Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt

2021: Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt

 

In 2021 I hiked the famous Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. It's a beautiful 220km hike over some spectacular passes of the Swiss Alps.
I again decided to hike with my tent and spend the nights outdoors. The right decision even though it was pretty cold for this time of the year - I realised when I woke up to a frozen sleeping bag. A very mystical encounter with some ibex in the National Park and many, many beautiful mountains 😍



HRP - Pyrenean Haut Route Gear List

Background

I have hiked the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) in 2018 after having done the Te Araroa in 2016 and the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017. So I had accumulated a lot of hiking and long distance experience. On these two long distance trails I tried out a lot of different gear and also learned a lot. When I started in New Zealand I was completely over-packed! I had a 75l backpack and carried about 16kg of base weight! Only after three weeks I had the first big "roll-over" where I changed my tent, shoes, backpack and also ditched a lot of stuff.

Changing and reducing gear has almost been a sport since then. Looking back now on how carefully I changed and decided not to carry the one or other extra I almost can't believe how much I voluntarily carried 😂 But I also have to admit that without going through the process myself I would probably not be as convinced of my setup now. I also would have felt uncomfortable with some of the stuff I am doing now (not taking) without the first hand experience. Based on the knowledge I have now and also the confidence in my own capabilities eg. with cold, wet, dry and injuries I still feel safe with the minimal equipment.

 

HRP gear setting

I wanted to go as light as possible again on the HRP and also wild-camped every night. I planned to be comfortable in 80-85% of the nights when it came to temperatures. I expected temperatures at around 5C and a few days below freezing.

I also expected to get a fair amount of rain but of course also many sunny and warm days.


What to pack?

Pointing it out again - everybody has a different comfort zone! So there is no right or wrong. You should never risk your health or even life by under packing and not being prepared! If you don't feel comfortable take whatever makes you comfortable! You can still throw stuff out on the next re-supply stop but you can't "get it" in the middle of nowhere if you need and don't have it with you.

In general I do recommend the same stuff I carried on the PCT at the very end. Of course it very much depends on the season you go. If you go during the high summer it is less likely to get really cold temperatures. Nevertheless you are in the Alps. Depending on your altitude and the weather system you can get temperatures below freezing, thunderstorms and any hazardous conditions you can encounter in the mountains. At the end you are in a high altitude mountain area.

The entire gear list in a quick overview:

(Some links in the table are affiliate links)
Item
Product
Weight
The hiking outfit
T-shirt
130g
Shorts
130g
Socks
40g
Shoes
650g
Gaiters
34g
Sun protection
100g
Trekking poles
481g
Watch
64g
1.629g
The big three
Backpack
811g
Pouch for backpack
14g
Tent
420g
Stakes
MSR Ground Hog Mini tent stakes (8)
80g
Sleeping bag
595g
Waterproof stuff sack
25g
Sleeping pad
230g
2.175g
Cooking
Stove
Jetboil Zip
340g
Fire
Lighter
10g
Spoon
10g
Water filter
59g
Water container
40g
Water Bottle
Powerade
50g
Food bag
28g
537g
Cloth
Rain jacket
180g
Rain skirt
54g
Rain pants
180g
Down jacket
210g
Jumper
376g
Beanie
32g
Gloves
40g
Socks
Ortovox Alpinist Low Socks
40g
Stuff sack
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack 8l
25g
1.137g
Medics & Hygienics 
Teeth
Half tooth brush
7g
Teeth
Tooth paste
24g
Contact lenses
Case, solution, extra pair
80g
Nails
Standard small nail clipper
21g
Beard
Comb
6g
Toilet paper
Amount depends on days
30g
Pain killer
Ibuprofen
15g
Diaria
Imodium
4g
Disinfection
4 alcohol pads
1g
Tape
30g
Antihistamine
6 capsules
7g
Sunscreen
30ml
34g
259g
Repair kit
Tape
Ductape wrapped around trekking pole
Fixation
6 cable ties
6g
Knife
28g
Repair gear
1m Dyneema Composite Fabric
60g
Repair gear
Special tape for air mattress
10g
Repair gear
Tenacious tape
15g
Repair gear
Super glue
15g
Stuff sack
15g
149g
Electronics
Charger
USB with double port & iPhone cable
66g
Battery pack
135g
Phone & navigation
iPhone 6S
145g
Waterproof case
48g
Headlamp
55g
Battery
2 spare batteries for headlamp
22g
Wallet
7g
Stuff sack
20g
498g
Camera
Camera
Olympus OMD EM1 II (incl. battery & SD)
570g
Lense
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 25mm 1:1.2 Pro
410g
Battery
2 extra Olympus batteries
90g
Memory card
2x SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB
40g
Camera clip
84g
Camera rain cover
113g
Charger
Olympus charger & cable
115g
1.422g
Additional Gear
Pee-bottle
Gatorade 1l bottle
50g
50g
Total base weight
4.805g
Total base weight incl. camera
6.227g
Weight on the hiker
1.629g

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

As summarised earlier for the PCT already:

HRP Backpack:

Most important with a backpack is that it fits your back. They all have different harnesses and fit different backs. So make sure to try many. The other features are less important. If you carry heavier loads >15kg you want to have a good hip belt or otherwise you will have bruises on your hips and it's uncomfortable on longer hikes.

My backpack of choice is now the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest. It's specially designed for ultra-light hikers with a 40l volume and only weighs 811g (in comparison my Osprey 50l bag weighs about 1,8kg!) and it is waterproof in itself. It helps you only taking the things you really need since there is not a lot of space 😉. As a reference my bag is maybe half full with all my gear. The rest is "reserved" for food and I usually fit 5 days in it easily. I would not recommend it with a permanent weight over 15kg, but if you exceed it in the first days of a long hike because of food it should be ok since you will get lighter every day.

I also have a Zpacks Backpack Shoulder Pouch on one of my shoulder straps for my phone, ND filter and snacks.

