Friday, December 28, 2007

Spice up your New Year’s party with Glühwein, a warm and traditional taste of Europe that everybody will enjoy.

This is a perennial favorite in our household and a sure sign that the holidays have arrived. Glühwein also tastes great after a long day on the slopes or even following a cold rainy hike, (though we don’t have any of those on our hiking tours).

Glühwein, pronounced [glooh-vein], is the German word for hot-spiced wine and literally means, “glow wine” in reference to the pleasant warming effect that follows from drinking it. The French call it vin chaud, and many English speakers know it simply as mulled wine. In fact, many European traditions feature hot-spiced wine in one form or another.

Germans and Swiss in particular typically enjoy Glühwein in large quantities around Christmas and New Year's Day. A favorite place to sip a warming glass is outside at the Weihnachtsmarkt, (the Christmas market). The markets open in mid-December and sell ornaments, handmade toys, gifts and all sorts of Christmas items. Christmas markets across Germany are generally open from late November to just before Christmas Eve. Every city and town has its own Weinachtsmarkt and it’s always a treat to see people shopping for goodies in a medieval-style outdoor market while keeping their spirits bright with roasted chestnuts, gingerbread cookies, grilled sausages and warm glasses of Glühwein.

Preparing Glühwein is an extremely simple affair and open to much improvisation. You really only need five ingredients; wine, sugar, cinnamon, clove and lemon peel. Family recipes vary from house to house and part of the fun is developing your own family tradition. Use my recipe as a starting point and then have fun on your own.

1. 1 bottle (750 ml) inexpensive dry red table wine. Claret works great but just about any red wine will do.
2. 4-5 Tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste.
3. 1 cinnamon stick, broken into 4-5 pieces.
4. 6-15 whole cloves, depending on taste.
5. 2 star anise. (Optional)
6. 6-8 whole peppercorns. (Optional)
7. 4 cardamom pods. (Optional)
8. Washed rind of a lemon and or orange, cut in a continuous spiral strip. Use only half of each if you use both lemon and orange.
9. A splash of rum, brandy or schnapps. (Optional).

Directions: Combine all of the ingredients in saucepot over medium-low heat. My guests prefer less sugar so I only add 1-2 Tablespoons initially and then let them add sugar to taste after serving.

Heat anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour, covered, and do not allow to boil. I usually heat for around 30 minutes. Longer heating brings out a warmer, more cinnamon flavor. Taste and adjust sugar. Strain through a sieve and serve in preheated glasses. Guests can also add another shot of rum, brandy or schnapps to their glasses upon serving.

If you have Glühwein left over then remove the spices and rinds from the saucepot, reduce heat to low and cover. Leaving the rind will result in a bitter flavor if left to warm too long.

Many German specialty stores offer prepackaged "tea bags" of spices under the brand name Glühfix. I made my own Glühfix at home and it makes Glühwein preparation really fast when I need it for a party or a quick Europe fix. I just throw some wine and lemon rind in a saucepot and add a pre made sachet or two of spices. The sachets also eliminate the need for straining the spices when I’m ready to serve.

To make your own Glühfix, good for one or two cups of spiced wine:
Put half a cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, two whole peppercorns, two cardamom pods and two whole cloves into a circle of cheese cloth about 3 inches in diameter. Use two layers of cheesecloth to hold in the spices. Fold up the edges to form a little bag and tie off with twine. Store in a cool place until you need to make Glühwein. You can also use the sachets to make a wonderful hot cider during the fall or even a warm spiced beer with rum, (more on that later).

Finally, here’s a non-alcoholic version called Kinderglühwein.

Pour 1 liter of red grape-juice into a saucepot. Add honey to taste, (about 150 grams works well), 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves and peels of half a lemon and half an orange. Heat, but do not boil. Strain into preheated glasses as above.

Ein glückliches neues Jahr! (A very Happy New Year to all of you!)

(Top Glühwein photo from

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays from all of us at Ryder-Walker!

Fröhliches Weihnachten!
Joyeux Noël!
Buon Natale!
Feliz Navidad!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Last minute stocking stuffer: "One Man's Wilderness."

Still searching for something?

I just finished a book titled One Man's Wilderness. It's the story of a man named Richard Proenneke who retired at age 50 in 1967 and decided to build his own log cabin on the shores of Twin Lakes, Alaska. The first summer he scouted for the best cabin site and cut and peeled by hand, the logs he would need for his cabin. Dick Proenneke returned the next summer to finish the cabin where he lived for more than 30 years. He built the cabin using only hand tools, many of which Proenneke himself had fashioned. Throughout the thirty years that he lived at the cabin, Proenneke created homemade furniture and implements that reflected his woodworking genius. Proenneke also wrote voraciously and filled volumes with his copious journal entries. One Man's Wilderness offers a highlight of the first year's journal entries as edited by Proenneke's friend Sam Keith. Proenneke wanted readers of his journal entries to find enough information that they could build their own cabin with nothing but hand tools. One Man's Wilderness delivers on that promise.

Rather than give an in depth review of the book, I'll just say that it's a nice escape from the fast pace of today's world. It's not a difficult read, but it's a good story all the same. If you've ever dreamed of building your own cabin by hand, on the shores of a quiet lake surrounded by majestic peaks, then this book is for you.

Richard Proenneke also filmed his adventures with a 16 mm Bolex camera. Bob Swerer productions later edited the film and produced three movies. I had an opportunity to watch the first film, Alone in the Wilderness, which is basically the audio-visual companion of the aforementioned book. It was a real treat to watch Richard Proenneke craft a really beautiful home entirely by hand. Most major book stores carry the book, but you can order both the book and the movie at

This story doesn't have anything to do with Europe or with hiking the Alps, but it does appeal to mountain enthusiasts. A passage from the book reminded me of the many reasons that we enjoy guiding people in the mountainous regions of the world.

"I had taken a long look into the heart of the high places and felt like a man inspired by a sermon that came to me firsthand, that came out of the sky and the many moods of the mountains."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This is just bizarre.

But it's fun.

Follow this link (or paste into your browser).

Be sure to choose your destination. (I went through all of them).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Contact us for your free tour proposal.

Don't wait until spring. Contact us today for a fully customized hiking itinerary in Europe. You give us your dates, tell us what you'd like to see and do, and we'll develop a fully customized itinerary and proposal based on your particular needs and concerns. Why waste your time pouring through guidebooks? We've been organizing tours for more than 20 years. We invite you to solicit our experience.

What could be better?
We'll refine your proposal until we arrive at the perfect fit at no cost to you. You only pay when you're satisfied with the proposed itinerary.

A few of the things that we provide:
1. Detailed written hike descriptions.
2. Accompanying four-color topographical maps with highlighted hiking routes.
3. Accommodations based on your requirements. We can arrange everything from five star luxury retreats to simple mountain huts.
4. European railpasses.
5. Taxi services in Europe.
6. Exquisite meals.
7. Sightseeing excursions and more.

Some of the best accommodations fill quickly so don't delay. Give us a call. Our trained staff will help you design the perfect trip. In the U.S. 800.586.8365 or 970.728.6481

A life worth living.

I'm reminded of our friend and fellow guide Mark Davis who once exclaimed,
"I want to be a mountaineer!"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The 2008 Ryder-Walker catalog is here.

Just in time for Christmas. We upgraded to a larger size this year in order to accommodate more detailed itineraries and delicious information. We also added a few new trips. Please contact us if you haven't received your copy.

Don't forget that hiking tours slide easily down the chimney. Gift certificates also make great stocking stuffers and we can sell them in any amount that you wish. Avoid the mall and give a gift that will be the envy of all your neighbors. Give the gift of an alpine hiking tour and you'll give the gift of memories that will last a lifetime.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The "correct" way to enjoy your espresso.

The caffè corretto is one of my favorite coffee drinks to enjoy while hiking through the Italian Alps. It's a truly authentic Italian coffee drink that consists of a shot of espresso "corrected" with a shot of liquor, usually grappa, brandy or sambuca. This drink is usually taken after lunch or dinner and tastes great on a cold day. Ask for a caffè corretto grappa, corretto cognac, or corretto sambuca, depending on your choice of alcohol.

You can make this drink at home or find a restaurant/coffee shop that serves warm, alcoholic beverages. If you choose to go out, then ask your favorite bartender for this truly authentic, and tasty, coffee treat. Warning! You won't find this at Starbuck's.

