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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 5 Glacier Blanc and Tour de France by John Rasquinha

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 5 Glacier Blanc and Tour de France by John Rasquinha

Today was a day for something different from paddling after most people had spent 4 days on the water, though still with an early start, setting off from the campsite at 7am. The plan was to do the traditional annual walk up to the Glacier Blanc situated within the Ecrins national park. The huge glacier runs down from an altitude of 4015 metres and can be up to 250 metres deep in parts.

We began our walk up the path with glacier meltwater forming fast flowing streams and rivers coming down the mountainside alongside us. Starting early meant most of the way up was in shade and the cool morning air. We stopped for the traditional group photo on the bridge halfway and then proceeded up to the refuge at a height of 2550m and once there enjoyed some nice cool drinks and more fruity French tarts.

Unfortunately, by the time we were heading back down to sun was high in the sky and we had a very, very hot walk back down, requiring another drink stop at the bottom.

Whilst most of us had gently been working our way up and down, Michael and Hannah had decided to jog instead in very impressive times, looking well rested by the time the rest of us caught up!

After finishing the walk, we were able to time a visit to Briancon where the Tour De France was scheduled to pass through for stage 18 which was an exciting experience! After navigating to a hill climb viewing point, we managed to see the competitors powering up along with their entourage of support vehicles, and even got to see one of the swiftly executed bike-swaps right in front of us. By then the weather had really heated up so we had to have yet another drinks break!

Meanwhile, the rest of the group had stayed around the campsite for a more leisurely day, with Ron completing a successful slalom course run, and other swimming in the lake (with questionable tactics by Stuart), or taking out mountain bikes to do some local exploring. (La Roche-de-Rame)

We also welcomed our new arrival in the form of Dom who had enjoyed a brief flight and drive from Lyon rather than the 23-hour minibus option!

After a busy day away from the water, it will be early to bed tonight for everyone in preparation for a trip to the River Ubaye in the morning!

More photographs……….

Glacier Blanc is on the east side of Barre Des Ecrins the southernmost of the 4000 m peaks in the Alps. It is the largest glacier on the peak. The glacier began a sustained retreat after 1870, that ceased in 1895-1900 , 1915-1920, 1935-1940 and 1980-1990 (Cossart et al, 2006). The glacier had a mass loss of 11 m from 1981-2005 (Rabatel et al, 2008), which is 5-10% of the total glacier volume. The series of images below are used to examine the retreat over the last 11 years of Glacier Blanc. The first image is a 2008