Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year!



Bonne Année!

Ein glückliches neues Jahr!

Felice Anno Nuovo!

The Ryder-Walker Staff wishes everybody a safe and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Our Holiday Contest Champion(s) Emerge



Meet Grenzlos, the Global Trekking Gnome, on the descent of one of his favorite peaks (he summited successfully and is actually completing a traverse of the mountain having ascended the ridge on the far right). He is obviously very full of the holiday spirit.

Our challenge on our 2006 Holiday Greeting to our clients of the past 22 years was to identify the peak. Respondents had many very credible answers but only Tom Dempsey and Shirley House got it right. The rules of engagement in the contest were that the first person to identify the peak would receive a free night of lodging in the Alps during the summer of 2007. Tom got the answer in first but we can't quite faithfully characterize him as a client as he is responsible for many of the images in our 2006 and 2007 catalogues (please visit Tom at www.photoseek.com).

Here is one of Tom's images of Ama Dablam, the correct answer to the contest.



Shirley House also answered correctly. Shirley is a very popular person in the Ryder/Walker office and with the guide staff. Shirley has been on over 20 trips with Ryder/Walker and knows the Alps, and obviously other mountains of the world, intimately.

Shirley recently trekked to the Everest base camp. Ama Dablam happens to be on the way so she became well-acquainted with the peak. Ama Dablam is considered to be just shy of 22,500 feet. The name Ama Dablam is born from the beautiful hanging glacier on its SW side and means "mother and her pearl necklace", the necklace is represented by the huge serac band that is the most stunning feature of this ice mass.

The image on our greeting card (minus Grenzlos, the global trekking gnome, of course) is from the gentle alpine artwork of Samivel. Samivel's work is very much worth a websearch if you have the free time. You will be delighted by the fancy of his imagination, especially anyone enamoured of the Haute Savoie and Mont Blanc.

Here is one more image from Tom...



Congratulations to Tom and Shirley, and Happy Holidays from the Ryder/Walker Team.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Friend and colleague earns title, "Chef of the Year for 2007"


Our friends at the Waldhotel Fletschhorn in Saas Fee, Switzerland just informed us that their Head Chef, Markus Neff, is now officially known as the best chef in Switzerland, according to the influential French restaurant guide Gault Millau. Neff recently received 18 out of 20 possible points, thereby earning him the Gault-Millau title, “Chef of the Year for 2007.”

Gault Millau's points are awarded strictly on the quality of the food with any comments about service, price or the atmosphere of the restaurant given separately.

Along with the "Chef of the Year" award, the Fletschhorn now holds 18 out of 20 possible Gault & Millau points. This is HUGE in the world of gastronomy. As of 2004, only two hotels have EVER received 20 points. Of course, the Fletschhorn is no stranger to cuisine and awards. In its Swiss edition for 2007, which lists just fewer than 800 top restaurants, Gault Millau said that Neff continues to follow in the footsteps of his tutor Irma Dütsch, who also won the title in 1994 at the same Waldhotel Fletschhorn. Recently, the well-known U.S. magazine, Wine Spectator, presented the Waldhotel with its “Award of Excellence 2006.” This is basically the equivalent of an Oscar for wine.

So, what’s it like on our hiking tours? Let me just say that we depend on people like Markus and the Staff at the Waldhotel Fletschhorn. I hope that Markus Neff’s award offers a small testimony to our hard-working friends and colleagues in Switzerland. Markus is a longtime friend and colleague of the Ryder-Walker family, and we salute him. Congratulations Markus!

If you would like to know more about the Gault-Millau rating system, or to find out which hiking tours visit the Fletschhorn, please contact us.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Warmth in Winter - Tomato Fondue




In recent years the definition of a "fondue" has grown very broad indeed. Traditionally a cheese based dish ("fondu" itself means melted in French), the dish can now be hot oil or broth cooked meats as well as any of a number of small semi-liquid dollops of you-name-it that one finds accompanying a main item on a plate.

You will find in the higher mountain regions of all alpine countries that the principal dishes are all variations on the same theme. The ingredients of the principal dishes of these regions will be cheese, bread, potatoes, onions, milk, cream, wine and ham. That is what the residents of these once very remote locations had available to them and the tradition lives on. You will find this to be the case not only in Switzerland, France, Italy and Austria but in many mountain regions around the globe.

The classic cheese fondue can take many, many forms. Among our favorite places for a fondue "degustation" is the Vieux Chalet located on a tiny side street in the quaint and remote Swiss village, Saas Fee. At any point in time the Vieux Chalet will have over 30 different fondues available ranging from traditional to exotic (curry fondue is excellent!)



One of our favorites is Tomato Fondue and here we present a few variations on the Tomato Fondue theme.

First it is essential to have the right tools at hand. For cheese fondues (and most Tomato Fondues are very cheesy) you should have on hand an earthenware or enameled cast iron pot. The character of this cookware assures that heat is distributed evenly and consistently. Second, for ambiance as much as ease of eating, a table burner is helpful once the dish has been fully prepared on the stovetop.

Here is a basic recipe and we will follow it with some recommended variations. This will serve 3 - 4 people. You can adjust the proportions of the ingredients any way you wish, fondue is impossible to prepare poorly!