1. Your favorite barista, or a method for making espresso at home. (Use only freshly ground beans for the best flavor).
2. One shot of espresso.
3. Your favorite grappa, brandy or sambuca. (I prefer grappa but don't be afraid to experiment).
Optional: Sugar
Optional: Orange or lemon rinds.

Directions: Some Italians like to prepare an espresso with a third less water. Once poured in the cup, they replenish the missing volume of water by pouring in alcohol. This makes a strong tasting drink. I like to simply prepare the espresso and then add the liquor to taste. That's it.

Tasty twists: Add a bit of sugar to taste. A tiny slice of lemon or orange, though not traditional in a standard caffè, also adds a personal and delicious touch.


Monday, November 26, 2007

A taste of Switzerland in Utah.

This picture would pass for almost any of our tour photos taken in Switzerland. Ironically, it's a corner of Adolph's, a delightful little Swiss restaurant in Park City, Utah. A few of us traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoyed the opportunity to taste authentic Swiss cuisine west of the Continental Divide. That's Mark, Kristi and Catherine enjoying an appetizer of bunderfleisch and raclette on the day after Thanksgiving. Chocolate fondue and pear schnapps provided a perfect cap to a memorable night.

Treat yourself to Adolph's in Park City for a truly authentic taste of Switzerland.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Win a free round trip flight to London!

Britain just launched it's first high speed Eurostar rail line, which means that now the journey between London and Paris takes just two hours and 15 minutes at 186 mph. Holy! Hold onto your Guinness, or your Chardonnay, depending on your direction of travel. Even better, all of the trips are carbon neutral. Yes!!!

Rail Europe is hosting a little contest to celebrate the event. Visit and click on "Add a mashup to win."

What's a mashup? In this case it's a combination of recognizable icons from Britain and France. Or more specifically, London and Paris.

A few very easy examples:
The Eiffel Tower and the Tower of London.
A French mime and a British Palace Guard.
A croissant and pub chips.

Go to the getalittleparis website and choose two icons from the homepage. Then click on the little train in the middle and watch the show.

I'm thinking Guiness and Molière. Do you think Queen Elizabeth could have some fun at the Lapin Agile, a notable 19th century cabaret in Paris? Mona Lisa...hmmm. She lives in Paris now, do you think she counts?

I have some fun ideas, but I'm selfish and I want to win that prize.

Register your winning combination and you just might walk away with a round trip flight between Newark and London for two people, plus a bunch of other goodies. You can see a full description of the prize at the website. Good luck!

Don't forget that we can order rail passes for anyone heading over to Europe. Eurail passes, Swiss passes and multiple country passes are just a few of the many products that we offer. Do you have a group that's heading over for Christmas? What about a solo traveler on spring break? No problem. The many options can be confusing, so just give us a call and we'll help you choose the perfect travel option for your trip. You don't even have to go hiking, though we'd love it if you did.

Again, bonne chance! (Good luck!) or Cheers! Tally ho!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Big snows promise great skiing in the Alps!

Huge snows in Austria!

Check out the following quote from Resi Steigler, a U.S. Olympic skier from Jackson Hole, WY that took fourth place in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup slalom in Reiteralm, Austria this past weekend.

"We had meters and meters and meters of snow. I've never seen so much snow," Stiegler said.

According to a U.S. Ski Team press release, more than two meters of snow dumped on the course. However, Stiegler said she was liberated because it meant she could free-ski through deep powder, a treat she hasn't enjoyed on the World Cup tour for perhaps two years.

We're super stoked at Ryder-Walker, because this news means another great season with our sister company, Alpenglow Ski Safaris. Alpenglow has some great Alpine ski trips on tap for this winter, and last weekend's storm in Austria promises enormous grins.

Check out the Alpenglow website:

To read more about Resi Steigler and the World Cup tour:
Click here

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sold Out: The Golden Pass Route

The Golden Pass Route, a new Ryder-Walker exclusive tour for this year, just sold out. This is the tour that climbs the high mountain passes between Gstaad and Chateaux d'Oex, Switzerland, before descending to Montreux and the vineyard laced shores of Lake Geneva.
Many of our other guided tours are filling quickly and our private and self-guided tour proposals continue to roll out the door every day. Please visit our website to find the perfect hiking tour for you and your family, and don't hesitate to contact us with further questions.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

National Geographic names Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures as One of the Top 10 Best Hiking and Trekking Outfitters on the Planet.

October 25, 2007--Telluride, Colo.

National Geographic Adventure Magazine named the Telluride, Colorado-based tour operator and guide service, Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures, as one of the Top 10 Best Hiking and Trekking Outfitters on the Planet, in their November 2007 feature, “Best Outfitters on Earth.”

According to National Geographic Adventure Magazine, "Trekking's most dramatic landscapes-the mountains and desert, are where this company excels." They add, "Clients enjoy cushy accommodations at the beginning and end of each trail. In between, it's wilderness all the way."

Ryder-Walker provides inn-to inn hiking tours and treks throughout the mountainous regions of Western Europe. They also provide local backcountry guiding and instruction at their home base in Telluride, Colo.

N.G. surveyed more than 200 outfitters in their feature story, "Best Outfitters on Earth," and gave them a score from 1 to 100 in each of the following four categories: education, sustainability, quality of service, and spirit of adventure. Researchers then contacted client references for every company surveyed and generated a fifth score, also between 1 and 100. Ryder-Walker scored 91.7 for client satisfaction based on customer feedback.

National Geographic went further and categorized each outfitter based on their specialty. Hiking and trekking was Ryder-Walker's specialty and their score of almost 90 out of 100 for all of the categories combined, landed them within the top ten best hiking and trekking outfitters on the planet.

“We’re extremely pleased by this designation,” said Peter Walker, CEO and founder of Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures. “Now we just need to take it a step further and strive for the ultimate number one position. In fact, we’ve already improved upon the sustainability category now that we’re purchasing carbon offsets. We’re trying to make every round-trip flight to Europe carbon neutral for 2008.”

National Geographic recently launched an online database of all 160 outfitters that received overall scores of 80 or higher. The database includes the same review information published in the magazine, plus advanced search engine features allowing prospective travelers to plan their trips by activity, destination, price range and more. Visit to read Ryder-Walker's review and view the scores. Just enter the search phrase, “Ryder-Walker,” or pick up a copy of the November 2007 issue.

National Geographic also highlighted the Engadine Trek as Ryder-Walker's signature tour. You can read more about our signature tour, at our website, Just click on "Engadine Trek" or contact Ryder-Walker for more details.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shine the Green Light: We're Striving to Make Every Trip to Europe Carbon Neutral.

An avid traveler often faces some tough choices concerning the environment. While it's true that traveling helps breaks down cultural barriers and opens a window of education and enlightenment, it often does so at a detriment to the environment. Just a simple round-trip flight to Europe for example, burns fossil fuels and dumps enormous amounts of pollutants and climate-changing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; and that's just the start. A conscious traveler would look beyond the jet fuel and the CO2 and consider all of the resources that go into sustaining each person when they travel, but things can get really depressing really fast. What do we do? That's been the big question at Ryder-Walker.

For 2008, Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures hopes to make every round-trip flight from the U.S. to Europe as Carbon Neutral as possible. We've already purchased 300 Green Tags, (approximately 420,000 lbs worth of offset greenhouse gas emissions), from the Bonneville Environmental Institute. Please visit: and for more detailed information.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a non-profit organization, sells carbon offsets as renewable energy certificates, which it calls Green Tags, to replace traditional polluting sources of electricity with clean, secure, and sustainable renewable sources of energy that come from solar and wind power from across North America. In short, one Green Tag is produced each time a unit of electricity is generated from renewable sources, like solar, wind and biomass. We figure that one round trip from New York to Zurich generates about 4200 lbs of CO2 per person, or three Green Tags.

The good news is that when you travel with Ryder Walker, you can take comfort in the fact that we're doing everything we can to make your trip as carbon-neutral as possible based on the data and the technology that's available today. This is just a small step but we believe that it's a necessary one.

Some other initiatives at Ryder-Walker:

Alternative Transportation
Seventy-Five Percent of our office staff commmute by methods other than the automobile. The most frequent modes of transport at RW are bicycling, walking and telecommuting.

Hybrid Technology
Our Founder and CEO, Peter Walker, uses a Toyota Prius anytime driving is required.

