Karwendel

2018: Karwendel Höhenwanderweg, Austria

 

Our start-up crew decided to go for a digital-detox-weekend into the mountains. What was planned as a first hiking trip for two of the three ended in a spectacular journey. Thunderstorms, clouds, a bit of sunshine, wrong turns which led us into severe climbing terrain and an unplanned night hike. Stunning scenery! Karwendel - we will be back!



Rheinsteig

2018: Rheinsteig

 

A weekend escape in the backyard. The famous Rheinsteig starts in front of my door in Wiesbaden and stretches all the way to Koblenz. We made it in to St. Goarshausen shortly after the Loreley in two days. Beautiful views and a lot of up and down. Highlight of the trip - getting scared like sh*t by roaring deer in the middle of the night right next to our tent.



TMB 5 - Tour de Mont Blanc. Kaylee wants to do the whole things. Les Houches we are coming...

We woke up early. It was noticeably cold this morning. According to the weather app Chamonix had 9C at 6am so in our altitude it was just above freezing. This explains also why we kept our sweaters on and actually thought about getting the gloves out. The view on Mont Blanc was still hidden by clouds.

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Good timing. We were on the trail for maybe 15 minutes when it started raining. Our luck. We packed the tent dry and also had time to get ready and going before the rain. So the first stop to put on the rain gear. Downhill for the first couple of hours. The rain stopped and we changed to the "performance gear" again:

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We reached the valley floor again and our first escape point for the tour. To the left we could see Chamonix already and it would have only been two hours to town in the valley. But since it was only 8.00 o'clock no option at all. I still had the plan to maybe take down the gondola from La Flegere which would bring us right into the city center of Chamonix. And then Kaylee started investigating carefully... What do you think? Can we make it all the way? I said it will be a long day and a tough one. From the highest point on the ridge we had another 1.600m decent into Les Houches. And then she said it - "I really want to do the whole thing! Please, can we do it? I want to finish the trail!". Well, what can I say. Not much was needed to convince me... 😂

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The mission was clear and that also changed our speed. Kaylee was relieved and started running up the hill. The beginning of our last long climb which would continue all day long up to Le Brevent. Kaylee flew up the hill passing all of the day hikers obviously being happy about the fact that we would do the whole thing. So up the hill, passing a few waterfalls and taking a few ladders up to La Flegere.

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We ran out of food last night. The last dinner but also the last piece of cheese and the last salami. We saved five granola bars for breakfast and counted on good food in the Rifugio La Flegere for lunch. When we arrived there for lunch we had to find out that the restaurant was still closed and only the snack bar was open. What a pity! Heineken beer from the tap and unexciting sandwiches... It was sad. Up in the mountains and only crappy tourist food. Well, we fueled ourselves for the last 15km and continued up to Le Brevent.

On the north-east slope there was still snow left. We briefly stopped on the top of Le Brevent but continued quickly afterwards. We still had a long way down and I was getting hungry again.

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1.600m straight down. No brakes. Unlimited switchbacks. It would have been the perfect opportunity to launch a paraglider and just fly down. But we didn't have one so it was hiking again.

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Maybe an hour before we arrived in Les Houches we had to take a little break. Our last little reserve (half a block of chocolate) had to fuel us for the last hour. It was a steep section already below the tree line and not a lot of space next to the trail. We laid down on the ground and due to the slope leaves, pine needles and dirt fell on top of us. We looked like real hikertrash. No shower in four days. The same shirt. Sweaty and smelly. And now rolling in the dirt. It felt good to be back. And it felt bad to know that it was almost over already again...

We continued and reached the road. It was also the area of a game reserve where deer, chamois and capricorns could be seen. Since we were on an asphalt road I looked up into the reserve while walking because I wanted to spot one of the capricorns. And then it happened. Nothing for the past 4 days. No injury, no slip nothing stupid. But on the asphalt road one single big hole. And I stepped into it fell, rolled twice on the road, sprained my ankle and collected scratches on arms and legs. I am such an idiot...! 😂

A little shock but nothing serious happened. Fortunately. And then we arrived in Les Houches again. After 4 days, 2 hours and 55 minutes we were back. 165km and many passes later. What an incredible tour. Thank you Smiles for crushing miles with me 😘

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TMB-Finisher

 

We took the train back to Chamonix and then fist things first:

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After an amazing evening out with Kaylee's mom and her sister we decided to take the gondola up to Aiguille du Midi at 7am. An amazing start into a rest day 😂

tourdemontblanc-159The guy at the valley station just looked at me and said: "You know, it's -2C up there?". And I said "Why?". "You are wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Just saying...". 😂 I have to admit it was a bit chilly up there. 3.800m make quiet a difference in temperature. But really stunning views and weather. We saw all the climbers preapering for their summit attempt on Mont Blanc. Made me a bit jeallous...

