French Alps

  • Chamonix to Megeve by bike

    Cycling from Chamonix to Megeve is about 90km for the round trip and takes in about 1500m of height gain. Nothing too epic just a nice ride in the mountains. We headed from Chamonix centre at about 10am, riding down the valley towards Les Houches. THe snow on the ski slopes here looks long gone but too our surprise the lifts were still spinning and people were carrying skis. The sun was well up in the sky, but being mid April, the chill from an overnight frost was lingering in the shadows. I quickly layered up with a gillet before hitting the Vaudagne road, this is a small track that is tarmaced in the loosest sense and that’s just between the pot holes, a small steep climb quickly warms up the body. Locals know this road well as it is frustratingly, the only non-motorway exit from Chamonix at this end of the valley. It twists and turns through various hairpins under the cool, dark but vivdly green forest cover. The descending hairpins then spit you out into the bright sunshine streaking down between old traditional chalets, all sitting perfectly to catch every last warming ray.

    Cycling through Vaudagne

    The road continues downhill into Servoz another pretty little village with a small church, then as the last chalets disappear you enter a dense cooling beech forest. Where the canopy thins, this allows glimpses of a spectacular view over white glaciated Mt Blanc massif.
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    Looking down from the next village called Passy, the picture shows how you can see the air pollution literally steaming off the snake like motorway as the lorrie’s engines struggle up the winding narrow gorge into Chamonix. The view down shows the two sides of Chamonix, the stunning mountains framed by the concrete infrastructure and ugly industrial buildings that support mass tourism in the valley. A victim of it’s own beauty?

    Apple blossom and the bees
    Down in the valley, in lower Passy the trees are in full blossom and the smell of spring is alive. The shot above is of bees busy at work, observed after we stopped at the first bakery we saw to grab a sneaky pain au raison. This is the food that surely sustained a generation of French road riders before doping arrived.

    The climb up from Le Fayet from the lowest point of the valley is long but not brutal, a steady climb on a small quiet road makes the 700m of vertical quite pleasant. It slowly reveals a spectacular view as we gain height.
    The road twists through decidious forest and between sun baked chalets backed by views to Mt Blanc.
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    THen we exit onto the busier road for the last 8km to Megeve. This is flatter and flows between the cow pasture that just a week or so ago was supposed to be pisted ski runs! THe town itself was in full off season shut down, shops packing up, restaurants boarded up and a few souls relaxing in the sunshine with a coffee of slowly smoking a cigerette as tumble weed blows past. Why, when there is a choice of benches does the smoker always sit up wind and then proceed to smoke! I do enjoy a short but exaggerated cough to make my point!
    After a sandwich and one of Megeves finest gateaus, we filled water bottles from the fountain and headed back home!

  • This was winter 2013, Chamonix

    Winter 2013 was pretty epic both in amount of snow and length of the season it was still snowing hard in May! This is a Go Pro edit from snowboarding the insanely deep powder in December 2012, mostly shot at Grand Montets but also a bit at Brevent, Flegere and from the Plan du Midi

  • Glacier Camping in Chamonix

    In order to test some gear for touring Patagonia in the summer and to enable a couple of easy access day tours we camped up on Glacier du Geant above Chamonix. It turned out to be a windy and unseasonably cold night. The perfect clear sky was perfect for a time lapse night shot but the frozen condensation on the door and cold wind stopped me venturing out. The cold was worth it for a spectacular sunrise and fresh tracks without anybody about. We had just finished our tour and were returning to pack up as the first people arrived off the Midi lift at 9.30am which has a certain smugness attached!

    So it seemed the lightweight  cylinder style Therma-rest Neoair lite type mat is not up to these temperatures, I was pretty cold! But Marion’s Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 sleeping bag was just about OK, rate to 15f it seemed about correct!

    These are few pictures from the trip;

    camping 1

    This is the early morning light over the Aiguille du Midi  17051304

    Snowboarding back down the lower part of the Valley Blanche P5170248

  • View from the Office, Chamonix

    Storm brewing on Aiguille du Midi and the cable car for scale making a rapid retreat on left.