The first trail run of spring is usually a prime example of optimism over experience; resulting in wet feet, cold extremities and scratched legs incurred through scrambling over avalanche debris, fallen trees and through boggy paths. This winter has been unusually warm though and, while that hasn’t been great news for the snow, it’s excellent news for the trails!
Setting off from the parapente field behind the sports centre, we decided that an inaugural loop of the balcons would be a good way to start the spring training schedule. Heading off through Les Bois and up to Lavancher along the Petit Balcon Nord, we were baffled by how little snow remained on the trails - the north side of the valley gets less sun and by this time of year there are still usually at least a couple of patches that you have to pick your way through. This time around though there was practically nothing and the trails are well on their way to being nicely dried out.
Heading up through the meadows at Lavancher was as beautiful as ever, lush and green with new spring foliage coming through. We carried on up above Grassonet, picking our way through the tangle of tree roots and then turning left to drop down to the roundabout just before Les Grands Montets.
Crossing over the road, we turned left and followed the Petit Balcon Sud trail along past La Joux and Les Tines to the magical little clearing at Paradis des Praz. The forest dudes (official job title) are carrying out their interseason maintenance work at the moment, clearing the undergrowth and removing any dead branches that have been lurking under the snow. There are often a lot of trees that need felling at the end of the winter and the smell of freshly chopped pine in cool damp air is one of the nicest you can smell when you’re out on a run. Beats diesel fumes any day.
The Petit Balcon Sud runs parallel to the Petit Balcon Nord, so whichever way round you do this run, one trail will take you out and the other will bring you back. So simple that even I can’t get lost (often). It’s a beautiful forested track that runs alongside the river, sometimes winding up high above it to give panoramic views across the valley. It is in perfect condition underfoot at the moment, no snowy or muddy bits left but still damp enough to make it nice and springy.
By midday the sun was breaking through the clouds and the patches of blue sky were outnumbering the grey ones. Our little loop brought us back to the village of Les Praz, cutting through the golf course (permitted when the fairways are closed!) and then trotting along Promenade des Econtres back to Chamonix.
What started out as a fairly grey damp day, turned into a lovely 15km loop along my favourite easy-access trails. Although I’m sad to say goodbye to the snow I can’t wait for the higher trails to be clear as well, bring on the spring!!!
- Trails & Routes