HRP Tent:

Since I was by myself I used my solo-tent Zpacks Solplex. It is made out of Dyneema Composite Fabric (also known as Cuban Fibre) which is highly durable and super lightweight with 539g only! Including 8 stakes with 60g the total weight of the tent comes down to 420g. Comfort, space and durability are amazing. Keep your vestibules open for ventilation since in a single wall tent you do get condensation very quickly. It's not cheap with 555US$ but it's well worth every cent if you sleep in it every day.

 

Sleeping bag & sleeping pad:

The lightest and smallest version is always down. The higher the number of the filling (e.g. 850) the better the quality of the down and therefore the less you need for the same insulation. As mentioned above I would go with the Western Mountaineering Summerlite sleeping bag which is rated for +6C comfort and a max of 0C. I used the sleeping bag mainly as blanket on this trip. I only zipped it up in a few nights. And I always was more than warm. I am sue I would have been fine in colder nights as well so I would take it again.

Due to packing size I opted for an inflatable sleeping mattress. I am not a fan of the bulky foam pads which you always have to attach to the outside dangling around. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite is the lightest one. I used to have a large one but now I go with the extra small one (119cm) since I put my legs on my backpack and other things. Saves 200g compared to the large/regular one.

 

Cooking:

Some people go without a stove and only eat cold or dry stuff. Apparently it works but I wouldn't want to go without one proper meal per day. For this trip I switched from a normal light weight stove and pot to the Jetboil Zip. It is a bit heavier than my old setup but it makes cooking so much easier. In max. a minute the water is boiling, you can cook in wind and the gas efficiency is stunning. I only emptied a 230gr gas cartridge 2/3 in 20 days. Can you believe this? My Sea to Summit plastic spoon was on the tour again. My main water container is a cheap 1l Powerade plastic bottle - it does the job perfectly, is way lighter than the "proper" ones, the outflow of the

Powerade bottle has the perfect size so that you can drink while walking (better than the Powerade one), you can replace it once in a while if it gets to nasty and it costs almost nothing!

As a water filtration system I switched to a new system thanks to a tip from my friend Maria. I used to work with the Sawyers but this new tool changed my life. The sawyer was work and I always debated of filtering or not. The new Katadyn BeeFree water filter is amazing. It is almost like not filtering. The water flow is so fast that you can't drink in the speed the filter does its job. Incredible and one of my favourite new toys. I would definitely recommend to filter the water in the Pyrenees. Even in times when I thought it was impossible to encounter horses or cows I spotted them way above me.

I also have two stuff sacks (10l and 15l) for my food. It helps to easier squish the food into the backpack and I always separate breakfast & dinner from snacks. By doing that I can bury the breakfast & dinner bag in my pack and only have to take to bag with the snacks out during the day

 

Clothes:

I try to carry as little as I can. Therefore I don't take anything which can't be used on top of each other for the worst case scenario. Don't over pack - yes, you will be smelly and a bit sticky. But everybody is out there. You'll get used to it. Not showering for ten days sounds really bad at the beginning but it's actually not. And once in a while there is also a river to jump in if you are desperate 😉

I usually hike in a Icebreaker merino wool t-shirt, my beloved red/pink Speedo swim shorts, short Icebreaker merino socks and my favourite Salomon Speedcross trail runners.

this time I tried the new Salomon Speedcross 5 for the first time. I have to say they are better than the 4. They somehow managed to get rid of the weak-point on the front part. This is were the old ones all used to rip after 300km. This pair still looks like new after 900km and no signs of ripping. Really great!

Speedcross 5

 

Speedcross 5

To protect my socks and shoes from the insight I use very small Outdoor Research Sparkplug gaiters. As sun protection I have my new and cool Prana hipster cap 😎.

Rain gear: Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket & Vaude Drop Pants II rain pants - for heavy conditions and when temperatures drop below 0C with rain and wind. And the above mentioned rain skirt Zpacks Rain Kilt. I would personally make it shorter and keep it over your knees for better movability.

For the really cold days I carry a thin Icebreaker merino beanie and a pair of Icebreaker Sierra gloves.

My new Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Hooded Down Jacket had no chance to show how good it is. Not used a single time. But I would take it again - you never know.

One Icebreaker Descender Long Sleeve merino wool jumper - early in the morning or later in the day on cold and windy days I like to wear this one. Down is to warm to walk in but to save weight I would maybe consider leaving it behind next time. Let's see.

Since my swim shorts have a mesh inside I don't wear underwear. It also helps for better ventilation, less sweating and rubbing. So I only carry one pair of merino underwear to sleep in.

The only extras I carried were one Icebreaker merino t-shirt which is not really necessary - but it is nice sometimes if you are soaked after a day and you want to sleep in a dry shirt. But you don't need it. If its wet I either try to keep in on and dry it with body heat or I take it off and wear my jumper. It sucks in the morning to put it on again but after 20 minutes of exercising it's usually dry.

I also have one pair of extra socks in case a sock breaks down. This usually happens quickly. I went through a pair in 3-4 weeks. Your feet are the most important part on this journey - you do want to do anything possible to prevent blisters and/or injuries! Other than that you only need one pair. Why? How many can you wear? Exactly. If they smell you wash them in a break. If they are wet? Then you walk in wet socks. If it rains on consecutive days even dry socks are wet after 20 minutes so there is no sense in putting dry ones on to into your wet shoes...

 

Medics and Hygienics

How to go light: Try to buy the smaller sizes. No need to carry 200ml of something that will last for 2 month. Resupply more often. I have seen people carrying regular bottles of everything ending up with 3-4kg of liquids 🙈

My daily hygienics consisted out of a small and cut off tooth brush + toothpaste, contact lenses and cleansing fluid (extra pair and a few daily lenses in case of an eye infection), nail clipper, comb for my beard - therefore no razor 😂 and an amount of toilet paper suitable for the days - don't carry an entire roll!

In case shit happens. How much can you do in the wilderness? If it's a minor thing you usually don't really have to do anything and if it's a big thing (broken bones, etc.) you can't heal yourself anyways. So the only thing you have to do is get out and get help. So I am not a big fan of carrying a lot of stuff. For the heavy stuff I rely on painkillers (Ibuprofen), the cable ties and ductape.

