Posts Tagged With: Snow

Mount Shasta-Between the Clouds

After an ill-fated attempt at snowshoeing last Thursday, when the weather was so foul that I turned around after just 20 feet and fought my way back to the truck, Reg and I found Mount Ashland far more hospitable today.

In addition to the spectacular view we had of Mount Shasta (top photo), our ongoing uphill efforts were rewarded with another distant view of Mount Mcloughlin (above).

Today was the perfect day for a snowshoe trek on Mount Ashland. Clouds above us and clouds below us left us with incredible views that went on forever. No reason to hurry back to the truck this time!

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Portland…after the storm

Portland got dumped on Tuesday and Wednesday. The expected 3-4 inches of snow piled up into a good foot of the white stuff, sending the city to a screeching halt for the rest of the week.
We stubbornly refused to postpone our scheduled trip, and arrived yesterday (Friday) to icy roads and slippery sidewalks…but beautiful blue skies Saturday morning. Cold, but otherwise perfect weather for a little urban hiking.

A beautiful, but cold day along the Portland waterfront.

I spot the telltale signs of past benchwarmers.

This woman has the right idea!

Enjoying the brilliant sunshine on a cold winter day.


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Tour du Mont Blanc: Worth every step

The Alps (Mont Blanc on the right) rose like the sun each time we approached the top of the cols, or mountain passes.

Some accommodations required trekkers to stow shoes and boots downstairs.

The Tour du Mont Blanc is complete. As we sit in our Chamonix hotel lobby directly below western Europe’s tallest peak, some reflections:

We knew the weather in the Alps was unpredictable, so we packed rain gear, a warm jacket and lightweight clothing designed for layering. We had two days of overcast and some rain at the beginning, then five days of brilliant sunshine with highs in the 60s, 70s and into the low 80s. Cool nights the entire time.

There was a snowstorm (yes, in mid-July) at one of the passes the day before we went through. Later, we had several days of clouds and some rain, but very little precipitation while we were walking. The last couple of days were clear until late afternoon, when rain, thunder and lightning entertained.

Bookings. We booked our tour through an Irish company (Follow the Camino) and asked for a mix of refuges (hostels) and hotels. We wanted to stay in some remote locations where refuges are the only option. We got private rooms, rather than shoulder-to-shoulder dorms, in the five refuges.

Refuges are rustic, noisier, and not as relaxing as the hotels. They also have shared baths. But, they are great places to meet people. We have met lots of people on this trek and often run into them for several days afterward. Generally, the refuges get quiet by 10 p.m. or so.

The hotels on the Tour are nicer and less expensive than chain hotels in the U.S. Both hotels and refuges have bars and restaurants. They are places to hang out after a long day on the trail. The hotels on the Tour du Mont Blanc have character and the staffs have been very welcoming. All our accommodations included breakfast and eight included dinner. The dinners have been very good, some superb.

The Mont Blanc refuge in Trient was packed with at least 70 trekkers, but we met some great people there.

Le Dahu Hotel in Argentiere had the best bathroom and a great breakfast.

What about clean clothes? We use moisture-wicking athletic wear that dries quickly. We often do some laundry in the bathroom sink, wring it out in a bath towel, and it is dry by morning. In Courmayeur, Italy, the hotel did our laundry for 2€!

What’s for breakfast? Always bread, butter, jam, coffee, tea and juice. Wonderful fresh croissants almost everywhere. Most places had cereal, yogurt, meat and cheese. Two hotels had eggs and most had fruit.

Lunch was usually a picnic on the trail. The usual fare was fresh bread, cheese and fruit, capped with chocolate. We had lunch at some spectacular settings in the Alps. Hotels and refuges offer packed lunches, but we usually shopped for our own.

The cost of the Tour du Mont Blanc is much less than most other European travel, but far more expensive than the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Luggage transfer: the routine was to have our small orange-and-black bags at reception by 8 a.m. When we arrived at our next accommodation, we would check in and (voila!) the bags were waiting for us. We carried small Osprey day packs with water bladders during the day. One exception: our bags skipped ahead a day when we stayed at the very remote Refugio Elisabetta. We have carried our own packs on prior treks. We figured the elevation change would make it too tough and we were right.

