Friday, March 26, 2010

Cork Grips or Rubber?


...on my trekking poles.

Cork, naturally. Although they're a bit more expensive, they feel soooooo nice. Cork grips tend to be drier than plastic and rubber; they feel warm in cool weather and cool when it's hot. They don't get slippery either. Yum.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Südtirol Splendor: Images From Our Guides


If you follow us on facebook then you enjoyed a recent photo post titled, "Where do the Guides Go?" The photo offers a behind-the-scenes look at our guides' extracurricular activities between hiking tours. (The activities that we can talk about anyway.) Just for fun, we offered a free Alps DVD to the first person to correctly identify the photo. Sadly, no one could do it. (We must confess, it's a pretty tough image to identify).

The location of the photo is the Ortler peak (3905 m) in the Südtirol region of northern Italy. Ryder-Walker Guides, Daniel Sundqvist and Ken Fuhrer, shot the photo while exploring a climbing route called the Hintergrat, a fairly exposed ridge that ascends the mountain from the east.

You might ask yourself, "If this is northern Italy, then what's the deal with the German words?" The answer is that the Ortler, and the surrounding Südtirol, belonged to the Austrian Empire before World War I. The border shifted when Italy annexed the region in 1919, a quite remarkable feat considering that Austria controlled the region for more than 500 years. Today, you'll find translations in both German and Italian. The Italian name for the Ortler is Ortles.

Daniel and Ken also shot the above photo during the same climb. For those of you that have ever wondered about hiking in this splendid region lying north and northwest of Merano, Italy; here's a great look. These are the Central Eastern Alps, also known as the Southern Limestone Alps, and this is the domain of the Ötzi Trek.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Rotstockütte


The Rotstockhütte occupies a strategic vantage point on the trail between Murren and the Sefinenfurgge. The Monch and Jungfrau peaks tower in the background, and wildflowers grow in profusion on warm summer days.

Fashioned from stone, and smelling of woodsmoke and sun-dried timbers, the Rotstockhütte welcomes travelers with hot local dishes, cool refreshments, and lots of mountain history. Topo maps, labeled in German and French, adorn the walls and tables. Weathered photos offer a testament to the region's rugged culture. The sounds of laughter and conviviality roll onto the surrounding mountainside. This is also a working farm, so travelers get a first hand look at a centuries-old tradition of high mountain grazing.

Tours that explore this area include:
Jungfrau Trail
Eiger Trail
Self Guided Berner Oberland Trek and Traverse

Photo by Ken Fuhrer

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sold Out: Eiger Trail and Engadine Summit Series

But we still have room on their regional counterparts:

The Jungfrau Trail
August 1-7, 2010

The new North Face movie has mountain lovers drooling over the Eiger, and our Jungfrau Trail offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this legendary mountain up close. It's no wonder that so many film producers choose this region for making movies. It's absolutely stunning. (Note: We will not actually climb the Eiger, nor will we hike in retro muted tones).


The Engadine Trek
August 10-17, 2010

We've offered this hiking tour for nearly three decades, and it continues to delight travelers from around the world. This is Le Grand Cru of Swiss hiking tours.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crowning Masterworks



Some of you might remember that we have has a sister company called Alpenglow Ski Safaris. Alpenglow's mission is simple; To weave village-to-village ski tours into crowning masterworks of endless powder, dreamy European villages and enormous, skiable terrain.

One of our guests was so thrilled with his recent Glacier Express Tour that he shared a bit of love. Check out the video. (It'll have you drooling). Feel more love here.

Alpenglow's next trip, Paradiski-The Isere Valley, runs April 10-18, 2010.

Incidentally, Vagabond Ranch (the kudos link) is a delectable retreat that focuses on meditation and mindfulness in everyday living. They're located just outside of Granby, Colorado, next to the Never Summer Wilderness and the Arapahoe National Forest. For you meditation gurus out there, the Great Stupa lies just up the road from their place. I've been there on a couple of occasions. It's cool. Check out the ranch: http://www.vagabondranch.org/

Thanks for the praise Josh! This is great stuff.
(We'll send the check next week). ;-)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

GPS: Your Own Atomic Clock

Hiking Tip: Consult your GPS when you need the time.

Need to update your watch? Cellphone ran out of juice? Don’t worry. If you carry a GPS then you’ve got an atomic clock in the palm of your hand. Check it out:

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) offer a great way to record distances, elevation, and memorable waypoints along the trail. Our guides use them, and we find that more and more of our guests use them every year.

GPS works by collecting signals from orbiting satellites and then triangulating a position based on those signals. The signals contain various pieces of information including satellite ID, satellite health, and satellite orbital information. The most notable piece of transmitted information, however, is the time.

Each satellite has its own atomic clock and it broadcasts the time from this clock to the GPS receiver out on the trail. The receiver compares the time that the signal was transmitted, with the time that it was received, and uses the difference to calculate its distance from the satellite. In short, it’s the time it takes the signal from the satellite to reach our reciever that allows us to determine our position here on earth. Add the distances from a few more satellites, and voila, we’ve established a triangulation.

All of this leads to a point: (Pun intended). If you need a source for accurate time, then fire up your GPS. You’ve got access to an atomic clock in the palm of your hand.

Note: The clock reading software in a modern GPS is not as accurate as the atomic clock in a satellite. (Though it’s extremely accurate for every day use-to within seconds and parts of a second). Clock accuracy varies by model.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Fine Lunch Spot


...on our Italian Dolomites Trek.

Built in 1903, and restored after WWI by the C.A.I. (Italian Alpine Club), the Rifugio Vicenza invites hikers to warm the bones and refresh the palate. The sunny patio and warm hearth offer strength to intrepid hikers marching ever-upward through a collection of jagged peaks and splintered spires called the Sassolungo group. The Sassolungo group, also known as the Langkofel, is one of the most striking collection of peaks in all of the Italian Dolomites. Notable peaks in this group include the Sassopiatto and the Sassolungo.

We enjoy the dramatic views from this mountain hut which extend up to the peaks and outward across the Alp di Siusi, Europe's largest alpine meadow. The espresso isn't bad either.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Q&A: What’s the deal with the swirling eye?


Question: While traveling in Switzerland, I often see a symbol on trains and buses that looks like a swirling eye. What does it mean?

Answer: The swirling eye is a pictogram that appears on many regional trains and buses throughout Switzerland. It signifies that there are no conductors on board to check tickets, so you’re on your honor to hold a valid pass or to buy a ticket before climbing aboard. Additionally, although there are no conductors on board collecting tickets, roaming inspectors may board at any time to check fares. The fines for getting caught without a valid ticket can be quite steep.

Swiss Pass holders can simply climb aboard and enjoy the ride, but non pass-holders and pass holders traveling outside of their designated travel days, must purchase a ticket in advance.

Fortunately, most stations provide automated ticket machines, so buying a fare is extremely easy to do. For short distances, the cost is usually negligible, especially when used in conjunction with a Swiss Card or Half-Fare card.

Tip: Purchasing short distance tickets at a reduced rate, (Swiss Card, Half Fare Card), can often prove more economical than using up precious travel days on the more comprehensive passes. Click here for more info regarding Swiss passes.