The old standby. We've been doing it for years.

These are just small steps but like Ben Franklin once mused, "Little strokes fell great oaks." If you have any ideas that might help us to shine the green light a little brighter then please contact us. We'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Environment: One topic, many voices.

Monday, October 15th is “Blog Action Day” and bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. More than 10,000 blogs (with 7 million readers) have already signed up, and every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. The goal is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

Ryder-Walker jumped on board, and we’ll be talking about the various initiatives that we’ve taken to try and clean up after ourselves with hopes that we might preserve a little corner of goodness in this world that we cherish so deeply. So join us on Monday, and if you have your own blog, then get in on the action. You can find a comprehensive list of participants, and more information, at

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

more eye candy

This is what the Jungfrau region looks like at the end of August. Our thanks to Mark Saurer and Kristi Jahn for sending this image. We always enjoy good views so please send us your photos if you find something worth sharing.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Rifugio Prarayer

People often ask us, "What's the "hut" like? Take a look at the second picture and note the espresso machine. Do you also see the collection of liqueurs above the bar? These are not AMC huts.

It's no surprise that this is one of our favorite stops along the Italian High Route.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Check out the 2008 Tour Schedule!

It’s here. We proudly present the new 2008 guided tour schedule. We’re also proud to announce three new trips for this year, the Ozti Trek, the Golden Pass Route and Cortina and Lakes of the Dolomites. The Otzi Trek explores the region between southern Austria and northern Italy and follows in the footsteps of the five thousand year old Ice Man, named for the mountain range that claimed him so many millennia ago. The Golden Pass Route begins in the fun little ski town of Gstaad and then undulates through absolutely stunning topography to finish on the shores of Lake Geneva. Finally, Cortina and Lakes of the Dolomites needs almost no introduction. The lakes district of the Italian Dolomites and the mountainous regions around Cortina, offer some of the most magnificent culture and scenery found anywhere. Please call us for more details concerning these tours.

We would also like to highlight that many of our Swiss tour prices remain unchanged for yet another year. How do we do it? Ancient Chinese secret.

We are currently in the process of publishing the new catalog, but the dates and prices on the main website are current. As always, please contact us if you have any questions regarding a specific tour.

Start marking your calendars!

Ryder/Walker Alpine Adventures 2008 Schedule

Guided Tours

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

Red Rock Country (May 3-11) [$3300/$3800]

Italian Dolomites Trek (June 16 – 23) [$2975/$3275]

Otzi Trek (June 23-30) [$2975/$3275]

Engadine Trek I (July 1-8) [$2800/$3100]

Engadine Summit Series (July 24-31) [$2800/$3100]

Berner Oberland Ramble (July 24-31) [$2785/$3085]

Tour du Mont Blanc (July 9-18) [$2800/$3100]

The Eiger Trail (August 1-9) [$2785/$3085]

Secret Swiss Valleys (August 1-8) [$2600/$2900]

Hiker’s Haute Route (August 10-19) [$2800/$3100]

Golden Pass Route (August 9-15) [$2600/$2900]

Italian High Route (August 20-30) [$3400/$3900]

Engadine Trek II (September 1-8) [$2800/$3100]

Cortina and Lakes of the Dolomites (September 13-19) [$2810/$3125]

Appenzellerland (September 20-25) [$1750/$1900]

The Telluride Trek (Sept. 23-October 1) [$3300/$3800]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Brief History of the Swiss National Day

August 1 is a major holiday in Switzerland. Known as the Fête nationale Suisse in French, the Nationalfeiertag in German, the Festa nazionale Svizzera in Italian and the Fiasta naziunala Svizra in Romanish, August 1st is THE BIG DAY that that Swiss people set aside to celebrate their independence. It can be a very busy time in Switzerland but also a very beautiful one.

The actual history of the date, and of Switzerland’s birth, goes back to the Middle Ages. Struggling against oppression and tyranny, the representatives of the original cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden decided to band together. They came together on the shores of Lake Lucerne at a place called the Rütli meadow. There they swore an oath to help each other against anyone attempting to subject them. This act became known as the Rütli Oath and on August 1, 1291, the representatives recorded the oath in a Federal Charter and thereby confirmed their allegiance to one another. Many years later, the Swiss declared August 1 a national holiday in honor of their independence. It is interesting to note that the present name Switzerland comes from the word Schwyz, the name of one of the three original cantons that banded together.

Today, the cities, towns and villages of Switzerland celebrate their independence with yodeling, paper lantern parades, bonfires, fireworks, hanging strings of Swiss flags and more. At the historic location of Rütli Meadow above Lake Lucerne, a representational celebration takes place in the location where the legendary pledge of alliance, the Rütlischwur is believed to have taken place.

I’ve had the opportunity to celebrate this day of independence on August 1 and I can only say that it’s an amazing experience. Some of the mountain communities light bonfires atop the surrounding peaks, much like the bonfire scene in the Lord of the Rings III, the Return of the King. Off in the countryside, little fires twinkle like a hundred fireflies at twilight. The locals come out in traditional costume while cowbells and alphorns ring loudly in the distance. A lantern light parade commences and an enormous party ensues.

Today we offer warm birthday greetings to our alpine friend across the pond. Happy birthday Schwyz!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Quelque chose plaisant à observer.

"Something pleasant to look at."

Is work getting you down? Then maybe this will pick you up. Take a break and enjoy these five images.

Some of you may have noticed a pause in our blogging during the month of May. Well, it's because I took my wife to the Oberland and Engadine regions of Switzerland. (Yes, we do get out of the office on occasion). These are just a few pics from that trip. This is my wife Catherine contemplating existence during our hike to Murren.

That's me on the same hike. This is the region that we refer to as the Berner Oberland, and these are the types of views that we enjoy while hiking from one village to another. Notice the glaciers. This is the region that allows you to get up close and personal with some pretty "cool" relics of the ice age. I just read that Baker, California hit 125 degrees today. We should enjoy these these icy wonders while they're still around.

This is the town of Guarda, located in a most splendid region called the Engadine.

Notice the architecture. Most of these towns were developed and settled by the Romans, hence the extraordinary use of stone and plaster. The ornate exterior designs are called sgraffito. Literally meaning "to scratch" in Italian, this is a popular technique used in painting, pottery, and glass, which consists of putting down a preliminary surface, covering it with another, and then scratching the superficial layer in such a way that the pattern or shape that emerges is of the lower colour. This was a common technique during the middle ages and a hallmark of the Engadine region. This is the town of Ardez.

Here's a more personal look at the sgraffito.

I hope that everybody enjoys a bit of time off this summer.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lavaux Becomes Part of the UNESCO World Heritage!

This really is a beautiful region filled with the most gorgeous vineyards overlooking Lake Geneva. We always recommend that people stop here if they have time, and it’s a very convenient stop since many of our travelers pass through this region en route to our Valaisan tours. In fact, the train from Geneva to the mountains travels right along the water's edge. (Look closely and see if you can spot it).

The following is a press release from Lake Geneva Tourism.

Switzerland - Lausanne, 28.06.07 – After many months of work and waiting, the decision was handed down this morning. Meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, to decide the fate of the Lavaux candidature, the UNESCO Committee recognized the exceptional and universal value of this region. It will thus become part of the list of registered World Heritage assets, and promises some excellent international tourism prospects for the Lake Geneva region.

The riches and beauty of Lavaux have matched the demanding criteria of the international organisation. The region, called the “Three Suns” – those of the sky, the lake and the walls – finds itself honoured with a worldwide distinction under the title of “cultural landscape”. Fashioned through the ages by human activity, this territory has become a “constructed” countryside, typical of a winegrowing culture. Vineyards, terraces and villages facing Lake Geneva and the Alps have enabled Lavaux to be considered as a site of universal, exceptional and authentic value. Recognition of these qualities on a worldwide level is a magnificent tribute to the Lake Geneva region.

Lavaux is a site full of character, tradition and history, a literary cradle of great artists, and also has a strong orientation towards tourism. Its culinary diversity, rich in tones and flavours, and its conviviality linked to its wines, the fruit of its hillsides, attract many visitors each year. Instructive walks and other outings encourage the discovery of picturesque villages and the wine cellars of local producers. A wide collection of wines and vintages from the eight “appellations d'origine contrôlées (AOCs)” (officially controlled classifications of origins) also contribute to Lavaux’s reputation. The “entry gateways”, Lausanne and Montreux/Vevey, without forgetting the other destinations within the Lake Geneva Region, offer a good choice of hotels, suitable for visitors from all over the world. The accommodation infrastructures, although mostly situated outside the site area, provide plenty of tours and excursions to Lavaux.

