Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Toast

...To new paths leading to unbridled adventure and abiding satisfaction. The Ryder-Walker Staff wishes everyone a happy and healthy New Year.

Image: Melanie Eggers, our Office Genius, researching new paths on our latest Cinque Terre tour.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Images of Ladakh


Our Markha Valley Trek explores an extremely remote region in northern India. The region is so remote, and the topography so rugged, that local villagers can only access their summer grazing and farming lands at the end of winter when the local Zanskar River freezes. The river becomes their highway, and they wait until it freezes again in the fall to come back out. These photos offer a glimpse of their seasonal migration.

Images by Ace Kvale



Friday, December 11, 2009

Choose the Right Size Trekking Pole



Trekking poles make a nice holiday gift for the avid hiker. They reduce stress on the knees, they offer added stability, and they increase stamina. How much stamina? A German physician discovered that each pole plant relieves approximately 18 pounds of pressure from the lower extremities when traveling on an incline. Consider that an average hiker makes around 45 pole plants each minute, and the total weight savings over the course of a hike becomes enormous. Trekking poles are a "must have" on all of our hikes.

Use these sizing charts when shopping around for the perfect pair. The idea is to shoot for a 90 degree angle at the elbow when gripping the pole, and then make minor adjustments based on personal preference.

Two other notes: Always buy two poles, one for each arm. And, make sure that your poles aren't completely extended while walking on flat ground. You want some length left in reserve so that you can extend the poles for added reach on the downhills. The object is to shorten the poles on climbs, and then extend them for the descents. You should rest somewhere in the middle on flat/slightly undulating terrain. The following charts from Leki offer advice.

Click image for larger size.





Friday, December 04, 2009

Don't Pity the Humble Painter



It was Leonardo Da Vinci that once wrote, “Don’t pity the humble painter. He can be lord of all things. Whatever exists in the universe, he has first in his mind, and then in his hand. By his art, he may be called a grandchild of God.”

Da Vinci originally wrote those words to describe an idea whereby everything that we see around us represents the product of our thoughts. Every bridge, every road and every house, for example, first began in someone's imagination before it became a reality. This insight also works the other way around. Not only can the visual artist create a reality based on what they see in their mind’s eye, they can also capture for all-time the greatest mysteries, and sometimes tragedies, that already exist in the universe.

One of our recent guests captured a bit of that greatness and then shared her work with us. Please enjoy the following pieces from the Engadine region of southeastern Switzerland, painted by one of our recent guests, Marlene Kort.

The above image captures the romantic architecture that characterizes the Engadine. The following image offers a view of the Bernina Massif as seen from the St. Moritz side, the Fuorcla Surlej. As an interesting side note: A close up of the Biancograt, the ice ridge on the far left, made it to the cover of our 2010 catalogue. Check it out.




Please contact us if you’d like more information regarding Kort’s work, or if you’d like to purchase one of her paintings. We’ll gladly forward your information directly to her.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Congratulations to Our Lucky Winners

Ryder-Walker hosts an annual feedback drawing, and the rules of the game are quite simple. Each year, we send out feedback forms and request that our guests complete and return them by October 31st. Then we draw two names out of the pile, and the winners each receive a free night's stay at one of our preferred hotels in the Alps.

We're proud to announce that Carolyn Rubenstein and Heidi Pirie won this year's drawing. They each get a free hotel stay in the Alps during 2010.

Congrats to Carolyn and Heidi!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Trekking Away the Winter Doldrums


What could be better than summertime hiking in the Alps? Try winter hiking, snowshoeing, nordic skiing, or even sledding from village to village. Read about our Winter Engadine Holiday in the latest issue of Newsweek.

Read the story here:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/220752

Check out the trip itinerary here:

http://ryderwalker.com/WinterEngadin.html

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Only a few days left to save

Book now, before October 30, 2009, and take advantage of last season's price. Just give us a shout to get in on the action.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lost in Translation


Why does this make me laugh?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bellinzona Cheese Market This Weekend

I had craving for cheese this afternoon which reminded me that the annual Bellinzona cheese market takes place this weekend in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Bellinzona is one of those quietly elegant border towns that feels more distinctly Italian than it does Swiss. Resting on the border between Italy and Switzerland, Bellinzona lies at the heart of a romantic, Italian speaking region called Ticino.

DH Lawrence once described the Ticino in writing, "It is strange how different the sun-dried, ancient, southern slopes of the world are, from the northern slopes. It is as if the god Pan really had his home among these sunbleached stones and tough, sun-dark trees. So I was content coming down into Airolo..."

We often send our guests to the Ticino because it offers an irresistible finale to hikes traversing the Engadine region lying just next door.

This weekend, Friday, October 16-Sunday, October 18, 2009, the Ticinese Alpine cheese producers will descend upon Bellinzona and parade their mountain cheeses at the traditional cheese market. The historic square and the radiating alleyways of old-town transform into the kind of colorful market typically reserved for story books and fairy tales. Market goers enjoy prominently featured Ticino cheeses, as well as local wines, breads, handicrafts and a large variety of fresh produce from local agriculture. Many local restaurants also offer traditional Ticinese cuisine like risotto and polenta, making for a delicious autumn lunch served al fresca.

I won't be able to make it to the market this weekend, but I'm dropping a big hint to any guests that might be reading this from the trail. Treat yourself to this colorful, atmospheric event.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Are you plugged in: 2.0


"Recharging" on vacation just got a whole lot easier.

