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(Walker's Haute Route) The Matterhorn (Tour du Mont Blanc) From Col de la Seigne (Alta Via 1) At Rifugio Nuvolau (Walker's Haute Route) In the Val de Bagnes (Tour du Mont Blanc) Chamonix from the South

The Alpine Year at Alpine Exploratory

Alpine Exploratory's year is governed by the seasons; we follow them and anticipate them! Our Alpine trips run in Summer and our UK trips run in Summer and also Spring. (These are from the European perspective.) While we look forward to the warmer months and the chance to hit the trails again, Alpine life continues year-round and we relish the ski season in its own right. Here is more about life in the Alps.



Winter

January, February and March More accurately, Winter starts in early or mid-December depending on when the snows come, then lasts until early April or even May in higher Alpine resorts. This is the ski season! The Alps are snow-covered from December to April, give or take a few weeks either side. Photo A hut above Lech, Austrian Tyrol



January

The outdoors
We awake to an absence of noise. The activity of animals and birds is subdued by the deep snow that has fallen overnight. Opening the curtains confirms it; boughs bend under the weight. Perhaps there's the sound of a snow plough clearing roads elsewhere in the village. Winter is solidly skiing in the Alps and January is the season at its deepest and darkest. Conditions can be superb and there is a properly festive feel in the mountain villages.

Weather in the Alps
Typically all but valley paths are snow-bound, making snowshoeing or skiing the way to get about off-road. A light week for snow will allow some walking on selected paths away from the hills.

Weather in the UK
In a good Winter, the Scottish Highlands are covered in snow or variations of it! Our routes in the Lake District and Pennines will see snow higher up. Weather can be bleak, if not sharp and clear.

The team
The first Monday at work after New Year is when things come back to life; our year kicks off! So far we have found January, February and March to be our busiest for enquiries and bookings. Due to the Winter conditions our recces are restricted in January but we keep up our visits to our B&Bs and hotels. We are booking and planning!

Photo
Month January 2015 Place Looking South towards the Grossvenediger range, Austria Links in with our Adlerweg treks in the Austrian Tyrol by visiting Kitzbuhl off-route Taken by Simon


Febuary

The outdoors
February is perhaps the most intense month for skiing in the Alps; the French and UK holiday periods make for busy slopes.

Weather in the Alps
Longer days start to appear but the weather remains seriously wintry without let-up for walking. All of our routes are off-limits and the Alpine villages are in full swing for their Winter trade.

Weather in the UK
Without Spring having yet appeared, parts of the UK let up in terms of cold and wet, though it still feels dark. In Scotland, Winter in February can mean many things from a light cover and clear valleys, to a difficult picture.

The team
By February we start to see the scale of operations needed in each of our Alpine and UK areas. We keep planning. For private guided trips, we assign leaders from the team. Our recces on UK routes become imminent and need their own substantial planning.

Photo
Month February 2014 Place Skiing at the Lecht, Scotland Links in with our West Highland Way treks in the Scottish Highlands by visiting Aviemore and Tomintoul by road Taken by Simon


March

The outdoors
The theme across the Alps is skiing in this last full month of the season.

Weather in the Alps
In March we have longer days and warmer temperatures. Afternoon snow can be heavy; skiers lounge in deckchairs outside Austrian mountain huts before skiing down later.

Weather in the UK
Sometimes with a chill in the air, March weather also sees the first Spring lambs in the fields and the first daffodils. The ground becomes softer to walk on. A Highland day might be cold and bright, with just enough daylight for a long walk.

The team
March sees our first info packs go out, for UK trips in May. We build up to our main posting season by laying in stocks of Alpine maps. Our scheduled guided trips start to take shape.

Photo
Month March 2013 Place Grizedale Tarn, Lake District, England Links in with our East Lakes Circuit trek in the Lake District, but please note that we have chosen this photo to show an extreme of March weather in the Lakes! Taken by Anna-Maria



Spring

April, May and June Spring means different things in the Alps and the UK. Higher Alpine passes hold snow until June or even July; in Scotland April is a fine time to be on the tops with snow patches defining the ridge lines; on our lower UK treks, the fields are abuzz with Spring lambs and the walking is clear. Photo Refuge du Lac Blanc above Chamonix



April

The outdoors
We come to the end of the ski season in the Alps but not yet the start of the trekking season. In the UK, Easter - whether in March or April - traditionally heralds the tourist season and much more life in the centres. Keswick, Fort William and other towns start to see their Summer trade!

Weather in the Alps
To take the Austrian Alps as an example, the ski resorts - St. Anton, Mayrhofen, Kitzbuhel, Lech and hundreds more both famous and locally known - will see warm temperatures and perhaps genuine heat! However, much snow still remains and the ski areas will stay in business until a week, or two or three, into April. Across in the Western Alps and taking Chamonix as an example of resorts with higher ski areas, the season can last throughout April and in some cases into May. Even after ski runs close, much snow remains higher up on trekking cols and in corries above, so we enter the period of transition from Winter to Summer. Trekking remains a long way off.