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon to tablespoon of finely chopped onion (taste dependent)
Tomatoes - this element can vary widely in both type and amount. We recommend:
Cherry
Plum or
Grape
seeded and chopped and a cup is just enough and two cups will probably be too much
1.5 cups white wine
1 lb Emmentaler cheese
.5 lb Gruyere cheese
The cheese mixture is another opportunity to explore variations. Many prefer more even proportions of Emmentaler to Gruyere and some even prefer to reverse the proportions. Raclette and Fontina cheese also work excellently in Tomato Fondue.

2-4 teaspoons corn starch
White pepper to taste

Begin by rubbing the warming interior of the pot with the cut edge of the garlic cloves. Melt the butter over low to medium heat and add onions as your stir continuously.

Once the onions are soft and translucent add the tomatoes and keep stirring until the combination reduces to a fairly homogeneous mixture. Add a portion of the white wine and increase the heat.

Add smaller portions of the cheeses alternately and allow them to melt. We find that this process is nicely expedited if you chop or grate the cheese in a blender or food processor first. Add corn starch as you add additional portions of cheese as this will enhance the blending process. Continue to add the rest of the wine. Do not allow to boil.

Add the white pepper and transfer to the table for consumption.

Serve with small (the smaller the better) boiled potatoes (the Swiss prefer this) and/or cubed 1 inch pieces of bread. A nice variation is to offer blanched vegetables as a dipping instrument as well.

Popular variations include adding a small amount of whipping cream to the mixture. We enjoy adding 8 ounces of tomato juice as well. If you are looking for a more "pizza like" experience, and you should be as this is truly liquid pizza, add a pinch of dried oregano before transfering to the table.

Lore is also rich regarding penalties imposed for inadvertently dropping your bread into the fondue pot. We don't wish to limit anyone's imagination as to what so we'll keep mum on this one... just be creative!


ENJOY!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Do it yourself: How to service Leki trekking poles.



I recently discovered that water from this past summer’s rainy season seeped inside my trekking poles and never dried. The remaining water began to work it’s corrosive magic on the inside of the poles and the adjustment barrels became challenging to unlock and lock.

The following is a guide for servicing Leki brand trekking poles so they’ll be in top condition the next time you head outdoors. This is also a great primer for troubleshooting your poles in case you run into a problem on the trail.

Why Leki? Well, I just happen to use their poles and I love them. It doesn’t mean that other brands aren’t just as good. Please note, not all manufacturers use the same adjustment systems, so this recipe may not work for everyone. However, many other brands do use similar systems, and virtually every trekking pole on the market can be taken apart and serviced.

Therefore, use this as an excuse to familiarize yourself with your own trekking poles, whether they’re Leki brand or not. It always pays to know how your equipment works.

You can also find more technical information diagrams and service information at the Leki website. Scroll down and click “Fix It On The Spot.”

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Required materials:
  • Trekking poles
  • Paper Towel or rag (For wiping moisture and corrosion)
  • Fine steel wool or brush (An old toothbrush works great)
  • Gnome
Step One:
Position your sticks.
I hope that your gnome will be more helpful than ours.


Step Two:
Pull your poles apart.
Loosen each section of your pole by turning. (The right section should spin toward you if positioned like the photo). Pull past the “Stop Max” line and give a quick pull. The section should pull out completely with the expanding system attached. Leki also calls the expander the ELS. (Easy Lock System). If you can’t find the expander then see the trouble shooting section below.




Step Three.
Unscrew the expander.
Turn toward you according to the photo. You’ll see the expander begin to separate. If you can't unscrew the expander then it's probably jammed. This is the number one reason that trekking poles don't tighten. You'll have to use a bit strength and finesse to get it loose. (Proceeding to step four and trying to muscle the orange piece often works).


Step Four.
Remove the expander.
Leave the little orange piece, and spin it up and down the screw to access all of the threads.




Step Five.
Clean.
Give each pole section a thorough rub-down with a rag to remove excess dirt. Be sure to wipe off any corrosion. Fine steel wool or an old toothbrush does a nice job of restoring the threads to their original shine.



Step Six.
Reassemble.
Snap the expander back in place and spin away from you to shrink the expander, but don’t over tighten. Reinsert the poles and adjust. The right section should spin away from you if positioned like the photo in Step Two.


Step Seven.
Repeat.
Proceed to the next section of pole. Our little friend has had enough of this. He’ll take a wooden stick any day.


Trouble shooting.

A. I can’t find the expander.
1. The expander fell off the screw head.
2. The expander is inside the shaft above it.
3. Push the section that won’t tighten all the way into the section above.
4. Trap the expander and twist the shaft in a tightening motion a few turns.

B. My poles won’t lock.
1. Pull the pole sections apart.
2. Locate the expander and hold with thumb and forefinger.
3. Spin shaft so that the expander opens wider and touches the aluminum wall of the section it is       going into.
4. Put shaft at desired length and continue to twist pole until resistance is met.

C. My poles won't turn or come apart at all. They are totally jammed.
1. Visit our blog post Help! My Leki trekking poles are stuck. How do I get them loose?

Please contact me if you run into trouble or have any questions. I’d love to hear from you.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Enjoy a taste of France! A recipe for the Kir and Kir Royale.