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And then the first clear view on Mont Blanc since four days. And so close again!

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We went down to the middle station, had a great breakfast and traversed into the next valley. Stunning views, sunshine, blue sky and a lot of laughters and stories where shared.

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An "easy" day which ended at 17.00h in Chamoix again. Not what we expected as a rest day after the hard last day. The sun and missing clounds also didn't help. Kaylee and I were - again - absolutely shattered. When we arrived back in the appartment we all took a two hour nap. We had another great dinner and it was a perfect end for such an amazing escape. So good to meet Kaylee's sister, Beth and of course Kaylee again.

Short, intensive but more than necessary. Nine month after an incredible outdoor life it felt so good to be out again. The mountains are my element. #happytrails

 

Sweet as, brew! Let me know when there's new stuff online!


TMB 4 - Tour de Mont Blanc. The most scenic point on the trail and a camp-spot right on the Swiss-French border...

The day started with an easy stroll down the valley. We enjoyed the fresh breeze and shade in the valley during sunrise. It was very quiet and peaceful. The other hikers were all still asleep when we left so we had the valley to ourselves.

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I did feel it already yesterday evening. A slight scratching in my throat. And now there it was - a sore throat. The typical start of a cold for me. Fortunately I had no other signs yet but I was worried that hiking 40km wouldn't really help. But well, l guess I would see tonight or tomorrow morning.

We had to drop down to about 1.000m before climbing back up to Champex. We were relieved. The fitness level was there, we were confident we would at least make it back to Chamonix on foot and we enjoyed being out there. It felt like nothing had changed in the last nine month. Kaylee was setting the pace and I fell back taking pictures once in a while catching up afterwards.

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The only difference was that it took me longer to catch up again. Maybe Kaylee had trained harder than me... 🤷‍♂️

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We went through beautiful pine forest and over glacial morays before we arrived in the smaller villages at the bottom of the valley.

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Nestled into the steep valley the little chalets in the typical wooden style. Peaceful.

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After about 10km we had the first 500m climb back up to Champex. We arrived early and just in time for the coffee shop to open. It was out of question that we could pass it without getting a coffee. So we dropped the packs, sat down and ordered two cappuccino. The town was still asleep, everything very calm and the surrounding mountains reflected in the little lake of Champex. We also had to take a decision on how to continue. The last high-route alternate was ahead of us. Either we could walk around the formation sheltering Campex or we could hike straight up and over the Fenetre d' Arpette. This would be another additional 1.200m steep climb and with this the highest point en route with 2.665m. The map showed that we would get very close to one of the glaciers on the way down. So the decision was easy.

Leaving Champex wasn't too hard. The coffee was horrible. We chugged it down and started the climb. Only entering "the bowl" made us happy. Definitely the right decision to go up and over:

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We were super excited. It looked like rough alpine terrain and according to the map we had to go straight over the wall in front of us. Yeah baby - Rock'n'Roll!

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After leaving the tree line the valley welcomed us with a stunning variety of flowers. Everything was green and blooming. I felt set back to the Sierra Nevada a year ago when we hit the blooming season on the PCT. The sun was burning down on us now and it was getting hot. I thought we had missed the last opportunity to get water from one of the streams further down but then I heard a little tickling sound. In a crack of a rock face a little spring spilled water out onto the ground. Not enough to create a stream but enough to fill up a bottle. Ice cold spring water. What can you ask more for... 😍

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The climb was getting steeper and steeper. And when we came out of the alpine scrub we had to bolder and scramble up the last 400m in altitude. Also a few snow patches were left. Nothing dangerous or unmanageable but definitely the most challenging part on the entire TMB. Nothing comparable with the gently graded PCT slopes but real alpine stuff. I have the feeling most TMB hikers are scared off by the big climb and so it was really quiet on the way up.

