Thursday 27 September 2018

GR5 The South Approaches

After nineteen days and around 330 kilometres plus enormous amounts of ascent and descent I've arrived in Briançon, the biggest town on the GR5 and a fascinating place with huge walls and forts. I've had a day off here, the second of the walk, the first being in Les Houches ten days ago. I find that after this long I start to slow down unless I take a day off. Briançon is ideal for this. As well as very interesting it has all facilities, including a much needed laundrette.

The walking has mostly been superb with excellent mountain paths through outstanding landscapes. I'm familiar with the pattern now - a steep climb through forest to open country and a col or two and then an equally steep descent into the next valley. Finding cars parked at the top of some of the ascents still feels a little disappointing but I'm getting used to it.

Mont Blanc seems along time ago and even the Vanoise, where I was four days ago, is receding fast. Every Col brings a new world and a farewell. I always look back, relishing the land I've crossed.

Tomorrow sees the start of the last ten days or so. The Mediterranean feels close, Lake Geneva distant. I hope the weather continues to be kind.

Monday 24 September 2018

GR5 camp

Last night's camp. Down in the forest as it was very stormy with bursts of torrential rain and blasts of high wind. I was glad to reach the trees after crossing a high pass. Camp was quiet and peaceful, the forest floor soft and comfortable.

Seems I can post pictures one at a time but not in batches. Progress!

GR5 update

Nearly half way on the GR5 through the Alps. Heat, cowbells, long steep ascents and descents, restaurants, electric fences, cows, ski resorts, lovely forests, glorious mountains, fine wild camps. My impressions so far. Wild in spots developed in others. From one to the other and back again most days.

I'm posting pictures on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook. Would post some here but Blogger won't agree. I will when I can! Two weeks to go.

Thursday 6 September 2018

Packed and ready for the GR5 Trail through the Alps

After humming and hawing over gear selection I'm finally packed for the GR 5, which is good as I'm leaving on the sleeper to London tonight!

I've mostly ended up taking tried and trusted items - main changes from my last long walk are pack (lighter weight, I won't be carrying a bear barrel and gallons of water), shoes (previous ones too worn), waterproof jacket (more substantial - it might rain!) and some electronics (I have a smartphone and a watch to test). I also have the new Dual-Lock Pacerpoles - my old ones are fine but I prefer this design - and the new Kojin burner for the Caldera Cone as it's more efficient. I'll be writing a piece about the gear and how it performs for The Great Outdoors.

The walk will actually start on Saturday after trains to London, Paris, Geneva and St. Gingolph. During the journey I hope to work out the complexities of the smartphone and the watch! Then it's three to four weeks of walking.

Book Review: Highland Journal 1.The Making Of A Hillwalker

Tales of the hills are always interesting and this collection is no exception. The author describes his journey from innocent novice asking what a Munro is before ascending his first, Carn Dearg in the Monadhliath, and realising that cotton trousers and a cheap waterproof are not ideal, to experienced climbing Cuillin peaks. The stories involve many others and are entertaining and often humorous. Whilst they're told in a linear fashion this is a book you can dip in and out of as well.

The book is illustrated with the author's drawings and maps and these are delightful. As well as mountain scenes they feature wildlife, skills, and plenty of minutiae. At the end of the description of the Carn Dearg ascent there are sketches of all the gear the author is promising himself.

I discovered this book when given a copy by Marjorie, probably the best bookshop owner anywhere, and owner of Grantown-on-Spey's excellent The Bookmark. The author had been in distributing copies.  If you like it please write about it, she said. Well, I do and I have.

Highland Journal is published by Matador at £15.99