This year, add a bit of European style to your holiday gatherings. The Kir and Kir Royale are two of my favorite apéritifs, and many of our guests rave about them during our hiking tours in Europe.

"Cassis" means "blackcurrant" in French, and the subsequent liquor made from the blackcurrant berry is known as "crème de cassis." Generally accepted as a French cocktail, a Kir is made with crème de cassis and white wine. A Kir Royale is made with crème de cassis and Champagne.

Pronounced: Kir : keer
Kir Royale : keer / roy ahl

INGREDIENTS:
Crème de Cassis
White Wine (Preferably dry, and of the Burgundy region if possible)
Champagne

PREPARATION:
For a Kir, drop a dollop of crème de cassis to the bottom of a wine glass or champagne flute, then fill the rest with dry, white Burgundy wine. For a Kir Royale, use only a champagne flute. Add a dollop of crème de cassis to the bottom of the glass, then fill the flute with Champagne. The official recipe calls for one-third Cassis and two-thirds wine or champagne. However, the ratio of Cassis to wine depends entirely on personal preference. Many people prefer a smaller amount of Cassis. Experiment and have fun!

NOTES:
Add the Cassis first to ensure a more evenly mixed drink. Adding the wine first will result in a pleasing appearance, (a fine pink at the bottom of the glass shading up to a bright red at the top), but a very uneven flavor.

A votre santé!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The 2007 catalog is on its way!

Finally! The new 2007 catalog is in the mail and on its way. We added new photos and new tours, but happily, most of our prices remained the same as last year. (Insert cheers).

If our calculations are correct, then everybody on our mail list should receive our catalog by the Thanksgiving Holiday in the U.S. That’s just one week away, November 23rd, for our friends outside of the United States. If you don’t receive our brochure, but you believe that you should have, then please drop us a line. Likewise, please contact Ryder-Walker if you would like us to add your name to our mail list.

Cheers!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Village to Village Skiing in the Alps? Life simply doesn't get any better!



As many readers of this post will know, Ryder/Walker Alpine Adventures is known throughout the adventure travel industry as the "European Trekking Specialists". What many may not know is that our guides and some office staff occupy influential and highly respected positions in the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Schools, one of the preeminent institutions in the country.

We decided a few years ago to attempt to combine these two elements and see what the outcome would be. The result exceeded our wildest expectations. Clients last year from Winter Park, both expert skiers, offered us the following description of their experience. "You have changed the way we view skiing forever".

The concept marries our passion for skiing with our intimate knowledge of European mountain ranges, villages, hotels and services. We seek seldom traveled and little known terrain for our daily explorations. Often we find ourselves in quaint little inns and hostelries tucked away at the end of remote valleys where the proprietors are awaiting our arrival with fabulous local cuisine, hot teas, or Gluhwein for the intrepid. A taxi or a train may return us to the lift systems where we begin the adventure all over again, that afternoon skiing into a new village with superb accommodations and our luggage awaiting us.

This sister company of Ryder/Walker Alpine Adventures is Alpenglow Ski Safaris and to our knowledge is unique within the ski and travel industry. Our programs are suitable for skiers and snowboarders with adventurous spirits that are comfortable on Intermediate and above terrain at ski areas found in the US. Please visit us at www.alpenglowskisafaris.com to view inspiring images and learn more about what we have to offer you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Berner Oberland Ramble: The second of two new trips for 2007



Last week I wrote about the Engadine Summit Series, one of two new guided trips for the summer of 2007. This week, let’s look at tour number two, the Berner Oberland Ramble.

The Bernese Oberland region epitomizes the classic image of Switzerland. High, glaciated peaks and vertical rock walls soar thousands of feet above lush meadows filled with the world's happiest and most beautiful cows. Pastoral culture is alive and well, and myriad hiking trails wander past cuckoo-clock chalets surrounded with magnificent gardens. As hikers ascend to the high alpine world of the surrounding peaks, their views extend over Europe's most famous mountain scenery, including the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Through all of this, little slat-seated cog railways chug, red cable cars ascend, airy funiculars slide, and bright yellow post buses wind their way and blow their characteristic three-note horns on the mountain curves. Even if you choose not to hike, you can have a fabulous time riding all the conveyances built for the convenience of tourists and hikers in this spectacular region.

Many of our past hikers have expressed an interest in spending more time exploring the fairy tale villages that made the Berner Oberland famous. In reality, our standard itineraries leave little time for anything more than hiking, eating and sleeping. (Yahoo!) This year we thought it would be fun to offer a less strenuous counterpart to our more challenging itineraries. The result is a tour that explores the Berner Oberland region at a more relaxed pace. The Berner Oberland Ramble appeals to hikers who desire less strenuous hiking days and more time exploring the unique culture and history of the region’s most charming villages. Hikers who desire a more strenuous hiking tour through the Oberland should consider the Eiger Trail.

Like our standard itineraries of the past, we centered the Berner Oberland Ramble around the classic alpine villages of Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren. Also like our traditional itineraries, the trek wanders beneath the world famous summits of the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau and the numerous glaciated giants of the Lauterbrunnen valley, above which Wengen and Murren are perched. If you want all of the scenery with less work, then this trip is for you. Even more, we’ll stay in superior, and classic, Bernese inns that our clients have raved about for decades. Unlike most of our treks though, we’ll stay in each village for two nights (except Meiringen) allowing for a more leisurely approach with less packing and unpacking.