In September, Switzerland Tourism will be launching an international campaign with the theme of “Gastronomy and wine”. With this in mind and in order to meet a growing demand, the Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office has produced a new brochure on that theme, which features the specialities of the Lake Geneva Region region: unusual products, AOC labels, activities, events, useful addresses and portraits will be featured. This publication, in three languages (French, German and English), is due for release in August and will be aimed at both a national and international audience.

In order to mark the event and to thank the population for its support, the AILU (Association for the registration of Lavaux as a UNESCO World Heritage site) is organizing a public festival on 22 September, “The Lavaux Festival”, in the villages throughout Lavaux. Events and tastings on the theme of “5 senses, 5 appellations” will take place all over the winegrowing area ( There will be music, wine and food tastings and everyone will have lots of fun!

For further information: www.lake-geneva-region/unesco

Friday, June 15, 2007

Choosing the Right Gear-Part Four: Insulating Layers.

Welcome to Part Four of our nine part series on choosing the right gear for a hiking tour through the Alps. Today we’ll take a look at insulating layers.

The insulation layer can actually be a couple of layers and its purpose is to provide additional warmth when the base and mid layer pieces are not warm enough for conditions. (See Part Three of this series for an explanation of base and mid layers). Insulating layers retain body heat by creating a layer of still or dead air around the body while still allowing perspiration to escape. Pockets of still air decrease the heat exchange between the body and the outside world. Synthetic fabric such as fleece is usually a good choice because it traps heat but doesn’t hold moisture. Moisture is deadly when the temperature drops or when you slow down your pace. The key to a good layering system is to let moisture out but not in. (Except by drinking of course).

Insulating layers should be warm, lightweight and as non-bulky as possible. They should also breathe well to let sweat and body heat escape. Choose garments that are easy to slip on and off since you’ll change the insulating layers as you heat up and cool down.

The three most commonly recommended insulating materials are:

Wool: Wool is a great natural insulator. It’s available in knickers, pants, long-sleeve shirts, pullovers, sweaters and jackets. Wool insulates even when wet but can take a long time to dry and can be very bulky/heavy.

Goose Down: Down is a great insulating material and some garments pack down small. It’s hot though, and usually overkill for most hiking outings during the summer.

Fleece: This material consists of polyesters that are treated in a way that makes the fibers stand up and trap air between the fibers. This trapped air forms the protective layer of still air forming the main insulation. These popular man-made synthetic materials come in a wide variety of styles and thickness and combine a few characteristics that make them ideal insulators.

First, they retain pockets of still air that insulates and prevents body heat loss as mentioned above. Additionally, the treated polyesters have almost the same moisture-transporting qualities as base layers. Therefore, they transport moisture to the outer layer and dry very quickly. This makes them comfortable, warm (even when wet), fast drying and lightweight (half as heavy as wool). Fleece products are available in shirts, pants, vests, jackets, pullovers and sweaters. We recommend a nice mid-weight fleece pullover or jacket for our hiking tours.

Some of the more expensive garments also provide wind protection with built in wind/weather liners built right into the material. Gore Wind stopper is one of the popular brand names found on many wind-resistant fleece garments.

Get out the magnifying glass. Here’s a closer inspection of the different types of fleece.

1) Fleece
Basic Fleece is mostly made out of polyesters. Check this out: The Patagonia company actually spins new synthetic fibers from old soda bottles! The polyester fabric is then sent to an enormous fleece mill and passed through a 'napping' machine. This machine doesn’t make you fall asleep however. The machine picks out and rakes up the fabric loops on one side, creating a fabric with a tight solid weave on one side and a fluffy air-retaining surface at the other side.

2) Pile
This is a very common, single-sided Fleece that has undergone more 'napping. ' Ahh, we could all use more naps. Pile is also a much thicker, open fabric.

Join us next time for Part Five of our series: Rain Gear. As always, please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Grenzlos Special: Register now and receive 10 percent off the Tour du Mont Blanc I.

The cows are just now heading to higher alpine pastures and Grenzlos, one of our house gnomes, feels a bit frisky. Last night he spun the cow and the Tour du Mont Blanc won the cheese. That’s right, register between now and June 15 and you’ll get 10 percent off the Tour du Mont Blanc I, running from July 11-20, 2007. Grenzlos doesn’t usually do this type of thing, (maybe once each summer) so steal a spot while you can.

You have 15 days to grab your airfare and enjoy a reduced price. That’s $280 off the per-person double occupancy price and $310 off the per-person single price. Think of the wonderful alpine goodies that you can buy with that extra cash. Wine; cheese; chocolate; cowbells; little yodeling people; gnomes; alphorns; extra rail passes; a night at a posh hotel; a generous tip for your outstanding guide. What’s your vice?

Please contact us to register or for more details.

Update: Tour availability.

It’s official. The Dolomites High Tour, running from June 26-July 2, 2007 is sold out. We are currently maintaining a waiting list but we also invite you to visit some of our other tours.

We currently have space on the following guided trips:
Engadine Trek, July 3-10, 2007
Tour du Mont Blanc I, July 11-20, 2007
Secret Swiss Valleys I, July 12-19, 2007 (Only two single rooms left).
Berner Oberland Ramble, July 23-30, 2007
Engadine Summit Series, July 31-August 7, 2007
Secret Swiss Valleys II, August 10-17, 2007
Tour du Mont Blanc II, August 19-28, 2007
Italian High Route, August 28-September 7, 2007
Appenzellerland, September 16-21, 2007
The Alpine Southwest, September 18-26, 2007

Many of our trips have limited availability so please consult our tour schedule for further details.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Read about the Tour du Mont Blanc and grab your spot!

This year’s Tour Mont Blanc II, from August 19-28 is almost completely sold out. However, we still have space on the first tour running from July 11-20. The tour cost is $2800 per person in double occupancy. If you’re still on the fence, then have a look at the following excerpt from an article in Shape magazine written in 2004.

Excerpt from:

Solo adventures; Scared of traveling alone? Fear not: these four female-friendly options boast fitness, fun and companionship.

Shape Magazine, Nov, 2004 by Lori Mayfield

Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland With Ryder-Walker.

Say bonjour, buon giorno and gruezi to fellow hikers as you tread through all three nations--France, Italy and Switzerland-of this legendary Alps circuit. You'll encounter a challenging mix of steep ascents and descents punctuated with alpine streams, snowfields and lush meadows.

Who goes: A coed group of up to 12 hikers and adrenaline junkies in their early 30s-50s

The lowdown: You'll start and end your vacation in Geneva (three miles from Geneva International Airport).

While this trip is more strenuous than the others--you'll spend six to eight hours a day crossing a variety of challenging terrain at an average elevation of about 6,000 feet--there's no roughing-it factor beyond the trail. Accommodations include charming inns, an upscale four-star hotel, an immaculate Swiss chalet, a family guesthouse and a spartan backpacker's hut. You'll have your own room for seven nights.

Calorie blasters: Daily hikes are epic--seven to 14 miles on average--but the spectacular surroundings and camaraderie you develop with your fellow trekkers will help you conquer the complete 68-mile circuit.

Sustenance: One evening your palate might enjoy an amuse bouche of duck canape, followed by rabbit fricassee in white wine and then creme brulee for dessert; another dinner could be family-style pasta or traditional fondue. Start your mornings with a complimentary continental breakfast, and shop the local market for fresh produce, baguette, prosciutto and Camembert cheese to prepare your hiker's sack lunch ($12-$15 per day). Your guide will tempt you between meals with Swiss chocolates.

Me-time: If the changes in altitude become too taxing, you can hitch a ride on the luggage van (although it's usually reserved for emergencies), which travels paved roads. Take a day off to explore the next village with a friend or simply draw a bubble bath back in your posh hotel room.

Details: From $2,800 (double occupancy price) for 10 days (July) includes double occupancy lodging, guiding, breakfast and dinner. Lunches are not included (888-586-8365,

Friday, May 04, 2007

Choosing the Right Gear-Part Three: Base layers and general hiking attire.

Welcome to Part Three of our nine part series on choosing the right gear for a hiking tour through the Alps. Today we’ll examine base layers and general hiking attire.