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Up on the pass we did not get less than expected. Views were incredible and the payback for 1.800m climb from the valley floor. We dropped our packs and had the most scenic lunch break of the tour. Italian cheese, salami and of course Haribos!

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The daily game started again. We could see clouds building up again in the south some of them towering up getting darker... So we decided to get off the ridge.

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The pink shorts back in business. The best decision ever not to frame them but to make them wearable again and to get them back into the mountains...

 

On the way down we passed the glacier which we did see on the map already. Heavily crevassed impressively demonstrating the danger of hiking on glaciers... On our side of the valley we had a few big wash-outs which either came from avalanches in spring or maybe even mud slides earlier in the season from a lot of water. So the trail was gone and we had to scramble down a few sections. Nothing to dangerous but still we needed to watch our steps. Falling would have not been a good option. We were glad that the rain hadn't started yet.

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Before we reached the bottom of the valley the rain hit us. It started pouring down on us and we rescued ourselves into the little Rifugio for a coffee. Shitty coffee number 2 today. Instant coffee 🙈. But at least we were out of the rain. A thunder cell went right over the pass we had been on an hour ago. A few lightnings unloaded into the mountains and it was beautiful to watch it - from inside...

It was already 17.00 o'clock but we needed to continue to have a chance to finish tomorrow. So when the rain calmed down again we started the next climb. The never-ending game of putting on a rain jacket to stay dry from the rain and then getting soaked from sweating vs. not putting on rain gear and then getting wet and cold. So after a few sessions of putting jackets on and off the rain finally died down and the sky cleared again. With a lot of manual work the Swiss had put a trail into an almost straight rock face to be able to get through it.

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After another two and a half hours we reached the Swiss / French border on the Col de Balme. It was only 19.30 and actually to early to stop. We had "only" done 37km so far and we wanted to get another 5 to 10 in today to give ourselves a better position for tomorrow. But when we reached the Col we couldn't resist. We had a beautiful view on the Mont Blanc which was covered in a thunder cell. The play of clouds, lightning and the sunset was so stunning that we just pitched the tent right on the pass watching the scenery with our dinner.

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The sunset was incredible. We pitched the tent so we could see Mont Blanc while laying in the tent. Unbelievable that our last night out was there already. This time of course we had a time restriction and no chance to slow down. But it was sad again that we were almost done - again. It seems to be a never-ending story...

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We crawled into our sleeping bags and watched the last little rays of sun light. A tough and also very rewarding day. My throat was ok. I could still feel it but it didn't get worse. I was really hoping for it to also stay stable tomorrow.

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Good night MB 😘

Sweet as, brew! Let me know when there's new stuff online!


TMB 3 - Tour de Mont Blanc. The never ending high-route alternate, good coffee, thunderstorms, Switzerland and a fellow PCT hiker...

We did get a late start this morning. We snoozed the alarm a few times and only made it out of camp at around 7.15am. Yesterday's 44km left their scars. Our legs felt heavy this morning and the almost 1.000m climb straight out of Courmayeur were strenuous. But, our mood was back to normal. No signs from yesterdays doubts. We felt happy again and also a little proud we made it so far (and of course that we kicked the trail runners butts 😂). It also ment we had a chance of finishing the trail and it was very realistic that we would at least make it to Chamonix by walking maybe missing out on the last 20km or so. After the rain and still having wet shoes we were so looking forward to get coffee in the first refugio. But when Kaylee went in to kindly ask for two cappuccino they told her "No!". Not that we wanted anything for free. No, we wanted to leave money with them. I would have thought that this would work very easily - especially in Italy 😂 But no coffee for us. So we continued without coffee. And again we chose the high-route alternative which we only realised was a real high-route when we were half way in. Three big climbs in a row with our heavy legs.

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We hiked on a ridge parallel to the Mont Blanc massif. Such an impressive wall of stone!

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And at the same time it almost felt a bit like being in Scotland or Iceland. The ridge we walked up was hilly and coloured in such a lush green that it was a hard contrast to the wall on the other side of the valley.

