Avoidance is the best kind of defence against midges

I love Scotland. Massive mountains, endless views, unreliable weather. Big mountain days, playing in the snow and always knowing you might not meet a soul all day.

However, I have to admit that I only visit Scotland before the Summer season, sticking to snowy winters or early spring. I did have the misfortune to have a week in late June in the Cairngorms a couple of years ago, which was pleasant enough until I ventured away from civilization and was promptly eaten by midges. Then it was a battle of stamina v the midge to get high enough up the mountains to be in the wind.

So since then I have planned trips to avoid this, in the last few years sticking to winter alone. We were lucky to have both perfect sunshine and no midges when I visit the Trossachs in May but i guess that’s not quite the heartland midge territory.

However, now I know this website exists I might plan differently – Midge Forecast – I guess its probably about as reliable as weather forecasts and common sense and DEET might still be required, but nevertheless a useful website, (even if it is a promotional tool for anti midge product too).

Whiskey and walking, walking and whiskey.

Always one to make the most of the bank holiday weekends, I dragged my best friend to the Trossachs. Not only was this her first time hiking in Scotland, it was also the first time she had been camping in the UK too. I had to rectify that immediately!

Now I’m not suggesting she isn’t a hiker, as she’s done the Inca Trail, but somehow she’d made it through her life and never walked any of the amazing hills in the UK. So we took the opportunity to visit a friend in Scotland to rectify the situation.

I opted for Crieff as our base, deciding there would be enough to keep us all happy if the weather was awful the whole time we were there, which lets face it is always a possibility in Scotland. It was also close enough for our Scottish friend to join us for a few days.

Continue reading “Whiskey and walking, walking and whiskey.”

Tour du Mont Blanc – 2012 – Les Contamines to Chamonix

Our final two days walking on the Tour du Mont Blanc was some of the hardest with steep ascents in hot temperatures.

Day 9 – Les Contamines to Les Houches – 8 hours 45

Total distance 19.5km ascent 1225m descent 1505m

Today felt like a brutal walk, a bloody steep ascent in scorching weather. Being stung by a horsefly and then zapped by an electric fence; my knees ached and I hadn’t eaten enough chocolate the day before. It was hell. And then someone said that we were on a harder variant path…

Continue reading “Tour du Mont Blanc – 2012 – Les Contamines to Chamonix”

Tour du Mont Blanc- 2012 – Courmayeur to Les Contamines

Over the next two days we would leave the Italian side of Mont Blanc and return to France. Goodbye gelato, hello pastries.

Day 7 – Val Veni to Les Chapieux 6 hours 50

Total distance 20.5km ascent 945m descent 640m

Those of you studying the Cicerone guide as you read this, you will spot that we didn’t walk from Courmayeur, where we had previously finished. With limited time to complete the route, and having chosen to camp in the valleys and not stay at the refuges we had no choice to but skip part of today’s walk. Catching the bus as far as it would go, up the Val Veni. This still left us with a long walk, but at least cut out a steep ascent.

Continue reading “Tour du Mont Blanc- 2012 – Courmayeur to Les Contamines”

Tour du Mont Blanc – 2012 – Champex to Courmayeur

The next three days of the Tour du Mont Blanc would take us from the pristine Alpine villages of Switzerland, over the Grand Col de Ferret the highest point of the TMB route, and into Italy – from the home of fantastic cheese and chocolate to the home of fantastic gelato and … chocolate.

Day 4 – Champex to La Fouly – 5 hours 50

Total distance 14.6km ascent 555m descent 440m

Today’s walk would take us through some gorgeous quiet villages as we headed for the end of the valley and our last campsite in Switzerland. It was a cooler day and having a relatively flat route it was also more relaxed.

The start of the walk from Champex takes you through the Santier de Champignons – route of the mushrooms; evident by the trees carved on the woodland trails.

Continue reading “Tour du Mont Blanc – 2012 – Champex to Courmayeur”

Tour du Mont Blanc 2012 – Chamonix to Champex

At 105 miles the Tour du Mont Blanc is not the longest long distance route I’ve completed, but it was the first one overseas and the first completed in one go and not broken up over weekends like the Pennine Way.

Suggested by two friends who had completed the trail years ago, the thought of crossing through 3 countries, tackling Alpine passes and walking through sun, snow and probably rain, the TMB sounded just like my kind of trek.

Choosing to walk clockwise meant that we would be passing other walkers rather than catching them up, which for most of the route would enable us to have relative peace. Or as much as you can ever get in the Alps.

Continue reading “Tour du Mont Blanc 2012 – Chamonix to Champex”