Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Parting Shot



No matter how old you are, we hope that somebody grabs your hand and whisks you away to a new and exciting adventure. Here's to nurturing our next generation of hikers.

Happy New Year!
-from all of us at Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures.

Photo: by Staffan Björklund

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Switzerland Photos | Dreaming of Soglio



I'm dreaming of an ancient village this morning, one with cobblestone alleyways, peaceful meadows and Italian coffee warming over a wood fire. Welcome to Soglio, Switzerland! Perched on a hillside, and just a stone's throw from Italy, Soglio is the last stop on our Engadine Trek and Engadine Summit Series hiking tours.

Photo by Ken Fuhrer

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

FITS Hiking Socks | First Impressions





FITS™socks have been all the rage lately, so we were excited when Santa dropped a few pairs at the Ryder-Walker office.

Our first impressions: These socks really do FIT! They’re super comfy, and they feel a little beefier than other brands in the toebox and heel area. (Sort of a cozy-blanket-for-your-toes kind of feeling.) They’re also made in the U.S.A. from high quality Merino wool. A few of our friends have these socks and they claim that they don’t wear out as fast as other popular brands. Let the testing begin!

We also like the story behind the company.

Knitting socks in Niota, TN since 1902, Crescent Sock Co. endured the ups and downs that shaped the character of America’s people and her textiles industry. Today, the company produces socks under its own FITS™name in the oldest operating hosiery mill in the U.S. 

Not bad.

As a family-owned business ourselves (operating for 30 years), we applaud the Crescent Sock Company’s 110 years of success.

FITS manufactures socks for hiking, skiing, running, cycling, and just loafing around. Check out their website for more info. Better yet, grab a pair or two for yourself and test them on one of our hiking tours. They just might FIT you too!

Fine print: We HAVE NOT been compensated in anyway, (socks, money or otherwise), to endorse this brand. If we're not telling the truth, then let zombie gnomes eat us in our sleep. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mountain Photos | Aiguille du Chardonnet and Aiguille Verte



If you subscribe to our e-newsletter, then you found this image delivered to your inbox yesterday.

Ken Fuhrer shot this photo during last summer’s Hiker’s Haute Route. The mountain on the left is called l’Aiguille du Chardonnet (3824 meters). The peak on the right is called l’Aiguille Verte (4122 meters). You can’t see it in the photo, but the Glacier d’Argentière forms a snaking river of ice between both mountains. There is also another glacier, the Glacier du Tour, which lies just in front of the Aiguille du Chardonnet.

Aiguille literally means “needle," in French. Judging by this photo, aiguille is an appropriate label for both peaks. Interestingly, myriad “aiguilles” surround the Chamonix valley. On the flanks of Chardonnet, for example, stand a handful of spires with names like Aiguille du Passon, Aiguille Adams Reilly and Aiguille Forbes. The Aiguille Verte also presents its own collection of needles. From well-known peaks like l’Aiguille du Midi and les Aiguilles Rouges, to the more obscure like l'Aiguille du Génépi and l'Aiguille du Pissoir (urinal needle), the names are a testament to the interesting history and rugged mountain scenery of the Mont Blanc massif.

Note: This is the perspective from Argentière, France. You can also get this view while hiking our Tour du Mont Blanc.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Photo of the Day: Our Front Door



We found this sign on the door of our office building today.
Either some big shot skiers are in town, or we just missed a tour bus filled with supermodels.
Let your imagination run wild.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Ramsau—Our new hiking tour in Germany and a painting by Thomas Fearnley




Now here’s a nice painting.

The work is called Ramsau, and it’s an oil on paper, painted en plein air and laid on canvas by Norwegian artist, Thomas Fearnley (1802-1842). 

Ramsau holds a lot of meaning for us because it’s a picturesque stop on our new Alpino Wunderbar hiking tour. Located in the Berchtesgaden National Park, just outside of Berchtesgaden, Germany, Ramsau is a quintessential southern Bavarian village.

This particular sketch is dated 1832, but like so many fairytale villages in the Alps, the Ramsau of today looks virtually identical to the tranquil hamlet that Fearnley painted 180 years ago. While, admittedly, the simple dirt track is now a modern road, tradition lives on in Ramsau. Women still rake hay in traditional dress, cows gather on the hillside and thin wisps of woodsmoke promise home cooked Bavarian meals and a warm bed. 

The Gasthof Oberwirt, the prominent building in the foreground, is a Bavarian inn that has been welcoming travelers for 500 years. The church in the background, with its onion-domed steeple that is characteristic of the region, is called Pfarrkirche St. Sebastian, (literally translated—parochial church St. Sebastian). The church was built in 1512. 