Here’s a daily breakdown of the tour:

Itinerary

Day 1 Travel independently by rail to Meiringen. Meiringen is a classic alpine village and is the gateway to the Grimsel region, one of the wildest in the Alps. Meet your group at seven o’clock for a welcome orientation and dinner.


Day 2 We’ll hike over the Grosse Scheidegg, beneath the towering limestone walls and spires of the Wetterhorn (the "peak of storms"). Look behind the Wetterhorn at the fabulous summits of the Finsterarhorn, Schreckhorn and Fiescherhorn, then ahead to the massive 6000 vertical-foot wall of the North Face of the Eiger. Enjoy the care and attention of the excellent staff and kitchen at our quietly located hotel in Grindelwald.

Day 3 Today we’ll enjoy a beautiful walk through high alpine meadows and then around one of the Alps’ most picturesque lakes. We’ll enjoy the superb panorama of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau just across the valley. Return to Grindelwald inn with plenty of time to explore the village.

Day 4 Ascend to the Kleine Scheidegg beneath the North Face of the Eiger. Kleine Scheidegg is the location from which the famous Clint Eastwood movie, The Eiger Sanction, was filmed. We’ll enjoy lunch at a high mountain restaurant then traverse beneath the Lauberhorn to a conveniently situated cable car that carries us down to Wengen. For the next two nights we’ll rest in one of our clients "all time favorite" establishments in a quiet sector of Wengen, one of Switzerland's most quaint villages.

Day 5 We’ll enjoy a varied day hike beneath the numerous waterfalls that cascade from the peaks into the pristine Lauterbrunnen valley. More than seventy-two waterfalls surround the valley and some tower more than 1000 feet in height. (See photo below) We’ll enjoy lunch in a classic Swiss Berghaus before returning to our Wengen inn and an exquisite dinner.

Day 6 We’ll wander deep into the head of the Lauterbrunnen valley, passing perfect farms and tiny hamlets. We’ll enjoy lunch in the lush, remote farm of Trachsellauenen before ascending to Murren through the wild and beautiful Sefinen gorge. Murren offers eye-popping views from its perch on a high hillside, directly above the Lauterbrunnen valley. The hotel terrace looks straight across to the Schwarzmonch and the Jungfrau peaks. Overnight in an excellent family run hotel on the "high street" with some of the best views in the village.

Day 7 Ascend to the Schilthorn. From the Schilthorn we’ll enjoy one of the finest panoramas in the Alps. History buffs will enjoy the story behind the Schilthorn, made famous for its role in the James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Return to Murren inn by cable car with plenty of time to enjoy the town.

Day 8 Depart. It is possible to meet same day flights out of Zurich.


Tour Profile

7 Nights/8 Days
Hiking up to 6 miles
Ascents up to 2000 ft.

Accommodations
7 nights charming first class country inns

Ground Transportation
From Swiss Point of Entry to Swiss point of exit

Breakfast and Dinner
Daily

All lifts and cog railways
As appearing on itinerary

Tour Dates: July 23 – 30, 2007

Tour Cost: $2785 per person double/$3085 per person single

Gateways
Zurich
Geneva
Munich

Please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions regarding the Berner Oberland Ramble or any of our tours. See you on the trail.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Engadine Summit Series: The first of two new trips for 2007


We developed two new trips for 2007, the Engadine Summit Series and the Berner Oberland Ramble. Here's a quick glance at the Engadine Summit Series.

We believe that the Engadine is among one the most beautiful places on the planet. Peter Walker recently wrote, “Combine the physical beauty of the mountains, with the culture and color of the villages, and you have an experience awaiting you that should not be missed.”

We’ve organized many trips to the Engadine over the years but in point of fact, the standard Engadine Trek, without amendments, is still one of the least strenuous tours that we offer. This year we thought it would be exciting to design something a little different from our traditional trek, and the result is a tour that spends more time on the trail AND is a bit more physically engaging. In short, the Engadine Summit Series appeals to hikers who desire two things: More time on the trail and less time spent moving from hotel to hotel. We still offer the traditional Engadine Trek, but the Summit Series will surely delight those hikers that want a more challenging tour.

Two of our head guides, Daniel Sundqvist and Ken Fuhrer, designed this tour as a more strenuous version of our traditional Engadine Trek. Furthermore, they developed the name of the tour, Summit Series, in order to underscore the basic purpose of the trip, which is to enjoy the many mid-height, yet un-glaciated peaks that the region is famous for. If you like to climb or bag peaks, then this tour is for you. In addition, and just like our standard tour, we stay in many of the superb hotels and inns that our clients have grown to love over the years. Unlike most of our other treks though, we stay in almost every village for two nights at a time, thereby offering more time to enjoy our favorite establishments and cuisine. We will also offer two hiking options each day in order to cater to individual desires.

Here’s a daily breakdown of the tour:

Itinerary

Day 1 Travel independently by rail to Zuoz. Zuoz is unique among the villages of the Lower Engadine. It is the first vantage point from which you can see the high glaciated peaks of the Upper Engadine. It is also a village, that while ancient and rich in the finest architecture of the region, sees virtually no tourist traffic. Tonight we’ll stay in a marvelous, old world hotel, centrally located on Zuoz's main street.

