Monday, April 25, 2011

Art: Celebrating Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula


Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula comes alive with these pieces by June McIntyre.

Inspired by the rolling hills and sparkling seas that grace this rugged corner of western Ireland, McIntyre’s work transports the viewer into a colorful world of lively pubs, tranquil harbors and cozy stone cottages.

It’s no surprise that Ryder-Walker founder, Peter Walker, gravitated toward McIntyre’s work upon his return from our new self-guided Dingle Way.

“I wanted some souvenirs of the trip for the office, so I looked into local art from the region. I landed at dingleartworks.com and got three prints - one of the Slea Head Road, one of the Dingle mainstreet and one of Dick Mack's pub,” said Walker.




Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle Peninsula beguiles. Atlantic surf crashes upon rocky shores. Ancient castles dot the lanscape, and lone fishermen still head out to sea. This is a place where working the land still matters, and farmers tend their sheep on windswept hills.

While English is spoken in this part of Ireland, Gaelic (Irish) is still the predominate language. You'll see it on the street signs, you'll hear it in the pubs and you'll see it at small-town pre schools that advertise, "All Gaelic."

The Irish government calls the Dingle Peninsula a Gaeltacht, a federally protected region of Ireland that maintains traditional Irish ways. They could have easily dispensed with the designation and simply planted a sign that reads, “The Real Deal.”




Dick Mack's Pub

Dick Mack died a few years ago, but this cozy pub in the tiny harbor town of Dingle, (days 4 and 5 on our itinerary), still bears his name.

From the outside, Dick Mack’s looks more like a peddler’s shop than a pub. Antique lamps adorn the front windows while old bottles and bootstraps invite shoppers to “Make Offer.”

Step through the weathered doors, however, and you’re likely to find spirited locals, with pints of Guiness in hand, enjoying live music laid down by traditional fiddle and bodhran players.

There’s a reason why celebrities Robert Mitchum, Timothy Dalton, Julia Robers and Paul Simon made the effort to visit this unpretentious outfitter on the windswept coast of western Ireland. This tiny haberdashy cum watering hole is the perfect place to grab a pint and experience authentic Irish culture.

Be forwarned: Don’t plan on going to bed early when you visit Dingle. You’ll quickly discover why we stay for two nights during our 11 night/12-day itinerary.





Dingle Town

The buildings in Dingle are as colorful as the characters that occupy them. They offer a vibrant contrast to the greens and blues of the neighboring hills and sea.




Slea Head Road

Jutting from Ireland’s remote southwestern corner, the Dingle Peninsula is Europe’s closest point to North America. The Slea Head Road follows the winding shoreline of this rocky frontier.



History

Rugged and isolated, the Dingle Peninsula offered refuge for a group of monks that fled the dark ages of Medieval Europe. They built stone huts like this one, weathering the cold, damp nights and preserving literacy that was all but extinguished from mainland Europe. Today, the Dingle Peninsula resembles an open-air museum, replete with artifacts and architecture dating back to the Bronze Age. In this photo: The Gallarus Oratory. Archeologists believe the oratory served as a 6th-9th century church. There is an old legend that if a person climbs out of the oratory window, their soul will be cleansed.

If you're an Irish fan and you like art, then please visit June's online gallery for more images. Better yet, join our self-guided Dingle Way and stop at her gallery in person. She's on Green Street in downtown Dingle.

Images used with permission by Dingle Artworks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stunning Mont Blanc


Click image to enlarge.


The Grand Balcon Sud hiking trail traverses the north side of the Chamonix valley, France. With views like this one, it's no wonder why the trail is so popular. If we had to pick just one hike delivering awesome views of Mont Blanc, the Grand Balcon Sud would be it.

Tip: Hike from the Grand Balcon Sud to a place called Lac Blanc. Spread out your picnic lunch, and pull out your wide angle lens. Enjoy the memories of a lifetime.

Ryder-Walker Guide, Ken Fuhrer, shot this photo on the last day of the Tour du Mont Blanc. He enjoyed these views again on day one of the Hiker's Haute Route.

Such is the life of a guide.

Image: On left; l'Aiguille du Midi (3842 m). Right; Mont Blanc (4810 m).