Weather in the UK
Generally warm conditions continue in the fields; on the hills, the snow melts in the higher corries, in the Highlands and the Lakes perhaps leaving patches that neatly define the ridge lines.

The team
Our UK recces continue, there now being no impediment to clear walking except some crisp and sharp mornings! We grow more busy in preparation for Summer, the bulk of our info packs being sent out around now.

Photo
Month April 2007 Place Mamore Forest, Scotland Links in with our West Highland Way trek in the Highlands, on the last stage into Fort William Taken by Simon


May

The outdoors
The highest Alpine resorts reach the end of their seasons.. Chamonix for example. Everywhere in the Alps, May marks a lull between the busy seasons of Winter and Summer. Flowers fill the meadows and glacial melt-water gushes through village river channels.

Weather in the Alps
The Alps are often warm - sometimes wet and cool - but the problem is the snow that remains on high passes. The combes are typically full of wet, heavy snow.

Weather in the UK
May is a popular month on the West Highland Way; we think a key reason is the expectation of solid warm weather - and the first month without a risk of frosty mornings. We say 'expectation' because May can bring mixed weather, as can any UK month, with weeks of solid rain being possible. Nevertheless, May is a good choice. (May is also before midges arrive in the Highlands, typically in July, and is before the main Summer holidays.)

The team
Our UK season is underway in May and we are also preparing for the Alpine Summer, while taking new bookings. It's a busy month... perhaps the bulk of our info packs are sent out in May. Please contact us and we'll let you know how things look for Summer.

Photo
Month May 2008 Place Ecrins massif, France Links in with our Tour du Mont Blanc routes by driving South into the Savoie region of France Taken by Simon


June

The outdoors
The Alps spring to life, albeit slowly, with mid-June dates typical for cable-car openings in resorts. This is an indication of things to come, not a guarantee of snow-free trails.

Weather in the Alps
The end of June can bring clear trails and hot sunshine, even the middle or the beginning in some years and some areas. It very much depends on the heaviness of the Winter before, and on any late Spring snow falls. On the other side of the equation, warm rain is great at removing snow quickly, so we look for this in June!

Weather in the UK
June is a good time to be afoot in the UK hills; if lucky, you'll find a mix of warm and dry-ish weather, and lower crowds than July or August.. even than May or September.

The team
Our research trips pre-season are most numerous in June, as our main season starts in the Alps in July. We are nipping about all over the Alps! Solid recces on full trails are interspersed with quicker visits to sections of trail, towns, and cities around the Alps (Munich, Geneva, Venice...)

Photo
Month June 2014 Place Col des Fours, France Links in with our Tour du Mont Blanc trek in the French Alps by taking our higher variant this day. This particular path on the TMB is often snow-bound until mid-July Taken by Joy



Summer

July, August and September Everything comes together! Summer is the most busy quarter of the year, seeing most recces, trips, and activity in the office; we look forward to its excitement. These are generally the only 3 months of solidly walkable conditions in the Alps, so it is essential for us to make the most of them. Photo Monte Pelmo from afar, Alta Via 1



July

The outdoors
Our Alpine treks start! The Alpine Exploratory year is in full swing. Outdoor shops - outfitters - are displaying walking poles and waterproof jackets; the skis and ski jackets are relegated to tiny corners or discount stands!

Weather in the Alps
July can bring rain, alongside periods of sunshine. Typically a day is hot and relatively blue-skied; as ever in the mountains, conditions can change for one afternoon - perhaps if there's a storm - or for multiple days in a row. Recent Julys have seen unusually hot weeks, plus unusually wet weeks.

Weather in the UK
Compared to Spring, Summer in the UK means a good chance of rain.. the months with most rain are July and August. These months also bring the highest likely maximum temperatures.

The team
Our leaders meet their groups in the first hotel before going out for a meal. Our recces pick up in earnest to make use of the equally short Summer months as they pertain to researching the trails in the same season as they'll be offered to clients. Back at base, we are in close contact with our hotels and huts. We adjust to clients' changing plans and to the inevitable complications of life on the move: delayed flights, injuries and so on.

Photo
Month July 2015 Place Grand Balcon Sud, Chamonix, France Links in with our Tour du Mont Blanc trek in the French Alps, on its last 2 days which run above Chamonix with views to Mont Blanc Taken by Ollie


August

The outdoors
The month of August sees a transition from high Summer at the start, to a glimpse of late Summer at the end. Traditionally September is the quiet month, with some routes seeing these levels in late August too. It's a busy month for residents of Alpine countries to take holidays, meaning a different mix of walkers on the trails.

Weather in the Alps
Hot and wet! August is to be recommended but not without the proviso that it can be very warm and prone to afternoon thunderstorms. Unseasonal snow can fall any time in the Alps, typically lasting on the ground no more than a day and being very light.

Weather in the UK
As in the Alps, weather varies between extremes and hot periods do not preclude heavy rain. We like August for its often warm evenings and the changing light, as Autumn is on the way.