Day 2 Enjoy a warm-up day to one of our favorite high mountain huts above Zuoz. The views of the Palu and Bernina massifs to the southeast are superb. Descend near the old Albula Pass road to La Punt or Chamues-ch for transport back to Zuoz. Return to Zuoz hotel.

Day 3 A short bit of train transport will deliver us to one of the Upper Engadine’s greatest attractions, a funicular with arguably the finest vista in the Alps. From the top station, we’ll traverse to the east along a rocky bench, to reach the summit cone of one of the highest summits in the region accessible to hikers. Coincidentally, there is a refuge just a hundred meters from the top. Here they serve superb soups to complement the otherworldly views. Descend to Pontresina and a warm and welcoming inn in a quiet section of the village.

Day 4 Our itinerary for today's hike takes us out of the village of Schlarigna, made famous as the finish village of the renowned Cresta Run, perhaps the world's most famous bobsled course. We hike into remote and rarely traveled terrain behind the summits of Las Tres Fluors and beneath the rocky Piz Ot. Descend to Samedan for bus or train transport back to Pontresina. Return to Pontresina hotel.

Day 5 The day begins with a gentle ascent up one of the Alps most pristine "U" shaped valleys. Carved out by glaciers over the millennia, this valley cannot fail to delight. We’ll hike all the way to the head of the valley where a charismatic hut has been fancifully placed right on the edge of the moraine adjacent to a quickly receding glacier. Traverse back through a notch to return to the main Engadine valley for bus transport to idyllic Sils Maria, and another superb old-world hotel.

Day 6 Numerous summits are accessible for hikers from Sils Maria and we will choose among them for today's itinerary. From these peaks we begin to see into the wild and spectacular Val Bregaglia to the south. Massive granite walls emerging from lush green lower valleys on the Italian border, characterize the Bregaglia. Return to Sils Maria hotel.

Day 7 We’ll travel one of the regions most rarely visited areas but on magnificent trails. High above the Val Bregaglia we’ll ascend to a pass above our final destination, Soglio, one of the most charming villages anywhere. We’ll descend to Soglio through numerous rustic, but active tiny farms and hamlets. Enjoy your last night in Soglio as you watch the alpenglow embrace the granite spires of the Bregaglia while dining on local specialties. (The very top photo offers a small glimpse of the sciora range towering above the quaint little village of Soglio).

Day 8 Depart. It is generally not possible to meet same day flights out of Zurich.

Tour Profile

7 nights/8days
Hiking up to 12 miles
Ascents up to 4500 ft.

Accommodations
7 nights charming first class country inns/old world hotels

Ground Transportation
From Swiss point of entry to Swiss point of exit.

Breakfast and Dinner Daily

All lifts and cog railways
As appearing on itinerary

Tour Dates: July 31-August 7, 2007

Tour Cost: $2800 person double/$3100 per person single

Gateway
Zurich


Please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions regarding the Engadine Summit Series or any of our tours. We’d love to hear from you.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sold Out; The August 2007 Secret Swiss Valleys Guided Tour

This just in: The Secret Swiss Valleys guided tour, scheduled for August 10-17, 2007, just sold out. We still have space on the first tour though, July 12-19, 2007.

Please contact us for more details, or visit our website for the 2007 schedule.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I would like to hike the Alps: When is the perfect time to go?



A woman recently asked me to recommend the absolute ideal 4 weeks for hiking in the Alps during mid June to mid October. I almost told her that the ideal week would be the one that includes free airline tickets. I knew though, that she would still want to know WHEN the best time to receive those free airline tickets would be. It’s a popular question that I answer regularly and reluctantly, since I liken the process choosing the best chocolate bar. Every month is great. Even more, one person’s standard of measure may not equal another’s and only a fool would try to forecast mountain weather. However, I am not afraid of a little Tom Foolery, so here is a simple breakdown of each month, with the advantages and disadvantages of each.


April and May

Advantages: This is our favorite time to explore the desert regions of Arizona and Utah. OK, it’s not Europe, but it is our backyard and a marvelous place to explore ancient ruins, stone arches, canyon labyrinths, soaring spires, desert wildflowers, pictographs and petroglyphs. Can we say spring break?

Disadvantages: If the snow gods blessed the Alps, then this month is off limits for hikers without snowshoes because the high alpine regions are still buried in white. The month of May also means off-season even without snow too, and the alpine accommodations that we typically rely on are closed. We couldn't organize a tour through the alps no matter how hard we tried.

Recommended Tours: Arches & Canyonlands

June

Advantages: Relatively quiet trails during the first part of the month and wildflowers toward the end, (depending on snow pack). Snow capped peaks offer a splendid backdrop against lower valleys exploding with water and life. June can be very sunny.

Disadvantages: The weather can still be cold and hikers may encounter frozen snow pack at higher elevations, especially during the early part of the month. Accommodations, restaurants and lifts may also be closed until the middle of June depending on the region.

Recommended Tours: The Dolomites or the Engadine during the early part of the month; everything in the Alps afterward.

