New sport, new challenges
Fantastic fun in the snow with Undiscovered Alps
We found Undiscovered Alps in The Guardian Travel section, one of my favourite bits of the Saturday edition. There are always so many wonderful places featured, with so many interesting and varied things to do. And there were also great reviews on Responsible Travel, another site we used often and I still do.
I have always loved the snow, and loved skiing though I hadn’t been since the mid-80s. Mortgages and a partner who loved the snow but hated skiing just got in the way of winter travel to cold and mountainous areas. But we found this trip, a chance to get out and have fun in the snow trying out an activity we’d both enjoy, and it looked good.
The enquiry and booking process was so easy and it was great to be able to talk to the person running the company – Sally Scorer. She answered the phone and responded personally to all our emails and questions with courtesy and friendliness. Sally was completely reassuring about the fitness levels we’d need to enjoy the trip and all the activities, and so we booked.
Getting there and back was absolute fun and involved our first ride on a TGV – so fast, so comfortable, and an example of just how good a rail service can be :-). From where we were, a flight to Paris, and then the train, a sleeper service, waking up in time to get off at the delightfully named town of Gap, where Sally met us and took us to the hotel that would be our base for the week.
There were four other people on our trip, a younger, very fit couple, who ended up always at the front, and a couple of teachers who every February half term challenge themselves to find a different activity or trip. We were right in the middle of the fitness levels :-).
Snowshoeing – we had visions of the tennis racquets on our feet but of course today’s solution is far more high-tech – same principle of course but just differently applied, with modern materials. The snowshoes simply clipped on to our hiking boots, and had a number of different settings to use, according to the terrain we were covering, and they made an amzing difference – walking through knee-deep powder was such a joy, and the grips on the snowshoes totally removed the fear of ice!
We walked some wonderful routes, enjoying fantastic weather, and brilliant food too of course!
We had some free time, and the opportunity to try other activities, and I chose an ice climb. So working with the wonderfully patient and supportive Philippe, I got into my harness, got roped up and set off to climb this beautiful frozen waterfall.
I just hadn’t anticipated what hard work it would be! I climbed and climber and climbed and then realised I’d gone up about five meters! I came down, feeling that I just couldn’t do it, it was such hard work.
After five minutes rest, and reflecting on what I’d paid, and that I might never get another chance, I changed my mind, and indicated to Philippe that I wanted to set off again. And it was so much easier, I was racing up, having found some confidence, and found some technique.
Until… I was about half way up, feeling drained, and glanced down (have I mentioned my fear of heights?)… argh! Phillippe’s grasp of English seemed to desert him, as in response to my requests to come down, all he said was “Up zee foot” “Use ze left arm” and so on…. I gave in, and followed his instructions and suddenly found myself at the top! Wow! Only 30m or so but such a massive achievement, I was so happy with myself. Of course, now I had to get down…
In theory, that was just an easy abseil, but in reality, I was so tired that it was more a case of Philippe lowering me down while I used my legs to keep me off the ice face. I was exhausted and exhilarated. And so proud of myself, facing my fear of heights, facing physical challenges, driving through exhaustion and so. Personal development – fantastic!
It was just a brilliant trip, and it was wonderful to meet Sally and her husband Bernard. She is an amazing woman, and I have really loved following her company’s growth and successes since then. They facilitate all sorts of activities, both summer and winter, in a beautiful area of France largely free of Brits, and have recently set up an operation in the Pyrenees.
Check out my blog post about wolf tracking, and Sally’s about stag and hen trips too (both to follow as my website rebuild progresses), and tell us about the things you get up to – we’d love to see your comments.