Thursday, July 21, 2016

Here's the Quietest Corner of the Alps



Phyl Newbeck and Bryan Harrington recently completed our self guided Matterhorn Trek and sent us these photos. Their trek began in the village of Cervinia, Italy, and finished one week later in the famous resort town of Zermatt, Switzerland. While Zermatt is certainly on the map, the path they chose took them through one of the quietest corners of Italy and Switzerland.


One of the coolest things about this trip is that Phyl and Bryan got to see the Matterhorn from both the north AND the south sides (1st and 2nd photos). It's a really special thing to do. 


The snow was deep this year, (even in late June/early July), which added a fun adventure component to their hiking tour.

You'll notice that there aren't a lot of people in these photos. The trails in this part of the Alps are remote and rarely traveled. The trails are so remote, in fact, that we don't offer this trip as a self-guided option unless we feel confident in our guests' hiking experience and ability. 


The Matterhorn Trek is a challenging hike, and luggage transfer isn't practical, so you have to be in good shape and comfortable traveling light. That said, the hotels are wonderful, and the solitude and abundance of wildlife are superb.  

Do you think you'd like our self guided Matterhorn Trek? Give us a shout

Thanks to Phyl and Bryan for sending these images!

Friday, July 08, 2016

Our Guests Soar Above Chamonix


Our Tour du Mont Blanc wrapped up on a high note. The entire group finished the last day's hike with a parasailing descent into the town of Chamonix, France. What style! The whole team went for it," says trip leader Dave Gruss.

Those of you that have hiked the TMB or the Haute Route have most likely noticed the parasailors that launch from the top of Le Brevent lift. The parasailors literally run off the side of the mountain until the wind pulls them away. They go a little bit up, then down, down, down, (around 3,000 feet down) to the village of Chamonix, France. It looks like so much fun! 

Here's a shot of our team gearing up.


The last breaths before commitment.


And we're off!


I love the fact that the parasail has the word Patagonia emblazoned on it. Dave Gruss, the one who shot these photos, put together Ryder-Walker's first hiking tour in Patagonia. The trip ran this past spring, and everybody raved about it.

Would you like to go hiking in Patagonia, or trekking and parasailing in the French Alps? Get your name on the list. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

How Will 'Brexit' Affect European Travel?



Here's a little tongue-in-cheek humor. I think it's a compliment, actually. We grabbed this photo in a cozy pub just off of the Rob Roy Way hiking trail. It was one of those perfect, movie-set pubs with stone walls, hand-hewn wooden beams overhead, a warming hearth, pewter mugs on the mantel, and pints of Real Ale flowing from a hand pump at the bar. Heaven!

Seriously though, how will last week's historic U.K. vote to leave the European Union, (known as 'Brexit'), affect foreign travel?

For the short term, only one thing has changed, and that's currency. The British Pound suffered a huge loss against other major currencies following the vote. This means that foreign travel just got significantly MORE expensive for U.K. travelers, and much LESS expensive for everyone else heading to the U.K. It's for this reason, that we recently discounted our U.K. hiking tours.

Wait! Shouldn't we leave the price the same, since the U.K. just became more affordable? We could have, but it now costs us less to run hiking tours there, so we're passing the savings on to our guests. It's a win win. Our guests get to travel to England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland more affordably, and the bump in tourism gives our U.K. friends a much-needed infusion of cash. We're all doing our part. 

As for moving between countries, nothing has changed. British citizens can still live their lives and travel across borders as before, and the same rules still apply for everybody else. Americans, Canadians, Australians, French, Spanish…can all visit the U.K. like they've always done, only cheaper. Remember, last week's vote was just the first step in a lengthy process. In order to officially secede from the EU, the U.K. has to engage in a complicated process of negotiations with EU member countries before they are officially "divorced." During the negotiations, they'll have to sort out a whole host of details including trade and tariff agreements, rules on immigration, banking, the status of British citizens living abroad, etc. Technically, they have two years to hash this stuff out, but there is some debate right now as to when the clock should start ticking. Technically, the U.K. has to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in order to officially abandon the E.U. Some law experts say, however, that last week's vote triggered Article 50 and the clock is now ticking.

Regardless, it's going to take a while before we see what the long term travel effects will be. There is some speculation that airfare to and from the U.K. will become more expensive because airlines like British Airways will lose their airspace privileges in the EU. And what about rail travel between the U.K. and the rest of Europe? Like everything else, transportation contracts will have to be renegotiated. Of course, if the British Pound stays historically low, then it will hopefully offset any increases in transportation prices for visitors to the U.K. We anticipate that currency values will fluctuate quite a bit over the coming months as 'backdoor talks' and negotiations ensue. 