About a year and-a-half ago I wrote piece titled Are you plugged in: A guide to recharging on vacation. In the article I discussed the dos and don'ts of running electrical equipment while traveling in a foreign country. That was a year and-a-half ago, and a few things have changed.

The most notable change concerns voltage converters. I originally stated, “You’ll fry your U.S. camera charger if you take it to Switzerland and just put an adapter on it.” In addition, “You also need a converter that will “step down” their higher voltage to meet the lower voltage requirements of your device.” These statements may, or may not, be true depending on your device.

More and more electrical devices use a universal power supply these days because electronic manufacturers realize that lugging around voltage converters can be a pain. Take a look at the power supply on your electrical device. (Or better yet, read your owner’s manual). Those designed for use just about anywhere have a section on the label that looks something like this:

Input 100-240V 50/60HZ

This means that your device can handle nominal voltages in between 100 and 240V on a 50 or 60 HZ AC system. Put simply, if your device has a label with these parameters, then you CAN take it to Switzerland and just put an adapter on the end of the plug. The power supply will automatically adjust to accept to the higher voltage. Likewise, the device will also accommodate the lower voltage that we use in the U.S. All you have to do is change the shape of the plug to fit the outlet. If in doubt, read your owner’s manual.

This is what the label looks like on my Canon battery charger. (Click for larger image)


…and the one from the power supply on my MacBook.



Please note that devices with these labels are designed for alternating current (AC), the power supply that most utilities companies use today. They should not be used with direct current (DC). DC systems are not common but they do exist. Small, developing countries and people living off the grid sometimes use DC. Just be aware.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where Two Worlds Meet



Yesterday I posted a few photos of this beautiful Citroën on our Facebook page. What do photos of an old French automobile have to do with hiking? The answer is “a lot” depending on your perspective.

We all hike for different reasons. Some take to the trail to escape civilization. Others simply enjoy the exercise. Some of us, myself included, enjoy discovering the cultural frontiers that hiking tours allow us to explore.

I commented on FB that I spotted this little car while hiking through the quiet little village of Trient, Switzerland. At first glance, Trient appears tranquil. Some might call it sleepy. Peel back the rural patina, however, and this tiny village of roughly 130 people reveals something more.


Trient is a geographical and cultural crossroads. Every summer, hundreds of hikers and backpackers from all over the world descend upon this tiny mountain hamlet while making their way along the Hiker’s Haute Route and the Tour du Mont Blanc. The chatter of German, French, and 10 other languages fills the evening air, while at the same time, intrepid wayfarers steer their motorized chariots across the Col de la Forclaz and down past Trient on the sinuous motorway between Switzerland and France. Most drivers just cruise right by, having watered themselves at the top of the pass. Every once in a while though, somebody stops, parks their little Citroën, and a passing hiker quietly snaps a photo.

Trient is a place where two worlds meet, and this little car was the bridge between those two worlds on the day that I hiked through, though the Citroën could have just as easily been an old farmer, a delicious local dish, or something completely new and undiscovered.

Journalists once referred to the Citroën as a symbol of the avant garde and they even called later versions “radical solutions to automotive design”. What does the Citroen have to do with hiking? Consider this: André Citroën started producing automobiles back in 1919 and his innovative, some might say crazy, designs carried them all over Europe. In the end, however, it was a pair of hiking boots and a high mountain pass that brought us together, in a secluded corner where two worlds meet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Old School

I met this gentleman while hiking across the Col de Torrent last week. He was extremely nice and had just come down from Basel for a day hike. He was about 4800 ft. into his climb by this point and actually continued to climb higher after he reached the top of the pass. His pack, and most of what was left of his clothing, dated back to World War II. Nice.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

2010 Tour Schedule Sneak Peak

We’re still taking registrations for 2009 self-guided hiking tours, but here's a quick look at the 2010 guided schedule. As an added bonus, book before October 30, 2009 to receive the 2009 price on next season's tours.

European Tours

Italian Dolomites Trek: June 15-22, 2010

Cortina & the Lakes of the Dolomites: June 24-30, 2010

Tour du Mont Blanc: July 4-13, 2010

Hiker's Haute Route: July 13-22, 2010

Eiger Trail: July 13-23, 2010

Secret Swiss Valleys: July 25-31, 2010

Zermatt and Saas Fee: July 25-31, 2010 (New village based Flex Tour)

Via Alpina Stage 1: August 1-8, 2010 (New)

Jungfrau Trail: August 1-7, 2010

Engadine Trek: August 10-17, 2010

Engadine Summit Series: August 20-27, 2010

Jubiläum: 2.0: August 28-September 5, 2010

Historic Switzerland-Appenzell: September 7-12, 2010

Otzi Trek: September 14-21, 2010

Heart of Austria: September 23-29, 2010

Italian Lakes District: Como to Bellagio October 1-7, 2010


India Trekking (New)

Markha Valley Trek: May 27-June 7, 2010 (New)-Call for details


U.S. Tours

Canyon Country Escape: May 2-10, 2010

Telluride Trek: September 22-30, 2010

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pat On The Back

It's nice to get a pat on the back once in a while. This one made us smile. Thanks Alec!

Peter -

A quick note to let you know that the trip exceeded expectations (which were
very high). We fell in love with the Engadine Valley and the little towns.

The hotels, hikes, etc. were all perfect. Thanks for all the extra train
info, too. Our kids had a great time and still seem to like us after all
the hiking.

We also had a great time in Wengen.

