Snowshoeing in Italy / France: Final Prep

On the downhill run for our Transalpine Snowshoe Week, with Exodus.

Insurance

… purchased – LV= again. Premier annual multi-trips policy, Worldwide excluding North and Central America, Caribbean and Bahamas. Premier level covers trekking up to 6000m (in anticipation of Tsum and Manaslu in November).

Update: Winter Sports cover added. LV= doesn’t list snowshoeing as one of the activities that requires Winter Sports cover, but it turns out that it is. Thanks to Steffi for the tip!

Travel jabs

… checked – I had a whole lot redone in advance of my 2016 Nepal trek (in line with TravelHealthPro’s recommendations for Nepal) so I am all up to date with Hep A, Typhoid, Hep B, Diphtheria–Tetanus-Polio and Rabies. Next top up jab will be Typhoid in August 2019. Not that I’ll need any of these for Italy/France!

Euros

… from Thomas Exchange Global / BestForeignExchange.com on Wormwood St.

Weather forecasts

…. monitored / monitoring – looking chilly thanks to the Polar Vortex! I’m borrowing Hazel’s superior down jacket and taking my Icebreaker thermals and wool fleece lined mittens.

Click though to the Long term forecast and scroll down to the 4-hour daily views on YR and you’ll see that the temperatures are forecast to be even lower during the day (-17C, -18C, -19C ….)

Looking chilly in Thures
YR weather forecast for Thures
Looking chilly in Cervières
YR weather forecast for Cervières

Additional details

…. obtained from Exodus / France Outdoors, their local partner operating the trip:

1. Luggage transport / access

We got clarification on when / where we’d have access to our luggage, and confirmation that we wouldn’t be expect to carry our main bags to the Mautino hut.

Day 1 + Day 2: the group will stay in the same gite in Fontana del Thures, so you will have access to your main luggage.
Day 3 (Monday): a taxi will take everyone’s luggage in the morning to Cervières. So you won’t have access to your main luggage for 2 nights – you’ll just have what you take in in your backpack. Luggage cannot be left behind in the Mautino hut.
Day 4: Luggage cannot be left behind in Mautino hut.
Day 5 + 6 + 7: the group will be reunited with their main luggage in Cervières.

So you can leave your main luggage with what you don’t want/don’t need to carry for the Mautino hut on Monday morning to be transported to Cervières.

2. Lunch on transfer days

For most of the trip meals are provided. The gaps are lunch on the days we arrive and leave, when we’re on the transfer from / to Turin airport, and dinner on the way home too. Here’s what got back from Exodus:

Our local partner confirmed that on arrival there usually is a stop to buy some food on the way to the gite. On departure day, the transfer is planned around 2pm, so the group can eat at the gite or at another Auberge in the village. Additionally you could also buy a picnic at the gite to take away – there are no supermarkets there.

Steffi’s bringing Cardigan bread and cheese, and I’ve got a small pot of chutney to contribute to a picnic lunch on Saturday.

I have to say, our main contact at Exodus has been great at finding out these additional details for us, and very good at replying to our random questions.

Packing

….is about to commence!

Packing....
Packing…. is about to commence

Online Check-In

…. and we’re checked in for the flight to Turin too. Boarding passes printed.

Walking in Northern Albania: Mini Update

I’ve been busy sorting out some of the final logistics for June’s Walking in Northern Albania – Into The Accursed Mountains with Wild Frontiers.

Flights bought

We’re flying direct from Gatwick with BA – out on the Thursday before the Wild Frontiers tour starts on the Friday, back on the group flight a week later.

Hotel booked

We’ve booked a twin room at the Hotel Tafaj, which is where a WF group will be staying at the end of their Southern Albania tour.

Transfers sorted

We’ve booked a taxi to meet us when we land through Hotel Tafaj, and we’ll get the Rinas Express airport bus back out to the airport to meet the group flight. We got taxi estimates and airport bus info from Lonely Planet > Tirana in Detail > Flights & getting there.

Tirana plans

We land late on the Thursday and need to be back at the airport to meet the group flight that lands at 12.10pm on the Friday, so we’ve only really got Friday morning to go sightseeing in Tirana. The hotel is 15 mins walk from Sheshi Skënderbej aka Skanderbeg Square, which is where most of the main sights are. Perfect!

Where next: Walking in Northern Albania

Trip No. 2 of 2018 is now booked, and Hazel and I are off to Albania rather than the French Pyrenees.

Destination: Albania.

When: June 2018.

What: A week’s walking in Northern Albania, with Hazel.

How: On Wild Frontiers’ recce trip, Walking in Northern Albania – Into The Accursed Mountains

Why: I find the Balkans fascinating – the history and the culture, the legacy of the Ottomans – and I’ve looked at various Albania trips over the years – winter ones, summer ones – but never quite found the right thing at the right time.

