I booked a trip with Exodus this winter to go try snoeshoeing with a fabulous mountain guide (Marjolaine - normally based in Briancon) in a highly recommended region of France. The Queyras Regional park is a good snowshoe destination having a series of 'reasonably sized' mountains, but nothing quite as massive (or steep) as the Ecrins to the NW. The trip was called the 'Southern Alps Snowshoe trek', I presume because Exodus don't believe many brits have heard of the Queyras (which is probably true...).
I started by getting the train from Grenoble to Montdauphin, then catching a taxi up to the tiny hamlet of Montbardon. I did try to find a bus from the train station, but there was only one a day, and luckily as I was waiting to see if there was any taxis available to pickup stray passengers (I hadn't booked) I managed to find one to share that was going in the right direction.
Snowshoes, hiking poles, shovel, avalanche probe and beacon were provided (although I really should have remembered to take my own hiking pole - I hate twist lock poles).
As typical for Exodus treks, the first hike was a simple one up to the Fontanie Plateau, mostly in the clouds at the top, although it cleared for a few minutes from time to time. 10km, 830m climb.
The second day took us back up (via a different route) over the Fontanie ridge into our second valley to Molines-en-Queyras. 12km, 880m up and 700m down.
On the third day we were expecting more blue skies and a big climb to the Guardiole de l'Alp. We got it - sun all of the way and a 12km, 1100m climb. In our case much of the snow had been blown from the SW aspect of the mountain, so as we got to the last 25% we stashed the snowshoes and summited in hiking boots.
I've been experimenting with the new Ricoh Theta S, so this is a 360 video captured during the hike. If you play this on your mobile you should be able to move the phone to view all around, or drop it into a Google Cardboard to be able to look in all directions. Apologies for the shakiness... the camera was on a selfie stick above my head for most of the time.
The 4th planned snowshoe day was up to Crete du Curlet, to get some good views from the ridge, then back down to the gite in Saint-Veran. 9.2km, 760m ascent.
On the 5th day we were supposed to rest... Hmm... but I didn't fancy trying skiing for the first on some pretty frozen ground, so along with one of the other chaps on the trek we planned a route up the valley past a small chapel, aiming for the Refuge de la Blanche. I had originally planned a route alongside the river, but after consulting with our guide we took a higher route up the valley side, with much better views. Without the constraints of the large group, and with the great soft directional light I we spent a bit more time taking photographs on the way up.
Getting up to the top of the valley was awesome - some of the best views of the week, although the wind was howling across the plateau as we approached the refuge (which thankfully was still open for lunch at around 1pm). After lunch we took the longer route back to explore more of the valley, and approached the boarder with Italy, then turned back, taking the low path. We ended up walking 21.3km with a climb of 1,015m
The last day started along a similar route to the previous day up from Saint Veran, aiming for Col du Longet just to the SE of the Pic de Chaterau Renard. This trek was designed to take us back to the final gite in Molines en Queyras. As on our previous peak, much of the snow had been blown from the SE face of the mountin, but there was plenty of it built up on the far side of the mountain for the descent. It was also a pretty long day - 19.5km, 830m up and 1125m down.
I was taking the odd image with my new Theta S 360 panoramic camera during the trip, which I've geotagged and uploaded to round.me - embedded below. Photos are captured at a much higher resolution than videos, so take a look below, or look for the same in the round.me app to see it in all of it's full glory on your phone or in a viewer such as Google Cardboard.
I was planning to get the bus back to the train station, but managed to pick up a bug on my last day and wasn't feeling at all good, so our guide dropped me off on her way back to Briancon - Thanks Marjolaine!