Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Cheer

We were joined by Jen's family for the week before Christmas, and celebrated the week away in this fabulous gite in Le Laus, a tiny hameau near Cervieres, which is up the road from Briancon ... somewhere in the southern French Alps. The weather obliged by providing the area with a cover of white, making it the perfect location for a winter Christmas.

... and the fire kept roaring!
Of course, much champagne was drunk ... 

The table set for dinner on Christmas Eve - roast chook!

One night, we caught skidoos up to Refuge Napoleon on the Col de l'Izoard to have tartiflette for dinner - yum! Jen and Mark then toboggan'd the 7km back down again ... if only the road was a bit steeper, we could have gotten enough speed to beat the skidoos down.
Mum and Dad braved the snow and cold to walk around the area and the fortified city of Briancon too ... 
... Steph headed out to Serre Chevalier to learn to ski, impressing Jen and Mark who joined her for a day or two on the slopes ...
... and whilst Mark and Jen didn't quite get ice-climbing ...
... it's a beautiful part of the world just to be out and about in.
What a week! 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ice climbing at last ...

After hours of scouring the internet for reports of ice, browsing through all the ice report sites we know so well from last year and even finding some new ones, we headed to Arolla, Switzerland - two ice falls were meant to be in good enough nick to climb, and we had new gear to try out!

Shiny new gear! Crampons for both of us, and new ice tools for Jen too ... time to scratch some of that yellow paint off, eh?

L'Usine Electric - the first of the two falls in nick. A wee bit thin and steep for the first climb of the season ... 

... but a thorough examination through the rabbit hole indicated that the column was solid.

And on day two we headed towards the second ice fall - Cascade du Ignes. Relatively fresh snow made the approach a wee bit arduous, but we enjoyed the walk and checked out another team (who had skis!) on the route.

Spotto the climber, if you can - the small dot in the centre of the gully ...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

All fairy tale castles ...

... especially this one, Neuschwanstein ...

... need a princess or two.

Eating and Drinking (Bavarian Christmas Style)

The day in Munich at Rho and Brett's started with a typical Bavarian breakfast - white sausages (peeled after cooking, like the locals do), a sweet pickle/mustard sauce, fresh pretzls with butter ... and a wheat beer.
Lardberg ahoy!
Heading into the Christmas markets, it was only right to sample the local produce on offer: even more sausage, deep-fried potato patties, deep-fried apple, deep-fried plum jam sandwiches ... all washed down with gluhwein and some other sort of hot liquor with an unpronounceable name.

You could request the message of your choice on your gingerbread: eg "Diabetes?" or "A present for your dentist!"
In between times, there was chocolate in a variety of shapes and sizes and gingerbread and marzipan biscuits. Just in case we got peckish.

And of course, there was the lights and colour of the markets and city centre itself - filled with people shopping, eating and drinking and just hanging out in the cool evening, enjoying the spectacle like us.

Ice-climbing bunny - and coming up the other side, an ice-climbing monkey!

Of course, we needed all this food and drink to sustain a very competitve round of Carcassonne and several days of hanging out and catching up with the family R. Voegele.

Merry Christmas, guys - and thank you again for your hospitality and all the good times. We'll see you in the new year!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

It's Officially Winter

... but where's the snow?

With Jen's new ice tools to try, we headed north - straight to Cogne, where we hoped the cold weather had recreated some of the ice falls we enjoyed climbing so much last year.

The town wasn't quite like we had remembered it ... it was a lot barer in the carpark with no mounds of snow to hide behind, and the overall colour scheme was browns and greys, not sparkly white. We set off for a walk to find the ice falls, and found only their prototypes.

According to our guidebook, there should be several ice falls here.

So, despite the cold weather, no ice climbing ... yet! But it will come, and we'll be back.