The mountain in the background is called the Hoher Göll (2,522 meters). With an elevation of just over 8,000 feet, the Hoher Göll is not a particularly tall mountain by Alps standards, but it is significant because it straddles the border between the German state of Bavaria and the Austrian city of Salzburg. The Hoher Göll is also a pleasure to admire and photograph, as evidenced by Fearnley’s work. 

Did Thomas Fearnley stay at the Gasthof Oberwirt during his sejour in Ramsau? We don’t know. What we do know is that Thomas Fearnley and his traveling companions, Wilhelm Bendz and Joseph Petzl, spent one week in the village during their 700-kilometer (435 mile) walk to Italy. (Climbers—Note Joseph’s last name!) According to diary entries by Bendz, the date of this painting, September 20th, 1832, was the last day the trio stayed in the village before continuing their hike across the Alps and into Italy.

If you’d like more info on Thomas Fearnley, or the history of this work, then head over to My Daily Art Display. The site's author, Jonathan, wrote a nice piece about Fearnley and Ramsau, so we won’t replicate the story here. Just give Jonathan a visit, and then check out our new Alpino Wunderbar hiking tour. We spend three days hiking in the vicinity of Ramsau and Berchtesgaden, Germany before moving across the border to Kitzbühel, Austria. We finish our week-long, transalpine hiking tour in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, famous for its stunning location in the heart of the Italian Dolomites. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Hiking Switzerland (and loving it) at Age 75.




Betsy Bell follows a simple mantra in life, "Use it or lose it!"

Betsy recently completed our 8-day self-guided Engadine Trek and she wrote about it on her blog, Grandma Betsy Bell. Of the four group members on Betsy’s hike, three were 75 years old, and the fourth was a youthful 83!

Originally fueled by the resolve to beat cancer at age 34, Betsy has devoted her life to, as she puts it, “shaping her present and future health.” Her blog offers “free weekly tips to be well and keep moving,” and it’s interesting to read her take on hiking through the Swiss Alps at age 75. Betsy’s trip wasn’t entirely without mishaps, but her preparedness and a passion for healthy living kept her on course.

Check out her blog when you get a chance, and let it be a reminder for all of us. We really do shape our present and future health (young and old).

Hiking the Engadine: Avoid Arthritis Pain
Heart attack? Climbing High
One More Injury Hiking the Engadine

photo courtesy of grandmabetstybell.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!



It's winter again in Telluride, CO! (our hometown). It's also donation day at the Telluride Ski Resort. Lift tickets are $25, and all proceeds benefit the financial assistance program of the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club.

Whether you're on the slopes, or just sitting at home—we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy your friends and family, then get outside and do something fun! (especially if it's for a good cause). 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Photo(s) Of The Day: Hiking Slovenia's Wild Side




Slovenia is a country with many faces. She has sun-drenched beaches along the Adriatic. Her interior beckons with castles, waterfalls and alluring villages. Her countryside warms the heart with gnome-filled forests, friendly inn keepers and rolling meadows. But Slovenia also has a wild side—she has a rugged side, with protected wilderness areas, vertiginous cliffs, and lots of mountains.

In the above photo, our Triglav Circuit hiking group follows an airy trail along the flanks of Triglav (2,864 meters), the highest mountain in Slovenia. The trail is an old World War I road that connects the village of Trenta with our home for the night, the Zasavska Koca na Prehodavcih, a dramatically situated hut with incredible views.



The Triglav summit stands less than a mile from the Zasavska hut, as the crow flies, but to climb the summit requires another five hours of hiking along the easiest route. Our group won't head to the summit on this day. Rather, they'll continue to the Dom na Komni hut, another dramatically perched refuge in the heart of Triglav National Park.

Photos by Willi Glanznig.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Bhutan in the News


It seems like there’s been a lot of Bhutan media buzz lately.

Check out this article by National Geographic. --And these inspiring photos of Bhutan

The Snowman Trek is a nice hike, but even the writers admit that it’s “quite simply the most difficult long walk on the planet.” They add, “Barely half of the people who start the Snowman end up finishing.” 

We offer a more manageable 13-day trek to the base of Jomolhari (24,035 feet). From the huge summits that form the border of Bhutan and Tibet, to the traditional Himalayan settlements that adorn the mountainsides and valleys down low, our Bhutan Chomolhari Trek delivers you to the awe-inspiring destinations of Bhutan without killing you in the process. 

Drop us a note if you’re interested in hiking through Bhutan. We’d love to help you plan a trip. 