Walk into almost any reputable outdoor shop and the salesperson will recommend that you develop a system of clothing layers in order to stay comfortable on the trail. Layering is the process of dressing in a number of lightweight layers instead of 1 or 2 heavier layers. The primary advantage is that multiple layers allow a savvy hiker to mix and match various articles of clothing in order to meet the changing demands of weather conditions and activity level along the trail. Multiple lightweight pieces also occupy less space in your pack.

Hikers typically divide clothing layers into four specific categories.
A. Base or Inner Layers (Example: Long underwear)
B. Mid Layers (Examples: General hiking attire-shorts, t-shirts and lightweight pants).
C. Insulating Layers (Examples: Fleece jackets and sweaters)
D. Outer Layers (Examples: Rain gear and wind shells)

Today we’ll focus on categories one and two.

The primary concerns that you’ll have when looking for clothing are finding pieces that fit well and choosing materials that will do the job that you want them to do. We can’t really help you with the first part but we can certainly offer guidance on the second.

In general, you should be prepared to experience temperatures between 30 and 80 degrees F in the mountains, often in a single day. You may find that your morning climb has you sweating but the temperature at the top of a high pass gives you goose pimples. Our recommendation is that you pick materials that are comfortable and will pull moisture away from your body in order to keep you dry and comfortable. We use the term “wicking” to describe the transfer of moisture away from the skin and into the great beyond.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common materials and their characteristics.
For base layers:
1. Cotton. This is a comfortable material when it’s dry but it absorbs moisture like a sponge and holds it next to the skin creating significant heat loss. Cotton also takes a long time to dry thereby adding discomfort. We don’t recommend cotton for base layers.
2. Wool. If you read our review of the Icebreaker long underwear top then you know that wool is a great material for long underwear. It doesn’t have to be scratchy and it’s a great natural insulator even when it’s soaking wet. Disadvantage: It doesn’t dry quite as fast as synthetic materials. We highly recommend some of the new lightweight wool long underwear on the market.
3. Silk. Silk is an extremely lightweight and comfortable material. It pulls moisture away from the skin and it insulates well. Disadvantage: Silk is not the most durable material and often requires special care when laundering.
4. Polypropylene. This is one of the first synthetic materials designed to effectively pull moisture away from the skin. It dries quickly and is very lightweight. Some polypro garments retain odors though many of the new garments are treated to repel stink.
5. Capilene. This is Patagonia’s proprietary synthetic material. It is also polyester based but treated with a chemical to improve moisture transfer away from the skin. It’s soft, comfortable and available in a variety of weights depending on your activity. We recommend Capilene if you’re looking for a nice long underwear base layer.
6. Proprietary wicking materials. Myriad manufactures are beginning to offer their own version of wicking materials. MTS 2, a Moisture Transfer System available from REI is one example. Like Capilene, MTS is designed to pull moisture away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common materials found in mid-layers.
1. Cotton. Some people like to wear cotton t-shirts, pants and shorts especially in very warm climates. The evaporative process of the moisture trapped in the material actually helps to cool the hiker. However, we found that most of our experiences with cotton leave us cold in the mountains. The wet sticky feel between your back and the pack can also be rather undesirable. Therefore we don’t recommend cotton for any garment that you plan to wear on the trail, except maybe your headband or boxer shorts.

2. Nylon. This is a wonderful material for pants, shorts and shirts. It doesn’t absorb moisture and it’s typically very durable. New garments are brushed and feel very soft against the skin.

3. Synthetic wicking materials. Many people wear synthetic base layers for mid layers as well. It is not uncommon to see a hiker with a pair of nylon shorts and a long sleeve Capilene top. It’s a great idea since these layers keep you dry and provide good insulation.

4. Wool. See the description for base layers. This is great insulator even when wet.

A note about fit: Base layers should fit snugly against your skin. You want the wicking material to be in contact with your perspiration. Mid layers can fit more loosely and should provide comfortable freedom of movement.

Putting it all together:
Here’s a sample list of base layers and mid layers that you might use together in order to enjoy yourself along the trail. Mix and match and have some fun.
1. A pair of nylon convertible pants. (The legs zip off below the knees and become shorts when the weather turns hot).
2. A synthetic short-sleeve top. (Great for hot weather).
3. A nylon-based hiking shirt. Fly fishing shirts make great hiking wear. Roll up the sleeves in warm weather, or leave them down if the weather gets cool.
4. A synthetic or lightweight wool long-sleeve top. You can wear this by itself in cool weather, pull it over the short-sleeve top when the weather gets chilly or wear it beneath your long sleeve-hiking shirt in cold weather.
5. A pair of lightweight synthetic long underwear bottoms. Throw these under your pants if you run into cold weather. They don’t occupy a lot of space in your pack. Mmmm, warm. Honestly, we don’t use these very often but sometimes it’s nice to know that you have them.

Join us next time for Part Four of our series: Insulating layers. As always, please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

UK travelers get a hiking tour for half price!

Ok, maybe there’s a bit of word trickery going on, but here’s the deal. The British Pound broke through the $2 barrier on Tuesday. This is bad news for U.S. travelers because everything costs twice as much in the UK. Imagine a pint of beer selling for 8 bucks. Yikes! However, the currency exchange also works the other way around. A person from the UK can basically buy our products and services for half-price. Here’s an example:

If a person from the UK were to call up with their credit card and reserve a single spot on the Italian Dolomites Trek, then we would charge them 3,075 US Dollars. However, following the currency exchange and excluding any additional fees charged by the credit card company, their statement would show that they only paid around 1,540 Pounds. Are you confused? Here’s another example. Our self-guided Appenzell tour sells for $1050 per person in double occupancy. A traveler from the UK pays around 525 pounds. Not bad.

A friendly reminder: We are NOT discounting our tours for travelers from the UK. We are simply highlighting the strange benefits of currency exchange.

OK, there are some disadvantages as well. Some of our clients traveling from countries with weaker currencies actually end up paying a bit more for our tours. Please know that the dollar just slid against the Euro again, so we too have to pay more to operate our tours. Also know that we refuse to raise our tour costs unless things get totally outrageous, so this means that we’re just going to suck it up and hope that everyone appreciates it. What goes around comes around.

Please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions or comments. We’d love to hear from you.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Choosing the Right Gear-Part Two: Footwear

Welcome to Part Two of our nine part series on choosing the right gear. Part two offers advice for choosing the appropriate footwear for a hiking tour through the Alps.

It is no coincidence that footwear tops our equipment list as the very first essential item. More than any other piece of equipment, footwear will either carry you along on a floating cloud of ecstasy, or strike you down and abandon your remains like a shriveled and smoking piece of charred bacon. Analogies aside, footwear will either make or break your hiking tour. Fortunately, with a little information, choosing the right footwear for the trail does not have to be a daunting task.

Today we’ll break the subject into 4 basic categories.

1. The basic levels of hiking boots and shoes.
2. Materials.
3. Construction.
4. Proper Fit.

1.The 3 basic levels of hiking boots and shoes. Begin your search for the right footwear by matching your activity with the correct category.

A. Lightweight hiking. These trail shoes and boots are designed for day hikes and very short overnight trips. Comfort, breathability and cushioning characterize this level and trail running shoes fall into this category. Our village-to-village tours essentially link multiple day hikes and since we usually don’t’ carry heavy overnight packs this is an appropriate level for many of our clients. However, we recommend that heavier hikers, people who need extra support, or anyone who plans to carry a few nights worth of gear across varied terrain consider the midweight level.

B. Midweight hiking/backpacking. These boots are more supportive underfoot and are designed for on and off trail hiking with light to moderate backpacking loads. These models are typically more durable and supportive than lightweight models. They are still intended for short to moderate trips over moderate terrain but we recommend this category if you’re unsure about the level of support that you require. This is a good, safe, middle-of-the-road category that will handle anything that you might encounter on any of our standard hiking tours.

C. Extended backpacking/mountaineering. These boots are designed for multiple day trips, on and off trail, with moderate to heavy loads. Long distance backpackers typically choose this category. They are extremely durable and supportive and they offer a high degree of ankle and foot protection. Some are even stiff enough to accept crampons for snow/ice travel. Many of our lighter day-hikers find this category to be overkill. However, consider this category if you like the highest level of durability and support available or if you believe that your activities demand it. Some of our clients are avid backpackers and mountaineers. These boots work great for them but beware, this level can be very, very heavy.