July

Advantages: Everything is open and the wildflowers should be in full bloom, depending on the previous winter’s snow pack. Days and nights are typically warmer and many of the high alpine passes should be free of snow. (Glaciated regions excepted)

Disadvantages: The trails start getting busy. Accommodations in Italy can be difficult to find for independent travelers after the middle of month. Rain clouds loom on the horizon.

Recommended Tours: Everything in Europe. Large, independent groups should try to avoid Italy after the middle of the month, or consider multiple night stays in each village.

August

Advantages: August 1, the Swiss National Day. This is a great time to see a bit of Swiss culture. The weather can be very warm and pleasant.

Disadvantages: August 1, the Swiss National Day. This can be a hard time to find accommodation in some villages. (We’ll try though). August is also the busiest month during the summer. Thunderstorms may test the raingear.

Recommended Tours: Everything in the Alps except Italy for self-guided travelers.

September

Advantages: The people of Appenzell wear traditional clothing as they lead the cows down from the high pastures. Hikers enjoy cooler days and quiet trails. This is a great month to get back into Italy and this is also a great time to explore the peak color season of the Alpine Southwest in Colorado.

Disadvantages: The weather can turn cold in a hurry and snow is a distinct possibility. Many of the accommodations, restaurants and lifts begin to close by the middle of the month depending on the region.

Recommended Tours: The Telluride Trek and everything in Europe through the middle of the month. Explore the Engadine through the end of September without a problem.


October

Advantages: We can only offer the self-guided Engadine trek, so the choice is easy. Very quiet trails and villages offer a very relaxing experience.

Disadvantages: The restaurants and lifts may be closed. Snow is a possibility (though not always a bad thing) and hikers may have to stay on lower trails.

Recommended Tour: The self-guided Engadine Trek


For those who don’t fit into summer: You may want to consider skiing or snowboarding from village to village. Please visit our sister company, Alpenglow Ski Safaris for more details.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Read about a new topic each week!

Join us each week during the fall as we write about a specific topic that pertains to the exploration of alpine environments. We may simply talk about one of our special hikes, or jump into deeper concerns like choosing the right equipment or dealing with medical emergencies abroad. Heck, we may even talk about Italian coffees. Likewise, we invite you to contact Ryder-Walker if you know of something that you would like us to share with the rest of the hiking world at large. We always enjoy good input.

See you online!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Season Wrap Up: What do we do now?


Eb-dee eb-dee eb-dee ebdee- That's ALL FOLKS! The last day of the Alpine Southwest tour through the San Juan Mountains of Colorado brought an end to another wonderful hiking season in the U.S. and Europe. Of course, we’ll continue to hike in our spare time, but the guided hiking season at Ryder-Walker is now officially closed for 2006. However, our self-guided travelers continue to hike through Switzerland and a few won’t even return until the end of October. Gasp! Isn’t October a little late for the Alps? Yes it is, and we wish our travelers luck. In point of fact, the Engadine region of eastern Switzerland offers many options at lower elevation that typically remain snow free until late in the month. Therefore, we still have time to organize a last minute self-guided tour through the Engadine for anyone who’s interested. Please be advised though, that many of the high passes may be closed because of inclement weather.

Please contact Ryder-Walker for more information.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Grand Finale: Telluride Trek Days 8 and 9



September 29, 2006
Day 8 (Our final night)

Telluride, CO Elevation: 8750 ft.

That's our friend and guest, Michael Woloch. He’s sad because it’s the last night of the tour.



Many people, who have traveled with us before, are familiar with one of our signature tours, the Tour du Mont Blanc. The Mont Blanc tour begins in Chamonix, France, passes through Italy and Switzerland, and then returns to Chamonix. The final day follows a very classic trail called the Grand Balcon Sud. Hikers enjoy eye-popping views of enormous, snow-covered peaks to the south as they gradually descend toward Chamonix, and their farewell dinner in France.

In a way, Telluride offers its own version of the Grand Balcon Sud. The town sits at the end of a box canyon and is therefore surrounded by gorgeous peaks and waterfalls, including Bridal Veil Falls, the longest free-falling waterfall in the United States. Most trails begin immediately from town and our hikers today, enjoyed dry mountain paths with splendid views of the surrounding landscape. Everybody captured photos of snow-covered mountaintops, golden aspen groves and miniature Victorian homes. Of course, some people might wonder how a Colorado town like Telluride could ever match the atmosphere of a French town like Chamonix. Well, we did it by ending the tour with a farewell dinner, in a cozy little French restaurant, in a quiet part of town.

As the champagne began to flow and the laughter ensued, I couldn’t help but to feel a little sad. These trips go by quickly and tomorrow it's over. For tonight though, we’ll try to squeeze every last drop out of a truly delightful vacation.

To learn more about our tours and adventures please drop us a line. You can visit the Ryder-Walker website or give us a call: 888.586.8365 or 970.728.6481. A bientôt!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Finally! Warm Fall Days: Telluride Trek Days 6 and 7



Sept. 27-28, 2006
Days 6 and 7

Telluride, CO Elevation: 8750 ft. Aaaaaah! No more snow. Tonight we enjoyed dinner at a wonderful little Italian Restaurant in Telluride. The days are warm now and the Aspens show the Midas touch of a golden hand. As we sipped our glasses of Chianti and reflected upon the previous week, everybody agreed that the landscape surrounding Telluride is simply spectacular. However, pictures can often tell a story better than words, so enjoy the photos taken during the last two days and see for yourself.













































Tomorrow we enjoy our final day exploring the backyard trails of Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures. See you there!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Soaking With Mountain Splendor: Telluride Trek Days 4 and 5



September 25-26, 2006
Days 4 and 5

Dunton, CO Elevation: 8700 ft.