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A lot of up and down, the Col du Sapin and te Col entre deux Sauts later we came back into a valley which should connect us again with the trail. But I can only recommend to take the "little" detour! It was well worth it:

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And what can I say - it also gave me this. One of the or maybe even my absolute favourite shot of the tour:

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We arrived at the Rifugio Bonatti and here we received our well deserved cappuccino. Actually two. We pitched our tent to dry it from the night and had a beautiful lunch break right in front of this massive wall #ilovemountains

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Before we could takle the last climb of today and with this entering Switzerland we had to drop down all the way again into the valley. But the views were stunning. We passed waterfalls and also the flowers and green was amazing. I stoped every five minutes trying to capture the scenery. Photographers-delight.

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On the climb up we felt the first spray reaching us. When we turned around we could see the grey wall coming closer and closer. From the direction of the wind and the also how the clouds were moving I thought it would most probably pass uns or maybe just reach us with its edges but the wind was so strong that it blew the rain over to us. And then the first lightning hit. I counted the seconds between lightning and thunder - 8km away. Not much but still ok. So maybe 10-15 minutes away according to my assumed wind speed. Our alternatives were to go back down which ment walking right towards the cell or trying to run up getting over the pass and dropping down as quick as possible to not be the lightning rod on the ridge with our tracking poles. Since the way up was also about a 90 degree angle away from the cell and the direction it was moving to we decide to go up quickly. Everything went well. The cell passed us, the lightning didn't get any closer than the 8km and we only received a little shower. Sweet as, bro.

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We treated ourselves with an ice cold beer in the first Swiss hut and studied the maps for the rest of the day.

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Unfortunately we were dropping down into civilisation again. This ment limited opportunities for stealth camping. And respecting private property is different thing than breaking the rules with wild camping somewhere up in the mountains (of course leaving no trace! LNT). So we decided to stay on a campsite in La Fouly which was actually a bit shorter than we wanted to go. But with the extra 5-8km we wanted to do we would have ended up right at the bottom of the valley with a lot of houses and possibly no camp spots. Also water would have been an issue since there was farming everywhere. So the campsite stopped us at 19.30 already. "Only" 32km today. But she'll be right bro. Tomorrow is another day...

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When I arrived at the tent site a few people were there already. And they all looked like TMB hikers. Tents, backpacks and "stuff" for a hike. When I had picked a spot and took my backpack down people looked at me with disbelieve. I could read on their foreheads "What is he doing here? If he wants to camp he will need a tent and all that. Didn't he bring that? Idiot!?". I have to admit I really had to hold myself together not to laugh. And then I emptied my pack with the few little thing I carry, pitched the tent, blew up my tiny air mattress, took my sleeping bag out of the compression bag and set up the stove to cook. It was funny... 😂

A few people came over to check out the tent. They still couldn't believe that I had all my equipment in the little pack. And one guy came over saying "This is a Zpacks, right?". Apparently somebody who was into the topic of ultra-light hiking. A minute later it turned out that he was also a former PCT hiker who hiked in the same season as Kaylee and me. 6-toes was his trail name. We sat down, had dinner together and exchanged trail stories and had a great evening. #hikertrash

Kaylee cheated and took a shower and we both had the feeling that our hiker hunger kicked in already. We were starving. So we went through a lot of chocolate and other things in the tent. Oh yes, baby. I love hiking...

 

Sweet as, brew! Let me know when there's new stuff online!


TMB 2 - Tour de Mont Blanc. Italia, up and down, an unintentional participation in a trail running race and being "ab-so-lu-tely shattered" at night!

 

The night was amazing. Clear and cold and with this amazing feeling of exhaustion I slept like a baby. Also my experiment with the new x-small sleeping pad worked out perfectly fine. I can't move a lot before I fall off but I can sleep on the side and also stretched out on my back without any problems. Using the backpack as extension for me legs worked perfectly fine. New setup approved. 200 grams gone for good 😎

We got up at 5.30am and left camp at shortly after 6 o'clock.

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We haven't lost any of our speed-packing skills and organisation. We have been an amazing team for three month and we still are. Just talked about it the other day and to find someone who is as crazy as me (well, or even crazier 😋) is a rare gift. Thanks for being the #besthikingpartnerontheplanet Kaylee... 😘

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So we started hiking. We made it to the 24km marker somewhere between Ref. de Nant Borrant and Ch. de la Balme yesterday. We had no clue how far we would get and today would be an important indicator to see how much we can do in one day. Based on this we would get a better feeling how far we could actually make it in four days. So off we went. Clearly you could see that we were in the Alps:

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Our first high pass was right ahead of us - the Col dul Bonhomme with 2.329m. A nice climb in the early morning sun. We had camped right at the tree line last night so we were in the alpine scrub quickly. The area I love the most. Flowers, little bushes, grass, moss, and the rough and rocky parts with endless views...

