Flying the Union and KMKA flags on the French-Italian border in the Alps Some advanced titting around: putting the mini in the van!

King's On Grand Tour! 2012 - Guillestre, France - July 2012

This year was going to be big; this year’s King’s on Tour was going to be grand!

0800 - Friday 1st July 2011 - Somewhere between Cambridge and London: Me (James Taylor), Andrew Munro, Chris Logan and the Highland Coo were heading up the bright yellow Party Van. Meanwhile Max-Hewkin-Smith, Barnaby Bryan, Sian Hughes, Billy Taylor and the Highland Calf were leading in the unfortunately named Toyota brand Disabled Mobile. We had a long drive ahead of us, our destination being Guillestre in the Haute-Alpes, but for now it wasn’t so bad, we had a bacon sandwich to look forward to on the ferry… or not. Screw you Seafrance!

The Highland Coo graces the dashboard of the van!

0900 - Saturday 2nd July 2011 - La Fontaine Campsite: Having just arrived after a gruelling 25 hours of the wrong side of the road and a less grim than expected night staying in/next to/under the cars in a French service station we had arrived at what was promptly dubbed the best campsite in the world. The sun was shining; the ice cold Durance was flowing less than 10m away, the glorious cliffs of Mont Dauphin were visible in the distance and Club Hydrofort was well on its way to erection. Time to sleep…. or time to get some kayaking in!

The campsite!

1000 - Sunday 3rd July 2011 - La Argentiere, put in at the top of the Durance: The entire advance party was suited and booted and we were ready (sort of), to test run the river for the rest of the group to come. There were to be some spills, some lost paddles, a lost shoe, a lost shoe, some more spills but most importantly some fun and that everyone made it back to the campsite and that we weren’t so so completely petrified to take the rest of the group down it (maybe).

The advance party prepares to run the river

0930 - Monday 4th July 2011 - Mont Dauphin: After a brief drive over the road to the base of the crags, we were worried that the climbing would be too hard, or too easy, or not very well bolted or something, but we were wrong. What we in fact found was a perfect setting in which to learn how to sport climb (and spot marmottes), albeit we were learning (getting thrashed) by a group of French 9 year olds on the same crag. After concluding that the lower routes were in fact awesome we headed up onto the ramparts of the fort itself for some more challenge and of course lunch.

The advance party has lunch under the cliffs at Mont Dauphin

0900 - Tuesday 5th July 2011 - La Fontaine Campsite: Today was to be a good day, we’d been hard at work the past couple of days scouting, shopping, having a good time and generally prepping for the arrival of the group, so now it was time to chill out, drink some stubbies, contemplate the fate of the crew stuck in Nice and quietly wait for the cars full of exhausted Kingsfolk to roll in.

The camp fills up nicely with new arrivals resting in the shade with a beer

0930 - Wednesday 6th July 2011 - La Fontaine Campsite: Now this is where the fun really begins… “Group A, here have some tuna pasta, see you tomorrow, you’re hiking at 2000m, you’re camping because Andy and I couldn’t find/break/book our way into the lush lush shelter, it looked like it even had electricity, oh and you have to try and drive up to the start too”. “Group 1, lets go get our climbing/marmotte spotting on!”

Sport climbing Lush Alpine valleys

1100 - Thursday 7th July 2011 - Middle Durance: While Group A were making their way back to the campsite on the “mostly all downhill” 16km trail, and of course coming across the crazy French guy and his museum of ancient farm tools/weapons/scary stuff. Everyone else was having their first, then second, then third…. taste of ice cold alpine whitewater, irrespective of whether they had previously been kayaking with us or rafting with a local company.

Azur glacial waters to paddle on

1500 - Friday 8th July 2011 - Chateau Queyras : This was to be the closest thing to a day off that you can get on Tour for most people, and while a couple opted to head into town for some coffee and a stroll in Guillestre proper. Everyone else decided to try their hand at via ferrata in Chateau Queyras, grade 3+ whitewater kayaking on the Lower Durance, 6a+ sport climbing on the ramparts or hydrospeeding with the local company.>

Nerve wracking via ferrata route above a steep gorge

0700 - Saturday 9th July 2011 - Ceillac: This may have been the longest day, upon arriving in Ceillac the first thing we noticed was that the road up to where we were going to park had been closed, adding another 8.5km to our round trip to summit Pan de Sucre once David Irons had decided to mission it anyway. The rest of the day would see us cross into Italian soil, flaunt both the Union and KMKA Flags in both French and Italian faces, abandon the ascent of Pan de Sucre and triumph over another Alp on the way home, Pic de Caramantran. Oh and don’t forget the epic epic Savoyarde Pizza’s kindly ordered by Dan Wood back at the campsite.

The group summit an Alp!

2200 - Sunday 10th July 2011 - Club Hydrofort: After another epic day of kayaking for some, an exciting decent down an unstable ravine while orienteering for others and although we didn’t know it at the time, the other group on the hike had been implausibly schooled by a wild llama. The party in Club Hydrofort was going very very well indeed; back to school anthems were blaring from the boombox courtesy of DJ Wis Wang-Koh, and Fred Brewin was drinking danger wine from a stubby bottle.

Banana van!

1000 - Monday 11th July 2011 - Mont Dauphin Ramparts: Sadly this was to be the last proper day of the trip, and what a way to finish. Everyone climbing successfully led several routes and the llama traumatised hikers managed to finish the second leg in record time. This had been a fantastic trip and I think everyone had tried a new sport that they probably wouldn’t have considered otherwise!

A well deserved break from heard climbing

2000 - Tuesday 12th July - The Mediterranean Sea: After a sad goodbye to Joel Wilson, heading off to Spain in his Mini, Chris Logan, Joel Wilson and the Edgerleys who were all flying home. After driving on the highest road in Europe and waiting for several hours for Max in the local Macdos. It was time for a final nerf game in the sea, little did we know that the Banana Van would suffer catastrophic breakdown on the autoroute that night, and some of us would not be returning to Cambridge for that tasty pint in King’s Bar as soon as they’d like…. but that’s another story.

Swimming in the Med, what a way to end the trip!

- James Taylor

The cost of the trip was £220 and included top camping grub, campsite fees, use of KMKA equipment and a training session at Harlow Climbing Centre but not transport to or from Guillestre. The leaders were:

James Taylor - Captain - 4th Year Engineering

Andrew Munro - President - 3rd Year Medicine

Max Hewkin Smith - Vice-Captain - 3rd Year Engineering

Chris Logan - Climbing Officer - 2nd Year Medicine

Barnaby Bryan - Secretary - 3rd Year Philosophy

David Irons - Treasurer - 3rd Year Computer Science

Sian Hughes - Voice of Experience - 4th Year Engineering