The Alps Revealed
In winter, the tops of the European Alps are covered by a blanket of snow which provides skiers, snowshoers and winter trekkers with a pristine white wonderland to enjoy. Once spring takes hold, the snow loosens its icy grip to gradually reveal a different kind of beauty.
The summer Alpine landscape is a great deal more colourful with an abundance of grassy meadows and millions of wild flowers carpeting the mountainsides up to 2000 meters or so. The soaring glaciers are also at their best. Without the heavy covering of winter snow the multitude of crevasses and towering ice cliffs are laid bare for all to see. It also seems that wildlife is a little easier to spot; ibex and marmots are commonly seen. Overhead, eagles and other birds of prey can often be seen circling in the thermals looking for their next meal. As the Alps sit at the meeting point of France, Italy and Switzerland, culturally there is plenty on offer too.
Spring and summer treks are the perfect way to relish this environment to the full. Exodus Tour Leader Mark Faulkner talks us through the different Alpine trekking options.
"Our guests are frequently so taken by the superb natural beauty of the Alps that we often see them returning summer after summer to trek different routes. At Exodus we make a real effort to have a variety of both one and two week treks, different grades of difficulty and regularly introduce new itineraries to cater for the returning guest."
There are so many fantastic trekking options in the Alps that is can be hard to hone in on the one that is right for you. For many people, accommodation style is just as important as the duration and difficulty of the treks so here’s a simple guide to the choices on offer:
Some of our one-week treks are centre-based. On these, you stay in the same hotel all week and set off on a different route each day, returning each evening. The advantage of this approach is that once you have unpacked, there is no need to repack until the end of your holiday. It also means that if on a given day you prefer to opt out of walking, you can easily do so. Our new Chamonix Ridges & Summits uses a hotel in the centre of Chamonix town so there are a good range of restaurants to choose from for your evening meals.
If you are after an early season trek to admire the carpets of colourful spring flowers, the Wild Flowers & Walks in the Bernese Oberland is a great option. From the comfortable, family-run hotel you can discover the many trekking routes in a particularly beautiful part of the Swiss Alps.
Point-to-Point - accommodated
If you want to trek over a wide area, supported point-to-point walks are the ideal way to do it. Staying in suitably located accommodation along the route, you never cover the same ground twice. You can choose your comfort level; on the Mont Blanc Hotel Trek, your main luggage is transported between the hotels and guesthouses each day.
A growing trend is our light backpacking treks such as the Tour du Mont Blanc and The GR5: Lake Geneva to Mont Blanc where we carry our own backpacks and overnight in mountain huts or local lodges. If you like this idea but are not 100% sure, perhaps The Shadow of the Matterhorn trip would suit where we spend four nights in a hotel and three nights in mountain huts.
Point-to-Point - Camping
For some, the only way to truly enjoy the great outdoors is to sleep in it with just a cosy tent to keep the elements at bay. Camping has been popular in France, Italy and Switzerland for decades so campsites here have good facilities. Using our pop-up tents, you can quickly create your room for the night. In the morning, tents and main luggage get loaded into a van ready to be transported to the next location. Camping options include the very popular Mont Blanc Circuit and Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn trips. As well as being fun, these treks offer great value for money.
Getting to the Alps
On a very practical note, the Alps are very easy to get to from the UK. Our group flights depart from London City Airport but there are also many flights to Geneva from UK regional airports and Gatwick including some with budget airlines. The arrival transfer from Geneva is usually short, so on most trips you will have the first afternoon free to enjoy the area before the trekking starts in earnest the next day.