(we skied, we laughed and only a few of us cried on the moutain;-)


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.


Mike and April arrive in Grenoble, took a long nap, had dinner with Andrei, took ANOTHER nap and the next day hit the road in "Chupinette", 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 of touring.

Hiking up,ooh-la-la we are not alone...the french militaireare out onan end-of-season mountain exercise(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...technique feels 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.


Mike 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 (a decision that April now thinks absolutely softcore!! - we are losing visibility with clouds/fog decending on us, we being our descent only to assess that we may run out of snow before the 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 get comfortable with the mountains and snow and the reality of this dynamic and uncertain terrain. Again a mellow 800 m?!


PART IV: GRAND-SLAM TENNIS - no photos taken;-)

PART V: Mountain wildlife - in all its forms

Drove 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 climbed. 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 a few tears) and we began our descent through this awful mash. A few jump turns later....we were witness to a smallish?! 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 depth perception 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!


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 curtosy 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 - 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, 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;-)
We lounge on the rocks for lunch - bread, apples, and wonderfully smelly cheese. On a dare, April returns for a final "skinny" run, embraced by the noonday sun - no photos exist - this is a rare day, one of myth;-).

Thank you Andrei, Anca, Mike and Choupinette for a wonderful vacation!