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Snapshot of the Legendary Eiger


Our Eiger Trail begins in the famed resort village of Gstaad and finishes in the chalet-studded hamlet of Grindelwald, Switzerland. The primary advantage of this west-to-east itinerary is that hikers walk toward, rather than away from, the most stunning peaks of the region. In short, the famed Jungfrau region of Switzerland grows larger as each day unfolds.

In this picture, Kristen wanders the high alpine trails above Mürren, Switzerland. This hike begins on the doorstep of our tranquil mountain house in Griesalp (1440 m), climbs over the Sefinenfurgge (2612 m), then descends via the Rotstockhütte (2030 m). A long descent to Mürren (1650 m) offers views like this one, with the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks dominating the skyline.

Looking from left to right: The first pointed peak is the Eiger. Notice the dramatic north face (Eigernordwand) dropping precipitously on the left hand side of the peak. The ridge at the bottom of the face is called the Kliene Scheidegg.

The high, glacier-covered ridge connecting the Eiger and the Mönch (next peak to the right), is called the Jungfraujoch. The Jungfraujoch rail station sits up there and, at 3454 meters (11,322 ft), is the highest rail station in Europe.

Kliene Scheidegg is the last staging point for trains en route to the Jungfraujoch. Upon leaving Kleine Scheidegg, the trains ascend, via tunnels, the inside of the Eiger.

Tours that explore this region:

Monday, April 04, 2011

Village Based Slovenia



You asked and we delivered. Our new 7 day Going Easy Slovenia tour includes everything wonderful about our regular 8 day Slovenia Triglav Circuit but offers shorter hikes and less challenging terrain.

This self-guided hike is perfect for travelers that prefer…

*Three to four hour hikes on gentle to moderate terrain.

*More time for sightseeing, exploring villages, enjoying hotel comforts and more.

Click here for an overview of the Going Easy Slovenia Triglav Circuit. For more Going Easy hiking tours click here.



Friday, April 01, 2011

Forget the Beach. Join the Gnome Census.



Sunbathing in Costa Rica? Rafting the Grand Canyon? Lounging in Moab? For Telluride, CO resident, Ken Fuhrer, the off-season choice was simple; counting gnomes for the first annual Gnome Census in Switzerland.

The Gnome Census, a collaborative effort between the Swiss Federal Statistics Office and Telluride-based Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures, aims to get a handle on a demographic that appears to have changed dramatically in recent years.

“We suspect that the gnome population is changing,” said Statistics Office Spokesman, Jürg Schnapps. “If they are changing, we’d like to know why.”

One noticeable trend is that gnomes seem to be more urbanized. “Gnomes used to be a predominately mountain dwelling population,” said Schnapps. “Now we find them in almost every large city, from Zurich to Paris “

The Swiss government would like to know exactly how many gnomes they have, not only in Zurich, but also throughout the entire country.

“We’re going door-to-door like we used to do in the old days,” said Schnapps. “This time we’re counting gnomes. We’ll inspect every garden, every flower pot and every fondue party from Geneva to Zermatt.”

Schnapps admits that counting every gnome in Switzerland is a monumental task, and one that requires extra help. That’s how Ken Fuhrer got involved.

“I wanted to do something besides drink beers in Costa Rica,” said Fuhrer. “I wanted to do something meaningful.”

Life took on new meaning for the gnomes when films like Amélie and, most recently, Gnomeo & Juliet objectified an otherwise private and somewhat elusive race. Ken Fuhrer wonders what the long term implications will be for the gnome population as a whole.

“It seems like the film industry has given gnomes the traveling bug,” said Fuhrer. “Gnomes are a big part of Switzerland’s culture and tourism, but what happens if they start emigrating? There might be a day when we find more gnomes in Shanghai than St. Moritz, and that’s just wrong,” he added.

Fuhrer plans to leave for Switzerland when Telluride’s ski resort closes. He’ll be working with Colorado-based hiking tour operator, Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures.

“Ryder-Walker needed volunteers, so I signed on,” said Fuhrer. “We’ll be hiking remote Swiss trails with hand counters. Our job is to count every gnome we see in Switzerland.”

The Swiss Federal Statistics Office solicited Ryder-Walker because of their extensive experience in Switzerland. “These guys have been leading hikes in the Swiss Alps for nearly 30 years, “ said Schnapps. “What’s more, they bring a lot of people to out-of-the way places that locals don’t even know about. It should be easy for them to count gnomes.”