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trekking the Tian Shan Mountains, Kazakhstan





Ryder-Walker’s secret agent girl, Barbara ‘Babsi’ Glanznig, spent three days trekking the Tian Shan mountain range in Kazakhstan. Tian Shan literally means “Celestial Mountains” in Chinese, and after hearing about Babsi’s experience, the region sounds incredibly “heavenly.”

Babsi offered to share her trip with our readers. Enjoy!


Trekking the Tian Shan Mountains, Kazakhstan

Day 1
At 8 am Asya and Den, our guides from the Kazakh Trekking Club, picked us up at our hotel in Almaty and off we drove to the entrance of the Ile-Alatau-National Park (1.600 m), about 30 minutes from the city centre. I had arranged the trek with Asya before hand and she prepared everything for us. She supplied us with sleeping bags, mats, tents and food for the next three days. Asya and her husband own the trekking company and both are great mountaineers, organising tours all over the world. I was surprised by how professional and incredibly helpful Asya was throughout the booking process!


So, off we went! With our backpacks stuffed to the absolute maximum, we started hiking in the snow towards Butakova Pass (2.800 m). I had no idea what to expect. As soon as the road ended, there was absolutely NOTHING but wilderness. We had to carry all of our supplies including food for the whole trek. The only thing we did not have to bring was water, as we could refill our bottles along the way. I was a bit afraid at first, but the water was of incredible quality. There is no major city and no animals around that could potentially pollute it. We were able to drink the freshest water, coming straight from the mountains! 


The hike was rather tiring, we had to carry quite a bit and the snow made the trail very slippery. Fortunately the weather was perfect - clear blue skies and sunshine - and therefore nice and warm. By lunchtime, we reached the Butakova Pass and Den immediately started preparing lunch. He pulled out his cookers, and we had hot tea, dried fruits, crackers and fresh fruit. On the top, we were able to see the beautiful surrounding mountains, most of them around 4.000 meters and above, glaciers and big granite walls. Den mentioned that the area is well known for ice and rock climbing and mainly Russians come here. 


We slowly started our descent into the Left Talgar Valley, where we made camp at around 1.800 metres. After pitching tents, we collected firewood and Den made a yummy supper. The day ended with us sharing stories and laughing around the campfire, listening to the sounds of the Talgar River close by.


Day 2
This day was an easy one. We moved our camp further up the valley, hiked to the end of the valley where we had another wonderful lunch, watching the sun disappear behind the high peaks. Unfortunately, bad weather was moving in faster than expected and we were a bit anxious about hiking over the pass on the following day. We decided to leave early, trying to avoid hiking in the snowstorm. Again, we enjoyed our campfire after another 6-hour hike, but went to "bed" rather early. This night was much colder, and we snuggled up in our down sleeping bags, trying to stay warm.


Day 3
After a quick, hot brekkie, we packed our bags and started to make our way back into civilization. The temperature dropped significantly during the night and when Den took off, quiet as usual, we stuck to his heels, making our way up a super steep trail. First we hiked to Small Talgarsky Pass at 2.700 metres above sea level. There we had a lunch break and then Den led us to Talgarsky Pass at approximately 3.100 metres. The pass is also the highest point of Almaty's ski resort, from where we hiked down to the bottom of the ski lift where Asya was already waiting with the car to drive us back to the hotel. 


All in all, I was truly blown away by the mountains of the Tian Shan! Everything seems so untouched, unexplored and pure, definitely something you don't experience a lot in Europe. The Kazakh people are very friendly, quiet and humble and even though it is sometimes hard to communicate, they are always extremely helpful. Our guide spoke broken English, but when it came to talking about mountains, hiking and climbing, we definitely spoke the same language. I realized pretty quickly that he was a true mountaineer, loving the quietness of the mountains.


It was another slightly surreal but wonderful experience, and I hope to return and join Den on another hike through the wilderness of southern Kazakhstan.

Images: T-B; The Left Talgar Valley; Babsi Glaznig; On top of Butakova Pass (2.800 meters); Descent into Left Talgar Valley; Campfire; View of the Glacier from Small Talgarsky Pass; Den on top of Small Talgarsky Pass; Tea time after the trek.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Photo of the Day: Hiking from Silverton to Rico, Colorado


The guests on our Telluride Trek enjoyed a little surprise yesterday. Snow! 

Mike Thurk shot this image while transporting the tour luggage between Silverton and Rico, Colorado. This is the view from the top of Ophir Pass looking down toward the old mining town of Ophir. 

Fall is a beautiful time of year in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. When the clouds clear, (and they always do), the vivid contrast between golden Aspen leaves and sparking, snow-covered peaks is almost more than a person can stand. 