The region surrounding Dunton constitutes one of the quietest, and most remote corners of the San Juans. Three peaks rise above 14 thousand feet to the north, while deep red rock canyons and ancient native ruins dot the lowlands to the south. The surrounding forests hide shimmering lakes, cascading waterfalls and flower-filled meadows, while the absence of crowds makes backcountry exploration an absolute delight. However, it takes a bit of work to get here and the last two days really tested the strength of our group.

From hot climbs to slippery descents and knee-deep snow to bear tracks in the mud, the previous days led me to wonder if the group would eventually mutiny and throw each other to the ursine spectators lurking quietly in the shadows. At one point, a black bear growled in the distance and number of us thought, “Oh God, this is the end. Get me off this death march.” OK, I’m exaggerating.

The truth is that we had to amend the original itinerary to compensate for above-average snowfall. The end result was two strenuous days spent climbing above tree line with snow past our knees only to wonder if we’d ever make it home before dinner. One of our guests in fact, decided that he loved the new itinerary so much that he’d rather lie down to sleep beneath the stars, then to continue another step toward civilization. “I want to be a mountaineer,” became our mantra, but in the end, we always made it to our fireside dinner and the pains of adversity quickly washed away with each splash of wine. I like to believe that our charming accommodations provided a welcome reward for a job well done. Last night, everybody enjoyed a European-style dinner provided by a chef who we believe, prepares the finest cuisine in the entire Four Corners region.

This evening, many of us soaked our trail-hardened bodies in the silky waters of Dunton’s hot spring pools. As we looked skyward with a warm mist rising above the quiet pond, myriad stars appeared like an enormous portrait. A shooting star attracted our attention as the Big Dipper spilled all the constellations of the Milky Way. Tomorrow we head to Telluride, the headquarters of Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures. See you on the trail!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The World On Fire: Telluride Trek Days 2 and 3



September 23-24, 2006 Days 2 and 3

Silverton, CO Elevation: 9318 ft.

Just as planned, the sun emerged from the storm and lit our mountain world on fire, providing a gorgeous backdrop for two wonderful days of hiking in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. At one moment, as the clouds parted and the snow-covered flanks of surrounding peaks burst into full view, one of our guests turned to me and exclaimed, “Wow! This really does look like Switzerland.” In fact, the snow covered peaks, and a very comprehensive system of hiking trails; make the town of Ouray seem just like the Swiss towns that we hike through annually during the summer season. However, the small mining towns of the San Juan Mountains are very different from Switzerland and proudly display their own unique mountain heritage.

The town of Ouray sits in a climate zone that supports a mix of desert vegetation and alpine flora. Consequently, it is not uncommon to find pinion and juniper mixed with a forest of ponderosa and fir. Saturday’s hike for example, carried us from the warming aroma of juniper trees, up to a world of enormous Ponderosa, aspen and spruce. One of the ponderosa trees stood so large, that I couldn’t even wrap my arms half way around the trunk. The rock formations too, appear in every shape, color and configuration. An avid hiker finds red sedimentary rocks, along with all forms of volcanic debris. Ancient glaciers once carved the many valleys of the San Juan range and yes, there is still gold in them thar hills.

My favorite aspect of these tours though, is the laughter and smiles that appear throughout the day. It really becomes apparent at night, and I still haven’t decided if it’s the wine that I drink, or the wine that they drink, but everyone appears to have a really good time.

This evening, a few of us enjoyed a leisurely stroll following our fireside dinner. Myriad stars danced across the evening sky and for a brief moment, the year became 1896 as we embarked on a walking tour of historic Silverton. I showed them a place on Main Street where a gentleman still prints with an original letterpress. In another corner of town, a weary traveler can still walk into the original railroad depot and buy a one-way ticket on the stream train out of town. Old mines still dot the landscape and many hope and pray, deep down, that the infamous red lights shall never disappear. Though the services ended long ago, the lamps still burn vigilantly.

Tomorrow we’ll disappear into an even higher world of aspen and spruce as we travel westward, over the Colorado Trail en route to Rico and yet another, fireside dinner.

If you would like more information concerning the Telluride Trek, or any of our tours, then please contact Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures. We would love to hear from you. See you on the trail.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A World of Colorful Contrasts; Telluride Trek, Day 1



Friday, September 22, 2006 (The first day of autumn)

Ouray, Colorado

I believe that after a person spends prolonged amounts of time in the mountains, they eventually realize that much can change in a relatively short period of time. A mayfly hatch for example, will turn a placid mountain stream into a splashing torrent of rising trout. Alpenglow, a mountain phenomenon known at dawn and dusk, can turn a depressing face of grey, barren rock into a canvas of purple, pink and violet hues. Even the most golden autumn day can turn cold and wintry, much like the temperment of the last two nights.