The team
By August, the trails seem to have settled into the season.. it's odd like that! We have advised clients on landslips and other changes at the start of the season.. July.. leaving August as a quieter time in which we handle last-minute adaptations and continue our recces for future trips.

Photo
Month August 2014 Place Rifugio Nuvolau, Cortina, Italy Links in with our Alta Via 1 trek in the Italian Dolomites, staying at this high hut Taken by Lucy


September

The outdoors
There is a sense of being over the main season. Huts and cable cars plan their season-end dates. Perhaps it's been a good Summer and a lift will revise this date to a week later. The general trend among hotels and huts is to wind down, but key places remain very busy until the end of the season.

Weather in the Alps
Warm and stable weather characterises early September; it is a fine time to be trekking in the Alps and in fact it's our favourite. The chance of afternoon thunderstorms is lower, but in most years the general temperature remains nicely warm.

Weather in the UK
The first crisp morning usually occurs in September, mid- or late-September, and presages the Autumn. It's only a quick sensation to the nose but it means the quick change is coming up soon. The first half of September is a good one to trek, and busy on the main UK trekking routes such as the Coast to Coast and West Highland Way.

The team
Early September is a key time for the team, taking chance to make research trips for next year's programme. By the third or fourth week of September, all might have changed in the Alps with the first light snows of Autumn. In the office we count in our last groups and we thank our hotels and huts for their co-operation one more season. This is also the time that we reflect on season dates just passed, in order to set them for the coming year.

Photo
Month September 2011 Place Descending from Refuge du Col de la Croix de Bonhomme, TMB, France Links in with our Tour du Mont Blanc trek in the Alps, on the 3rd stage Taken by Allan



Autumn

October, November and December The quiet time! In fact, walking is possible and when chosen wisely very enjoyable throughout the year, in both the Alps (lower routes) and the UK. However, conditions are all-important and we take this three-month period to rest and to plan for next year. The mind naturally follows the seasons. Photo Loch Arkaig, Scotland



October

The outdoors
Alpine villages again enter a down period between the key Summer and Winter seasons. Local employment reflects this; residents who work in the ski trade in Winter - instructors, leaders, lift company employees, chalet/hotel workers - take time to rest and to fix their houses! Cable cars do their maintenance. There is a general air of calm without the skiers and walkers; sometimes too quiet.

Weather in the Alps
Rain, wind, even light snow.. October can bring it all. With luck we'll see clear and crisp days, linked to golden yellows and oranges in the leaves.

Weather in the UK
In early Autumn we look for sharp days and early mists, taking advantage of them before wetter conditions settle in towards Winter!

The team
We are rounding off the year with our hotels and starting the early reservations for next year. In the UK there might be time for a short recce or two. This is also a time for the team to travel more widely than Europe.

Photo
Month October 2007 Place Above Les Houches near Chamonix, France Links in with our Tour du Mont Blanc trek in the French Alps Taken by Simon


November

The outdoors
November is a quiet month everywhere, not an obvious one for outdoor activities in the Northern hemisphere! It's a good time to renew First Aid courses and run some low-key recces and days away in the UK.

Weather in the Alps
Perhaps in a wintry year the first proper snows arrive in the Alps. Villages gear up for Winter.

Weather in the UK
The UK sees wet and wild weather, a transition from mellow and cool to dark and wet. There is walking to do in the Highlands and a sense of quiet in the villages.

The team
November is our quietest month in the office. After setting in October our dates and prices for next year, we refine in November any details that need it. We take the chance to travel widely!

Photo
Month November 2015 Place Path to the CIC hut on Ben Nevis, Scotland Links in with our West Highland Way trek in the Scottish Highlands by adding a day to climb Ben Nevis Taken by Simon


December

The outdoors
Winter hillwalking is a treat in Scotland, the Lakes and other high areas of the UK. In the Alps, ski resorts start opening for business before Christmas. Snowshoeing is possible with enough snow. With luck, Scotland also sees skiing.

Weather in the Alps
Cold, dark and hopefully snowy! At the start and end of any season, conditions are hard to predict in advance.

Weather in the UK
Recent Winters have seen very heavy rain in December - we hope for colder weather bringing snow.

The team
Christmas approaches quickly and we look forward to ski trips; our minds cast ahead to Summer recces. A year is wrapped up and we go away to our Christmases. We cover Christmas and New Year; when we're back at full speed on the first Monday after New Year, it's a new year and new explorations.

Photo
Month December 2010 Place Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix, France Links in with our Tour du Mont Blanc trek in the French, Italian and Swiss Alps by skiing in Chamonix! Taken by Simon


Contact us

Please don't hesitate to contact us at info@alpineexploratory.com and we'll give you more information on how it all works!

Thank you very much.


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alpine exploratory

Alpine Exploratory provides a uniquely detailed and up-to-date coverage of trekking routes in the Alps and the UK. This knowledge lets us book superb holidays for our enthusiastic trekkers.

We are a small team based in Edinburgh in the UK. 2016 will be our 12th Summer in the Alps and the 10th on our UK routes.

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