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Walking, Hiking & Trail Running

Light Up | Why There’s Nothing Quite Like Golden Hour Hiking In The French Alps

A love letter to the art of walking about in the mountains during golden hour

“Not sure about those clouds…” says one of the girls as we approach the halfway mark. Gaining elevation, rolling fields have given way to steep rocky gullies and we scramble up a section with the help of a metal cable. Looking over to the right, Mont Blanc hides beneath a blanket of thick cloud, unmistakably dark after a series of humid electrical storms that have been holding evening activities hostage all week.

Continuing on, we traverse a relatively easy ridge towards our target, Pointe d’Angolan (2090m). Daylight starts to fade and the horizon to our left becomes layer upon layer of hazy alpine silhouettes. Hoping the clouds will only add to the drama of the sunset, the light starts to change and we’re reminded why this is the most absurdly beautiful time of day to be out in the mountains.

“The most absurdly beautiful time of day to be out in the mountains”

During the summer months, the region of Haute Savoie in the French Alps comes alive with wildflower meadows, long sun-soaked days, and more activities than you can shake a stick at. Spanning over 750 miles across Europe, the Alps are of course well known for their snowy ski pistes and as a place to push our physical limits.

However, as we approach warmer seasons we find space for something more profound. As the days lengthen and warm breezes blow through the valleys, we are given the chance to slow down and reconnect to the environment in a more modest way.

Credit: Daisy Maddinson

Often in the mountains, we get caught up in doing. Running this trail, riding that park, competing in this event, climbing that face. Simply going out for a hike can seem like too little action, not pushing ourselves enough, not beating a personal best. But I think, in all honesty, that’s exactly why we need it.

Hiking allows us to slow ourselves. There’s no need to be the best, to push ourselves to exhaustion, to be the strongest or the fastest. It allows us to tackle a trail at our own pace, reaching the top for personal satisfaction without clinging to a competitive outcome.

“Making a point of hiking at golden hour is a statement. It’s opening yourself up to the quiet disconnect from our normal world”

Taking our sweet time we have moments to marvel at our surroundings, to revel in the unmovable force and beauty of the mountains. Our perspective shifts from one of intense challenge to enjoyment above all else.

It can still be tough and the route can still be challenging. The difference is that you have the opportunity to connect with yourself and nature whilst facing hard vertical climbs. It’s not about running on adrenaline, negating mindfulness, and ignoring the wider context.

Credit: Daisy Maddinson

Recent studies have confirmed that 120 minutes of outdoor activity a week is proven to significantly benefit our mental health and reduce all kinds of illness through experiencing nature. So it’s no wonder that direct exposure to places like this is nothing short of soul enriching.

“Hiking allows us to slow ourselves. There’s no need to be the best, to push ourselves to exhaustion, to be the strongest or the fastest”

Without pushing, without striving, sunset gives us a window of time to watch the hills turn golden and the mountains feel soft. Seeing the sun drop behind the horizon and the glow over the landscape evokes joy and serenity. We become aware of how our environment affects our sense of self and happiness, realising how hyper-stimulating “normal” life can be.

The scale and size of the mountains here are instantly humbling. A vastness so expansive you can’t help but feel small, triggering one of those life-affirming moments of knowing you’re part of a bigger picture.

Credit: Daisy Maddinson

As we reach our almost-summit, the fading light transforms the sky. Oranges, pinks, yellows and blues play together in a theatrical dance. A feeling of awe washes over us, leaving us with a new found feeling of respect for the mountains.

We’re totally alone up here (one of the many advantages of hiking at sunset) and the quiet trails make room for peace and clarity to settle over us. Mental rumination stops and alpenglow colours instantly lift our moods, connecting us back to our environment and refreshing our spirits.

Teaching us patience, simply sitting and enjoying the sunset becomes an act in itself. Waiting to see more, to have more meaningful experiences and to gain a greater perspective. Taking the time to witness the light change up here simultaneously creates freedom and a sense of belonging.

Credit: Daisy Maddinson

Making a point of hiking at golden hour is a statement. It’s opening yourself up to the quiet disconnect from our normal world and experiencing the unshakable truth that we are each but a small dot on the surface of our beautiful planet.

Hiking at golden hour in the French Alps is more than just a walk. It’s magic. Expansive golden vistas create an expansiveness in our chests and we can’t help but appreciate the basic daily phenomenon for the incredible moment that it is.

All alone on that ridge, we soak in the last energy of the day; taking in every last drop of the moment before heading back down. Maybe it’s the light, maybe it’s the altitude, maybe it’s the mountain air but there and then we’re left begging the question… what is our reality? 

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