We look forward to our next trip with you.... Perhaps to Italy?

Best wishes,

Alec

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Flying Swiss Cows




Ever wonder how the people of Switzerland get all their cows in place for the summer tourist season?


...Or how they maintain them?


This one had to go into the shop for some body work.


Actually, one of our guests recently finished the Eiger Trail and sent us these interesting photos. It looks like the old girl ate a bit too much rösti on her way down from the Hohthurli pass.

Seriously, she needed to go to the doctor but refused to walk down the mountain paths. Only in Switzerland would a farmer actually bring in a helicopter to deliver a queasy cow to the doctor's office. This is just one more reason why I love this little alpine country.

Thank you Moshe for these wonderful photos.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Maluns: A Traditional Engadine Recipe

Maluns, a simple but delicious dish, comes from the Graubünden region of southeastern Switzerland. It's a satisfying hiker's repast prepared with boiled potatoes that are grated, mixed with flour, and roasted in butter. Serve with a few slices of fresh alpine cheese and cooked apples on the side, or just a simple cup of coffee or latte. This is the way the original mountain people used to eat, simple, hearty, and economically.

Ingredients
  • 1 kg (about 2 ¼ pounds) cooked, unpeeled potatoes cooked the day before. (Boil the potatoes in salted water and set aside in the fridge at least 24 hours).
  • 300 g (around 10 ½ ounces) white flour
  • Salt, black pepper (to taste)
  • 100 g (3 ½ ounces) cooking (clarified) butter
  • 50 g (1 ¾ ounces) butter

Preparation
  1. Peel and grate potatoes. Add flour, and rub in with fingertips until mixture crumbles. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Heat cooking butter in cast iron pan. When this is good and hot, put in the potato gratings and lump them together with a pair of wooden spoons until the ingredients are crumbly and light brown in colour. Be patient! Cooking usually takes a while. When ready, mixture should resemble little golden lumps. Stir in remaining butter.
Important: Serve from pan straight onto plates together with cooked apple slices and a medium to hard alpine cheese. A gruyère style cheese tastes great with this dish. Applesauce, plum, cranberry, and cherry puree also make delicious sides.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Glimpses of the Tour du Mont Blanc-(From our Guests)







Just a quick email from all of us to let you know how much we enjoyed the whole trip. It was a great holiday, and your knowledge and experience made all the difference. Attached are some pics.

Best Wishes,

Chiao-Ling, Elaine and Peter

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Check Out These Delicious Photos

Two of our guests had a chance to do some modeling!

We just received the following note from two guests that we sent on one of our custom self-guided hiking tours through the Alps. Lucky for us, they know a couple of photographer friends that like to hang around Zermatt. Throw in a few clothing items from Smartwool and, voila, you have the perfect alpine photo shoot. (In case you're wondering, yes, that's the Matterhorn in the background).

Be sure to click on the link to Patitucci Photo. He took some great photos of these two during their trip. Enjoy.


From our guests:

"Ok - we're having a little bit of fun!! Check out the photo link below. We couldn't of hit the weather any better.

http://patitucciphoto.com/lightbox/smartwool_alpinehiking/index.html

Dan and Janine our photographer friends we fired up, and they had a couple prime smartwool models, just for the matterhorn. Only 12 hours of hiking and posing like super posers. Holy cow is that place beautiful...but a bit of a shock to the system after no people in the Bregalia. We are so stinkin lucky!! The only bad weather day we've had so far has been a travel day to Zermatt.

We're getting spoiled rotten in super luxury hotels - there's a roman bath in this one - sauna, steam, jacuzzi, pool - deluxe!

We're in Chamonix and keith is officially in heaven. This place is the land of rock climbing. We're headed up to a hut tomorrow am for 2 days, then back to Chamonix - then up to another hut. Ooh this is going to be good. We played on the rock today and cruised around the Mer de Glace, in awe of the big views.

Hope all is grand.

Love Julie and Keith

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

See our Hiking Domain on Television


If you watched Sunday’s stage of the Tour de France then you saw the famous bike race enter Switzerland and finish the day at the top of a climb in the alpine village of Verbier. Verbier is an optional stop along our popular Hiker’s Haute Route (extended version).


Today’s stage offers more fantastic views as it ascends from Martigny, Switzerland, over the Col du Grand Saint Bernard before descending into the Aosta Valley of northern Italy. This is grolla country and one of our favorite hidden hiking spots. The tour even descends through a small village called St. Rhemy, an absolutely charming little hamlet that we’ve enjoyed on many occasions. It wasn’t too long ago that I almost got our luggage van stuck between two walls of a narrow alleyway in this pint-sized town. Anyway, the race continues across the Col du Petit Saint Bernard and back into France for a finish in Bourg St. Maurice.

Watch the tour on television if you get a chance. The beginning and middle part of the stage offer a great chance to view the surroundings before the race heats up and the cameras hone in on the cyclists. I saw some great views this morning of the Mont Blanc Massif and of l’Aiguille du Midi, a popular mountain spire that towers over Chamonix, France, the beginning of our Tour du Mont Blanc and Hiker’s Haute Route. I also enjoyed some great views of the Aosta castles during the latter part of the stage. This day of the Tour de France offers a great opportunity to see one of our treasured hiking domains on television. Treat yourself. Tonight’s expanded coverage begins at 8:00 PM eastern on Versus.