Here the group pauses for a shot in front of Herk's Cafe in "downtown" Rico, Colorado. Herk's is an eclectic little place to grab some post-hike grub. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Photo Of The Day: Swiss Hat Rack


You won't find this at Home Depot.

Image: Engadine Trek, Switzerland
By Mike Thurk

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Tour Photos: Santa's Matterhorn Trek




Daniel Sundqvist sent us this photo from the Matterhorn Trek. Daniel writes, "This is how you get going on the last day of the Matterhorn Trek! It looks like Santa's sled."

Indeed. I can almost imagine the reindeer guiding our intrepid hikers to the top of the Alps. If only....

Prost!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tour Photos: Engadine Trek (II) 2012



Mike Thurk shot these photos during our second Engadine Trek of the summer. This handsome group hiked the eastern Swiss Alps during mid August.


Ryder-Walker guest "Jim" (pictured right) demands that the group stop for a beer. We hope they stopped because Jim clearly had his trip leader, Staffan Bjorklund, by the throat in this photo. Note* Threatening your tour leader is not a suggested use of trekking poles. For a beer, however, we understand.


That's the Sciora mountain range in the background. Can I get a witness?


Mountain Kung Fu.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Photo of the Day: Good Inspiration



Here is a picture of Tim Wood and I on our last day of the Via Alpina 3. This is the view from the finish of our 5 day hike from Gstaad to Montreux, Switzerland.

Here, we're standing on top of the Rochers de Naye (2,042 m), a rugged mountain on the west side of the Swiss Alps. We started early in the morning after I put out the challenge to Tim. A full day of hiking, around 18-20 km with about 2000 vertical meters uphill! (That's about 6500 feet of climbing!) It took us 6.45-7h, which was awesome. Tim is a good inspiration, 64 years old and really strong. He is also the only one who's done all stages of the Via Alpina series in Switzerland. 

-Staffan =) 

From the rest of the RW Staff: Way to go Tim! Congrats. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Photo of the Day: Bonfires and Ballyhoo



Mike Thurk shot this photo during the Swiss National Day celebration on August 1st. Here, a bonfire rages above the Swiss village of Adelboden in a high alpine pasture called Engstligenalp.

Mike and his group of Via Alpina II hikers needed only to walk out the door of their mountain guest house to participate in this annual celebration. Mike said there was plenty of beer, brats, and revelry to go around. A fantastic fireworks display and a post-firework thunderstorm added a stunning finale to an already-perfect hiking day.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Photo of the Day: Summiting the Klein Augstkummenhorn




Do you see that mountain with the arrow? That’s the Klein Augstkummenhorn in Switzerland. Ryder-Walker trip leaders Staffan Bjorklund and Daniel Sundqvist summited the KA during their free time between hiking tours.

According to Staffan:

After three days of very “interesting” weather, we finally managed to summit the Klein Augstkummenhorn. We’d been weathered out of two attempts during the previous days. Thunder and lightning don’t exactly go hand in hand with climbing, so we drank liters of tea in the warm and cozy Wiwanni Hütte and enjoyed some nice social games. Once on top, we had a great view over the entire Rhone Valley and some 4000 meter peaks including the Weisshorn (4506 m), Zinalrothorn (4221 m) and the Dent Blanche (4356 m). The most striking, however, was the view of the Bietschhorn (3934 m). The Bietschhorn doesn’t belong to the 4000 meter club, but we couldn’t care less. 


Right on!

You can follow Staffan at his personal blog:

Images: Top: Klein Augstkummenhorn with the Wiwanni Hütte in the foreground.
Bottom: On the summit of the Augstkummenhorn. L-R: Staffan Bjorklund, Maria, Daniel Sundqvist. 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Photo of the Day: Authentic Swiss Guy



Mike Thurk thought he'd found a real-life gnome when he captured this photo during the Via Alpina II. Gnome or not, this guy is authentic Swiss. (like old-school traditional Swiss...maybe even descended from Wilhelm Tell).

How do we know?

Aside from the most obvious clues like his outfit, the hanging flower arrangements and the neatly stacked woodpile:

-He is a perfect height with respect to the front door of the chalet. (Old chalets have small doors which are usually too small for non-Swiss).

-The images that Mike took of him came out in black and white. (A sure sign of authenticity).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ryder-Walker Named “Top Outfitter” by Travel + Leisure Magazine




Ryder-Walker “Stands Out,” according to Travel + Leisure Magazine

T+L created a directory of standout specialists for seven types of getaways, ranging from safaris to biking tours, in their August 2012 issue. We’re proud to announce that Ryder-Walker made T+L’s distinctive list of adventure outfitters for the trekking and walking category.

