Wednesday morning dawned with dark skies threatening to the south and as the front approached it was clear by 8 am that we were going to be treated to a spectacular thunderstorm, violent but over fairly quickly. The rumbling thunder and the lightning in the distance were impressive and we delayed our departure slightly.
First stop was the huge Decathlon store in Gap for last minute essentials - water bottles, walking socks etc. - and the children (and staff!) thoroughly enjoyed browsing round. We then started the drive up the Valgaudemar valley to the start point for the mountain walk, catching up with the tail end of the storm. Lunch was taken by a dramatic waterfall swollen by the rains and with perfect timing we set off as the skies cleared.
The scenery was dramatic with mountains towering above covered with snowfields as the children set off in high spirits. The first stream we crossed by footbridge thundered down its gorge, the milky water roaring deafeningly. The first part of the walk climbed steadily on a gently contouring path and we enjoyed looking at the wide variety of colourful flowers, some similar to wild flowers at home, others unknown. As we made our way up the valley crossing the rushing streams on wooden footbridges we could see the steeper part of the walk awaiting us and were shown where the refuge (or refugee as some are insisting on calling it!) was hiding in its combe.
Before we attacked the steeper zigzag section there was a brief look at part of a blue green glacier at the head of the valley with impressive scree slopes below. As we climbed we listened for the marmottes' whistle warning of our approach and kept our eyes peeled for other wildlife - eventually being rewarded when Angela spotted two chamois bounding down some lying snow.
The children climbed very well with no moaning keeping up with Mr Ferrier's steady pace. Eventually we crested the edge of the combe after passing a couple of shepherd's summer huts to find the welcoming Vallonpierre hut by its little lake.
More to follow...