Photos: Hiking in front of the mighty Mont Blanc Massif and our cozy home for the night in St. Rhemy, Italy. By Chris Pranskatis

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hallstatt Austria: Worth Its Salt


Our group descended into tiny Hallstatt this afternoon, a storybook village perched on the rocky shore of the Hallstätter See in the Salzkammergut region of upper Austria. Hallstatt is a small town, but what it lacks in size it generously makes up for in character and sensorial stimulation. Lovingly decorated gasthauses and cobbled alleyways make this secluded gem feel more like a fantasy diorama than an actual functioning town. This is the real deal though, and about 1,000 inhabitants call Hallstatt their home. The strategic location of our hotel for the next two nights will offer our guests the best of two worlds, stunning mountain scenery and a fairytale market square on one side, and delicious lakeside views of the glacial fjords on the other.(Look closely. Our hotel sits directly behind the church steeple in the above photo).


A brief history:

Historians believe that Hallstatt gets its name from the old Celtic word "hall" meaning salt. It was, in fact, this rich resource that brought Hallstatt its wealth and attracted some of the first human habitation of the region thousands of years ago. The world’s first salt mine is supposedly located here which, three thousand years ago, earned Hallstatt recognition as the salt mining capital of Europe. The salt trade, and the highly developed culture that flourished because of it, was so important that historians even refer to a particular 1,000-year period in European history as “The Hallstatt Period.”

Hallstatt became a market town around the year 1300, a legal term from the medieval period that granted certain European settlements the right to host markets in order to sell and distribute goods. This was a big deal back in the day, and it contributed to Hallstatt’s continued economic success.

Hallstatt continues to produce salt today, but tourism plays a larger role in the town’s economic vitality. Tourists descend upon tiny Hallstatt to see the famous salt museum and to witness the brine pipeline that, since 1595, continues to transport precious salt a full 40 kilometers from Hallstatt to the town of Ebensee.

Perhaps even more interesting than the subterranean lakes and tunnels of the mines, however, is the ossuary. Hallstatt has always been so pint-sized, and perched so precipitously on a miniature ledge that it long outgrew, that bones in the church cemetery were exhumed every 10 to 12 years to make room for the newly departed. The result is a fascinating chapel of decorated bones with each of the more than 600 skulls named, dated, and decorated in different motifs of rose and ivy. (The church fortunately stopped this practice of exhumation back in 1960).

We’ll enjoy some of the local tourist attractions, but our primary purpose is to hike and discover the Gemütlichkeit that makes this region so wonderful. What, you ask, is Gemütlichkeit? It is something that’s easy to experience in Hallstatt but difficult to explain in words. Perhaps you should join our Heart of Austria tour to find out first hand for yourself. We think you'll agree, Hallstatt is certainly worth its salt.

See you on the trail.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Taste of Austria


The Heart of Austria-Guided
The Heart of Austria-Self Guided

A Taste of Luxury in the Heart of Austria


Our tour participants hiked into this mountain gem two days ago. They spent last evening in a cozy house among the high mountain passes, but tonight they’ve returned to the valley to relax at this four-star estate surrounded by the stunning walls of the Gosau Kamm Mountains.


This is one of our favorite accommodations. It features gourmet dining and a well-deserved taste of luxury in the heart of the Austrian Alps. Guests at this hotel feast on the utterly divine flavors of historic Austria, they toast to the good life in the exclusive wine cellar, and they enjoy every modern amenity during their stay. Local craftsmen tastefully appointed each room with careful attention given to every detail.

Tomorrow the Heart of Austria tour continues to Hallstatt, a majestic waypoint that many have named, “The most beautiful lakeside village in the whole of Europe, if not the world.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Have I Been Here Before?


I love old postcards of the Alps, and this one is particularly appropriate because it captures a glimpse of the region that we’ll call home for the next few days. As I mentioned yesterday, we’re hiking our new Heart of Austria tour, and tonight we rest our feet in the village of Gosau, surrounded by the impressive peaks of the Dachstein.

The country home in this postcard is the Gasthof Gosauschmied, and although we’re not staying here, I know it well. This house is characteristic of the small homes that dot this enchanted countryside. This particular guesthouse celebrated its 310th anniversary in 2005, and the family that runs it is 5th generation. They continue to welcome weary travelers with warm meals and a comfortable place to sleep.

Old images like these stir something exciting my blood, and I feel like they rekindle deep-rooted memories of the past. I like to think that a person can actually remember their ancestral history because it would to help explain the reason that I’m drawn to images like this one, with its dark forests, clear running streams, and lonely mountains looming in the distance.

I can almost smell the hot soup bubbling on the open hearth. I can feel the smooth, well-worn and almost waxy texture of the long wooden dinner table. I can taste the cool mountain spring water and see my shadow dancing across the hand-hewn timbers in the flickering firelight. I can even hear the faint din of laughter and song from the hearty wayfarers that passed this way centuries ago.

I find this region enchanting. Do I have an ancestral memory of this place? I like to think that I do. People settled this region more than 7,000 years ago; maybe my ancestors walked their own paths through this mysterious land.

Check out more images of Gosau and the Dachstein by clicking today’s Twitter link, or visit gosau.org.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Start of Something Spectacular



This twittering thing has been interesting. On the one hand, I love writing concise messages. On the other hand, I feel like I want, and need, to say more.

Take today’s tweet for example. I mentioned that our Heart of Austria tour begins tonight, but what I really wanted to say was, “Yes! We’ve arrived at the doorstep of something truly spectacular.”