I also carry Imodium for dhiaria (how many do you need? Not the entire pack for sure, just enough to get you out in case it hits you), a cream for eye infection which happens quickly with contact lenses, a couple disinfection/alcohol tissues (also work great if you have to clean camera lenses or surfaces before you repair / glue them). And a few Antihistamine pills after my shocking 25 sting-wasp-experience.

For the smaller issues and especially my feet I have a small roll of plaster tape (Mefix) which is a sticky plaster to seal open wounds and a 2m strip of Leuko Surgical Tape wrapped around a solid plastic tube: it's the only tape which really works. The adhesive is incredible and even stays on feet for days when they get wet. Don't try anything else!

Last but not least a 30ml sunscreen tube and a Ziploc bag to store everything.

(What I don't carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: Voltaren, Aspirin, hand sanitiser, bio degradable washing lotion, ear plugs)

Repair kit

Minimal as well. Tape and cable ties will fix most problems temporarily or even long term. For the electronics I only carry my iPhone for backup navigation (bad weather, emergency situations) and to write the blog.

Sufficient amount of ductape wrapped around my trekking poles so I don't have to carry it in the backpack fixes everything: equipment and also small injuries.
An Opinel Knife No. 6, a stripe of special waterproof repair tape for tents, rain jackets and repair kit for my air mattress, 6 cable ties, super glue, a spare lighter. On top I carried 4 one gallon Ziploc bags as emergency and rain gloves and socks and a small stuff sack to store everything.

 

Electronics and camera gear

USB charger with double port, my iPhone in a waterproof Catalyst iPhone case - also my fall back navigation and emergency (if I have reception) device, a Goal Zero Flip 20 Powerbank for two charges. A Black Diamond Ion headlamp for hikes during night time and everything else when it's dark. And I have a small Zpacks Wallet Zip Pouch for credit cards &, ID and all of it goes into a 3l Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack.

Photography is one of my passions. So I can't go without a proper camera. I tried to find a compromise between a full DSLR camera which is to bulky and heavy and a smaller one which will still give me a very high quality. For the last 2 years I have used my Olympus OM-D E-M1 II with a micro four thirds sensor and the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 25mm 1:1.2 Pro lense. It almost weighs 1.500g including the lense, battery and memory card which is significantly less than a comparable SLR. It is pretty heavy but as I said - my only luxury piece of equipment.

On top I have 2 spare battery, 2 SD memory cards, cleaning wipes, a grey filter and the camera battery charger.

And I also finally found a way to attach my camera to my backpack so that I can always use it without taking my backpack off or it dangling around and being annoying. The Peak Design clip straps the camera to your shoulder belt. It's fixed, secured and you still have easy access to it. And after two years of heavy usage I can only highly recommend this thing including the shell to protect your camera from dust and rain. If you take the extra weight of a good camera with you this clip is a must item - if you have your camera in your pack you'll never use it and just carry dead weight around! Peak Design Capture Clip v3 for the backpack & Peak Design Shell for protection.

 

Additional gear

Leki Khumbu Lite hiking poles which I always use. It's said that they save you up to 30% of energy in your legs since you use your upper body which normally is not used when hiking.

Suunto Core Watch. Simple watch, altimeter and compass. I am not a fan of GPS watches since they use a lot of battery which you don't have out there.

Additional 32oz Gatorade (big opening) pee-bottle for the night. I hate getting out of the tent at night. Probably one of my most favourite items 😊

 

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


HRP - 23 days on the Pyrenean Haute Route - my tour summary, resupply points and gear list

HRP - Pyreneen Haute Route Tour Summary

I hiked the HRP eastbound from Hendaye to Banyuls-sur-Mer between the 17. July and 10. August 2019. I did about 840km in distance and roughly 100.000 meters in elevation. Since I only had limited time I hiked between 12 and 14 hours every day and with being a rather fast hiker I made it to Banyuls in 23 days (and 3 hours). So much to the hard facts.

The HRP has been an amazing hike! For me it was the first time in the Pyrenees. And what can I say. I had no clue how beautiful they are! I was really surprised by the amazing mountain landscape. I really loved the rough alpine terrain above the tree line. I have to admit that I am a big fan of the higher and rougher alpine areas and I do love long and steep uphill climbs. So the Pyrenees with mostly very grey and bright granite combined with the sparse vegetation were amazing in that sense already. But especially the very steep and long ascents made me very happy. Very often you just get 1.000 or 1.300m of straight uphill sections which are usually pretty steep. Exactly my cup of tea. Just to put this a bit into the right perspective - I have done a few other long-distance-trails like the Te Araroa in New Zealand, the PCT and quite a few hikes in Canada, the Alps and South America. So I do have seen quite a few mountain areas already but the Pyrenees made it to the very top of the list. I will definitely come back to do more hikes here.

 

HRP Weather

I hiked between 17. July and 10. August and I guess it has been another very hot summer. I started in a heat wave with over 40C on sea level. I woke up at 6 o'clock at Source de Marmitou with still 23C. So it's probably (hopefully) not a representative year. I had really hot days with mid 30s in the valley along the way. I had two days of rain between Gavarnie and Parzan. But besides this I had quite a few days in the clouds with a few showers in between but mainly hot and sunny days. I was hit by four small thunderstorm or rather cells but they all hit me during the night which was not a problem. I think the coldest night I had was at Lac de Caillauas (2.160m) just before I crossed Col Inférieur de Literole and that was around 4C in the morning.

Because of the warm weather I never really hat the need for warm clothes. I always walked in my Speedo swim-shorts and a t-shirt. I did put my merino-wool sweater on once in a while early in the morning or when I was in the clouds. But my small puffy stayed in the bag the entire trip and also my +6C sleeping bag was only zipped up four or five times. The other nights I only used it as a blanket.

