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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Snowshoeing in the French Alps

The forecast said rain for the first few days of our snowshoeing trip in the French Alps.  It was depressingly accurate as it rained all the way from Paris to Samoens, by train and bus.  On the rainy evening of our arrival, we met our guide in the cozy hotel lobby.  Our guide Lindsay is a co-founder of Tracks-and-Trails.  This was the view from our balcony out over Samoens Valley.

French Alps Snowshoeing Raquette Samoens France Hike Hiking Adventure Travel

We were fortunate to have Lindsay as our guide.  She'd done all of the hikes on the itinerary several times before.  In the morning, she called her contacts at various refuges around the area, trying to find our best bet for a  hike.


Lindsay chose Pointe Rati because it seemed to have the best chances of not-terrible weather.  A cold drizzle was coming down as we drove to the hike.  As we crossed over into the next valley, the weather improved marginally, but it was still wet when we arrived at the trail head.  As a delaying tactic, we all grabbed a coffee or hot chocolate in the cafe, in hopes the rain would finally stop.  The plan worked - when we emerged from the little mountain cafe, it was cloudy and windy, but no rain!  

The view at the start of the hike up to Pointe Rati, looking left.  Tops of the mountains in the clouds. little houses at the bottom of the valley. 

French Alps Snowshoeing Raquette Samoens France Hike Hiking Adventure Travel

Clouds reveal only patches of the trail ahead.  Reminds me of some of my favorite Japanese calligraphy.

French Alps Snowshoeing Raquette Samoens France Hike Hiking Adventure Travel

Looking behind us, it was clearer, but we wondered if those were rain clouds coming to find us.

French Alps Snowshoeing Raquette Samoens France Hike Hiking Adventure Travel

The higher we went, the stronger the wind got.  We thought the weather was going to be too miserable to make it to the summit, but we were very close by lunch time.  We huddled under a lonely group of huge fir trees for shelter.  After wolfing down our lunches, wind howling in the branches of the trees, we decided to pop up the the summit.  In near white-out conditions at the summit, Lindsay told us we would have a great view of Mont Blanc if not for the clouds.  But, we weren't too worried, we still had five more hikes to go.  After about a minute, we declared victory and started back down the mountain.

When the wind picked up, the "spindrift" felt like a sandblast to the face.  We'd have to crouch and face away from the wind until it died down.  In the photo below, the white cliff on the left is a cornice - a ledge of snow built up by the wind. Cornices are notorious for suddenly fracturing and falling, so we kept our distance.

French Alps Snowshoeing Raquette Samoens France Hike Hiking Adventure Travel

Stopping to take photos always left me lagging behind the group.  The photos above and below were taken seconds apart, as the wind got stronger.

French Alps Snowshoeing Raquette Samoens France Hike Hiking Adventure Travel

A short while later, a gust of wind pushed me so hard I stumbled and fell into the deep snow.  Most everyone else fell at the same time, except Jennifer and Lindsay.  They were up ahead of us and had turned around just in time to see us all go down.

Way in the distance, where that big peak meets the clouds, we could see actual sunshine!

French Alps Snowshoeing Raquette Samoens France Hike Hiking Adventure Travel

We worked our way down through the deep snow in the forest, tripping and sinking in up to our elbows a few times because the slope was so steep.  Less than an hour later, we were back in the land of hot showers, and looking forward to another hike.

Links to photos from the following days: Day 2Day 3Day 4 photos.











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