This week’s tour begins in the small market village of Bad Goisern. Bad Goisern doesn’t really see a lot of international travelers, other than Germans, which makes it a great, undiscovered stepping stone into the hills and mountains of the Salzkammergut.

The Salzkammergut’s history goes back to Neolithic days, as evidenced by various artifacts discovered throughout the years, but the first written record of Goisern as a settlement dates back to the 14th century. A document from 1325 mentions Bad Goisern as the village of "Gebisharn".

Bad Goisern became an official spa town in 1931, hence the word “Bad” or “bath” in front of the actual name, but today it’s known as a place where people and nature coexist in harmony. To prove this point, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, recognized the region around Bad Goisern for its distinct natural and cultural treasures. In addition, 76 different lakes throughout the region make this ground zero for people that love the mountains and water.

Tonight we’ll enjoy a warm welcome and a delicious dinner. Tomorrow we’ll step into the hills and go looking for a fairy tale.

NB: The guided Heart of Austria tour may have departed already, but there’s still time to organize your own self-guided version. This has been a popular tour this summer and for good reason. Please contact us for more details.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Basel Serves up Van Gogh


If you like Van Gogh, and you’re looking for something to do following your hiking tour, then swing by the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland.

The Kunstmuseum Basel presents a major exhibition of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. The exhibition features a broad cross-section of paintings from every creative period of the famous master, with a thematic focus on landscapes from around the world. Helping to place the master’s work in a broader context, the exhibition also features examples from Van Gogh’s contemporaries Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Cézanne and Gauguin.

This exhibition runs from now until September 27, 2009

Location: Kunstmuseum Basel
Address: St. Alban-Graben 16
For more info: www.vangogh.ch

Let us know if you like to do this. We can help you with accommodations and great places to eat.

Image courtesy of vangogh.ch

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Save Money and Receive a Free Alps DVD!

Don't forget. Book one of our special tours and save $200 per person PLUS receive a complimentary DVD featuring the IMAX movie The Alps. (Limited time only).


This special film follows mountaineer John Harlin III up the North Face of the Eiger as he attempts to honor the memory of his father who died on the same mountain 40 years before. The film beautifully captures one of Europe’s greatest mountain ranges and offers a stunning look at the landscapes that our signature tours explore. Click here to read more about the film, including behind the scenes, photos, and more.

Save money, get your free copy of the film, and see the filming locations in person by registering for one of the following guided tours.

The Eiger Trail
The Jungfrau Ramble
The Hiker’s Haute Route

Please contact us to register or for more details.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What about bugs?


This morning I ran across an old article from Iowa State University concerning bug repellent research. The study concluded that catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET for repelling mosquitoes.

As an avid canoeist and explorer of backwoods waterways, I enjoyed this bit of woodsy info. The subject matter confirmed, however, just one more reason why I love hiking in the Alps. Bugs simply aren’t an issue over there. While it’s true that we might encounter them once in a while around humid areas or at lower elevations, in general, we just don’t have to deal with them.

We’ve had a number of guests ask about bugs on our hiking tours and our response is always the same. Leave the bug dope at home. You just won’t need it.

If you’re one of the consistently over-prepared, tuck a few sprigs of catnip in your hat and watch the alpine cats go crazy.

Cheers!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quick Tip: Dry your trekking poles.

Pull your trekking poles apart and let everything dry following a particularly rainy hike. Performing this simple maintenance will help to prevent the barrel adjustment screw from corroding like the one in this photo.

Once the screw corrodes, the barrel adjuster freezes and your poles neither expand nor collapse. Some newer poles appear immune to this problem, but it never hurts to be on the safe side.

If you don't feel like completely dismantling your poles, at least expand them and give everything a quick wipe down before putting them away. Doing this, even with new poles, also affords the opportunity to visually inspect your sticks to ensure they're in good working order for your next hike.

See you on the trail!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Music is in the Air!



If you happen to start, or finish, one of our hiking tours around Saas Fee, then be sure to check out the International Alpine Music Festival. Attention Hiker's Haute Route and Swiss Haute Route guests; THIS MEANS YOU.

This year’s 12th annual International Alpine Music Festival takes place in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, a mountain-ringed village also known as the “Pearl of the Alps”, from July 9-12, 2009.

The emphasis of this year's festival is "Folk music for, and by, folk musicians".
There will be dancing and entertainment evenings as well as different performances on the village square. The entire village of Saas-Fee becomes a stage, and different Swiss folk music bands will perform outside a number of restaurants from Friday through Sunday.

Do something fun and unique during your trip. Experience storybook Switzerland in a true storybook village.

Please contact us for more details.


Image courtesy of www.saas-fee.ch

Monday, June 15, 2009

Our 25th Year Officially Begins


It's pictures like this one, of the people that we meet along the trail, that remind us of the many reasons that we do what we do.

Ryder Walker guides Ken Fuhrer and Mike Thurk sent me a celebratory message this morning. "Ryder-Walker's 25th anniversary guided hiking season has officially begun in Europe!"

Indeed it has. Our Italian Dolomites Trek departed this morning and marked the first guided hiking trip to depart in Europe this summer.

Please join us as we raise our glass to 25 extraordinary years of adventure both in the U.S. and abroad. We couldn't have done it without our guests, so to everyone that accompanied us throughout the years, we salute you.

Please drop us a note, and tell us about your most memorable moment with Ryder-Walker.

Here's to many more!

Photo by Ken Fuhrer

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Using the iphone to curb Global Warming?