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On top of the pass we encountered our first little snow patch but since we were so sweaty we decided to traverse a little further for our second breakfast break to get out of the wind.

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We also came to the first point where we had to made a decision about our route. Badly prepared as we were we didn't know that there are a few alternates on the TMB. There are three or four sections were you can take the "high route" which will lead you straight across passes instead of walking around them. This means of course even more up and down but also more spectacular views. We just looked at each other and it was not really anything we had to talk about - we were here to have fun and so surely we took the first high route. This led us to the Pass Col de la Croix du Bonhomme and from there we had to drop down 700m to La Ville des Glaciers.

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It was a first taste of what to expect during the rest of the tour: always something between 600 and 1.500m up and down. Flat parts? They don't really exist. And then we were already on the 700m way up to Col de la Seigne and with this the border to Italy. Italia, Italia... 😍 It's so cool that on this trip we will be in a different every day - by foot. On the way up clouds were pushing in already. We wanted to have a longer lunch break up here since we had the first 20km in our legs by this time already. As soon as we sat down it started pouring on us. We barely managed to get our rain gear out before we and our stuff got wet. We quickly hiked downhill with the sky just opening up and dumping water on us. The only luck was that we had tail wind and therefore the almost horizontal rain and wind rather pushed us down than making our faces feel like being in a washing machine.

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Since there was no end in sight and we were pretty soaked already we decided to make a quick stop in the Rifugio Elisabetta. We had a hot coffee and waited for about 45 minutes for the rain to calm down.

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We knew we still had quite some distance to make for today to get to Courmayeur for some food shopping. So we  left Elisabetta in a light drizzle and were gifted with these stunning views of mountains and cloud...

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Passing Glacier du Miage was a very special moment for me. This glacier is a very unique one. For one it is with around 10km of length Italy's longest glacier but even more interesting it is Europe's largest debris-covered glacier. About half of its surface is covered with rocks from the surrounding walls which means it looks like a big tounge of rocks. But actually it is ice and only the top layer - between a few centimeters and a meter in thickness - are rocks which are transported into the valley on the glacial ice. Why was it so special to me? When I climbed Mont Blanc in 2011 our journey begun on Glacier du Miage which we walked on all the way up to the ridge which connects the Aiguille de Bionnassay and the Dome du Gouter. We also fell into several crevasses of this glacier on our way down. So approaching the glacier and then finally looking into its valley brought back many memories on my first real alpine mountaineering experience. We could see the entire glacier winding itself up the massif at the end of the valley into a northerly direction passing the Rifugio Gonella where we stayed the night before the summit day. A majestic scenery with all the clouds now...

Glacier du Miage in the front - looks like a horizontal rock wall...

But there was still work to do! We had another 500m climb up a side valley before we would drop 1.500m straight down into Courmayeur. Unintentionally we ended up in a trail running race which happened on this day and was also following our intended route up and down into Courmayeur which was their finish. These guys ran a 55km race through this area also constantly going up and down. To be fair they were on their last 10km and with this already had 45km in their legs. But on the last climb Kaylee who was in front just started passing these guys. You should have seen their faces when they saw this girl with her backpack passing them on the way up during their race. It was hilarious... 😂 I had no chance but to follow her so we ended up passing every trail runner on our way up. On the way down they were a bit faster than us without packs but since we made some ground good on the way up we arrived at the finish line with our "crowed" from the climb. They couldn't believe us being down there already with them and they all gave us a cheerful and happy "Ciao, ciao!!". We still seem to be in shape! Pretty amazing that there seems to be a good memory effect in leg-muscles. Trail running seems to be something I might have to check out in the future...