Outliers: There is a petition going around for an EU referendum re-run (a re-vote). Apparently, it already has 4 million signatures. Is there a chance that they can back out of this? The former British prime minister David Cameron stated repeatedly that last week's referendum would be binding. The world will just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, we're offering a discount on our Rob Roy Way and Costwolds Way hiking tours. Don't let this historic opportunity pass you by. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still as beautiful as ever, and the Real Ale is equally delicious. If you've been on the fence because of expense, then don't delay. NOW is the time to visit the U.K!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Muggin' in Croatia



This group photo comes from our guest Paula Tymitz. Paula and the rest of the crew are currently hiking in Croatia with Ryder-Walker trip leader Ken Fuhrer (far right). Ken put the Croatia trip together a few years ago, and it's been a hit ever since. Of course, why wouldn't it be popular? Our Croatia trip has sandy beaches, palm-fringed promenades, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and satisfyingly rugged hiking trails. It's a #CrowdPleaser! 

You can read the full Croatia itinerary by clicking here.

Photo cred: Paula Tymitz

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Catch the 2016 Tour de France in Switzerland



The 2016 Tour du France rolls across a key stage of the Hiker's Haute Route and Tour du Mont Blanc this summer. It also finishes in Berne, Switzerland, a popular city break for many of our guests. If you're hiking or traveling independently in one of these areas in late July, then this might be a great opportunity to catch a stage of the biggest bike race on earth.

HHR + TMB= TDF.

Stage 17 of the Tour crosses the famous HHR and TMB hiking trails on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. The race will roll out of Berne, Switzerland around noon. Then the race heads south through Zweisimmen; over the Côte de Saanenmöser; past the village of Château-d'Oex; over the Col des Mosses; and down to the villages of Aigle, Bex and Saint Maurice. The peloton joins up with the HHR and the TMB when the cyclists sprint into Martigny and really pour on the gas for the 12.6 km climb (8.2% grade) over the Col de la Forclaz. The Col de la Forclaz is a popular overnight stop for our guests on both hiking tours, but the cyclists won't sip cocktails with any hikers. Rather, they'll tuck into the drops and maximize their speed down sharp switchbacks to the tiny village of Trient, Switzerland, another popular stop on the Hiker's Haute Route and Tour du Mont Blanc. Trient will fly by like a blurry fence post on an airport runway, then it's a drag race up the final climb to Finhaut-Emosson, a 10.4 kilometer climb with an 8.4% grade.

It's interesting to note that the last time a race followed this route, it destroyed the peloton, and riders straggled across the finish line in ones and twos. It should be a great stage.

Other opportunities to see Le Tour in Switzerland.

Stage 17 begins in Berne, Switzerland, but Stage 16 finishes in Berne two days earlier, on Monday, July 18. It's a short and steep cobbled climb to the finish, perfect for punchy riders like Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara. Cancellara's home sits just a few kilometers away in Wohlen bei Bern. A Swiss cyclist on home roads? It's hard to imagine that he won't try something special.

Tuesday, July 19 is a rest day for the cyclists and they'll stay in Berne. There will be a TON going on in town. The cafés will be going crazy, music will be playing and the cycling teams will be going for easy spins along nearby roads. There will also be a great opportunity to see the infrastructure and crazy carnival atmosphere that surrounds the race.

Berne is the capital of Switzerland, and a really fun city to explore. It's also a popular changeover for trains heading between Zurich and the Berner Oberland. If you're in the area, or even just passing through between July 18 and 20, then make some time in your schedule to check out the Tour. It really is the greatest bike race on earth.

Recap:

Monday, July 18, 2016. Tour de France finishes in Berne, Switzerland (late afternoon).
Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Tour de France rest day in Berne. A very festive atmosphere in town.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Tour de France departs Berne around noon. Tour de France crosses the Hiker's Haute Route and Tour du Mont Blanc to finish in Finhaut (late afternoon).

Photo: The Maillot Jaune ascending the slopes of the Port de Balès during the 2014 Tour du France | Pyrenees, France
By Chris Pranskatis

Friday, June 10, 2016

Livin' the Dream!



Here's another photo from our eight-day guided hiking tour in Lofoten, Norway which wrapped up yesterday. The views on this trip are AMAZING!

Photo Cred: Staffan Björklund
staffanbjorklund.com

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Photos from Norway



Ryder-Walker trip leader Staffan Björklund shot these photos of our guided Norway hiking tour which is going on right now. Many of the hikes are water accessible only, which makes for great solitude. We really do go off the beaten path on this trip! There are no real trails to speak of, so we just point the compass and go. 


Ok. Norway's Lofoten Islands may not be the warmest place on the planet during this time of year, but honestly, there's no place I'd rather be. There's something magical about traveling in northern latitudes during late spring/early summer. 


Only when you've traveled in the North, can you appreciate how wonderful that moss feels. It's Mother Nature's carpet and it feels SO good.


We're ON vacation. Let's relax for a while! 
You can read our full Norway itinerary by clicking here

Photos by Staffan Björklund.