Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Saturday 17 January 2015 - Snow in La Clusaz

The snow started last night. A late night move from 'Free Parking' to the multi-storey car park saved us from being sealed into our spot by the first snowplough. 

We woke to less greenery than we've been accustomed to - the view from the apartment is pictured top.

Pierre and Yolaine wisely decided to stay in Annecy rather than meet us for a snowshoe walk, so we enjoyed a lazy morning watching the blizzard from the comfort of our living room. About a foot of snow has fallen. 

My photos from last year's TGO Challenge are now finally indexed thanks to this window of free time.

This afternoon we overcame our lassitude and hopped onto the skibus to Les Confins, where most of the Nordic skiing trails are now open and crowded. There has been a massive influx of people overnight.

In a couple of weeks we should be back on our own skis, so today we gave the rented ones a miss and simply strolled back down a 5 km walking piste to La Clusaz. Views were limited due to the continuing light snow; the bottom two pictures offer a flavour of the experience. I doubt that we were on any footpaths - we just followed the yellow marker posts through the fields. 

P and Y are due for afternoon tea (this French couple prefer tea to coffee) shortly and we may be out after that, so in the interests of being sociable this is all from another day of genuine 'holiday' in La Clusaz.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Friday 16 January 2015 - Tête du Danay

Today's hike took us up to 1734 metres, to a summit so spoilt for views that it has three separate orientation plinths. Whilst modest in height by local standards, it's the highest point between a number of valleys that are otherwise surrounded by high mountains, and is therefore home to some wonderful panoramas even on grey days like this one. 

We started from the apartment, passing an obscenely loud great tit outside the front door and heading through the village and past the swimming pool. At the end of the tarmac a red and white tape with a 'snowshoers only - respect their space' sign barred our way. We ignored it and continued past rummaging blackbirds along the woodland path on which Sue is pictured. 

A booming woman's voice from a ski school across the valley accompanied us for a while as we continued along the path signed to Les Confins. 

Eventually we reached an area of sparse snow and awkward bits of ice. Crampons would have been more help than snowshoes, but we didn't regret having neither. 

There was nobody else around. In fact we met one person all day. Gloves were not needed as we continued to climb snowshoe trail number 12.

At the Mouilles de la Perrière Sue spotted a strange object under a tarpaulin (pictured - centre). "I wonder what that is?" she asked. I hadn't a clue but I bet Sheila doesn't ask such questions! 

A few metres after this we turned sharp left with a view to ascending what would be our first hill of the year. The path rose steadily. I'd noticed a point on the map at 1561 metres that I'd planned to pause at - half way up the 400 metre ascent from the Mouilles. This was going to be the first time this week that we'd regret having forgotten to pack our flask.

Imagine our surprise to discover that the building at point 1561 was in fact 'La Ferme du Danay' a restaurant and buvette where we were able to enjoy a coffee and eat our sandwiches in the company of the tenants, Carinne and Mitch. We spent a happy time with them, chatting about (guess what?) a host of outdoor topics.

Then trail 33 led easily on hard packed snow to the 1734 metre summit of Tête du Danay for the wonderful panoramic views mentioned earlier, one of which is shown in the lower picture. (Remember this was a grey day on which rain was forecast to fall all day - the fact that we got any view at all and stayed perfectly dry was something of a surprise.)

Continuing along the ridge, we soon came across the Bellavarde ski piste that we'd enjoyed on Monday from Les Confins. It was open today, and several people were struggling round a steep corner where I'd taken off my skis on Monday.

Snowshoe trail number 32 then took us north for a couple of hours down packed snow towards the Grand-Bornand valley. An easy and enjoyable descent, despite the gloomy weather and a few sheets of ice lower down before the snow completely disappeared. The Nordic ski tracks at Le Grand-Bornand were mostly 'ice rink' quality and were very decisively marked 'closed' in numerous languages, albeit anyone attempting them would have to be crazy.

A short ride on the free skibus got us back to a rainy La Clusaz shortly after 4 pm, after this 14 km outing with around 700 metres ascent, taking about five hours.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Thursday 15 January 2015 - Annecy

Last night the six of us (Sue and I were joined by Chantal, Joël, Yolaine and Pierre) enjoyed an excellent meal at La Caleche, which can be entered from P and Y's apartment without going outside the building. The French chef told us he learnt his art (of French chefery working for two years in Chichester. Chantal told us that in the high season (most of February) the restaurant would be full of English voices, with the locals feeling transported to a foreign land. She also demanded that we provide a name and a recipe for our version of Tartiflette,  and did I hear her observe that it sounded quite good! Next week, Chantal. 