Using the iphone to help protect Europe's vast, melting Glacier System. What an interesting and modern world we live in. Click here to read more.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Gear Review: Petzl TacTikka Plus


I always feel like a secret agent when I don my TacTikka Plus headlamp from Petzl. It’s the red flip filter that separates this LED powered lamp from other conventional torches.

My wife originally gave me this headlamp so that I could hike, camp, and participate in other outdoor activities at night without drawing too much attention to myself. I quickly discovered, however, that the TacTikka Plus offers benefits to our hiking tour guests as well.

If you have any hut stays along your tour that require bunk style accommodation then you’ll love the red “secret agent” filter built into this lamp. We always recommend a head lamp for hut stays, and this one is perfect for fumbling around during the middle of the night without disturbing your sleeping neighbors. Originally designed for hunting, fishing, and sailing, the red filter ensures discreet lighting when you need it most. Just alternate between white or red light simply by moving the pivoting filter over the LEDs . This lamp is super compact and lightweight so it’s also easy to throw into a daypack. Be careful though, it’s so small that you might lose it in an obscure coat pocket.

Some of the features of this lamp include:
  • Four LEDs instead of three: Making it 80% brighter than the old Tikka and offering more even lighting without blank spots in the beam.
  • Compact size: Not much larger than the small batteries that power it; Tactikka weighs a mere 2.75 ounces.
  • 3 brightness settings: Maximum, optimum, economy, and a blinking mode (for conserving battery power or for signaling the user's location).
  • Long light duration: Up to 150 hours
  • Lightweight and comfortable to wear.
  • Water-resistant for all-weather use.
  • Ergonomically designed, comfortable to wear elastic headband.
  • Pivoting light housing: Beam can be aimed where needed.
  • Powered by 3 AAA / LR03 batteries (included)
I’ve had my TacTikka for 5 months now and I’ve tested it while hiking, camping, snowboarding, cycling, and more. I’ve used it in rain, sleet, cold and snow, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Petzl upgraded the switch on this new TacTikka, and I like it much better than the old one. The entire unit also feels tighter and more durable.

The blinking option has been great when I forget my normal bike blights, and the red filter allows me to read until the wee hours of the morning without waking my wife. Interestingly, the red light also feels easier on my eyes. My only concern is that I might accidentally break off the red filter while it’s in the down position, but this hasn't happened yet.

In all, I give the TacTikka Plus two thumbs up, even if for those that aren't aspiring secret agents.

Suggested Retail: $44.95

Monday, June 01, 2009

Another Satisified Guest

(One of our guests recently offered the following recommendation to a prospective customer.)

"Do you have an ELEVEN on your scale, because that is my rating of all of the trips I have done with Peter. He is an extremely knowledgeable individual in all aspects of mountaineering and taking impeccable care of his clients. He, and his incredible team of guides, have a knack for getting us to places that Americans just don’t get to. These adventures have been researched on foot and distilled down from a huge number of choices, so you’re getting the very best in terrain, accommodations, and a great balance between a good, solid day on the trail, and a 5 star experience at the end of the trail.

No, I’m not on the payroll, but I am enthusiastic about Peter and his operation and look forward to many more adventures with him in the future."

Cheers,
John

(John. Thank you from the entire staff at Ryder-Walker! You've been a pleasure to hike to with. We look forward to many more trips with you.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Switzerland Tourism Honors One of Our Own

Switzerland Tourism recently honored Ryder-Walker’s own Chris Pranskatis with the Goldflower Award 2009. The Goldflower recognizes “Chris P.” for his “long lasting and ongoing passion for Switzerland, his outstanding support in promoting tourism to Switzerland, and his extraordinary achievements as a successful tour operator in the North American market.”

Switzerland Tourism awards the Goldflower every two years during their industry trade show, the Switzerland Travel Mart. This year’s travel mart took place in the lakeside city of Lucerne.

Recipients of the award also receive a new Bucherer watch, (for maintaining Swiss punctuality of course), and they enjoy the honor of wearing the coveted goldflower lapel pin. The Goldflower Award is the highest honor that Switzerland Tourism bestows its partners from the North American Market.

Congrats Chris P!

This is just one more reason to hike with Ryder-Walker, a true Switzerland specialist.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I want it all!


I love mountains, but I also love water. Luckily I can have it all in Switzerland!

Photo: Taken last week by Chris P. while heading across the Waldstattersee, (Lake Lucerne).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Making a comeback?

I have an old book titled The Alps, by Otto Siegner. It's filled with wonderful old photos like this one of the Tre Cime di Laveredo, also known as the Drei Zinnen in German, meaning three peaks. These three impressive peaks stand proudly in a much larger mountain range known as the Sexten Dolomites of Northeastern Italy.

These peaks originally formed part of the border between Italy and Austria, but now they lie on the border between the Italian provinces of Bolzano-Bozen and Belluno. Today they form part of the linguistic boundary between the German and Italian speaking regions of this awesome mountain range, the Dolomites.

It just so happens that hikers on our Cortina and Lakes of the Dolomites Adventure get to spend a night in a comfortable alpine hut, (hiking access only), directly beneath these towering peaks. Even better, we're offering a special $300 discount per person for guests that register for this tour before May 25th, 2009. Click here to read more about our Spring Special.

