We looked around at the lack of snow in Grenoble and said to ourselves: “No need to take the snow shoes, it’ll just be a regular hike”. A couple of hours later, we were ploughing through the snow on top of the Vercors.
A few years back, my friends and I went on our first proper winter hike. We rented snow shoes and were looking forward to a week-long hike in the mountainous area of the Vercors near Grenoble, France. Driving into France, we saw a disheartening lack of snow around us. It was a disappointment, but what can you do? So we decided to leave the snow shoes behind and just walk. But we had misjudged the plateau! A few hours into our hike, as we went higher into the mountains, the first sports of snow appeared. Before we knew it, we were almost up to our knees in the snow. We dearly missed our snow shoes! But the scenery more than made up for it.
Beautiful though it was, it sure was cold too. This being our first ‘real’ winter hike (apart from a day or three in western Germany the year before), we didn’t really know what to expect, camping out. We learned quickly. Not to leave water bottles full of water – they become frozen solid, and we couldn’t waste fuel, defrosting them all the way in a pot of boiling water. We learned that snow logged shoes become frozen solid overnight, and you have to leave them folded open at night or you won’t get your feet in, in the morning. We learned that subzero temperatures are cold but temperatures just over freezing point are even colder: when the snow melts, everything gets damp and uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong though, this wasn’t all hardship. On the contrary, it was a magnificent trip! We walked in blazing sunshine through snowy fields, in foggy weather though mysterious frozen woods, and imagined ourselves as polar explorers in snowdrifts. It was the trip that made me fall in love with winter hiking.