2.Materials. We recommend footwear that is lightweight, breathable, and waterproof on our standard hiking tours. However, you should also look for materials that complement your hiking/walking style.

A. Synthetic blends and split-grain leather. These materials characterize a boot that is lightweight and breathable so we typically find them in the light to mid-weight category. They tend to be soft so they are comfortable and they only require a short break-in period. They are typically less water resistant than full grain leather so we recommend that our hikers combine these materials with a waterproof barrier like Gore-Tex.

B. Full grain leather. Full grain leather is extremely water resistant, durable and supportive so we typically find it in the extended backpacking category. Full grain boots are designed for extended trips, heavy loads and hard terrain. They are not as lightweight or breathable as nylon/split-grain but full grain leather typically lasts a long time. Expect an extensive break-in period. These boots are extremely waterproof, (and hot) when mated with a waterproof barrier.

C. Waterproof barriers. Waterproof breathable barriers like Gore-Tex, when built into a hiking boot or trail running shoe, can do a great job of keeping water out while also helping perspiration to escape. They essentially catch any water that leaks through the outer material and seams. Waterproof performance depends on the type of barrier used, the materials protecting it, how well the boots are taken care of and the construction techniques used in manufacturing. (See notes on waterproofing in the next category). Waterproof barriers usually make a boot or shoe feel hotter.

D. Vibram sole. Vibram brand soles last forever! It increases the price of the footwear but it's worth it.

E. Polycarbonate insole/steel shank. The insole is the material that strengthens the footwear and provides support under foot. Polycarbonate insoles come in varying degrees of flexibility based on the intended use of the footwear. A stiff insole for example, is designed for the backpacking, heavy load carrying crowd. Some extra-stiff boots will even feature a steel shank embedded within the insole. This is very stiff!

F. Unobtainium-Kevlar, carbon and the future. New materials come around every day. Try them if you like and let us know what you find.

3. Construction.

A. Upper construction. Basically, the more seams a shoe or boot has, the higher the risk for leaks and blowouts. Leaking occurs when water seeps through the seams and needle holes between panels. Blowouts occur when general wear, repeated flexing or a snag cases a stitch to break and multiple panels to separate. In general, the fewer seams an upper has, the more water-resistant and the more durable it will be.

B. Lower construction. Soles are either stitched or cemented to the rest of the boot. Stitching is reliable and can be undone to replace the sole when it wears down. Cementing is faster and less expensive. Cementing is not always reliable or durable on less expensive models though stronger glues come out every day. Most cemented soles can also be replaced.

Notes about waterproofing: Waterproof leather is leather that’s been treated to be waterproof. Some synthetic materials are waterproof however no material is waterproof without watertight construction. Watertight construction refers to the techniques used to keep out leaks like seam sealing and special stitching. Watertight construction is usually combined with waterproofed materials and waterproof barriers.

3. Proper Fit. This is the most important element of the entire boot/shoe buying process. You might find a nice lightweight, waterproof hiking boot that’s breathable and manufactured from quality materials but it’s meaningless if it doesn’t fit properly. We recommend that you spend a lot of time testing different models to find the right fit. Here are a few suggestions to make the process easier.

A. Find a reputable outfitter. They should be able to measure your foot properly and identify the characteristics that make your foot unique, (bone spurs, pronation, supination, etc.). If you don’t believe that your salesperson knows what they’re talking about then find another.

B. Wear hiking socks to the store. If you don’t have hiking socks then buy some. Most outfitters will lend you a pair to try on but don’t walk away with new boots without treating yourself to new socks. We recommend synthetic, wool or a blend of the two. Avoid cotton socks at all costs! They hold moisture and encourage blisters.

C. Not all sizes are created equal. Manufacturers use proprietary lasts that are designed to accommodate certain types of feet. Some are narrower and some are wider. Each company is different so it pays to try a few brands.

D. They may feel strange at first. More supportive footwear will feel stiff. In general, you should be able to move your toes but you don’t want too much room or your foot will slide around.

E. Walk, walk, walk! Walk around the store, jump up and down and try the boots on an incline if you can. Many outfitters have stones and hills for simulating trail conditions. Try to walk uphill and downhill. Make sure that your foot does not slide forward when walking down hill. Make sure that your heel does not lift. Look for hot spots, places where the foot and shoe rub uncomfortably. You won’t be able to leave the store but try to stay in the boots for at least an hour if you can. Use it as an excuse to look at trekking poles and rain gear.

F. Remember that your feet change size throughout the day. They are the smallest in the morning and the most swelled in afternoon and evening. This is especially true following a long day on the trail. If the boots feel tight in the morning then they’ll probably feel really tight following your hike.

G. Consider custom foot beds. Custom foot beds offer more support than the standard foot bed that comes with the shoe. They’re custom molded to the shape of your foot and make an enormous difference at the end of the day. Your salesperson can help you with this.

Extra thoughts: Don’t’ forget to take proper care of your new footwear. Clean your boots and trails shoes by brushing away dirt and mud that can reduce breathability and ruin the materials over time. You can wash most fabrics with mild soap and water. If your boots get drenched then stuff them loosely with newspaper and dry them in a warm place. Do not place them near a fire, heater or other heat source. Leather boots will need to be conditioned on a regular basis. Again, your salesperson can help you choose the appropriate product for your footwear.

Join us next time for Part Three of our series: Base layers and general hiking attire. As always, please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Newly reopened! Space available on Secret Swiss Valleys II

We just reopened the Secret Swiss Valleys II, scheduled for August 10-17, 2007. This is the tour that National Geographic Adventure touted as one of their 25 trips to do now.

The tour was previous sold out, but unforeseen circumstances allowed us to reopen the trip. Please contact Ryder-Walker if you’d like to know more about this tour or if you’d like to sign up. We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Eiger Trail is Sold Out

Get ‘em while they’re hot! I posted the previous message and voila, we filled the last spot on the Eiger Trail. However, don’t despair if you missed out. We still offer this trip as a self-guided option.

“What’s the difference between guided and self-guided tours?” I’m glad that you asked.

The Eiger Trail guided and self-guided versions are the same in every respect, (itinerary, accommodation, luggage transfer, scenery etc.), you are simply on your own when you choose the self-guided version and you choose your own dates. This means that in lieu of a guide, we provide written hike descriptions and four-color topographical maps and all the other instructions to run the tour independently. The self-guided version is also less expensive. The cost is $1850 per person in double occupancy. You will have to pay out-of-pocket for a few incidental transfers during the tour but don’t worry because the main transfers to and from the tour are covered within Switzerland. Please note, that not all self-guided tours mimic their guided counterparts exactly so it pays to examine each tour independently.

If you’re interested in the Eiger Trail as a self-guided version then either email us or give us a call. We are happy to discuss the tour in further detail. We are also happy to add your name to waiting list if you’d like to join the guided version of this tour. Toll free within the U.S. 888.586.8365 Outside of the U.S. 001.970.728.6481

Only one spot left on the Eiger Trail.

We only have one room available on the Eiger Trail. We can accept either a single or a double so please contact Ryder-Walker if you would like to participate in this fabulous tour.

Here's a breakdown for anyone who might be interested in the tour:

The Eiger Trail

Classic scenery is the hallmark of the Berner Oberland where the famous trio, the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, dominates not only the landscape but the imagination of the traveler-- and has so for well over a century. The Jungfrau region is an alpine wonderland: rolling green meadows lie peacefully beneath awe inspiring, glaciated peaks, tiny chalets dot the hillsides, and farmers continue the ancient herding traditions of the land. The resort villages of the Oberland too are legendary, both for their historical charm and their modern comforts and conveniences, including a transportation system supporting a number of carless villages and allowing access to the region’s myriad hiking trails.

Crossing the mighty Bernese Oberland range is a challenging undertaking that demands a good level of fitness, but the rewards are vast. As we link the region’s villages, we traverse high ridges, follow valleys, and climb to a number of high and lonely passes separating the deep and dramatic valleys cutting through the range. Our first days begin quietly, winding through pastoral valleys and woodlands. As we head toward the remote Kiental, the snowy Blumlisalp Massif towers above and challenges hikers to reach the Hohturli, the route’s highest pass and the most challenging day of the trek, taking us close to the realms of glaciers and perennial snow. Our final days are dominated by the Jungfrau Massif and the lovely Wetterhorn, or peak of storms.