It's too bad that our guests don't dress like this anymore, (although a few have come close). Nickers ARE making a comeback though, and I can only hope that argyle socks aren't too far behind.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Breathless


It was above those cliffs in the distance, many years ago, that one of our guests turned to me and said, "It's not the number of steps in life that matter, but rather the number of steps that leave us breathless."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Incredible Views and Vistas


MSN just listed the region of the Matterhorn and the Alps as one of 10 special places IN THE WORLD to enjoy incredible views and scenic vistas. This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but when listed along side other giants like Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China, it's still pretty cool.

Maybe we should rename our Hiker's Haute Route the Incredible Views and Vistas Adventure.

Photo: By Ken Fuhrer. Taken during lunch on last year's Hiker's Haute Route.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Living the good life.


Grenzlos, one of our house gnomes, likes to travel, and we never really know where he’s going to pop up next. We thought he was in Switzerland, until now.

The Walker family recently returned from a ski trip in Austria and shot this photo while they were there. It appears that Grenzlos is happily spending his time in a region known as the Silvretta, and I can’t say that I blame him. The Silvretta is a very special place.

Peter Walker said this about his recent trip. “We skied from Ischgl, Austria to Davos, Switzerland over the course of ten days. It was sunny throughout with high temperatures in the 60's each day. The slogan for Ischgl, Relax If You Can, barely hints at the number of possibilities in this adventurer’s paradise. The huts are incredible. They have private rooms and showers. One has an indoor climbing wall and also its own private access lift. It also has WiFi and a sauna. Really, it’s pretty deluxe.”

Deluxe indeed.

Please forward a photo if you happen to see Grenzlos during your travels abroad. And please let him know that we could use his help back in the office. He has a knack for slipping away undetected.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swiss Hiking: Not So Free Anymore.

This has been an interesting topic lately.

Click here to read.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't wait too long!


The Red Rock Tour is Sold Out, but we still have a few spaces available on our Italian Dolomites Trek and our Cortina & Lakes of the Dolomites Adventure.

Rooms go fast during this time of year. Don't wait too long!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Where on the Planet?


Our local newspaper, the Telluride Daily Planet, has a special section that they call "Where on the Planet?" The newspaper invites readers to photograph themselves while reading the The Planet in fun places across the globe. During the last few years, we've seen people reading the our newspaper while skydiving in Italy, touring the Taj Mahal, sunbathing in Antarctica, and more.

We have a similar thing going here at Ryder-Walker. Our guests occasionally photograph themselves with Ryder-Walker memorabilia in fun places around the world.



The latest photographs come from Aubrey Whitear, our friend, guest, and unofficial advisor for the Southern Hemisphere.



Aubrey writes, "Thought you guys might like to see a few photos from our recent treks on the Able Tasman and Queen Charlotte tracks in New Zealand.

In Ryder Walker style we felt obliged to rename them the Able Tasman Seaside Stroll and the Queen Charlotte Ridge Ramble. The Able Tasman is a very pleasant coastal walk of about 50 km involving some beach walking, small uphills and estuary crossings."





He adds, "The QC is a bit more serious - 71 km over four days with some decent climbs, around 800 metres in aggregate on the third day. Much of the time on the QC you could believe you were among the Swiss lakes. Anyhow, I'm claiming this as the furthest outpost trekked by a Ryder Walker cap! Now I'm looking forward to August!"

Aubrey claimed New Zealand as the farthest outpost trekked by a Ryder-Walker cap. Can anyone out there lay claim to something further?

Thanks Aubrey! These are great photos. That beach looks really nice following last week's snowstorm.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Global Warming Exposes Ancient Cliff Dwellings

Ryder Walker Guide, Ken Fuhrer, shot this photo during last year's Hiker's Haute Route. Archeologists continue to conduct preliminary investigations of the find, though some experts believe that these structures belonged to the same people that inhabited the southwestern United States many centuries years ago.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Melting snow prompts border change between Switzerland and Italy


Ryder-Walker Guide and Office Guru, Mike Thurk, forwarded me a wonderful photo yesterday. The object in the foreground is called a grolla, and it's an object that's unique to the Val d'Aosta region of northern Italy. The grolla is a drinking cup filled with espresso, grappa and secret Italian love. Friends come together and pass this thing around while drinking from one of the multiple wooden spouts.

You find these "friendship cups" in Courmayeur, but you also find them in the stores around Cervinia, directly opposite of Zermatt, which got me thinking about the recent article below. Will there a be a day when the grolla becomes a popular tradition in Zermatt? What about rösti and weizen bier in Cervinia? Check out the following article to see what I'm talking about. The affected area includes the region around the Matterhorn.

From the Independent:

Global warming is dissolving the Alpine glaciers so rapidly that Italy and Switzerland have decided they must re-draw their national borders to take account of the new realities.

The border has been fixed since 1861, when Italy became a unified state. But for the past century the surface area of the “cryosphere”, the zone of glaciers, permanent snow cover and permafrost, has been shrinking steadily, with dramatic acceleration in the past five years. This is the area over which the national frontier passes and the two countries have now agreed...read more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Get in the mood.


Dim the lights. Set a pot of fondue on the stove. Pour yourself a glass of sparkling fendant, and then click the following link.

I like Männliflueh-Jutz from the Lötschberg region, but Fila-Fila from the Ticino is also nice.

Tschüss!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do you know the difference?

…between a petroglyph and a pictograph? Here’s a hint, one is pecked, ground, incised, abraded, or scratched on the rock surface, and one is painted on the rock surface using mineral pigments and plant dyes.

Therefore, the following photo taken by Ken Fuhrer during last year’s Red Rock tour, is a fine example of a petroglyph.