 

HRP Resupply points

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I started out from Hendaye with way too much food - probably for almost 5 days. But I wanted to see what "limited resupply" actually meant. Looking back I can only say that when "limited resupply possibility" was quoted I found more than enough to find enough for the next stretch. Maybe you don't find your favourite brand or flavour and sometimes you might have to get creative but you won't starve and will be fine. I also used may resupply points to just get extra meals and calorie boosters. I knew that I would never be able to keep a balance with my calories. So if there was a shop on the way I made sure to get two cans of coke, fruits, bread, olives, coffee, chips, yogurt and whatever I could get and I was too lazy to carry as a snack.

So my resupply and food points were:

Day 1. Resupply: Henaye

Day 2. Resupply: Les Aldudes (great shop): just a few things to stock up

Day 4. Calorie booster: Col Bagargui - had yogurt, milk, fresh fruit and they even had dehydrated meals.

Day 6. Resupply and 2. Breakfast: Lescun (all you need), great coffee

Day 7. Calorie booster: Candanchu supermarket & cafe

Day 9. Calorie booster: Oulettes de Gaube

Day 9. Resupply: Gavarnie

Day 10. Dinner: Heas

Day 11. Resupply: Parzan

Day 13. Dinner: Hospital de Benasque

Day 15. Resupply and Lunch: Salardu / Vielha

Day 17. Lunch: Refugio de Certascan

Day 19. Resupply & breakfast: l’Hospitalet-près-l’Andorre

Day 21. Resupply & breakfast: Bolquere

Day 23. Resupply and Lunch: Amelie les Bains

Day 24. Resupply and 2. Breakfast: Le Perthus

 

HRP Clothes & Equipment

Here you will find my complete equipment list of the trip: HRP gear list.

In the mean-time you can just check out the gear page. The gear list from the TMB is very close to the final HRP gear list. But the update will come soon.

Even though it was a very hot summer I would be totally fine to take the same equipment with much colder weather.

 

Planning the HRP

When I started planning the HRP tour I found the following sources very helpful:

Great and short notes for the hike, good description of alternates and GPS files. Really helpful once you get into the real preparation phase of the tour: Whiteburn's Wanderings

I also used Chris' blog as point of reference for my stages. He pretty much hiked the same speed and distance. So it was very helpful to have his stages to see where I would end up at the end of the day or what was possible. Chris

And of course Tom Martens Facebook group is an amazing source: HRP

Besides this I only used the iOS App maps.me with the GPS files from Whiteburn and Google maps in towns. Sometimes I used the mountain weather forecast when I needed updates for the peaks.

I also carried paper maps (just the pieces I needed) and the short notes from Whiteburn. I do like the paper maps when I am alone. I had a situation already where my phone died on me in a river and I was glad I had maps to get out. 1:50.000 maps do not really work for navigation if the trail is not clear. But to have an overview and to plan the next day it was always helpful and saved a lot of battery power.

 

Best sections of the HRP

I really liked the entire section between Lescun and Canigou. Of course there were a few more and less stunnig sections but overall it was amazing all the way. From Lescun the really high mountains were building up, then you were in the really high section for a long time but also coming out again at then end looking at the high stuff behind and the rolling hills again was great. Pic Carlit and the ridgewalk afterwards were surprising highlights of the trip!

 

Worst section of the HRP

Two sections I would not do again anymore:

The valley after Refugio de Certascan - it was dangerous and completely unnecessary since there is also a good trail in the neighbour-valley. See the detailed post from Day 17.

+++ Update  +++

Thanks Paul for the hint. Here is a screen shot of the map and the alternate after Refugio de Certascan to avoid the horrible descent:

+++ Update +++

 

Also the entire section around Airoto and down to Alos d'Isil was just horrible. No trails, very tyring overgrown boulder fields and steep bushwacking down to Alos d'Isil. I would try to find a work-around next time. See Day 16.

 

Fun facts

I did not sleep in a refugio a single night but always in my tent. I camped on an official campsite in Gavarnie because of the expected thunderstorm and next to the Refugio in Heas, Wallon and Sorteny for various reasons.

 

I cooked every night with my Jetboil stove besides 4 nights were I got food in town, a refugio or carried prepared food out on the first day. I carried a 230gr gas cartridge which was still 1/3 full when I arrived in Banyuls. Unfortunately I did not find the small 100gr version in Hendaye. I would have preferred to buy a new one half way.

I managed to not take a single shower on the trip. I dipped into rivers and lakes though but of course always without using soap out there. Leave No Trace (LNT)!

 

Hiking the HRP day by day

Here you can find the detailed day by day HRP articles. I tried to put points of reference, refugios or stages from the Cicerone guide into the start and end of a day so it is easier to find them on the map. The exact start and end point of the day can be found in the article. Hope this makes it easier finding the spots.

Day 1: Hendaye to Col-d'Inzola

Day 2: Col d'Inzola to Les Aldudes

Day 3: Les Aldudes to Harpea Cave Valley (below Errotzate)

Day 4: Harpea Cave Valey to Pic d'Ory 

Day 5: Pic d'Ory to Source de Marmitou

Day 6: Source de Marmitou to Pla d'Espelunguere

Day 7: Pla d'Espelunguere to Valle Darrious

Day 8: Valle Darrious to Refuge Wallon

Day 9: Refuge Wallon to Gavarnie

Day 10: Gavarnie to Heas

Day 11: Heas to Parzan

Day 12: Parzan to Lac de Caillauas

Day 13: Lac de Callauas to Basurta

Day 14: Basurta to Lac de Mar

Day 15: Lac de Mar to Estany de Baix de Baciver (close to Salardu / Baqueira)

Day 16: Estany de Baix de Baciver (Salardu / Baqueira) to Estany de la Llavera

Day 17: Estany de la Llavera to Cabana de Basello (close to Estany de Baborte)

Day 18: Cabana de Basello to Refugi de Sorteny

Day 19: Refugi de Sorteny to l’Hospitalet-près-l’Andorre

Day 20: L’Hospitalet-près-l’Andorre to Estany de la Pradella (close to Auberge du Carlit)

Day 21: Estany de la Pradella to Refuge de la Porteille Rojta

Day 22: Refuge de la Porteille Rojta to Refuge de Batere

Day 23: Refuge de Batère to Las Illas

Day 24: Las Illias to Banyuls-sur-Mer


HRP - Pyrenean Haute Route

2019: HRP - Pyreneen Haute Route / La Ruta Alta Pirenaica

 

In July and August I finally made it back into the mountains again for a longer trip. From the Atlantic Ocean over the highest passes and peaks of the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Sea - 840km and 100.000 meters in elevation change. Took me 23 days to hike from Hendaye to Banyuls-sur-Mer. No rest day, 12-14h of hiking every day and short nights in my tent.