The villages along the way range from the glitzy town of Gstaad, one of the more charming villages in the Oberland, to the wonderful old farm community and resort town of Kandersteg. We’ll visit tiny Griesalp-- little more than a post bus stop and two small hostelries amid high pastures, as well as the carless resort villages of Wengen and Murren, clinging to the steep sides of the beautiful Lauterbrunnen valley. We’ll finish the tour in cosmopolitan Grindelwald, situated directly beneath the North Wall of the Eiger.

Throughout the week we’ll experience a range of accommodations reflecting the character of both the Bernese Oberland and the individual villages. Gstaad finds us in an intmate hotel with classically Swiss ambiance. Lenk offers a superb kitchen and a peaceful atmosphere. A small berghaus in the Engstligental presents a spectacular mountain retreat surrounded by gorgeous peaks.

Kandersteg, delivers a wonderful Victorian-style hotel, while a simple berghaus offers a cozy welcome in Griesalp. In Murren, we stay in a pleasant inn perched on the edge of the valley with views across to the Jungfrau.
Wengen’s charming “gemutlichkeit”inn offers a warm welcome and famous Swiss hospitality and finally Grindelwald, offers a chalet hotel with typical, regional ambience and charm.

Food ranges from haute cuisine in elegant dining rooms to regional specialties in cozy, authentic stubes. Dinner is typically a four or five course meal shared in the company of the group and breakfast is taken at your leisure. Most days, lunch is a picnic enjoyed in a meadow on or at a pass. Other days, we have access to a mountain restaurant or hut for lunch. Your guide will let you know in advance about each day’s routine, including details about lunch, what to put in your pack, and what to expect on each day’s hike.


Day 1 Arrival Zurich or Geneva Airport. Travel by rail to Gstaad using Swiss Card. Meet guide and group.

Day 2 Gstaad - Lenk. Begin with a chairlift ride to the fabulous Wasserngrat, with beautiful views of the pastoral Saanenland. Wander through enchanting meadows and limestone outcrops with superb vews of the emerging glaciated peaks of the Oberland. Descend to the idyllic Lenk by cable car. Elevation gain: ca. 3700 ft. Descent: 853 ft. Distance: 9 miles.

Day 3 Lenk - Engstligenalp. Today we’ll travel over a high pass by towering waterfalls and impressive peaks to the high alpine meadow, Engstligenalp. Overnight in a comfortable berghaus in this enchanting spot. (No luggage access on this night). Elevation gain: ca. 4523 ft. Descent: 1604 ft. Distance: 10 miles.

Day 4 Engstligenalp - Kandersteg. Ascend through pasture and woodland enroute to one of the local peaks, offering fantastic views to the Eiger on a clear day. This is a relatively short and seldom traveled hike that carries us toward the world of large, glaciated peaks. An optional lift drops us into the enchanted village of Kandersteg and our well appointed hotel. Elevation gain: ca. 2309 ft. Descent: 4874 ft. Distance: 7 miles.

Day 5 Kandersteg - Kiental. Enter the very heart of the high peaks of the Oberland with a scenic chairlift ride out of Kandersteg, to a beautiful cobalt blue lake situated in an amphitheater of rock beneath the dramatic Blumisalp massif. We’ll lunch directly beneath the glaciers tumbling from the region’s highest peaks. Pass through the spectacular Hohturli (“high little door” in Swiss German) to enter into the remote and lush Kiental. (No luggage access on this night). Elevation gain: ca. 3595 ft. Descent: 4389 ft. Distance: 9 miles.

Day 6 Kiental - Murren. Ascend through high alpine pastures to a dramatic high mountain pass that is a portal to the central Oberland. The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau come into full view as we descend toward the fabled Lauterbrunnental. Elevation gain: ca. 3844 ft. Descent: 3194 ft. Distance: 8 miles.

Day 7 Murren-Wengen. We’ll descend to a beautifully remote valley and into one of the high finger valleys above the Lauterbrunnental for lunch. We’ll rest beneath looming glaciers and the brooding mass of the largest peaks, the Eiger, Monch and Junfrau. From there, we enjoy a relaxing ramble along the valley floor to view the thundering falls and the vestiges of pastoral culture in this picture perfect valley. A quick ride by cog railway carries us to carless Wengen. Elevation gain: ca. 1853 ft. Descent: 2683 ft. Distance: 9 miles.

Day 8 Wengen-Grindelwald. A most classic ramble lies before us today as we cross the Kleine Scheidegg, the saddle beneath the infamous Eiger Nordwand, or north wall. Much of our walk today will be through peaceful and untrammeled pasture and woodland. The views over the Lauterbrunnen valley, with its distinctive u-shape, formed by a glacier and its many thousand foot waterfalls, are truly unforgettable! Elevation gain: ca. 2578 ft. Descent: 3369 ft. Distance: 9 miles.

Day 9 Depart.

Tour Profile

Difficulty: Distances up to 11 miles and ascents of up to 4000 feet make this a challenging trek. Hikers should be in good condition.

Cost Includes: Hotel costs, breakfast and dinner daily, guiding. Taxes, and porterage at hotels. Luggage transfers for up to two pieces. Swiss Card and all lifts and cog railways incidental to itinerary.

Equipment: In addition to hiking clothes to suit
temperatures from 40° to 80°, equipment for this tour should include a daypack, sturdy hiking boots, rain and sun protection.

Tour Dates: July 31-August 8, 2007

Tour Cost: $2785 per person in double occupancy

Gateways: Zurich or Geneva

Please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions regarding the Hiker’s Haute Route or any of our tours. We’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Red Rock Country is Sold Out!

Here we go again: Red Rock Country, scheduled for April 28-May 6, 2007, is now closed. This is the tour that explores the hidden and remote canyons of the Desert Southwest.

I know what you’re thinking, “You’re the European Trekking Specialists.” Yes, but before we head abroad and when we get home, we immerse ourselves in the quiet canyon country of our backyard. There really is no other place like it on earth.

We’re always happy to add your name to the waiting list so please contact us. You can also check the current availability of our guided tours by following this link.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sold Out: The September 2007 Italian Dolomites Trek II.

More news: The Italian Dolomites Trek II, scheduled for September 8-15, 2007, just sold out. We still have space on the first tour, Italian Dolomites Trek I, scheduled for June 18-25, 2007.

Spaces go quickly during this time of the year. Contact us to get in on the action. We also invite you to visit our website for the 2007 schedule and more details.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Choosing the Right Gear-Part One: The basic equipment list.

Welcome to Part One of our nine part series on choosing the right gear for a village-to-village hiking tour through the Alps. Spring is just around the corner, which means that it’s time to inventory our fitness and our equipment. Part One examines the basic equipment list.

We don’t camp during our hiking tours. This means that we can travel light, cover more distance, and we don’t have to worry about all of the accoutrements that accompany a multi-night camping trip. However, we do spend full days on the hiking trail. The gear that we choose to wear and carry in our daypack can make the difference between a delightful vacation and a miserable death march. The following list highlights the essential items that will help you to further enjoy yourself on the hiking trail. Please note that we do not include eveningwear on this list.

Some of the items mentioned below may require further explanation so we’ll explore them in further detail during the upcoming weeks. Future topics will include:

Part Two: How to choose the appropriate footwear.
Part Three: Base layers and general hiking attire.
Part Four: Insulating layers.
Part Five: Raingear.
Part Six: Trekking poles-What to do with them and how to choose them.
Part Seven: Water-How to find it and how to carry it.
Part Eight: Extras-Simple additions for enhancing your hiking experience.
Part Nine: Backpacks-Putting everything together.

The Basic Ryder-Walker Equipment List:

Your general wear will probably vary depending on the weather. T-shirts and shorts will be adequate on some days, whereas long pants, shirt a long sleeve sweater or fleece will be needed on others. Knickers are an excellent option for all conditions, and many Europeans use them. Long wool or synthetic blend socks ensure warmth even if they become wet. Please do not bring blue jeans or chinos to hike in. Aside from these, here is a list of essential items needed for each day, and the most useful extras.(Click on the photo for a closer look at the attire.)

