Sunday, 4 September 2011

A week in the southern French Alpes

The Massif Des Ecrin is an area we frequently visit both winter and summer. This trip was primarily for our daughter, Emily, to do a pre-race training camp with European Ski School at Les Deux Alpes (at which she had a fabulous time). Meanwhile myself and my good lady went to play on via ferratas and catch up with friends in the region.

Mines du Grand Clot
A few miles before the off piste skiing mecca of La Grave can be found his fine via ferrata. Following a line of old mine workings the via ferrata offers a trip through both history and the landscape. The bottom section follows various workings and ledges, with part of the trip taking you up through a chimney section mined from the rock. The upper section is mainly a cabled footpath. This side of the valley is dwarfed by the huge bulks of the main Ecrin mountains opposite, and you are constantly rewarded with fine views of these mountains and their glacier fields. The walk off is more of a trek - following a GR route to Chazelet, passing the scars of ski tows on route, before a steep path back to the valley bottom.

The following day whilst travelling to Briancon we stopped to do the L'Aiguillette du Lauzet via ferrata. Whilst only a PD this is quite a long day out and in the true 'Italian' tradition of the via ferrat in that it offers  a great trip up a proper mountain. Much of the trip is along cabled paths and ledges in a fine airy position.

Up a single ladder.........

A short descent leading to....

......a short 'cave' section

Then upwards to the summit

The usual cross marking the top.

Descent is following a path off the back and around and down to intersect the local GR path. Excellent trip - apparently the second via ferrata to be established in France.

Tuesday, and something different. Managed to meet up with members of my canoe club, Glamorgan Boaters, who were out in the Durance area for a weeks paddling. This was to be my first alpine whitewater paddling in some 10 years, but since then I have learnt to paddle properly (almost!) and can now roll a kayak. First paddle was on the Upper Guil (grade III) down to the start of the Combe de Chateau- Queyra (- a good grade IV). A pleasant paddle though water a bit low. Three of us were still keen to paddle so the rest of the group went in search of ice cream and a tourist bimble we headed down to the bottom section of the middle Guil to finish at the barrage lake. This was an exciting grade IV and I was in the upper end of my abilities so portaged two sections, but Andy and Phil paddled the whole section. Very exciting!

Upper Guil

Lower section of middle Guil

Phil enjoying the rapids!

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