Gran Paradiso skiing and rock climbing in Provence • April 11 - 16, 2012

The "Gang of Four to Six" was back in the Alps for a new trip, a tour south of the border in Italy with a culminating ascent of the Gran Paradiso. The forecast was grizzly and the weather gloomy as we headed in to the Benevolo hut on our first day, already a change of plan and concession to the poor prognostication.

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From left to right: Mark Houston, Chris Robinson, Marc Gallie, Elizabeth Moceri and Paul Farrelle.


The Benevolo hut in an afternoon clearing spell.


On day 2, we toured in varying thicknesses of fog most of the morning. Back at the hut, the snowfall settles in but we're happy enough having lunch outdoors on the terrace.


Kathy and Mo on our day tour. Layers of sun and cloud come and go.


The heat of the morning sun loosened up the new snowfall on south facing cliffs, setting off some pretty, and harmless, spin-drift avalanches.


Things looking promising as we gain the glacier. But alas this visibility was over by the time we headed back down.


The next morning the weather was significantly worse. We considered our options, and decided to head back out to civilization, re-group, and make an alternative plan.


Packing up to head back out, the snowfall gets even heavier.


We did have some lovely skiing in the trees on our exit!


Enjoying the peace and quiet of the snowy woods as we near the car.


So pretty. It feels like Christmas again.


Almost down to the parking lot.


Looking at the weather maps, it was clear that this vast low pressure system, in fact a "named storm" called Julia, was parked over the entire Alps and would be for some days. In fact the only part of Europe that looked as though it would remain dry, was just south of us in Provence. Interest in rock climbing and wine tasting led to a decision to put away the skis and salvage the trip with more touristic pleasures in the Côtes du Rhone. We drove to Vaison La Romaine, shown here in a photo taken from our hotel in the medieval part of town.


Though far from hot, the weather was dry and the sun poked out from time to time. Marc cranks some thin face moves in the Dentelles de Montmirail.


Cheered on by admiring crowds.


Chris takes a turn, concentration is the name of the game.


Looks like we guessed right about where to find sunshine!


In the late afternoon we took in a wine tasting at a nearby vinyard, and tootled around the villages of Gigondas and Séguret.


The ruins above Séguret


Apéritifs in the lobby of our stately hotel, the Beffroi. It's not skiing but hey this is just fine!


The next morning, our last day, we strategized to visit a market, then take in some more rock climbing on our way back north. We stopped at the market in nearby Bédoin, where everyone found something they couldn't resist. Crockery, textiles, gifts, food.


This temptation nearly turned Kathy's head, but she cruised on by. Mark, less susceptible, had the courage to take a photo of the delectable almond nougat on offer.


Paul puzzles out the moves at the crag of Baume Rousse, near Buis les Baronnies, on our return trip.


It was great to be with a group that had the flexibility of spirit to pull a wine-and-crag-country rabbit out of our sodden ski touring hats. Thanks Gang as always for the good times!