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It turned out to be our luck that we raced the guys. We arrived in Courmayeur at 19.20 and the supermarket closed at 19.30. So we just made it in time to get food and when we came out of the supermarket Kaylee was completely exhausted. She even talked about taking a break tomorrow and how unimportant it was to finish the whole thing. She also became very quiet. But we still had to organise water for tomorrow and to find a camp spot for the night. Wild camping was not permitted but also no camping site was available so we had to make our way out of town and find something where we could hide with our tent. We stopped at the five-star Grant Hotel which was en route for us and asked them for water. They very politely escorted us out of the lobby into their garden and offered us to use their garden hose - I couldn't stop laughing. They just didn't want dirty and smelly hikers in their lobby. #hikertrashforlife! So good to be back on the trail!!! 😍

We had to go for another kilometer when we found a nice and flat spot next to the river sheltered with bushes and trees from the road. A perfect spot for the night. After in total 44km and thousands of meters in elevation change we pitched our tent at shortly before 21.00 o'clock. So after 14 hours of really hard hiking we were "ab-so-lu-tely shattered!" - as our beloved friend Martyn used to say on the PCT in these situations. Well, he would actually say it every evening or also on the afternoon already... 😂

We were knackered! Batteries empty and we fell into a deep sleep after dinner. I only woke up at night when a heavy thunderstorm with lightning went over our tent. But luckily we were in the valley sheltered by trees and by far the most uninteresting item for a lighting to struck into. And the rest of the night - I can't remember a single thing. I was absolutely shattered but happy. 😊

 

Sweet as, brew! Let me know when there's new stuff online!


TMB 1: Tour de Mont Blanc. 160km through France, Italy and Switzerland around the Mont Blanc massif - crushing miles hiking with Smiles...

Where to start...? It has been a while since I have seen mountains for the last time. A few short escapes to Switzerland in February but the last real hike was the PCT. And we finished the trail in September last year. I can't believ that this has been so long ago already. Even though I enjoy the start-up life I am craving time in the mountains constantly. You will never be the same after a long-distance-hike they say... I think they are right.

I still would have probably not initiated this trip by myself. But I received a message a few weeks ago that someone would be in Switzerland for a few days and if I wanted to join for some serious hiking. And of course this was all I needed to go. So I booked a flight to Geneva, jumped into my favourite airline and off I was. The cool thing about being ultra-light is also that you can book the hand-luggage only fares if you go on a full camping trip and you are still way below weight and size limits... 😂

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A quick hop on a bus from Geneva to Chamonix and that's were I was expected already. It had been over 9 month now since we had seen each other for the last time and we did you through an amazing time together last year. So it was very special and way overdue that we met again. Moreover I don't know anyone who would have agreed and actually would have had as much fun as us two to do this trail in such a short amont of time.

What can I say - Smiles is back! 😍

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We did spend 24/7 for more than 3 month together in a tent and on the trail. Now we had been back to society for quite some time. Kaylee even got her own new apartment. But when it comes to hiking nothing has changed. We are still crushing it.

We did some last food shopping for the next couple of days. That is one of the major improvements compared to the PCT - you can choose from 200 different types of cheese and and uncountable amount of salami and other amazing trail food. Where we had 8 kinds of beef jerkey and maybe 6 differnt types of cheese for five month we had problems deciding which ones to take. Sooooo good. But the downside of the generally good approach of reasonable packaging size in Europe is that you don't find 1 liter Gatorade bottles with the big opening. So no pee-bottle on this trail for me... 🙈

Now we were ready to begin the adventure. Based on our research we were talking about a 170km hike with about 23.000m of elevation change. Sounds like a lot, is a lot but it becomes a real challenge when you have another constraint. Kaylees mother and sister were also in Switzerland and wanted us to be back on the 17th to have the evening and next day together before they all were all going back home. Today was the 13th, 14.00 o'clock already. So we had 4 and a bit of a day. Since it would have been a straight climb of 1.500m out of Chamonix and then 5km later a 1.500km decent to Les Houches we decided to take the train there to start the tour. It was going to make us faster on the first day and we were already closer to Chamonix now on the trail if we wouldn't make it all the way. It sounded quite impossible at the beginning but we said we'll just try how far we get. So off we went!

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Les Houches - clean and fresh.

Finally at 15.00 we made it on the trail. After the first navigational challenges to actually find a way out of town which probably cost us half an hour we were finally on the trail. A little taste of what we were going to get. A constant up and down hill. We left civilisation behind us and went into the mountains - we thought.

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The first climb was steep. Very steep. And it was hot. We were sweating and talking was reduced to a bare minimum. Were we completely out of shape? Was it the heat? Or maybe the steaper trails compared to the PCT? Or everything at the same time? We were fast but thinking about another 160km in four days sounded more and more unrealistic. I caught myself looking at the map already looking for "escape" points at the end.