TMB - Tour de Mont Blanc Gear List

Background

I hiked the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) in 2018 after having done the Te Araroa and the Pacific Crest Trail in the two years before. So I had accumulated a lot of hiking and long distance experience. On these two long distance trails I tried out a lot of different gear and also learned a lot. When I started in New Zealand I was completely over-packed! I had a 75l backpack and carried about 16kg of base weight! Only after three weeks I had the first big "roll-over" where I changed my tent, shoes, backpack and also ditched a lot of stuff.

Changing and reducing gear has almost been a sport since then. Looking back now on how carefully I changed and decided not to carry the one or other extra I almost can't believe how much I voluntarily carried 😂 But I also have to admit that without going through the process myself I would probably not be as convinced of my setup now. I also would have felt uncomfortable with some of the stuff I am doing now (not taking) without the first hand experience. Based on the knowledge I have now and also the confidence in my own capabilities eg. with cold, wet, dry and injuries I still feel safe with the minimal equipment.

 

Tour de Mont Blanc - 4 days and camping

Since we only had four days in total we had to go very light and we also wild-camped every night. We also carried all food for the first two days until we were surely able to resupply in Courmayeur. We wanted to be independent from huts and daily limits with our hikes. It paid off well. We did the entire circuit in 4 days and 3 hours. It meant a daily average of 12-14 hours of hiking but it was doable.

When I tried to plan the route, trip and especially the days needed in advance I did not find any sufficient information about people doing it on their own in a relatively short amount of time. Most people take 6-10 days. Because of this I also didn't find any appropriate information about the gear to take and also the recommended daily sections. Here you go.

Since we hiked together of course we were able to share a few pieces of equipment like the tent and the stove. But to make it easier to follow I will post the full gear list for a solo hike.


What to pack?

Pointing it out again - everybody has a different comfort zone! So there is no right or wrong. You should never risk your health or even life by under packing and not being prepared! If you don't feel comfortable take whatever makes you comfortable! You can still throw stuff out on the next re-supply stop but you can't "get it" in the middle of nowhere if you need and don't have it with you.

In general I do recommend the same stuff I carried on the PCT at the very end. Of course it very much depends on the season you go. If you go during the high summer it is less likely to get really cold temperatures. Nevertheless you are in the Alps. Depending on your altitude and the weather system you can get temperatures below freezing, thunderstorms and any hazardous conditions you can encounter in the mountains. At the end you are in a high altitude mountain area.

The entire gear list in a quick overview:

(Some links in the table are affiliate links)
Item
Product
Weight
The hiking outfit
T-shirt
130g
Shorts
130g
Socks
40g
Shoes
650g
Gaiters
34g
Sun protection
100g
Trekking poles
600g
Watch
64g
1.748g
The big three
Backpack
811g
Pouch for backpack
14g
Tent
539g
Stakes
MSR Ground Hog Mini tent stakes (8)
80g
Sleeping bag
595g
Waterproof stuff sack
25g
Sleeping pad
230g
2.294g
Cooking
Cooking pot
Trangia Pot incl. handle
142g
Stove
83g
Fire
Lighter
10g
Spoon
10g
Water filter
91g
Water container
40g
Water Bottle
Powerade
50g
Food bag
28g
454g
Cloth
Rain jacket
180g
Rain skirt
54g
Rain pants
180g
Down jacket
360g
Jumper
376g
Beanie
32g
Neck gaiter
40g
Gloves
40g
Socks
40g
Stuff sack
55g
1.257g
Medics & Hygienics 
Teeth
Half tooth brush
7g
Teeth
Tooth paste
24g
Contact lenses
Case, solution, extra pair
80g
Eye
Eye infection creme
3g
Nails
Standard small nail clipper
21g
Beard
Comb
6g
Toilet paper
Amount depends on days.
30g
Pain killer
Ibuprofen
15g
Diaria
Imodium
4g
Disinfection
4 alcohol pads
1g
Tape
30g
Antihistamine
6 capsules
7g
Sunscreen
30ml
34g
262g
Repair kit
Tape
Ductape wrapped around trekking pole
Fixation
6 cable ties
6g
Knife
28g
Repair gear
1m Dyneema Composite Fabric
60g
Repair gear
Special tape for air mattress
10g
Repair gear
Tenacious tape
15g
Repair gear
Super glue
15g
Stuff sack
15g
149g
Electronics
Charger
USB with double port & iPhone cable
66g
Battery pack
135g
Phone & navigation
iPhone 6S
145g
Waterproof case
35g
Headlamp
55g
Battery
2 spare batteries for headlamp
22g
Wallet
7g
Stuff sack
20g
485g
Camera
Camera
Olympus OMD EM1 II (incl. battery & SD)
390g
Lense
M.ZUIKO Digital ED 14-150mm 1:4.0-5.6 II
285g
Battery
2 extra Olympus batteries
90g
Memory card
2x SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB
40g
Camera clip
84g
Camera rain cover
113g
Charger
Olympus charger & cable
115g
1.117g
Additional Gear
Pee-bottle
Gatorade 1l bottle
50g
50g
Total base weight
4.845g
Total base weight incl. camera
6.018g
Weight on the hiker
1.748g

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

As summarised earlier for the PCT already:

Backpack:

Most important with a backpack is that it fits your back. They all have different harnesses and fit different backs. So make sure to try many. The other features are less important. If you carry heavier loads >15kg you want to have a good hip belt or otherwise you will have bruises on your hips and it's uncomfortable on longer hikes.

