THE TOURS: STORIES FROM GRENOBLE (we skied, we laughed and only a few of us
THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED:Mike and April flew over to Grenoble and
crashed at Andrei's luxurious studio apartment in the downtown core...
surrounded by night life and cafes, extraordinary markets and old city streets.
Anca joined us by TGV from Paris. After each weekend we carried her:-) to the
train to return to Paris for a much needed week of work and rest.
PART I: LAUTARETMike and April arrive in Grenoble, took a long nap, had
dinner with Andrei, took ANOTHER nap and the next day hit the road in
"Shupinette", Anca's gorgeous red runner, on loan from Paris. Arriving at
Lauretet several hours later, having eased along the roads build of "little on
the edge of nothing" - this would become old hat to them by the end of 2 weeks
Hiking up,ooh-la-la we are not alone. Les-voila, the
french militaire on end-of-season mountain exercises(see lines of ants trooping
up the mountains..some of them learning how to ski. We catch up midway for a
chat and April compares military backgrounds with on of the head honchos.
We stop below
the recent spring slides and do our first turns in the Alps...a little rusty for
April. Remember April, keep you knees together!!!!"
And we are down too quickly, a
short introduction to skiing over by high noon or thereabouts...when the snow
starts to get sloppy with the heat.
As we drive up to the "Col du Galibier"
we look back at our climb and descend - looks very impressive!!:-) but only
about 700 m.
PART II: GALIBIERMike and April drive down from Aussois, a beautiful
little town where Andrei is participating in a top secret EU scientific meeting
- very James Bond ;-) and head back to the "Col du Galibier" for another
challenging ascent. This time we are set to do a loop. We portage a drop of 200
m then up a valley. Finally snow! Put on the skins, Mike's got the map,we are
ready to go! Up, past a bump in the snow that April mistakenly calls a "peak"
then turn the corner and WOW - all is white.
We stop at the top
of the loop, decide not to climb up to the real peak - we are losing visibility
with clouds/fog decending on us, we being our loop descent only to assess that
we may run out of snow before then end. Meanwhile, April's Chili binding snaps -
blasted cable design! - the latest upgrade will solve this for next year but
meanwhile, this tour is starting to look like an "epic"! We decide to backtrack
up the way we came, side stepping as we are suffering from wet skins.The descent
is fine - no major challenges but to read the terrain and get used to the
mountains and snow and the reality of this dynamic and uncertaint terrain. Again
a mellow 800 m?!
PART III: Mt POURRI CANCELLED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER
PART IV: GRAND-SLAM TENNIS - no photos taken;-)
PART V: Mountain wildlife - in all its formsDrove up to a national
marmotte ;-) park near Val D'isere ( talk to Mike and Andrei for actual
location/name) The portage was beautiful but a little on the long side (800
m!!!). We look over our shoulders to see the town of Tignes through the clouds.
We did finally find snow but it was wet, heavy and soft - ugly
conditions! We slogged onwards hoping it would clean up as we got higher up.
Winds were blustery and we lost much visibility in a sea
of white snow and foggy cloud. But as I stick my pole into the snow, I see blue glimmer at depth - ice! We are
on the glacier!!!!:-)
Finally ascent of a steep slope leading to the
elusive col was aborted (with only some tears) and we began our descent through
this awful mash. A few jump turns later....we were witness to a small slide -
Mike caught up in the edge, taking a ride down about 30 m, Andrei and April
watching layers of snow flow like water - an awesome and sobering sight. Mike busy with his
camera as soon as he pops free - he is obviously ok!
Skiing out was surreal - the "study in white" of the landscape and sky playing with our perception of
visual depth and sense of speed - sometimes looking down at your skies you are surprise to see
yourself still moving....obviously this can be a problem :-)! and led to a few comical tumbles along the way.
We are back in the grassy hills, portaging home, mountain goats knocking horns and whistling at us
to keep our distance; the marmottes ignoring us with only moments of curiosity, scampering across
the hills only to disappear into their underground mazes - apparently 2-3 of the beasties per hectar
but we seem to run across a huge apartment complex!
PART VI: THE TRUE PEAK: BELLE ETOILE!!!
Mike , Andrei and April climb a real peak - April's first! - at Belle Etoile. Portage to snow, climb, climb, climb.
Without ski crampons we feel the need to remove our skies on the steep and snow-crystaled slopes and put on
crampons over our ski boots, post-hole-ing takes much effort to reach the top - steep slopes making it look like
a quasi-vertical crawl!
Photos from the top curtosity of Mike!!!!
The top part of the descent is scary for April - you can see how steep it is by the ski poles!!! Further down it becomes quite fun.
During the decent a fog cloud thick as pea soup moves. We are skiing down some old slides - makes for challenging terrain,
expecially on teles!
The portage out - beautiful .....and Mike, is that wild rhubarb?!!
Mike takes a photo of cows on the way back to Grenoble.
OUR FINAL TOUR:
Our final tour - the 4 of us (Anca in from Paris) on a mellow jaunt up a Glacier to a lovely peak without a name.
It is a late start (see Mikey's watch shot) and we are all dragging a little after a week of touring, tennis matches
(even if just watching), keeping track of gear, route finding (on and off road!, to the grocery store or local pub with the
tennis matches), shopping for everything Patagonia, and sips of Pastiches, Monaco's, Port etc....
The weather is gorgeous, the portage unspeakably beautiful as we climb along the edge of valleys slowly making our way
up to the start of the snow and further on to the glacier.
The peak is wonderful - challenging but not really scary in my mind (April;-) There are a views of the
drop off on the other side - windows into another world - and Mike and Andrei stop for a photo shoot
while Anca and I beat them to the top. We chat with a group that we have been playing leap frog with all day
and we think that Bertrand is smitten with Anca's lovely blue eyes, blond hair and new ski pants ;-)...he leaves
his phone number on the car for drinks in Grenoble;-)