This time, serendipitously, once Hazel and I had decided against the GR10, a Wild Frontiers email newsletter popped up in both our inboxes flagging this recce trip. For one week off work we get 5 days trekking plus time in historic towns and a lake ferry. We’ll be up in the Albanian Alps – aka The Accursed Mountains – most of the time, doing day hikes in the Parku Kombëtar Lugina e Valbonës (Valbonë Valley National Park) and Parku Kombëtar i Thethit (Theth National Park). We’re going a day early, to give us some time to explore Tirana and because BA’s flights are cheaper on a Thursday.

Although it’s been a while since we’ve done a trip with Wild Frontiers (the last one was Turkey in 2012 on their Wild Walk in the Taurus Mountains), they have always been great at getting to places that are a little more off the beaten track, plus the trips are all inclusive, right down to drinking water.

I still want to walk in the Pyrenees. Whilst waiting for Exodus to run an offer for their 10 day Highlights of the GR10 trip, which had been our planned trek, I came across Mountain Bug’s Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP) offering – 3 x 1 week sections, which you can do individually or together, and which includes an ascent of the Pic d’Aneto (3404 m), the highest mountain in the Pyrenees. The HRP take the highest walkable route through the mountains, whereas the GR10 and GR11 are lower down.  Tick, tick, tick. Plus I really like the idea of going with a smaller, local business too. Other than the HRP being a less well trodden (and slightly trickier) trail, the main snag was that you have to carry all your kit, and I was happier than Hazel to do that.

So, Albania, here we come!

Itinerary:

Day 0: London – Tiranë (Tirana)
Day 1: Tirana – Shkodër
Day 2: Shkodër – Liqeni i Komanit (Lake Koman) – Fierzë – Grykat e Hapta – Valbonë
Day 3: Valbonë: Kukaj, below Maja Jezercë (2695 m)
Day 4: Valbonë: Çerem – Bori Pass – Sqapit Peak
Day 5: Valbonë: Qafa e Valbonës / Valbonë Pass (1860 m) – Thethi
Day 6: Thethi:  Kanioni i Grunasit / Grunasi Canyon – Ndërlysaj
Day 7: Thethi – Kaprea Creek – Qafa e Thorës / Thore Pass (1685 m) – Krujë
Day 8: Krujë – Tirana – London

Now all we have to do is book flights, sort out a hotel for our night in Tirana and decide how to spend our Friday morning there – and getting from/to the airport.

Yr.No’s Wonderful Weather Forecasts

Having  umm-ed and ahh-ed over adding this into my Manaslu & Tsum: Update blogpost, I decided that Yr’s Wonderful Weather Forecasts merit a blogpost all of their own.

Yr – Yr.no – has been my go to website for trek and trip weather for a while now. It describes itself as “a joint service by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation”.

I am absolutely amazed by Yr’s coverage – I’ve found dedicated forecasts for all these places on our November trek to Tsum and then on around the Manaslu Circuit:

Initial section into Tsum and back

Arughat
Lapubesi
Dobhan
Philim
Lokpa
Chumling
Chumchet
Chhule
Ripche (Ripchet)

Manaslu Circuit on from Tsum

Prok
Hinanggaun (Hinang / Hinang Gaun)
Lho
Samagaun (Samagaon / Sama Gaon)
Samdo
Chamje / Chyamche (back on the Annapurna Circuit)
Syange

As well as the less surprising…

Pokhara
Kathmandu

and the more unexpected

West Nepal
Manaslu (8156 m) – “Other” as in “Mountain”, prompting me to look for…
Himalchuli (7893 m)
Ngadi Chuli (7871 m)

It’s not just the geographical coverage that impresses, the graphics, features and functionality do too.

Now that I’ve added these locations as “My Places”, I can see a super summary forecast for the next 3 days, and click throughs to the hour by hour and long range forecasts, all on one page:

Yr.No screenshot - My Places - Manaslu & Tsum
Yr.No screenshot – My Places – Manaslu & Tsum

As well as three flavours of forecast – showing summary icon and hover over narrative eg “partly cloudy”, temperature (including “feels like”), precipitation and wind speed & direction – and sunrise and sunset times, the Overview page has a map plus, at the bottom, latitude and longitude (degrees and decimal) and altitude, and a link through to Google Maps. And information about the place name including how it’s represented in other languages. AND a link to free weather forecast data (Javascript- or XML-forecasts):

Yr.No screenshot - Weather Forecast for Chumchet, Nepal
Yr.No screenshot – Weather Forecast for Chumchet, Nepal

Just to underline how amazing this all is, that screenshot is the Overview weather forecast for Chumchet, West (Nepal), which I visited during my Tsum Valley Trek in April 2015.