My backpack of choice is now the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest. It's specially designed for ultra-light hikers with a 40l volume and only weighs 811g (in comparison my Osprey 50l bag weighs about 1,8kg!) and it is waterproof in itself. It helps you only taking the things you really need since there is not a lot of space 😉. As a reference my bag is maybe half full with all my gear. The rest is "reserved" for food and I usually fit 5 days in it easily. I would not recommend it with a permanent weight over 15kg, but if you exceed it in the first days of a long hike because of food it should be ok since you will get lighter every day.

I also have a Zpacks Backpack Shoulder Pouch on one of my shoulder straps for my phone, ND filter and snacks.

Tent:

Since we were two for the trip we shared the Zpacks Duplex. It is made out of Dyneema Composite Fabric (also known as Cuban Fibre) which is highly durable and super lightweight with 539g only! Including 8 stakes with 60g the total weight of the tent comes down to 599g. Comfort, space and durability are amazing. Keep your vestibules open for ventilation since in a single wall tent you do get condensation very quickly. It's not cheap with 555US$ but it's well worth every cent if you sleep in it every day.

Sleeping bag & sleeping pad:

The lightest and smallest version is always down. The higher the number of the filling (e.g. 850) the better the quality of the down and therefore the less you need for the same insulation. As mentioned above I would go with the Western Mountaineering Summerlite sleeping bag which is rated for +6C comfort and a max of 0C. I only had a 3 or 4 cold nights below freezing and used used my rain jacket and my backpack as a sack wrapped around my feet for extra insulation in cold nights - just make use of whatever you have if you need it.

Due to packing size I opted for an inflatable sleeping mattress. I am not a fan of the bulky foam pads which you always have to attach to the outside dangling around. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite is the lightest one. I used to have a large one but now I go with the extra small one (119cm) since I put my legs on my backpack and other things. Saves 200g compared to the large/regular one.

 

Cooking:

Some people go without a stove and only eat cold or dry stuff. Apparently it works but I wouldn't want to go without one proper meal per day. So I carry a very small and light weight (83g) gas stove from Optimus Crux and a small gas canister. For cooking I have a 1.5l Trangia hardanodized ultralight aluminium cooking pot, the aluminum handle and  Sea to Summit plastic spoon.

My main water container is a cheap 1l Powerade plastic bottle - it does the job perfectly, is way lighter than the "proper" ones, the outflow of the Powerade bottle has the perfect size so that you can drink while walking (better than the Powerade one), you can replace it once in a while if it gets to nasty and it costs almost nothing! As a water filtration system you can go with the lighter Sawyer Mini instead of the Sawyer Squeeze. I only filtered my water 4 or 5 times on the entire trail. Since there is water everywhere in New Zealand and you rarely have two hours without a water source you can either carry a 2l Platypus or get an additional thin water bottle for the few occasions where you will need it.

I also have two stuff sacks (10l and 15l) for my food. It helps to easier squish the food into the backpack and I always separate breakfast & dinner from snacks. By doing that I can bury the breakfast & dinner bag in my pack and only have to take to bag with the snacks out during the day

(What I don't carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: camel bag, water bottle)

Clothes:

I try to carry as little as I can. Therefore I don't take anything which can't be used on top of each other for the worst case scenario. Don't over pack - yes, you will be smelly and a bit sticky. But everybody is out there. You'll get used to it. Not showering for ten days sounds really bad at the beginning but it's actually not. And once in a while there is also a river to jump in if you are desperate 😉

I usually hike in a Icebreaker merino wool t-shirt, my beloved red/pink Speedo swim shorts, short Icebreaker merino socks and my favorite Salomon Speedcross4 trail runners. To protect my socks and shoes from the insight I use very small Outdoor Research Sparkplug gaiters. As sun protection I have my new and cool Prana hipster cap 😎.

Rain gear: Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket & Vaude Drop Pants II rain pants - for heavy conditions and when temperatures drop below 0C with rain and wind. And the above mentioned rain skirt Zpacks Rain Kilt. I would personally make it shorter and keep it over your knees for better movability.
My Patagonia Nano Puff jacket with Prima Loft Gold is the piece which keeps me warm in camp or breaks - very small and very warm. I find Prima Loft better on long distance hikes since it even warmth you if it's wet, it dries quickly and you can easily wash it - different to down.
One Icebreaker Descender Long Sleeve merino wool jumper - early in the morning or later in the day on cold and windy days I like to wear this one. Primaloft or down is to warm to walk in.
For the really cold days I carry a thin Icebreaker merino beanie, a Buff (neck gaiter) and a pair of Icebreaker Sierra gloves.
Since my swim shorts have a mesh inside I don't wear underwear. It also helps for better ventilation, less sweating and rubbing. So I only carry one pair of merino underwear to sleep in.
The only extras I carried were one Icebreaker merino t-shirt which is not really necessary - but it is nice sometimes e.g. in towns after a shower when waiting for the laundry to be done. But you don't need it. If its wet I either try to keep in on and dry it with body heat or I take it off and wear my jumper. It sucks in the morning to put it on again but after 20 minutes of exercising it's usually dry. In Oregon I changed one Icebreaker t-shirt for a long sleeve shirt because of the mosquitos and kept it to the end. I also have one pair of extra socks in case a sock breaks down. This usually happens quickly. I went through a pair in 3-4 weeks. Your feet are the most important part on this journey - you do want to do anything possible to prevent blisters and/or injuries! Other than that you only need one pair. Why? How many can you wear? Exactly. If they smell you wash them in a break. If they are wet? Then you walk in wet socks. If it rains on consecutive days even dry socks are wet after 20 minutes so there is no sense in putting dry ones on to into your wet shoes...