Essential Items:

Hiking boots or trail shoes. These should be comfortable, waterproof and well broken in. Use what works best for you. Newer lightweight boots have proven to be just fine for most alpine hiking.
Waterproof Jacket. This should be roomy, with a hood and extend to the top of one's thigh. Gore-Tex or other breathable, waterproof fabric is recommended.
Long sleeve insulating top. Preferably of synthetic fleece. Wool is also excellent.
Synthetic fleece hat and gloves. Again wool mentioned above works well too.
Water bottle or hydration system. A minimum one-liter capacity is ideal.
Trekking poles. These can reduce knee stress by as much as 30%. We recommend one collapsible pair per hiker.
Sun protection. At higher altitudes this is imperative. You will need good sunglasses, sun tan lotion with a high SPF, and a hat with a brim.
Passport. A few of our tours cross international borders during the day. We usually never encounter customs agents but it’s nice to have identification anyway.
Travel Documents. (Eurail passes, Swiss Passes etc), may offer reductions on many lifts and help you to amend the itinerary during the day.
Pocket change. Some hikes visit and/or overnight at various mountain huts. It’s always nice to have a bit of petty cash for refreshment and meals. We recommend $50 to $100 in local currency.
Daypack. Be sure this is of adequate size to fit the above items as well as a picnic lunch or other items. Generally 1800 cubic inches is fine. If your itinerary includes nights in huts or other overnights away from your luggage, a pack of 2400 cubic inches is advised.

Useful Extras:
First Aid Kit. (This is an essential item for self-guided travelers)
Zip Lock Baggies.
Thin Dry Bag. for your day pack.
Pocket Knife. (Scissor features come in very handy).
Rain pants.
Long sleeved polypropylene undershirt or other long underwear top. Some people may like bottoms as well.

Other items should be light. It is also advisable to bring supplies of any medications you may be taking. Should you forget something, the villages on your tour are well stocked with sport and pharmaceutical goods.

Trek Considerations:
The items mentioned above are required for our treks. In addition, some people enjoy the capacity of a larger backpack since our treks usually involve one or two nights in a hut or simpler bunk style accommodation. Under these circumstances one will need extra socks, slippers or running shoes, underwear, T-shirt, a towel and toiletries. A book and flashlight/headlamp (compact!) are often desirable. Some people enjoy a travel sheet or sleeping bag liner for the hut stay.

Join us next time for Part Two in our series: Choosing the appropriate footwear. As always, please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sold Out: The July 2007 Hiker’s Haute Route.

This year’s guided Hiker’s Haute Route, July 21-30, 2007, is now officially sold out! Spaces do become available on occasion so please contact Ryder-Walker to add your name to the waiting list. We also have space on some of our other popular tours. Please visit our 2007 schedule for more details or just give us a call.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The infamous hats return!

You asked and we delivered. A new batch of the renowned Ryder-Walker ball caps arrived at our office but they won't last long. Sign up for a tour and get yours today!

Contact Ryder-Walker for more info.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Earn a Free travel day!

Rail Europe just announced a special offer. Book any 6, 8, or 10 day Eurail Early Bird Selectpass between February 1 and March 31, 2007 and get an extra day of FREE TRAVEL. What’s the catch? You must complete your travel within six months from the date of purchase.

Here’s what you get:
  • Unlimited travel on the national rail networks of any 3, 4 or 5 adjoining Eurail Selectpass countries that are connected by train or ship:
Austria, Benelux, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Croatia/Slovenia, Bulgaria/Serbia/Montenegro
  • 1st class travel; Travel days may be used consecutively or non-consecutively.
  • Access to regions that count as one country: Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg); Croatia/Slovenia; Bulgaria/Serbia/Montenegro.
Travelers receive discounts for Saver passes, (good for two or more people) and youth passes, (good for travelers under 26 years of age).

Other special bonuses also apply. Please contact Ryder-Walker for more details, or to book your pass.
Please note that reservations are required for quality trains such as: TGV in France, ES* in Italy, Euromed, Alaris and Altaria in Spain, Cisalpino and the Swiss Scenic Trains (Bernina, Glacier, Golden Pass, William Tell Express and Chocolate Train).

OK, it's true that we run hiking tours. But how do you think we get to them? Moreover, hiking tours are just one part of the total European experience. Ryder-Walker offers a comprehensive list of Rail Europe products, all designed to help you enjoy a bit of European flavor. Contact Ryder-Walker to choose the best travel options, book rail passes and more. We look forward to hearing from you.

Photo courtesy of Rail Europe

Friday, January 19, 2007

First Impressions: A preliminary review of the Icebreaker midweight long underwear top.

January can be cold at our headquarters in Telluride, Colorado. The mercury slept at –4 at my place on Tuesday morning, and one of our guides mentioned that her thermometer read –16 on the same day. Therefore, we jumped with excitement when our friends at Paragon Ski and Sport asked us to test new long underwear from Icebreaker. Two weeks ago, a bunch of us received the Bodyfit 260, a midweight, long sleeve crew in charcoal/black.

If you’re not familiar with Icebreaker brand clothing, then you really need to visit their website. You’ll find plenty of technical information in addition to photographs and testimonials concerning their products. (Please note that Ryder-Walker is not affiliated with Icebreaker in any way. We do not receive compensation for the endorsement of Icebreaker products).

One characteristic that makes Icebreaker clothing extremely unique is that it’s manufactured from 100 percent Merino wool. In these days of synthetic garments designed for active people, it might seem crazy to revisit natural fibers. However, Smartwool did it successfully with their socks, and I like to remember that many synthetic fibers were originally designed to mimic some of Mother Nature's naturally occurring products. Synthetic sleeping bag insulation is a perfect example. It fluffs and traps air like down, but it’s less expensive and it tends to dry more quickly after a good soaking. The flipside is that it never compresses as tightly as down. Scientists just haven’t found a way to match down’s fantastic loft to weight ratio, though they’re getting close. It seems that with every advantage there exists an opposite and equal disadvantage. The disadvantage with wool underwear of course, has always been the itch and the scratch. But not anymore!

My first reaction when I slipped into the long sleeve crew was,” Wow! This thing is REALLY comfy.” Honestly, it feels really good. The cut is wonderful and the wool is soft. I never feel restricted, yet the cut feels athletic and conforming. They got it right with this one. Of course, Icebreaker is a New Zealand based company so I guess shouldn’t expect anything less from their wool.

My second reaction, now that I’ve been snowshoeing; snowboarding; cycling; x-country skiing and generally hanging out in the thing for the last two weeks, is that IT DOESN’T STINK. Icebreaker claims that their products are naturally odor free and I’m a believer. I was able to generate a bit of stink out on the trail or within a crowded room. However, once I removed the garment for the night or lowered the intensity of my exercise, the stink just magically disappeared. I even handed the garment to my wife for confirmation. Of anyone, she would tell me if the garment needed washing. Her words? “Wow. I want one!” No kidding! I don’t think many synthetic brands can make the same claim. I haven’t washed the shirt in two weeks and it still smells wooly-fresh. Icebreaker claims that the record without washing is 169 days. I don’t recommend that anyone try to beat the record.

Here is a breakdown of my preliminary observations to date:

Extremely comfortable-Don’t be sheepish. Give this wooly wonder a try.
Midweight-Good for light to medium intensity.
Breathes very well -My skin felt dry during moderate activity.
Extremely warm-This is some of the warmest long underwear that I’ve tried and it’s not even their thickest product.
Attractive cut-This thing is not your grandpa’s waffle underwear.
No Stink! -This will be great on our village-to -village hiking tours. Who wants to do laundry in Europe?
It’s natural-Who can complain about that?
Conversation starter-Everybody in Telluride has been talking about Icebreaker.

Price-This long sleeve crew retails for $69.99. Ouch! Maybe, the laundry savings will make up the difference.
Addicting -You’ll want more.
Fashion-Everybody in Telluride has been talking about Icebreaker.

In Summary: The Bodyfit 260 long sleeve crew is a wonderful first-layer for active and non-active people alike. It’s warm but it breathes well, so it doesn’t feel overly hot or sticky when just sitting around. It’s pricey, but most quality products are. What would you pay for NO STINK? Icebreaker advertises this product as a base layer. However, it feels a bit heavier than comparable brands so shedding external layers and wearing the shirt as an outer garment is not unreasonable.
One final note: I haven’t had the opportunity to test this garment in a hot environment. I’m curious to see how it feels beneath a hot and sweaty backpack. Likewise, I’m curious to see how quickly it dries following a good washing. I’ll provide an updated review further down the road.

As always, please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions or comments. We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of the Icebreaker website)