To their surprise, our guests found the small, Victorian mining town of Ouray, dressed in a splendid wintry blanket of fluffy white. Yet everybody laughed and smiled as they always do. Ouray is the home to hot springs; vapor caves; beer gardens and spectacular scenery. Most people know Ouray as the “Switzerland of America,” and just to confirm the title, an authentic Swiss signpost points the way in the center of town. It is hard to feel depressed about the snow when the environment looks incredibly beautiful and maybe even a little Swiss.

Most Swiss people are avid hikers though, and we cannot forget that we are here to do the same. The upcoming weather forecast looks warm and promising. Even more, the fall colors appear spectacular. What were once relatively small, obscure patches of yellow illumination during the final weeks of August are now the full, dedicated brush strokes of a master artist at work. Long strokes of yellow, paint the surrounding mountainsides with astounding brightness, while golden speckles lie on surrounding patches of brown-colored earth, much like the flecks of fool’s gold speckle the pebbled bottom of a cold, clear mountain stream. Within a day, the sun will emerge, the snow will disappear, and everything will shine again with the brightness of fire.

In the mountains, the ultra-violet rays beat down with the intensity of flame. Though beautiful, an early autumn snow can only vanish beneath a stubborn sun. In then end, the white blanket becomes a mere trickle and a memory. In the end, we realize that an early autumn snow is a mere appetizer for a much colder season much farther down the road.

As we finished dinner and I studied the dessert menu, I read the following lines,

Deluxe Chocolate Cake
Layers of moist chocolate cake and creamy chocolate mousse with mango puree sauce and mint simple syrup.

Raspberry Cheesecake
On a chocolate graham cracker crust, topped with whip cream and dressed with raspberry and chocolate sauce.


Honey port poached pear, crème brulee, the list went on and on. As I drooled over the list of desserts and slowly swirled my glass of port, I thought about the similarities between a fine meal and the uncertainty of mountain weather. Snow, rain, sun and wind, they all conspire to provide a mouth-watering feast for the eye and soul.

If you'd like more information concerning the Telluride Trek, or any of our tours, then please contact Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures. We would love to hear from you. See you on the trail.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Follow the Telluride Trek Hiking Tour Online


Our last guided tour of the season, the Telluride Trek, departs on the first day of autumn, Friday, September 22, 2006. This is a very special trip for Ryder-Walker because it steals away from our normal menu of European itineraries and climbs into the mountainous region of our own backyard, the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. Our head guide, Ken Fuhrer, freshly returned from Switzerland, will lead the tour. I will excitedly document the journey by camera and keyboard.


Our nine-day hiking circuit offers an exciting exploration of the region’s most spectacular trails. From remote valleys filled with golden aspen leaves, to high alpine passes replete with endless views, we’ll hike beneath the shadows of the resident fourteen thousand foot peaks as we thread our way through the most atmospheric villages of the San Juan range.

Our tour begins in the charming mining town of Ouray, home to a variety of world-famous hot spring pools and accentuated by the gorgeous scenery that earned Ouray the title, “The Little Switzerland of America.” We’ll pass through historic Silverton, home of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway, and we’ll continue to Rico, a truly unchanged turn-of-the-century mining town boasting one of the finest gourmet kitchens of the region. We’ll soak our toughened bodies in the atmospheric hot springs at Dunton, a remote mining camp turned luxury retreat, before we finish the tour in cosmopolitan Telluride, with its eclectic galleries, shops and world-class amenities.

Registrations for the tour are now closed, but we invite you to join us online as we enjoy these golden days of autumn in Colorado. Even more, we hope that you’ll find the time to join us next year, whether at home or abroad.

Please contact Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures for more information. We’d love to hear from you, so please drop us a line. See you on the trail.

Monday, September 18, 2006

2007 Schedule Now Available!

Voilà!
It's a double whammy. We proudly present the new Ryder-Walker blog AND the 2007 schedule of guided tours. We also announce that most of our prices will remain unchanged for next year. Nice.

We are currently in the process of updating the website and publishing the new catalogue, so please contact us if you have any questions regarding a specific tour.

Ryder/Walker Alpine Adventures 2007 Schedule

Guided Tours

Prices are listed as follows: [per person double/per person single]

Red Rock Country (April 28-May 6) [$3300/$3800]

Italian Dolomites Trek (June 18 – 25) [$2775/$3075]

Dolomites High Tour (June 26-July 2) [$2675/$2975]

Engadine Trek (July 3 – 10) [$2800/$3100]

Tour du Mont Blanc I (July 11 – 20) [$2800/$3100]

Secret Swiss Valleys I (July 12 – 19) [$2600/$2900]

Hiker’s Haute Route (July 21 – 30) [$2800/$3100]

Berner Oberland Ramble (July 23-30) [$2785/$3085]

The Eiger Trail (July 31-August 8) [$2785/$3085]

Engadine Summit Series (July 31-August 7) [$2800/$3100]

Secret Swiss Valleys II (August 10-17) [$2600/$2900]

Tour du Mont Blanc II (August 19-28) [$2800/$3100]

Italian High Route (August 28-September 7) [$3400/$3900]

Italian Dolomites Trek II (September 8-15) [$2775/$3075]

Appenzellerland (September 16-21) [$1750/$1900]

The Alpine Southwest (September 18-26) [$3300/$3800]