(What I don't carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: hat, rain skirt, thermal pants, towel)

Medics and Hygienics

How to go light: Try to buy the smaller sizes. No need to carry 200ml of something that will last for 2 month. Resupply more often. I have seen people carrying regular bottles of everything ending up with 3-4kg of liquids 🙈

My daily hygienics consisted out of a small and cut off tooth brush + toothpaste, contact lenses and cleansing fluid (extra pair and a few daily lenses in case of an eye infection), nail clipper, comb for my beard - therefore no razor 😂 and an amount of toilet paper suitable for the days - don't carry an entire roll!

In case shit happens. How much can you do in the wilderness? If it's a minor thing you usually don't really have to do anything and if it's a big thing (broken bones, etc.) you can't heal yourself anyways. So the only thing you have to do is get out and get help. So I am not a big fan of carrying a lot of stuff. For the heavy stuff I rely on painkillers (Ibuprofen), the cable ties and ductape.

I also carry Imodium for diaria (how many do you need? Not the entire pack for sure, just enough to get you out in case it hits you), a cream for eye infection which happens quickly with contact lenses, a couple disinfection/alcohol tissues (also work great if you have to clean camera lenses or surfaces before you repair / glue them). And a few Antihistamine pills after my shocking 25 sting-wasp-experience.

For the smaller issues and especially my feet I have a small roll of plaster tape (Mefix) which is a sticky plaster to seal open wounds and a 2m strip of Leuko Surgical Tape wrapped around a solid plastic tube: it's the only tape which really works. The adhesive is incredible and even stays on feet for days when they get wet. Don't try anything else!

Last but not least a 30ml sunscreen tube and a Ziploc bag to store everything.

(What I don't carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: Voltaren, Aspirin, hand sanitizer, bio degradable washing lotion, ear plugs)

Repair kit

Minimal as well. Tape and cable ties will fix most problems temporarily or even long term. For the electronics I only carry my iPhone for backup navigation (bad weather, emergency situations) and to write the blog.

Sufficient amount of ductape wrapped around my trekking poles so I don't have to carry it in the backpack fixes everything: equipment and also small injuries.
An Opinel Knife No. 6, a stripe of special waterproof repair tape for tents, rain jackets and repair kit for my air mattress, 6 cable ties, super glue, a spare lighter, a 10m MSR Ultralight Utility Cord (cloth line, rope to hang food and possible repair kit) and 2 small carabiners to hang food. On top I carried 4 one gallon Ziploc bags as emergency and rain gloves and socks and a small stuff sack to store everything.

Electronics

USB charger with double port, my iPhone in a waterproof Lifeproof Case - also my fall back navigation and emergency (if I have reception) device, a Goal Zero Flip 20 Powerbank for two charges. A Black Diamond Ion headlamp for hikes during night time and everything else when it's dark. And I have a small Zpacks Wallet Zip Pouch for credit cards &, ID and all of it goes into a 3l Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack.

(What I don't carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: compass & maps which you won't need for the PCT)

The only luxury equipment - my camera

Photography is one of my passions. So I can't go without a proper camera. I tried to find a compromise between a full DSLR camera which is to bulky and heavy and a smaller one which will still give me a very high quality. For the last 2 years I have used my Olympus OMD EM10II with a micro four thirds sensor and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14–150mm 1:4.0–5.6 II lense. It only weighs 1018g including the lense, battery and memory card which is significantly less than a comparable SLR.

On top I have 2 spare battery, 2 SD memory cards, cleaning wipes, a grey filter and the camera battery charger.

And I also finally found a way to attach my camera to my backpack so that I can always use it without taking my backpack off or it dangling around and being annoying. The Peak Design clip straps the camera to your shoulder belt. It's fixed, secured and you still have easy access to it. And after two years of heavy usage I can only highly recommend this thing including the shell to protect your camera from dust and rain. If you take the extra weight of a good camera with you this clip is a must item - if you have your camera in your pack you'll never use it and just carry dead weight around! Peak Design Capture Clip v3 for the backpack & Peak Design Shell for protection. Use the link to get a free gift 😉

PS: Unfortunately my camera went swimming 3 weeks before the end. So I had to replace it on the go. I have to admit that I used this excuse to directly upgrade to the OMD EM1 II with a 12-100 Pro Lense. It is significantly heavier (+460g) but I will also use it for non hiking purposes now. On long hikes I might try to use the old lense if I can repair it. For the packing list I include my old camera since it was the one I used.

Additional gear

Leki Khumbu hiking poles which I always use. It's said that they save you up to 30% of energy in your legs since you use your upper body which normally is not used when hiking.

Suunto Core Watch. Simple watch, altimeter and compass. I am not a fan of GPS watches since they use a lot of battery which you don't have out there.

Additional 32oz Gatorade (big opening) pee-bottle for the night. I hate getting out of the tent at night. Probably one of my most favorite items 😊

 

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


Re-socialise VI: Already on year ago to the day I returned from my "break"...

One year ago to the day

It's unbelievable! But it has already been a year since I finished the last big adventure of my "break". On Thursday exactly one year ago I came back from Canada to Germany. And only a few days before that I finished the Pacific Crest Trail and arrived in Canada - 22. October 2017. After 2,650 miles, tons of snow, water and many fires we crossed the border in the morning and were "done".

At this point of time I had no clue what was going to happen next. No clue. The only thing I knew was that I just fell out of my new comfort zone. Living in a tent, just getting up, a few granola bars to get started, hiking all day, finding a spot to pitch a tent and only caring about the very essential things was my new comfort zone. And I had decided to leave it again. Not because I didn't like it. Not at all. But you probably all remember this one:

Where the magic happens.jpg

Let's start out with the day I arrived in Canada. One year later to the day I woke up exactly the same way as on the trail - in my tent. A bit of a different set up on our annual "Guys Adventure Weekend" but still in a tent on a sleeping pad and in my sleeping bag. Awkward. Pure coincidence? I don't know. But I did have a lot of thoughts and memories flowing through my head this morning.

Many things have changed. Many things have not

I knew that I had to move on, and not to a different trail but somewhere completely different to keep on growing. Many things have happened since then. Many things have changed. Many things have not.

