Thursday, August 16, 2012

Refuge du Pavé 2841m

I must say, this weekend was one of my favorites so far.  Once again a large group (most people whom I know through climbing) has set out to hike to the refuge du Pavé, located in the beautiful national park of Écrins, to enjoy the nature and celebrate three birthdays.  It also turns out that our very good friend Dominik from Canada who now lives in Poland came for a visit so we took him along for this fun adventure.

Dominik and Jakub
When Dominik arrived on Friday I thought we would have plenty of time to pack and get ready for the trip the next day.  However, after the dinner, we all felt like going for a beer to a local pub "La Bobine" and we somehow got stuck there until 4AM.  The only explanation to this delay must be the evil "genepi" liquor - very similar to Absinth in taste and strength.  So the next morning was very painful.  Jakub and I still had to go to work.  The floor seemed a bit unstable....and then at noon we had to pack of course and finally make our way to the start of the hike.  The hike was expected to be 4 hours, approx. 1000m altitude, and we started at 4PM.  At first, all went relatively well, even though I was exhausted as hell, and wanted to just nap on any grassy patch in sight.  The views were gorgeous, the weather was perfect.

True hikers bring a French baguette and a kayaking helmet :)

In case you forget you are in France, there is a flag painted on the rocks every few hundred meters.

After about 4 hours we were approaching a ridge and it seemed like the refuge and lake could be just behind it.  To our surprise, we came to a sign that said there is still one hour left of the hike.  It was close to dusk at this point and we had to still conquer the steepest part of the hike!  I thought I was gonna pass out.  I just wanted to sleep and eat at that point :)  But we trudged along (or maybe I should say I trudged along) since the boys seemed relatively OK.  Finally, at 10PM we reached the hut, and when we entered, there was a big applause - half of the group kindly waited for us so we could have dinner together - how amazingly nice of them!!  That night we all slept like babies.

The refuge - I was surprised we fit so many people in it!
I did bring absinth along, but after genepi there was not much excitement for absinth.  There is always next time of course.

Saturday our plan was to do some easy climbing just the three of us to reach the summit of Pointe Emma at 3344m.  The climb was about 4 pitches of mostly scrambling, becoming more vertical towards the end, and we did it in our hiking shoes.  Really fun stuff - we had a blast!

The Approach.
The lake and the refuge from bird's-eye view.

Our Goal.

Our leader :)
Becoming more vertical.

Cool needles and also the summit ahead - our next project!
Barely visible, the refuge below.
Proof that I was there :)
Summit - 3344m

Going down was actually much faster once we rapelled.  There was a continuous patch of snow from the base of the mountain to the refuge, so what took us 50 minutes up, was only 15 minutes down.  We were esentially sliding on our shoes in the snow, what resembled a very hilarious version of skiing.

And for some that were daring enough, a 4C bath was awaiting as a refreshing treat to finish off the day.  (Nobody took photos of me so you just have to belive that I was brave).

Then the weather changed and instead of sunshine we had a downpour of rain and hail.  At least we could hide out in our little cozy refuge and then get served a lovely dinner which was part of the "package".  This was not some pathetic dinner.  Considering we were at such a remote location, this was king's dinner.  We had soup, main meal (pasta), salad, cheese and dessert.  After all, we were still in France and food is very important here!

home sweet home.
The next day, it was still raining cats and dogs, so we packed fast and wanted to leave as soon as possible, because it was only supposed to get worse in the afternoon.  We were about to take off in the worst rainfall, but Laura convinced us to wait, and sure enough it cleared up for us.  The hike down was much more pleasant than up of course....until a friend of ours had a bad fall on his back and broke three ribs.  We had to call the helicopter because we still had a long stretch ahead of us and he wasn't looking good.  It was like a scene out of a movie.  All of a sudden the helicopter flew in, our random picnic things and clothes started flying up in the air, the water from the stream was spraying at us and the helicopter was hovering around trying to find a good place to land.  At the end to our amazement, the heli semi-landed on a tiny wooden bridge, the rescue guys got our friend inside and left in a few seconds....



Some of our group...

When we got to our car, it started raining heavily once again.  There was an idea to go to the nearest village for a beer but being drenched and all, drinking cold beer outside was just for a quick stop.  While sipping on our beer we noticed a guy who was selling fresh cought trout that were swimming in the fountain in the middle of the town square.  So we bought 5 trout and had a lovely dinner to finish off the weekend.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

June - Wrapping up the School Year.

As you can imagine, June was also a busy month, we had to wrap up the school year and at the same time, spend some quality time with our family that came over for a visit.

In june, Anna had her final dance performance after completing dance classes for the full year.  It was quite a big deal as all the girls had the same rental dresses, several rehearsals and three final performances in the theater.  Pretty serious stuff here in France!

Behind the scene...

The whole group.

Tommy also had his capoeira batizado (or "baptism") which is when new students are welcomed to the group and receive their first belt (cordão).  Tommy did pretty well, but he was a bit nervous, as he was the last to do the test and he kept counting the belts to make sure there was one left for him.

Quite a few participants....!
Very nervous if enough belts are left, counting them over and over again...
Only two beginner's belts left!
Finally, Tommy's turn (he was the last one).
The teacher makes the student fall on the ground at the end :)

In June every year, France hosts the very well known event "Fete de la musique" or national music festival.  There are concerts nearly in every village/city and mostly for free so it is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the culture.  It was also at this time that my dad decided to visit us last minute so we went to town for some beers and music.  


Slack lining.

When my dad is around, Czech beer is never missing.

Dad and Jakub

Anna and Jana

While dad was here, we had the opportunity to take Tommy on a via ferrata, which is his favourite thing to do these days.   This particular via ferrata near St Christophe en Oisan is pretty cool because it is right above the river.


Some nature on the way.  I've never seen so many butterflies in one place like this!

June seemed to be very popular for birthday parties so we went to several of them over the weekends.  At the end of the month, my mom arrived, so we planned a few little trips. One of the most interesting trips was to the Choranche caves in the Vercors, where you can see really nifty nearly paper-thin stalactites, huge lakes, and some cool blind albino salamanders (I learned today they are called olms).

Super fragile stalactites.

Olms - not the best picture quality.

These features look like drums.

Outside on our way back home.

Jakub and I also went to Chamonix to do some easyish climbing for a weekend, but the photos are now on his camera which is with Jakub in Austria so I'll post that later when I get my hands on it....!