Researchers estimate that some of the rock art found in this region dates to a few hundred years ago, while other examples go back 5,000 years.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Out There

Out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as a sea and sky surround and sustain a ship.

-Edward Abbey-


Image of adobe cliff dwelling by Chris P.
-In a forgotten corner of the
canyon country.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I would stand in line for this.


The First Flyer, a new zip line in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland, allows four people to simultaneously, yet independently, zip across Swiss alpine meadows at over 50 miles per hour and nearly 150 feet up in the air. Even better, this little contraption offers an adventurous reward for our hikers coming off the Schynige Platte, (Day 1 of the Jungfrau Loop), above Grindelwald. The ride takes about 45 seconds and covers a distance of around one-half mile between the lift stations of First and Schreckfeld. Riders disembark at Shreckfeld and may continue their descent to Grindelwald by foot or public transport.

I would certainly stand in line for this.

For more info visit: http://www.jungfraubahn.ch

Friday, March 06, 2009

Airlines Slash Fares to Fill Seats


The current economic situation can be depressing, but it doesn’t have to be because there’s always a silver lining.

This week’s silver lining appears to be airfare. I recently Twittered about Lufthansa’s early bird specials to Europe. I found round trip tickets from New York to Milan during mid May for $545. Even better, this morning’s news reads, "Airlines Slash Fares to Fill Seats.” One key sentence in the article caught my eye; “Some round-trip tickets between New York City and Amsterdam, Madrid or Frankfurt have fallen below $400 on Continental Airlines. “

This is good news for travelers, but I’m always skeptical of these promotions, so I did a bit of searching myself. To my delight, I found round-trip tickets from New York to Milan between May 15 and May 30 starting at $413. Once again, if you can steal way for our self-guided Italian Lakes District Tour, then this is the time to do it.

What if Europe is still out of your budget? Well, I searched for round-trip airline tickets to our Red Rock Country hiking tour running May 4-12, and I found that a person from New York could join us for just $293 in airfare. Likewise, a person could escape the rain and grey of Seattle, WA and join us in the sun-soaked Desert Southwest for a mere $246.

Imagine ditching the snowboots for sandals and joining us for white water rafting, hiking, and exploration in the American Southwest. How about relaxing on sun-drenched patios, and then sipping wine while admiring the sunset on a warm spring night? Just because the economy is down doesn’t mean that our spirits have to be. If you’ve been fortunate enough to squirrel something away for a vacation, then this might be the perfect year travel. We can always find a silver lining.

Photo by Ken Fuhrer-Red Rock Country 2008

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Basel's Hidden Gem



If you follow our updates on Twitter then you might have seen yesterday’s tweet concerning Basel’s Fasnacht celebration. This ancient three-day masked carnival takes place in Basel, Switzerland, on the Monday following Mardi Gras. It’s a unique celebration for many reasons including the fact that Basel isn’t typically recognized for letting it all hang out. In fact, the normal stereotype among many Swiss people that I’ve met is that people from Basel represent a very reserved and serious crowd. Likewise, some tourist itineraries don’t even mention Basel for much of anything except pharmaceutical manufacturing and commerce.

While it’s true that Basel’s architecture might not compare with a UNESCO World Heritage Site such as Bern, nor would its industrialized Rhine River appear as charming as the bubbling streams that tumble down from the high Alps, Basel does possess a few hidden gems for the traveler willing to seek them out. These treasures include great museums, a fine art collection, and some delicious food.

One of my favorite stops for eating is the GASTHOF Zum Goldenen STERNEN, a delightful little restaurant situated in a quiet, medieval corner of Basel called St. Alban. Saint Alban served as the heart of printing and paper manufacture during the fifteenth century, and a huge water powered press still makes paper today the way it did almost 600 years ago.

The GASTHOF Zum Goldenen STERNEN represents Basel’s oldest surviving inn and began serving food and drink to weary travelers back in 1412. While the restaurant predates the birth of Christopher Columbus, its menu offers inspired contemporary cuisine. They feature traditional items and Mediterranean dishes, but their strong point, in my opinion, is their commitment to cooking seasonally and as locally as possible. The number of local fruits, vegetables, and meats on offer impressed me during a recent visit. I’ll admit, that I didn’t eat entirely locally; I had the rack of Valasian lamb with rosemary sauce on a bed of green lentils, potato gratin and seasonal vegetables, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the pumpkin soup. The valrhona chocolate mousse, perfumed with tonka bean and garnished with compote of citrus fruit, also offered a nice finish to the meal.

The restaurant also offers a number of desirable seating arrangements. I recommend the terrace overlooking the river on a sunny day, but the guild rooms offer a nice place to settle in during a rainy afternoon.

For added pleasure, take a walk through historic St. Alban following lunch or dinner, and then grab a ride across the river on the Wilde Maa cable ferry. This ferry services St. Alban, and it’s one of the many non-motorized ferries that continue to carry passengers across the river the way they did centuries ago.

A number of our guests pass through Basel on their way into France and Germany because the city’s position on the border with both countries offers a convenient staging point. Travelers can hop the TGV to Paris, or jump into the Black Forest of Germany, home of the infamous cuckoo clock. For those with enough time to eat in Basel, the GASTHOF Zum Goldenen STERNEN offers a great place to grab a good meal.

Their website:
www.sternen-basel.ch

Bottom photo: A typical alley way in Basel, Switzerland-Chris P.