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snowshoeing in the Queyras, France

One of the delights for me of being a mountain leader is watching the season change familiar in landscapes and also exploring new ones.

Snowshoeing in the Queyras National Park (east of the Ecrins, between Briancon and Gap in the Hautes-Alpes region of France) last winter was an opportunity to explore another mountain range which shares a border with Italy.

Approaching the entrance to the Queyras National Park you pass the imposing presence of the Fort du Mont Dauphin. Then a small road takes you through mountainous ramparts. Winding above a narrow gorge at every turn it became evident that there was valley after peaceful valley to be explored in the hidden gem which is the Queyras.

We were using Aiguille as the base for our visit. Travelling along the River Guil past historic villages such as Chateau Ville Vielle, it was easy to imagine how it must have looked in centuries past.

It was also evident that whilst the tiny ski stations of the region weren't short of visitors, there was a sense of tranquility here - which was unusual for the half term holidays anywhere in France.

For our first day the goal was the Col des Pres Fromage, Col of the Cheese Meadows, and the alpage high above the Vallée des Aigues. Blue skies and fresh snow were our constant companions, providing an ideal warm up day.

Whilst our second day wasn't blessed with blue skies it came with a glorious sense of solitude. A long climb through Swiss Stone pines saw us crest the Col de la Creche. Waving goodbye to the only people we saw all day we enjoyed a picnic lunch on an imposing ridge over the Guil Valley without another soul in sight.

On day three we explored the Fontantie. Our longest climb of the visit, we were treated to a panoramic 360° view of all the glories of the Queyras National Park and beyond. Swirling in and out of cloud, it may have been a study in monochrome but was breathtakingly beautiful nonetheless.

Our final outing started with a coffee in Saint Veran before heading off in bright sunlight to the Crete du Curlet some 540m of climb with views towards Italy. Our reward was untracked snow for a descent that took us across both open alpage where we could run down slopes of champagne powder snow, and through beautiful wooded tracks.

Queyras National Park is a must for those who want to get away from the hubbub!

Have a look at the Queyras Snowshoeing gallery here