Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tour du Mont Blanc #5 Champex - Trient, Switerland (European Alps)

I had been hiking the European Alps for a photo project in July 2014. Unfortunately, the first 3 days were miserable with rain and a surprising snow fall on the mountain pass... Crossing the French - Italian border, then into Switzerland, I photographed spectacular scenery along the Tour du Mont Blanc trail (110+ miles, 170km trail, which circles around the highest peak in the Alps; Mont Blanc).
Continuing from the last update, I left a beautiful alpine lake at Champex, Switzerland in the morning. This section would be the climax of the Tour du Mont Blanc trail which reaches the highest point of the entire trail with a steep mountain pass "Fenêtre d’Arpette" 8,743 ft (2,665 m).
Starting with a beautiful cotton grass meadow under a perfect blue sky...
Surrounded by high mountains, the trail ascends to the higher pass while looking down the Arpette Valley down below...

The easy part was over, followed by serious treacherous climbing... First, crossing through jumbles of boulders, followed by a slippery slope with small loose stones on all fours! My 30+ pound camera gear pack slowed me down... The highest point, Fenêtre d’Arpette towers up with an unbelievably steep angle! I doubted my ability to climb the trail up with the heavy pack on my back... This was supposed to be hiking NOT rock climbing! I wish I could post images of the pass but I didn't feel safe to set up the camera on the trail.

At least the slippery scree part was over, and a steep trail continued until reaching the pass... I just wanted to get to the pass, so I kept climbing...

Finally, I made it to the narrow rocky ridge of Fenêtre d’Arpette!
Looking down the Arpette Valley below, the trail I just came from was seriously steep. Many hikers rested on the narrow ridge. Some of them hiked up from the other side of the pass. We all met at the midpoint in the middle of the day. At last, I was able to set up the camera and captured the steep pass below...

Making it to the pass wasn't the end. Climbing to the top only meant I would have to climb down the other side...the trail was also very steep and slippery with sandy rocks. Trient Glacier cascaded down along the trail while more wildflowers cerebrated in the afternoon sun along the way.

The toughest 9 miles (about 14 km) was finally completed and some hikers jumped into the glacier melt river to cool off. I made it to the small village of Trient and settled in for the night. The stunning pink church located in the center of the village. When I first saw the picture of this church while researching the trip, I immediately planned to photograph it at sunset or sunrise, whichever offered better lighting, and crossed my fingers to have nice weather. My wish was granted, it looked like a great sunset that evening. I dragged my beaten up knees to search for the best spot before sunset, and set the camera up. When the sun lowered on the horizon a warm orange light glowed on the glacier covered peak above the church. That was perfect!

This story will continue on the next blog... Please check back!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tour du Mont Blanc #4 Elena, Italy - Champex, Switzerland (European Alps)

Another beautiful day in the Alps starting with a gorgeous sunrise at Italian Val Ferret. It had been already a week since I began the 110+ mile Tour du Mont Blanc trail on the French side of Mont Blanc for a photo project. It was constant rain from the beginning with a surprising snowfall on the mountain pass. Finally, the sun came out after I entered the Italian side of the mountains. A spectacular view of the Italian side of Mont Blanc and Grandes Jorasses the day before, then Switzerland is ahead.

Leaving the mountain refuge early in the morning, I climbed up the Grand Col Ferret (Ferret Pass) where the Italian - Swiss border lies. My 30+ pounds camera gear pack is heavy for this kind of terrain... The scenery was well worth it! As I climbed up higher, the receding Prè de Bar Glacier looked much larger than it was from the valley below.
Entering Switzerland, I climbed down into Swiss Val Ferret with its bright green pastureland and more cattle.
A small church overlooks a glacier over the mountains in the village of Ferret.

Arriving at the charming Swiss village of La Fouly with chalet-styled buildings decorated with flowers.

Sunrise painted on I'A Neuve Glacier in golden red, viewed from La Fouly. Another beautiful day in Swiss Val Ferret.

Wildflowers in the meadow of Swiss Val Ferret.

Passing through the village of Praz de Fort. Old buildings and narrow alleys... felt like going back to centuries ago...

Arriving at Campex, Switzerland, a small resort town in the Alps. The alpine lake, Lac Champex, is located in the center of town, surrounded by wooded mountains. It is a resort town but quiet and peaceful. The lake was amazing with deep blue-green colors under the afternoon sun.

Sunset at Lac Champex. The last sun glows on the distant mountains with reflections on the lake... 

This story continues on the next blog update. Please check back.