We had climbed about 2,000 feet before having coffee at Refuge Elena, below. We were part of the way to the col when Sue took this photo. This was one of the toughest days, but led us to 360-degree views from the Swiss-Italian border.

We splurged for lunch at a ski lodge a few days ago. Skiing facilities were plentiful around the Tour.

We have not found language to be a major problem. French is dominant, but most of the time people know at least some English. Sue’s study of French this past year has helped.

Many people are doing part of the Tour du Mont Blanc rather than the whole thing at one time. There are quite a few day hikers, especially when the weather is good.

Most go counterclockwise around Mont Blanc, but a significant number go the other way. Hikers usually start in Les Houches, but we met many who started in other places. We started in Chamonix, France, a beautiful and popular resort at the foot of Mont Blanc.

Trekkers readily engage strangers on the Tour. Friendships form quickly, much like the Camino.

Mont Blanc trekkers come from all over world. Europeans dominate, but there are some Americans, Canadians, Asians, and people from other parts of the world. Many travel in groups, some with guides. We are among the older trekkers here. Many seem to be experienced mountaineers and we have seen a number of people running (yes, running!) the trail. They are likely training for the annual Mont Blanc run in August, when some do the entire 110 miles in between 20-plus and thirty hours. There are also a fair number of mountain bikers. We have seen some who push and carry their bikes up several thousand steep feet and then ride down. There are a small number of campers as well.

Almost all refuges allow picnics, especially if you buy a beverage.

Champex, a quaint lakeside village at 5,000 feet, was one of our rest days. Like much of the Swiss part of our trek, places were strangely deserted. Our hotel owner told us the euro's decline has hurt Swiss tourism. It is much cheaper to travel in France, Italy and other countries, she said.

Most people use trekking poles. Sue and I can’t imagine not having them, for many reasons. But, we have seen people doing the trek in running shoes and even sandals. Go figure! Few people on this trek wear hats.

Safety. If you are careful and have proper gear, this trek is safe. There are steep drop offs and the ascents and descents are steeper than we expected. Much of the time, each step must be measured on the often rocky and root-covered paths, which takes a lot of concentration and is exhausting. Some of the water crossings have been challenging, but doable. Some trekkers use crampons over snowy passings. Neither of us fell during the trek, but there were a few close calls.

Not much politics, but we have heard a strong dislike of Donald Trump here. Many have expressed concern and have talked about similar movements in their countries. A Danish high school student asked me during dinner about Trump. “Why do you ask?” I questioned. “Because the U.S. President is the most powerful person in the world and Trump scares me.”

Most of all, the astounding views and the chance to meet so many interesting people were worth every step.

As Reg looked up at the snow, he wondered if we had gotten into more adventure than we expected. This was near the beginning of our trek.

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Tour du Mont Blanc: After struggle, the mountain rewards

It was pastoral calm as we began the third day of the Tour du Mont Blanc.

We had a quick snack before heading into the snow zone. We planned for lunch in a bit, but it never happened.

Ah, a little snow at the col looks fun. At the top, all changed quickly. A late winter and snow just last week has made July feel like anything but summer.


From my bottom bunk looking out a small window in a wood-paneled room, I see a glacier and Alpine peaks high above. Our home for tonight, the Elizabetta hut in Italy, is at about 7,500 feet, two miles from the Italy-France border.

The only way we could get to this place, as remote as you can get on the Tour du Mont Blanc, is by walking. Sue and I are in day four of the Tour. Day three was beautiful, grueling, treacherous and much more. More than 8,000 feet in elevation change hardly tells the story.

After we had climbed for four hours and 4,000 difficult feet up on Friday, we reached the col (pass) at 8,100 feet, thinking we had 3,000 feet downhill to our refuge, or hostel.

I looked up and could make out moving figures far above, climbing through the snow to another pass.

“I am so glad we don't have to do that,” I thought.

Think again. Two hours later, we had endured slippery snow banks and rocky passages, and were so exhausted that taking photographs was just too much. There were moments when we wondered why we were here.

Today, we had four hours of steep climbing, but very little snow. It took us to an 8,200-foot col, at the Italy-France border, and as we arrived, so did our view of Mont Blanc, at 15,770 feet. It appeared close enough to touch, outlined by brilliant blue sky. While eating our picnic lunch, it was crystal-clear why we were here.

