I am back in the Chamonix valley; first day back actually. After a quick shop at the supermarche this morning, we were anxious to get out on the ski slopes because the weather was so lovely, sunny, and very warm. We went to Les Houches because it is the nearest resort to us. The school holidays have not quite finished, so there were a fair number of people around. But the only congestion we found was in the car park at Prarion. The snow is still in excellent condition despite the high temperature. It became a bit slushy towards the end of the afternoon, but there were very few places where the earth and grass was starting to show through. Spring had truly arrived in the valley with butter- and hoverflies straying into our way while we were skiing and a great deal of bird song whenever we passed by trees. From the top of the Bellvue Cable car we had a particularly fine view of the new Gouter refuge at 3835m standing precariously over a void. The picture is from the refuge website and shows what a wonderful construction it is. The view we had from the ski slopes was impressive but did not capture its grandeur quite so well.
I have been thinking recently about Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk I did over 8 years ago. I had been commenting on another blog, by somebody (http://30waysofwalking.wordpress.com/) due to do the walk later this year, and thought I might offer some considered thoughts for anyone thinking about doing it. The Coast to Coast Walk was suggested by Alfred Wainwright in a book published in 1973 (there have been more recent additions with some changes of route). It starts from St Bees on the Irish Sea coast and finishes at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast of England, passing through three National Parks. It is roughly 200 miles long. Wainwright encouraged people doing the walk to select their own route so the mileage will always be approximate. It is not waymarked and a moderate level of navigational skill is necessary unless you take one of the many guided tours. In my view, given this navigational ability and the time to book accommodation etc. taking a guide is not necessary. If you have experience of navigation you will not even think of doing the walk without a map. Even if you are being guided, you are likely to find maps will enhance your enjoyment of the walk. Harveys produce two maps that cover the whole route at 1:40,000 scale. But please do not think you can just use a guide book; you might get away with it but then again you may get badly lost. I think it is a wonderful walk and experience, and would encourage anyone to try it. You need to go prepared for all weathers; sometimes these can all occur within a single day! For those who do not like carrying a full pack there are ‘packhorse’ services available which will move your bags from one overnight stop to the next, while you walk there carrying very little. There are several places on the route with quite limited accommodation, so I would strongly recommend pre-booking. Wainwright suggests you should dip your boots in the sea at the start and end of the walk and you might also like to carry a small stone from one side of the country to the other. My advice is to walk from West to East. This is partly because of the prevailing weather but also because the Lake District early in the walk is an inspiration. Finally, please be careful with your belongings. One of my walking friends had her purse stolen from a dorm while she was in the shower. Her sister was on an adjacent bunk but she may have nodded off.