Fort Queyras and Mont Visio (3841 m.)
Driving up the Valley of the Durance in Provence, the river bed is alight with the autumn colours on all the vegetation, the ash and silver birch trees put on a particularly vivid show. Travelling upstream towards the mountains, I get the impression of moving though the stages of autumn as the colours slowly go darker to late autumn as the kilometres pass this trip’s hired Clio.
The snow-covered granite mountains, Alps and Écrins, gradually come in to view; now the super-white brilliance of the snow left by this October’s storms steals the show, topping off the visual treat of the Provence topography.
I reach Briançon, the mighty Durance now flowing fast, unhindered by dams. Vauban’s three military forts guarding the mountain passes, the historic trade routes over the Alps. I’ll see Fort Queyras tomorrow, guarding the lower part of the route presumed to have been taken by Hannibal’s epic Alpine crossing in 218 BC.
Fresh snow on the Écrins near Briançon
My journey to the snowline to see the first snow of this autumn in Provence
Autumn morning at the Réfuge Napoléon on the Col d'Izoard (2360 m.) with fresh snow on the Alps
Peaks above the Col d'Izoard
Cows on the Col d'Agnel
Reached the snowline at about 2530 m. on the Col d'Agnel
Farms and fortifications above Cervières on the Col d'Izoard
Autumn grasses on the Col d'Izoard
I’m staying at 1657 m. of altitude in the Alps near Briançon; my first full day in the mountains started with condensation on the windows. Down here in the
valley - relatively- the car thermometer read only 4°C at 0930. Driving up to the Col.d’Izoard (2360 m.) the temperature dropped, though not as much as I had expected; at the col it was showing 2°C and the frost warning was flashing at me.
But my reward was fantastic clear air, the fresh snow on the local mountains gleaming so bright and the trees glowing with fiery autumn colours.
A panoramic view of many peaks of three thousand metres and more, several of which I’ve “summited” on foot.
Wolves were howling, three of them; it’s the first time I’ve heard wolves since camping in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming more than twenty years ago. The wolves moved on in the hour or so I was sitting and enjoying the view.
Down the south side of the col, the bikers had started to arrive. I spoke with one group of Italians who’d left Cuneo this morning down in Italy. Brrr.
Then a brilliant view of Mt Visio (3842 m.), the mountain you can see from all over this area, Italian side and French, hence its name. Driving up the Col d’Agnel (2744 m.) reminiscent of the route of my return from the bike camp in Austria a few years ago. The col was white and my hired Clio doesn’t have snow tyres or chains so time to stop; that was at just over 2500 m. altitude.
Down a few hundred metres and time for a nap in the sunshine on a picnic table next to a roaring torrent, at just over 2000 m. You couldn’t dream more perfect.