Reg heads up, toward the second col. The conditions got much worse and the camera took a break while we focused on making it to the top.

Day four started after a night at a remote refugio at about 5,000 feet.


We were awe-struck at our introduction to Mont Blanc. We are about halfway to the top of the 15,770-foot mountain. It looked much more imposing in person.

A baguette, cheese and Mont Blanc made a perfect picnic combination.

Refugio Elizabetta is a rustic remote outpost on the Tour. Trekkers are packed into the small building, with triple bunks and single mattresses pushed right up against each other. We lucked out with a private room.

Refugio Elizabetta is nearly lost in the Alpine landscape in the photo above.

The Elizabetta offered rustic accommodations, but a good, three-course evening meal.


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Tour du Mont Blanc: More from Day One

This hut about a third of the way down was our lunch stop. Rustic, to say the least, perched on a cliff, great coffee!


Chains provided a security blanket at a couple of places.


On a clear day, you could see 5,000 feet down to Chamonix and across the valley to Mont Blanc, at more than 15,000 feet. Clearing weather is in the forecast! At times today, it felt like we were walking in the jet stream.



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Mount Ashland snow hard to resist

We made our snowshoe plans with Chris and Judy last night. Although the weather report looked a little iffy this morning, I guess none of us wanted to be the one to wimp out…and that's how we found ourselves up above the Mt. Ashland ski area where the snow was beautiful but the weather was just a little bit ugly.

We were anticipating breathtaking views, but Mother Nature had different plans for us.

We strapped our snowshoes on and started hopes of climbing up and out of the fog.

The icicles hanging from the evergreens were beautiful.

We never found the clear skies we were hoping for but there were plenty of smiles on the return trip.


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Snowshoe trek leads to pinnacle of winter scenery

Mount McLoughlin, at 9,945 feet is a backdrop as Sue and I take a break.

Fellow Ashlanders Chris and Judy inspired us to get snowshoes.

A spring-like day presented the perfect chance to head up to the Cascades about a half hour from Ashland for a snowshoe trek.

We started at about the 5,000-foot level and went up gentle slopes for magnificent mountain views.

After years of sparse snowfall, southern Oregon has had a banner year, with more than 19 feet falling on the ski slopes at Mount Ashland.


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Green Springs Inn is Blanketed in White

It's remained so cold that the trees are still weighed down with snow.

Temperatures have stubbornly remained low since our snow storm, causing Reg to forego his daily bike ride and making me think twice about my morning walk. The roads however, are mostly clear, so we decided to give the Subaru a little workout.

Our lunch destination, Green Springs Inn, is just twenty miles from home, but as we climbed above the valley we quickly entered another world.

Besides a handful of locals and a young man hoping to catch a ride to Klamath Falls, we were the only diners.

Mailboxes looked like igloos lined up along the road.


The Marionberry Pie was irresistible.

Oregon is known for its Marionberry, the most common type of blackberry produced in the state. Restaurants and farmers markets offer a variety of Marionberry jams and baked goods…if you're lucky enough to order before they sell out. Which brings me to the best part of our lunch (although the food was great too).

Reg wouldn't share dessert, so I had to order my own piece of pie…oh darn!

It was delicious and yes, I ate it all!


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Snow gives new life in Lithia Park

Our afternoon walk to Lithia Park led us to these two new residents.

A pond in Ashland's Lithia Park makes an idyllic winter setting.


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Ashland snow is a welcome sight

Continuing snowfall greatly reduced our view out front this morning.






The rain was pounding down last night. At least that's what Reg told me this morning, amazed that I had slept through the deluge.

We lived nearly twenty-five years in the mountains of the Sierra, so when we woke up this morning we recognized the unmistakable quiet that seemed to surround us.

Sure enough, a quick peek out the window confirmed our suspicions…our first major snowfall since moving to Ashland.

“I'm glad we kept our snow shovels,” said Reg as we wondered if Ashland plowed the city streets.

“Well, (I reminded Reg) we kept your shovel but I think we gave mine away.”

Out back the trees and bushes droop under the weight of wet snow.

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