A few weeks ago during an unusually cold spell of weather here in the Alps I had a spare hour to kill in between my office work and family duties .
I decided a walk around Lac de Montriond would suffice. It’s about the same distance from Morzine as from St Jean d’Aulps. In fact you pass buy it on the way to Ardent if you are going to ski at Avoriaz. The lake is situated 2kms outside of the village of Montriond at 1064m, it is the third largest lake in the region of Haute Savoie ( after Geneva and Annecy ) it’s surface covers an area of 33 hectares, it is 1320m in length and 235m wide with a depth of 19m .
Sian Hughes took these pictures
As I pulled into the carpark at the west end, the temperature gauge in my car read -16 c !! The first thing that struck me was how much more snow there was here than in the village on Montriond that I had just driven through. This is mainly due to the fact that the lake is shaded by 500m high cliffs along the length of it’s southern flank keeping the lake and it’s shores void of direct sunlight for most of the winter , this in turn creates an amazing frozen alpine winter wonderland, it was truly stunning with everything preserved in a sparkling frozen layer.
I decided to go in an anti clockwise direction heading out under the ice clad cathedral like cliffs. As I wandered along the footpath come cross country ski trail it dawned on me what an astounding contrast this silent still scene was compared to that of an average day in August when the lake has full sun and is a hive of activity with families making the most of all the summer goodness.
As I continued to walk the snow squeaked under my boots, a true indication of just how cold it was. It took me twenty minutes to reach the far end where the Bout de Lac restaurant is situated. Normally it emanates a warm inviting ambiance but not today in this Arctic scene, it was inbetween business hours, lunch had finished and it was too early for dinner service and without a single light illuminating the building it looked as stark and cold as the frozen rocks that surrounded it .
I took this photo of one of the frozen icefalls above the Lac a few years ago.
I continued on my way along the North shore path constantly glancing across at the awe inspiring shale cliffs when I noticed a group of people wander out onto the ice. As I approached I could see they were carrying equipment, I realised that they must be going ice diving which I knew took place here in the winter months but had never witnessed first hand . Keen to get a closer look I made my way to the point where they left the shore and headed out onto the ice . When I arrived they had just finished re chainsawing the dive hole, the ice appeared to be about 1m thick , after a quick chat with one of the rubber clad divers , I discovered that the water temperature was a balmy 2 to 3 degrees centigrade and that they dive to a depth of 8 to 10 metres, all very interesting I thought as they donned their face masks and breathing apparatus and plopped into the slushy hole disappearing from my sight.
I made my way back to the car feeling thoroughly refreshed and slightly inspired, what a great way to spend an hour I thought to myself as I started the engine and cranked the heating on full blast, I sat there warming up imagining an under ice experience when I was swiftly brought back to reality with a text message from my wife reminding me it was my turn to collect the kids from school.