We stayed in a Swiss-style chalet in surrounding mountain landscape in the village of Aussois. Resturants, village shop, bakery and butcher, tourist information, sports/equipment shops within walking distance. I think most of us managed to get to the bakery to pick up some freshly baked baguettes for breakfast or for lunches. The cakes, gateaux and pastries were a very tempting display.
As mentioned, activities included several early start mountain walks led by Laurent, Steve, Abde on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Also lake walks and walks to the forts. Lots of refuges along the routes selling hot drinks and food which were a welcome break to all those who used them especially Kim and Audrey!!
Rene-Luc brought his laptop and some film DVD's. One evening some of us watched I-Robot in English - good film.
I experienced my first outdoor rock climbing in a few years thanks to Hamid and Rene-Luc. They set up ropes and routes - very safe as the hooks were already in the rocks. Again something we do no have in UK with outdoor climbing. Tom and I had already some experience with indoor climbing and belaying, and Patrick, Abde and Sadia were beginners and did very well, I was impressed. Well done guys! We all managed to do several climbs of 20/30 metres up the rock face on Tuesday morning. It was well worth all the effort as the views were fantastic when you reached the top. Less scary than the Via Ferrata!!
On Friday morning, with the help of Rene-Luc, Tom and I were able to complete climbing routes 4a - 6a, in layman's terms easy climbs gradually getting more difficult. Thanks to Rene-Luc for coaching, abseiling and leading techniques, and reassurance for setting up the ropes and safety devices for the abseiling. Lots of photos in action.
A warm sunny Tuesday afternoon after my morning climb, I joined a group of us to do Via Ferrata for 3 hours, as Mark mentioned not for the faint hearted!!! Clipped in and harnessed and roped up in two teams of six (team 1 leader, Mark, Steve, Pauline, Harpreet, Darren and me; team 2 - Prem, Derek, Kim, Audrey, Patrick and Tom). Vertical climbing along a rock face with a sheer drop below, walking on metal ladder steps and very narrow ledges!! At times, scary to say the least. Prem, Kim and Audrey's laughing and joking helped to take away some of the pressure and most of us muttered a few "French words" too.. Group 2's instructor spent most of this time on his mobile phone but both leaders helped us when we got stuck. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support - a real team effort by all. Abde, Sadia, Hamid and Rene-Luc took a hard route on the other side of the cannon using their own safety equipment, which included passing behind a waterfall and crossing a wire bridge! I thought our route was going to be easy but now I am glad that I opted for this route. We all met up at the Devil's Bridge for photographs and a well-earned drink of water and rest before heading back up to the car park.
On Wednesday we travelled early to Mont Blanc by car for the day. We all bought tickets for the cable car, Kathy took Dutch courage and was persuaded to come too. Well done Kathy who said she was glad she had managed as she was afraid of heights. Although it was raining and misty, and we were told no views or visibilty at the top, we had come all this way so did not want to miss out on the experience. Lots of photos taken, well worth going up even though we could not see anything. Lots of pictures in the snow at the top! We met several groups either starting or finishing treks on the mountain, very interesting to talk to. We reached 3842 metres and some of us were beginning to feel the effects of the altitude. A very worthwhile day out, and buying of gifts in the town. I managed to get myself a chalk bag for climbing, a bargain at 8 euro (£5).
After my morning of climbing, on Friday afternoon, Kim, Audrey, Hamid, Abde and Sadia and I went horse-riding on a 2 hour trek through a forest, a village, across the river and along part of the main roads and pathways back to the riding stables. It was a warm sunny afternoon and nice to be riding in such a pleasant location of mountains and waterfall scenery. This was my second time on a horse, unfortunately for me I had a mischievous one who had his own ideas, he was a bit frisky and not very well behaved and I found myself holding on as he decided to trot unexpectedly or bend forward to munch on plants and grass. Nearing the end of trek we had to go uphill which meant that the horses needed to move fast, which was bad news as Hamid and I came off our horses, both of us OK, a little shaken, advised to get back on the horses again to the stables. I am here to tell the tale even if a little stiff and bruised.
Thanks to Sadia for cooking a wonderful couscous and those who helped with the shopping, preparation and clearing up. Thanks to Kim, Abde and Sadia for organising the meal out Friday night for the meal. 4 course meal and 5 course meal. Very yummy puddings!
Report by Jackie
The holiday was absolutely the best! I loved every minute of it and yes as Jackie said, I am terrified of heights but this made the challenge 100% more rewarding.
I thought I was reasonably fit as I swim 3 times a week and do a little Salsa, but I found myself using muscles that haven't been used - probably since school - not going there!
Abde and Sadia, you did us proud, all the hard work and time you invested to ensure this holiday went without a hitch, I don't think there was anything you missed. Your choice of location, Aussois was delightful, so picturesque, and the people were so very friendly. I miss my 7am stroll to the bakers for a baguette, the hustle and bustle of the kitchen first and last thing in the day and of course I miss the mountains.
I drew the short straw for a bed in the chalet, in fact I still can't straighten myself up, I swear I was moving around an area 3' high. But the dorm share had its own rewards and we did have a giggle and luckily enough the girls I shared with were up for a bit of laughter and a boogie woogie on the last couple of nights, as were a couple of you guys - you know who you are.
The car share also proved very entertaining with a lot of banter going back and forth. Kim and Darren did the driving and although they were both a bit cautious in the beginning, (especially when finding themselves on the same side of the road as oncoming cars) they soon adjusted and were zooming around those long and winding roads.
We crammed so much in in the space of 6 days, walking in the mountains and forests, visiting forts; cable car to Mont Blanc, sightseeing - there was something for everyone.
What an adventure it was and now sadly I am back behind a computer and it is becoming a distant memory, but I was there, I touched the mountains and the mountains touched me.
Thanks for a great holiday and here's to the next.
Report by Kathy
Looking down the valley of Aussois - Photo by Prem
Vanoise National Park - Photo by Derek
Shall we take a cable car guys ? - Mont Blanc - Photo by Prem
At last - Chamonix (4807 m), Mont Blanc - Photo by Derek
Ice cave - Chamonix (4807 m), Mont Blanc - Photo by Prem
The summit and a well-earned rest - Photo by Jackie
Old town walk - Annecy - Photo by Prem
River walk - Annecy - Photo by Derek
Getting ready - Via Ferrata - Photo by Prem
No worries - Via Ferrata - Photo by Prem
Point of no return - Via Ferrata - Photo by Prem
Via Ferrata - Devil's Bridge - Photo by Jackie
Oooooooooh my GOD...don't look down - Via Ferrata - Photo by Prem
Hanging on the edge...don't we just love it - Via Ferrata - Photo by Derek
HOORAY, we did it - Devil's Bridge
Jackie climbing on the rock face - Photo by Jackie
Rene-Luc climbing on the rock face - Photo by Jackie
Kim with hikers at Mont Blanc in ice cave - Photo by Jackie