, the village where we were staying for a week.

Looking out from our gite, Mont Vorassay (2287m) dominated the view and was just asking to be climbed! 

Unlike a Scottish hill, there were waymarked paths all the way, and it was green to the very top, but the position was so dramatic, and the summit as airy as Sgurr nan Gillean!

We began at the village of Le Champel at 1200m.  A good path led up through the forest, across the face of Mont Vorassay.  Here's Iain and Julie on the path, as it emerges from the trees above the Gorge de la Gruvaz.   the mountain in the distance is Mont Joly, which I had climbed on a previous visit.

The path led to the Refuge de Miage at 1570m, then steeply up to the Col du Tricot (2120m) behind Mont Vorassay.

The Col du Tricot (right) lies on the Tour de Mont Blanc path.

From the col, we turned west to climb up to the summit of Mont Vorassay.  

Turning right would lead on up the ridge, over Pointe Inferierur du Tricot to the Aiguille du Bionassay, and then to Mont Blanc itself.

The climb up Mont Vorassay's final 200m was steep and unremitting, then after 45 mins of hard work, suddenly we were on the dramatic summit ridge ... with the valley far below, and wide views of all the surrounding ranges - Les Aravis to the west, the Chamonix Aiguilles to the north, and the Dome de Miage to the south.

A grand place to sit awhile and admire the prospect!

Although we had climbed up steep grassy slopes, steep rocky gullies plunged down from the summit ridge - the so-called "Abrupts de Vorassay" (below).  

Behind us, the view was dominated by the Mont Blanc Massif - the Dome du Gouter and Aiguille de Bionassay.

Eventually, we managed to tear ourselves away from the summit, descending back to the Col du Tricot.

From the Col, we turned north down a lovely path down through alpine rhododendrons to the Cascade du Tricot at the foot of the Glacier du Bionassay.  

The contrast between the heat of the valley, and the huge snowfields above, was incredible.  

A good path, then track led us back down to Le Champel, with glimpses back up to the summit .

The guide book says 5 hours for this complete circuit of the mountain.  We took 7.5, but took our time to enjoy the views!

(written 27/02/10)