After the first climb we passed the first serviced hut with food and drinks and caught our first views of Mont Blanc. But shortly after that we were actually back on an asphalt road passing shops. We looked at each other asking ourselves why we were carrying food for 3 days already. Not very ultra-light at all. But it also felt more like a serious hike to us somehow.

But then we got out of the last town in Les Contamines and we entered the wilderness.

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Most of the time we spent on catching up. A lot of stuff had happened in the last month and even thought we talked on a regular basis there was lots to talk about. So we hiked and talked. And it just felt great to be out again. Nothing had changed. Kaylee naturally went up front making the pace (and what a pace). I fell back a few times taking pictures and I had a hard time catching up! Was I gonna make it at all? I was afraid of feeling completely exhausted tomorrow already.

At 20.30 we found exactly what we had been looking for - the perfect camp spot. We talked about it a few times. Wild camping is not really permitted like it is in the US, Canada or NZ. But for one we had no option as to hike as far as we would get on a day and then just pitch a tent and we also couldn't imagine ourselves in a Refugio instead of our missed tent. So in respect of the "Leave No Trace" principle (camping only on durable surfaces, pack it in - pack it out, deposit of human waste and toilet paper, etc..) we decided to camp. And how could anyone resist to camp here:

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After 24km on our first half-day we went to bed after a quick dinner. Exhausted but very happy. Also really curious to see how my extra small sleeping pad would work. Kaylee told me I could forget about trading at night if I was getting cold argumenting that she was way shorter than me and would probably fit on the mattress. She just said: "You wanted it this way: ultra-light, freeze at night! 😋"

 

Sweet as, brew! Let me know when there's new stuff online!


5.000km, ripped and reborn - the pinks shorts are back alive!

We have to start quite some time ago. When I first started hiking on my trip I used classical zip-hiking pants. I was never really happy with them. Why? Because I knew I was going to loose weight why I bought a pair smaller that they would actually fit at the beginning. But then quickly they became to large. So there was only a very short period were they actually fit. And they were never really practical with a button and a zipper. Since I had to wear a belt later on I always had bruises on my hips from the rubbing of the hip-belt of the backpack, the belt itself and the fabric.

Only by coincidence I came across my red Speedo swimming shorts. For a trip to Fiji I needed swimwear which was almost impossible to get in the deepest New Zealand winter. The one and only I could find was a pair of fire-red Speedo swim shorts. Would have not been my first choice in terms of “hipster-style” shorts for a beach vacation. But - I had no choice. Fiji passed by and back in NZ I hiked in them for the first time on Rangitoto island on a day-hike. And that’s where I realised that they were never intended to be swim shorts for me but hiking shorts!

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From this moment on I have never hiked in anything else but my formerly red shorts. They traveled with me through Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Bolivia, Chile, the Amazon delta, Peru, Colombia and Argentina.

On my way to Choquequirao in Peru

The shorts even made it to the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic. The first time I set foot on the 7th continent - it was in the pink shorts.

Landed on the 7th continent @ -12C

And then I wore them for another five month every single day on my long distance hike from Mexico to Canada. In total they made over 5.500km with me, enduring temperatures of way below -12C in Antarctica, heat, humidity, sweat, sun, being frozen, wet, in saltwater, tons of dirt, sunscreen and food-spills. They have seen and felt it all.

On the Pacific Crest Trail

And through all of this they gradually changed their colours from red to pink now.

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During the 1.5 years I did get to learn the advantages of the swim shorts over normal hiking pants. Why? Because they dry quickly, have a loose fit which gives you great ventilation, have a mesh inside - so you don’t need underwear which means less sweating and more ventilation and they have a drawstring elastic waist band which automatically grows with you. Even if you lose a lot of weight. Another great advantage is going to the toilet is a fast thing with them - no buttons or zippers involved anymore just pull’em down and up.

Not only did we become an inseparable team but they also became kind of a my trademark - “the guy with the beard and the pink shorts”. So when they ripped the first time on the trail I knew that there would be work to do when I was back in civilisation. For the last 300km I just fixed them with tape to hold them together. But back home I realised that the rip wasn’t the biggest problem. The fabric was so thin that there were many tiny holes and they started ripping everywhere on the backside.