No skiing today. No more 'face plants' on icy pistes. I'm 5 - 0 up in that contest. Unusually for Sue she hasn't come a cropper even once.

Fearing the worst in the Nordic skiing pistes department, we'd returned our skis etc yesterday, with today's visit to Annecy already in mind. 

It's an easy half hour drive to Bonlieu car park in the centre of town, from where we enjoyed a lakeside wander in bright sunshine with the snow clad Tournette massif, which tops out at 2351 metres (Annecy is 450 metres) glittering in the distance beyond the head of the lake.

Our La Clusaz choughs have been replaced down here with coots and black-headed gulls, goosanders and mallards, with cormorants and bigger gulls and divers such as great crested grebes further out on the lake. The squabbling gulls and mallards might have been at Sale waterfront, but for the surprising absence of Canada geese. There were lots of runners out exercising on the walkways by the lake.

Statues and old buildings guided us to the old town to the south of the river. 
Pedestrian streets between tall buildings, with some tourists but not too many, occupied our time until an overwhelming desire for elevenses drew us into the welcoming Bistrot Café Bar Saint Clair. So welcoming in fact that had the proprietor had Ebola she would no doubt have passed it on to all her customers; she really shouldn't have been at work. Rue Saint Clair is near the old prison pictured (top).

Paninis in a small shop were as good as we've had. Even here they were complaining about the lack of snow. They haven't had any yet this calendar year, and feared that tourists would be staying away.

We wandered around some more - a slideshow will reveal more in due course - before adjourning for a scenic drive around Lac d'Annecy on the now very sunny afternoon. 

We paused for a short walk near the impressive but very private chateau at Duingt, from where the lower picture of the Tournette massif was taken. Lounging on a small pier with some other walkers, we all soaked in the bright sunshine.

Neatly pruned plane trees accompanied us on our final stroll near Talloires, before we trundled back up to the delights of La Clusaz for another relaxing, agenda free, evening. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Wednesday 14 January 2015 - Sticky Snow at Les Confins

Lie in.

Lazy morning with rain outside. 

Two hours skiing at Les Confins on tracks sticky with a thin layer of fresh snow. Only 4 km of pistes open, so we went round three times. Deserted when we arrived; full of children and groups training when we left. Snowing there but raining in La Clusaz. 

Back by 3.30 for welcome tea and biscuits and a most enjoyable lazy afternoon until our hosts arrive for aperitifs. 

Pictures:
Top - La Clusaz last night
Middle - this morning's view from our balcony
Bottom - the small chapel next to the pistes at Les Confins

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tuesday 13 January 2015 - Plateau de Beauregard

Another sunny morning saw us up at La Croix Fry (1477 metres) by 10.30. There were insufficient pistes open to warrant a charge - we should have bought our passes by the day rather than for three days. Never mind. 

The route through trees to the Beauregard Plateau was skiable but icy. It sported good views to l'Aiguille Vert (2322 metres) with Mont Blanc in the distance behind (pictured). Once on the plateau, the green Crulets piste was a delight, including the sound of woodpeckers in the trees. 

The longest of the four open pistes was the Lachat, an 8 km circuit. Icy in places but generally good fun. It usually links with other plateau pistes, but today we had to take our skis off and walk to Les Matins Clairs refuge for our morning coffees. There was just one other skier there, and a few walkers and snowshoers. There were very few skiers on the trails, and just a smattering of downhill aficionados on the easy slopes that criss crossed our 'Nordic' pistes.

There is so little snow that we pondered the benefit of snowshoes just now.

After a 'sunglasses and gloves' incident - I left sunglasses at the refuge, they had put them on one side, together with some gloves that I took to be Sue's despite their smart appearance. On return to Sue she denied owning them then embarked on a long dialogue with some French people heading for the refuge who eventually understood that their task was to reunite the smart gloves with their owner.

We then paused for lunch on the steps of a closed chalet that was well out of the cool westerly breeze - teeth jarring butties on which Sue seemed intent on me repeating last year's broken tooth incident. 

Then we continued along Lachat, diverting to enjoy the other open pistes, Colomban and Nant.