This is Chumchet:

Chumchet
Chumchet – Tsum Valley Trek – April 2015

Here it is on Google Maps:

And for completeness, here’s what you get when you click through to some of the other data sets  Yr has to offer for Chumchet:

Hour by hour weather forecast for Chumchet – includes a Meteogram:

Yr.No screenshot - Hourly forecast for Chumchet, Nepal
Yr.No screenshot – Hourly forecast for Chumchet, Nepal

Detailed hourly weather forecast for Chumchet – adds in pressure, humidity, dew point and cloud cover:

Yr.No screenshot - Detailed hourly forecast for Chumchet, Nepal
Yr.No screenshot – Detailed hourly forecast for Chumchet, Nepal

Long term weather forecast for Chumchet – gives you a summary and detailed forecast for the next 9-10 days:

Yr.No screenshot - Long term forecast for Chumchet, Nepal
Yr.No screenshot – Long term forecast for Chumchet, Nepal

Why look anywhere else?

Manaslu & Tsum: Update

Val was back in the UK as usual over Christmas and the New Year, which provided a perfect opportunity to flesh out some of the detail of this year’s big trek.

The main development is that we’re going to spend a week in the Tsum Valley before backtracking a little to rejoin the Manaslu Circuit at Gampul.  I’ve changed my working pattern this year, so I can squeeze in a four week trip, and the other people Val’s been talking to about coming on the trek are keen to combine the two.

I loved the Tsum Valley Trek that Hazel and I did with Anthony, Val, Chhiring and crew, just a few weeks before the devastating April 2015 earthquake. I don’t doubt that at times it will feel uncomfortable being back there.

From Chhiring’s updates, the road may now reach as far as Laububensi / Lapubesi (लापुबेसी), so hopefully there will be a fewer days of hot slog up the Buri Gandaki Khola (aka Budhi Gandaki Khola) at the start. There’s also flexibility to allow for high side trips and LED solar light distribution, and no doubt some medical assistance from Steffi.

Here’s the rest of the outline itinerary we’ve had from Val, plus approximate altitudes from the Himalayan Map House Ruby Valley / Ganesh Himal Map, Wikipedia and Manaslu Circuit Trek:

Day 01: Arrive KTM
Day 02: Kathmandu (काठमाडौं) (1400 m) to Sotikhola (सोती खोला) (597 m) or Laupubensi / Lapubesi (लापुबेसी) (880 m)
Day 03: Trek Dobhan (दोभान) (1050 m)
Day 04: Trek Lokpa / Lhokpa (लोक्पा) (2240 m)/(1905 m) or might stay in Philim (1570 m) or Chisapani (1620 m)
Day 05: Trek to Chumling (चुम्लिंग) (2385 m)
Day 06: Trek above the valley Chumchet area (चुमचेत) (3200 m)
Day 07: Trek to Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m)
Day 08: Trek to Chule (छुले) (3350 m)
Day 09: Trek to Mu Gompa (3700 m)
Day 10: Descend to Chule (छुले) (3350 m)
Day 11: Trek to Chumling (चुम्लिंग) (2385 m) or Chekampar / Chhekampar / Chhaikampar (छैकम्पार) / Chhokang Paro (3030 m), if possible via Ripchet (2470 m)
Day 12: Trek via Deng (2600 m)
Day 13: Trek to Prok (प्रोक) (2397 m)
Day 14: Trek to Lhi and deliver solar lights for Chak and extra replacements for Tsak
Day 15: Trek to Hinang
Day 16: Above Hinang
Day 17: Trek to Sama Gaon / Samagaun (सामागाउँ) (3500 m) via Lho (ल्हो) (3180 m)
Day 18: Above Sama Gaon / Samagaun (सामागाउँ) (3500 m) to visit the Phuyang / Pung Gyen Gompa (3870 m) below Ngadi Chuli (Peak 29) (7871 m), Himalchuli (7893 m) and Manaslu ( मनास्लु) (8163 m)
Day 19: Trek to Samdo and visit school (3860 m)
Day 20: Trek to Yak Kharka above Samdo
Day 21: Day trip above the Kharka
Day 21: Trek to Dharmasala (Larkya Phedi) (4460 m)
Day 22: Cross Larkya La pass (5135 m), descend to Bhimtang / Bimthang (3720 m)
Day 23: Trek to Tilje / Tiliche (2300 m)
Day 24: Trek to Chamje / Chyamche (1430 m)
Day 25: Drive to Pokhara (पोखरा) (830 m)
Day 26: Pokhara spare day
Day 27: Pokhara to Kathmandu
Day 28: Depart KTM

A flurry of flight booking excitement after Val confirmed dates; Steffi and I now have tickets on Air India via Delhi. Charles is going to DIY.

Roll on November!