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The first big rip. And you can see how thin the fabric was already then...

On my winter trip in the Black Forest it happened. Not the seam but the entire shorts ripped from bottom to top. That was it. I just couldn’t wear it any longer like this. Most people around me told me to frame them and put them up on a wall as a great reminder of the journey. But having freed myself from most material possessions since I came back I didn’t want to have anything hanging on a wall which I couldn’t use. And actually I wanted to continue hiking with my shorts more than anything else. So I decided to give it a try and fix them. I contacted Speedo to ask them for some “spare parts” and fabric so I could fix the holes and weak sections. When I told them the story they immediately came back to me. Unfortunately they did not have any spare parts or fabric but they just sent me a completely new pair for free. I thought maybe it’s a sign. The effort to fix the old one was immense. So I went on a hike with the new pair. But what can I say. It was just not the same. I came back and I knew I had to get the original pair back to life. No matter how much work that would mean...

It took me over three month to find the right battle comrade. And then by coincidence I met Nathalie - she is a makeup artist for theatres. She does all the costumes but also the stages. And before that she designed swim wear for many years! Can you believe…? The perfect match to tackle such a project. We met for the first planning session where Nat evaluated the option we had. We played around with options, parts and ideas...

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And then we had it all sorted out. Nat wanted to save as much as possible from the original pants and only replace some parts of the back to make the structure durable again. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was gonna get them back 😍

Three weeks later we met again to actually do it. It took us only over three hours to take the shorts apart so we could put them back together the we way we had planned it.

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When I opened the stitches of the pocket I discovered sand which had been stuck in there. Really curious where this came from. Fiji? Panama? Salar de Uyuni? PCT?

 

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Teamwork: even Susanne who actually connected Nat and me came over to help with the Sisyphus work...

Then we finally had all the single pieces we needed.

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Our plan was to keep the seam and the entire front part of the old shorts. Only the back part was supposed to be replaced. On top we wanted to reuse a few parts of the old back.

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And then it was time to put everything back together and to start with the special edition parts...

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Finetunening...

 

And after 11 hours of work we were finally done! The pink shorts are back alive. And they are ready for the next 5.000km - at least. I can’t really describe how happy, thankful and glad I am that I can continue using them on the trails. It would have been such a waste and they also would have not deserved it to be hung up in a frame...

So here it is - the final result. The pink shorts reloaded. From the front you can’t even tell:

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The back part is new below the elastic waist band. We also saved the old pocket and attached it to the new back.

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And the last little highlight. We saved the most durable stretch of the back and made a map of the Pacific Crest Trail. You can see the three states California, Oregon and Washington and the actual trail as a stitching. By this we kept a bit more of the original and also honoured where it probably suffered the most… 😉

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Artwork
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No room for errors - there was not a lot of fabric to work with...
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Washington, Oregon & California - The Pacific Crest Trail

Thank you Speedo for supporting the repair.Thank you Susanne for linking Nathalie and me. And 1.000.000 times THANK YOU Nathalie for helping me sooooo much with this. I could have never done it without you!!!!

 

Sweet as, brew! Let me know when there's new stuff online!


Featured content on MightyGoods - I was invited to share some of my packing-insights of my long-distance-hiking experience for their latest story.

MightyGoods is a great page which tries to help hikers and adventurers to find the right backpack. They also have collected an immense amount of information on ways how to pack and what to put in them.

Mads, Laarni & James have put together an incredible amount knowledge about the backpacking topic. So I am really thrilled that they have asked me to contribute to their latest story about packing tips for long distance hikes.

17 extrem hikers - and some of them quite famous and experienced - have chipped in for this. And I feel honoured to be one of them. So if you are looking into getting a new pack or some advise on packing check out this comprehensive story:

17 Adventurers Share How They Pack for Long Distance Hiking (1,000+ km Hikes)


Creux du Van

2018: Creux du Van, Switzerland

 

Easter adventure and PCT preparation camp for the Swiss-PCT-team of 2018. Snow line at around 1.000masl and we hiked above 1.300masl most of the time in knee deep snow. First attempt to climb a narrow gorge had to be aborted due to massive ice and avalanche left-overs on the trail... But Creux du Van was worth the effort. We camped close to the rim and had a fantastic sunset and sunrise at around -6C. #ilovemountains #havetomovetoswitzerland