Six days in the alps

6:33 a.m. on August 4, 2009 (EDT)
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More than thirty years ago I took a NOLS course in glacier travel and general mountaineering, but never got or made much opportunity to follow up. A little rock climbing, thousands of miles of hiking and skiing and easy peakbagging, lots of looking at glaciers and a little bit of crawling around in crevasses at glacier terminuses, but I never roped up and set off across a glacier to get to the top of something.

Fortunately I never forgot the basics, and in my second year in Norway found myself improvising a harness out of webbing for the 30 meter scramble to the top of Juratind. Later my friend Christophe, ten years younger than me, started more or less testing me on some long/steep ski ascents and descents and a little summer climbing. I guess I showed that I could keep up and not screw up, so last winter we started planning a trip to the Alps, where Christophe began climbing when he was in the French military and put in a lot more time afterwards.

To keep it short, we attempted the Lisskamm, a 5 kilometer long ridge traverse topping out at 4500 meters, but turned back due to bad weather; made a successful ascent of 3823 m Le Dolent, the 3-way border point between France, Italy, and Switzerland; waited out some bad weather in Christophe's home town of Annecy, where the Tour de France just happened to be holding an individual time trial; then we finished on 3946 m Le Pelvoux in Les Écrins, southwest of the Mt Blanc massif.

Here's a link to a photo gallery, with some terse captions offering up a little more detail:

(Use the "i" button on the slide show to get the full captions)

For me this was a dream come true, and I can only hope to do more in the future.


2:10 p.m. on August 6, 2009 (EDT)
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Beautiful, BigRed! I love all the pictures.

We have good friends moving to Geneva this fall, so I hope to get over to that region in the next year or two.

5:35 p.m. on August 9, 2009 (EDT)
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190 forum posts jealous. Nice report friend.

8:05 a.m. on August 11, 2009 (EDT)
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For those interested in hiking rather than climbing in the Alps, here's a link to the first of several pages on our 2006 family tour around Mt. Blanc:

It's a different kind of experience from the more wilderness-oriented hiking we do in North America, or the comfy, uncrowded huts and endless tundra of Norway, but very worth while. If I were to return for another hike, I would consider the Zermatt-Chamonix "hiker's haute route", but also maybe look to other parts of the Alps for something new.

2:58 p.m. on August 11, 2009 (EDT)
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Very Nice ! Maybe someday ill be able to see it first hand.

12:23 a.m. on August 12, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks for the memories! Back in 1970 I spent a summer with a French family in St. Jean de Maurienne (Savoie), on the AFS exchange program. The centerpiece of the whole summer was a backpacking trip in the Parc Nationale de la Vanoise, in the area around Pralognan. I had done a lot of camping and hiking in the Scouts before, but nothing like this. The center of the Vanoise is closely protected, hence no tenting -- you have to plan to end each day at one of the hostels. But what wonderful places they were! People would gather there from whatever paths they were following, form a community for a night, and then move on. I don't remember the food they served -- it was French, hearty, basic, and good. We packed lunches for on the trail, where I had my first experience with a Bleuet canister stove. Also my first Vibram soles. Scouts got me into the outdoors and taught me the skills, but this is what made me a backpacker. I still have a beautiful black-and-white photo, about 18"x24", of the Pralognan Grand Casse hanging in my kitchen.

4:16 a.m. on August 12, 2009 (EDT)
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Yeah, I think a big part of what I have learned from Christophe is that there is a WHOLE lot more to the Alps than the Chamonix Mont Blanc area, and while the peaks there are truly stunning, as usual there's a lot to be said for seeking a place that is nominally second- or third-best and seeing what it has to offer. Chances are that it will mean a lot more to you than some hectic/crowded days around Chamonix (and ditto for any of a number of "first best" places around the world). Christophe has suggested we go to the Vanoise on one of our future trips.

In 2006 Christophe and I took a day hike/scramble in the Aravis near Annecy (reported on in the last of the pages I linked to above). Our high point wasn't much over 2000 meters but we had incredible views of Mt. Blanc and didn't meet anyone until we got to Trou de la Mouche around midday. It was as good (or better) a day as any I had on the 2006 trip.

3:39 p.m. on September 15, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks for sharing. Looks like an incredible trip. The pictures were great.

1:37 p.m. on September 16, 2009 (EDT)
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Wow, what an adventure. For those of us who want to hike in the Alps with a bit less mountaineering, google "Hut Hopping in the Austrian Alps" !

4:46 p.m. on October 16, 2009 (EDT)
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The Alps! You're my hero Big Red. I'm lucky to get out of the western US.

7:42 a.m. on October 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Wow, what an adventure. For those of us who want to hike in the Alps with a bit less mountaineering, google "Hut Hopping in the Austrian Alps" !

I can't resist the opportunity to shamelessly plug my own website on hut-to-hut travel in Norway:

It's commercial in that we are doing Google Ads, but also a labor of love. Now working on a page for Jotunheimen, including most of the highest mountains in Norway.

May 25, 2018
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