I have thought about what has happened during the last year a lot. I have also been asked about what has changed, what has changed back "to old" and what I was able to keep. Time to look back and see. I went back and read the articles I wrote in the weeks and month after my return trying to capture my thoughts, reflections, ideas for the future and checked myself what turned out to be true and false or developed differently.

Sharing a place to live

Well, where am I now? I am still living in a shared apartment which I truly enjoy. My plan not to be able to withdraw into my own four walls and maybe fall into old habits worked out. Living together with others rewarded me with two things. Firstly the need to share and make compromises which helped me in not falling back into old habits, in not getting cranky and training my tolerance on a daily level. And on the other side purely enjoying community spirit of give and take and fantastic people around you enriching my life with stories, laughter and good food ;-)

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Mountains

What I have not accomplished so far is to be living closer to the mountains. Due to my obligation with our startup company campo I am and will be staying in Mainz for some more time for sure. So for now it's only a few escapes back into the mountains and the outdoors for a few days. But it shows that they have kept their unbroken fascination on me and I always feel home seeing and getting into them.

campogoeskarwendel-121

Can I escape all-day-life? No.

Yes, an all day life has arrived. I do live in a (shared) place since April. I do go to our office in a Coworking space pretty much every day. Sometimes on the weekends but in the last weeks the weekends have been kept "work-place free". Not that we are not also doing stuff on the weekends but life has adopted a bit more to our surroundings and their schedules as well.. And we do have regular things going on. We have breakfast together in the morning. We have ordered an organic box of veggies every week from a local farm for our lunch-cooking sessions every day. Yes, it is a routine. Also work does not have real boundaries to "the private life" anymore. They mingle, go together and just happen parallel. But therefore - for most of the days - work is always mixed with a lot of joy and fun activities. May it be the cooking or the night-shifts of GTA 5 in larger-than-life size. It is not a work time and then private time. They go together hand in hand. So fun during the work seems as right as work during the weekend. Even though - I have to admit to myself I guess - that work has the majority and the fun events have been a bit to little during the last weeks.

Work-Life-Balance? 100% left and/or right is my balance. That's it.

This leads me to another finding. I asked myself the question already once. Can I balance work and life better like others. Like one of my good friends maybe? I think I can't. And I accepted. I can't go for 80% and relax. At least not now. I always do things 100% or more. I guess my balance lies in the extreme 100% but not the chilled things. If there is something to do, an opportunity or whatever I will go for it. Either until it is done or until I am done. And only then I move on. I do accept that this has and probably will not change.

I have become softer and more mellow

But other things have changed. I have been asked many times already what has changed the most or at all after my travels. And also what has changed back to "old" now. What has been the biggest change in life.

Right now I always reply that I don't have changed in general. I am still the same personality. My core values are still pretty the much the same. But I have evolved and developed in many areas. I tend to say that I have become softer and more mellow. I am the same but with polished edges.  How does this show?

I am still resting within myself. There are no things that really kick me off the balance anymore. And if I start loosing this balance using my "Koru" as anchor still works. Just looking at where it is immediately puts me back into this balanced state of mind. I hope I can kept this forever (or at least for a long time). Things that would have annoyed or upset me early don't get me that easily anymore. My resilience is a lot stronger.

I am still very happy. Happy with my life. My setting. My surroundings. My everything. I still catch myself smiling out of the blue in public. I kept the attitude and the mental freedom of being able to just change things which I don't want to continue. With this all things become a conscious choice. Being conscious means that they are wanted and chosen. And if - at one point of time - they are unwanted they can be changed. With this even tough days are easier to deal with since they feel part of a wanted greater.

With this I have become more tolerant as well. Things that would have droven me nuts a few years ago I do see them as a different way of doing things. People have different priorities and different ways of doing things. Accept things you can't change and see if they can somehow put a smile on your face. I am also still very careful with my judgements. After being called judgemental by someone who I really admire I have been very careful with this discipline. I still judge. Pretty quickly. But I have trained myself to always start a second thought with something like "What's the story behind that it has come to this point?", "That's the easy call but what's behind the obvious?". This leads to more understanding, more openess and many interesting encounters. Still.

When it comes to material things I have been extremely good. I have not accumulated any additional stuff. Contrary to what I was afraid of I have reduced even further. Whatever has not been used or touched for a while had to go. Nothing has been sourced in without something else sourced out. I really enjoy not having a lot of responsibilities at the moment. I don't have a lot of stuff, I don't have (a real) rental agreement to take care of and I don't even have a single plant to take care of. I am pretty sure it will change at one point of time again but for now it feels good. Probably since it is such a dramatic contrast to how it was before.

On a side note - I still greet the bus drivers. Maybe not with the same enthusiasm anymore screaming from the last door to the very front but always when I leave or entere the bus through the front door. Maybe something I have to re-focus on.

One thing which annoys me massively is how much time I spend on my phone again. And I am not talking about talking on the phone. Partly it is a result of having one phone and mixing private and work life so borderless. But if I am honest to myself I also spend a lot of unnessary time on it. I definitely improved on the no-go-times. During meals, in conversations with other or any kind of interaction my phone is gone. But between these phases I am not very disciplined anymore. The "time to refelect when waiting for a bus" doesn't really happen anymore. Something which has caught me quickly.

There are probably many more things which I can't fully capture at this point of time. But in general I have the feeling my ressilience to influences from the outside is a lot stronger. Sitting in Munich with sneakers, shorts and hoody while everyone else is wearing good shoes, expensive watches, purses, button shirts and expensive labels everywhere else I couldn't care less.

And I have come to the conclusion that some things have changed for good. I don't think that I will be able to ever ignore or deny them anymore. They have just changed.


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.

tourdemontblanc-142

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:

IMG_3138

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... 😂

tourdemontblanc-172

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.

tourdemontblanc-143

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.

tourdemontblanc-145

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.

tourdemontblanc-147

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...

tourdemontblanc-151

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

tourdemontblanc-160

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!