By the time we had skied back along the access piste to La Croix Fry, we'd covered a satisfactory 17 km; the sky was clouding over and Mont Blanc had disappeared. 

There followed a long period of supping tea and biscuits and contented relaxation back at the apartment. 

Monday, 12 January 2015

Monday 12 January 2015 - Les Confins

After yesterday's easy drive to La Clusaz, our 4pm rendezvous with Yolaine soon saw us efficiently installed in her and Pierre's studio apartment in the centre of town. It turns out that they have been living here recently due to building work on their home in Annecy, so the loan of the apartment for a week is all the more appreciated. Thank you Pierre and Yolaine. 

After moving the car to 'Free Parking' (keeping it in the main car park would cost us €75 for the week) we unpacked then strolled up to La Trace for dinner with Chantal and Joël, together with Yolaine and Pierre. Pierre came after attending the silent march in Annecy following the atrocities committed in Paris last week. 

Tartiflette a la Chantal was superb, following luxurious starters (it would be unfair to hungry readers to say more) and succeeded by a chocolaty pudding. There was a bemused look when I told our hosts that my version of Tartiflette includes mushrooms and an alternative to the Reblachon cheese that's hard to find in the UK. "That's NOT Tartiflette" they all assured me. 

Returning to the apartment (thanks for the lift Yolaine) we passed a snow machine busy trying to keep the main downhill skiing route into town open. There has been very little snow here, so skiing options are more limited than usual.

Choughs congregated on the roofs below us as we breakfasted on the traditional tasty croissants this morning - somebody must regularly offer them breakfast. By the time we left, the Monday market was in full swing. 

A ski hire shop next to the chapel in Les Confins sorted us out with skis, boots and poles for €13 a day each, and piste passes cost a further €7 a day. Only about half of the Les Confins pistes were open today but we managed a couple of laps (Sue is pictured on one of these) of a 2.5 km route before coffees, then we enjoyed the 9 km Bellavarde route up to a minor summit at 1420 metres.

Given the warm, calm, blue sky nature of the day, we could hardly complain about the icy piste. My Porsche skis dragged me down three times on the descent after our al fresco lunch in warm sunshine. Sue miraculously managed to stay upright on her Ford Prefect skis.

The bottom two pictures were taken from our lunch spot and of our lunch spot respectively. 

Primroses and (maybe last year's) Carline Thistles are evident and other flowers are in bud. Winter seems to have been by passed by Spring.

After our 14 km ski we changed back into our only shoes for this trip (hiking boots) and strolled around Les Confins, noting several groups of walkers under the strict control of their guides. Is it me, or in these times of affluence are more and more people too lazy to organise even a short stroll for themselves? The majority of people we saw today were with either instructors or guides, which must at least be good for the local economy. 

By the way - thanks for your comments, I'm unlikely to reply by way of comment this week as we have to go to an obscure stairwell to pick up wifi from a nearby café, and the phone signal is variable.  

Right, I'll try to transmit this from the stairwell, on our way to give the 'huit to 8' shop a bit of custom. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Sunday 11 January 2015 - A Short Walk in the Jura

Saturday morning's five km Parkrun in Wythenshawe Park was about the muddiest on record. With no spikes on our shoes the simple task of running alongside a couple of football pitches seemed more like treading treacle. 

So with the aid of Mike's Taxi and a little nudge from EasyJet and the dreaded Budget/Avis, we soon found ourselves noshing smoked salmon tart and supping excellent wine at Alistair and Laurence's hideout in Cessy, near the large Hadron Collider.

That set us up for today's short stroll in the Jura, virtually from their doorstep. Just 4 km, with Laurence nursing a headache at home (there were quite a few empty bottles lying around this morning) and lively Lyra, the golden retriever, joining us for the walk.

It was muddy after thrashing overnight rain and warm weather that had melted earlier snow. A bit like Wythenshawe Park if 'truth be known. We wound our way through stick rich forestry, emerging eventually onto a rounded summit topped by an ancient obelisk. Sue, Alistair and Lyra are pictured here. 

A nearby viewing platform helpfully pointed to a panoply of locations, including an invisible hill called Mont Blanc. At least it was quite warm, and not raining. 

Then, after more food, Sue and I jumped into Cleo and sped off to La Clusaz, pictured from where we abandoned the car in a lay by.