In addition, T+L only listed seven top-shelf travel companies for trekking and walking (compared to 11 companies for “Local Culture”) and we made the cut. Does this mean that we’re one of the Top Seven best travel companies for hiking? We like to think so, and we'd like you to think so too!

Grab a copy of Travel + Leisure’s August 2012 issue. You’ll find our mention on page 146. See our name in print. Get stoked. Give us try. 

We can’t wait to take you hiking!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Guest Review: An Amazing Birthday Celebration!



Dear Peter,

I simply can't wait for the official feedback form to tell you what an amazing 60th birthday celebration I had on our private Haute Route trek. The weather was perfect, the lodging and meals were delightful, and Kenny truly outdid himself. He has always been a wonderful guide...professional, customer-focused, respectful and intuitive. But after ten years (our first hike with him was on my 50th birthday!), he has become a special friend. 

We were so sorry that Staffan was ill much if the time.  But he was a good sport and Kenny picked up the slack seamlessly. As always, the "Strapping Swede" was a favorite with the ladies.    

Thank you for giving us these years of joy in the mountains we love. You have assembled and developed an unsurpassed team of guides, and have kept your itineraries fresh and exciting for us long-time customers. We also appreciated your kindness in treating our jolly group to celebratory libations.

I've attached a photo from my amazing Haute Route 60th birthday celebration. It was taken in Trient after dinner, a really cool birthday cake, and far too many drinks. Kenny was both head guide and master of ceremonies. I'm sure we wore him out!  

I'd love for you to put the photo on the blog to encourage others to celebrate major milestones on the trail with Ryder-Walker.

I hope you will pass along my gratitude to Kenny and Staffan for a trek that far surpassed my highest hopes.

-Blythe Fortin

Thanks Blythe. It was our pleasure to host your group. A HUGE happy birthday to you! -The RW Staff.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Swiss Photos: Sometimes We Get Lucky





It was a long, rainy, windy walk today, but we made it Meiringen. 

Unfortunately, Ron didn't get any of the views, but he did get something  totally unique. We walked into a traditional farmer's festival just after crossing the Jochpass. It was amazing. The rain gave it a different and unique feel. I told Ron that, normally, if someone was able to see just ONE of the things that was happening at this festival, it was a good day. We got to see all sorts of things! Sometimes we just get lucky. 

Here are some images:


Riiiiiiiicolaaaaaaaa!


This poor cow had a head-on collision with a florist. 


There is nothing more Swiss than hot, steamy Raclette. 

-Mike Thurk
(on the Via Alpina 1)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Striking It Rich on the Prospect Trail



After working like crazy for months, the Ryder-Walker ladies, managing director Melanie Eggers and RW Jacqueline of-all-trades, Jessica “Jess” Sullivan, jumped on their mountain bikes for a much-needed spin during lunch. Melanie was so excited about the ride that she quickly wrote this piece when she got back. Enjoy it. 

FYI: Ryder-Walker founder Peter Walker designed the Prospect Trail mentioned in this piece. Though he didn’t physically build the trail, his knowledge of the terrain surrounding the Telluride Ski Resort proved indispensible in the trail’s design. 


Mr. Walker, I had no idea.  Not only can you produce some of the best hiking itineraries in Europe (and Telluride, CO), your mountain bike trail building is an unknown forté to most.

Today, after months of working on our clients’ travel schedules with seemingly no end in sight, Jess and I finally jumped on our mountain bikes during lunch and hit the Telluride Ski Resort’s Prospect Trail. Door to door from the Ryder Walker office, this beautiful and near-perfect mountain bike (and hiking) trail took us just over an hour to hammer out. 

Riding mostly our second chain rings, Jess, my Titus (my second boyfriend) and I soaked up the beautiful mountain landscape, cool weather, and unforgettable flora and fauna. Not only are you bound to see a black bear, porcupine, deer and maybe a few elk while riding this masterful trail, the wildflowers jump out at you while spinning along the single track (especially the Arnica because it knows you might need some after this adventure). 

Winding through pine and aspen trees, I barely have to think about what I am doing as the trail does it for me. In fact, I almost always giggle on the perfectly engineered and winding trail, descending for what seems like forever. Crossing over Prospect Creek, flowing wildly to its destination, I see my own destination and realize that I don’t want my ride to end, ever. I love the wild outdoors and promise to cherish and take care of our Mother Earth—end of story. But not yet…The single track leads me around another curve.

It makes sense that a guy that ran the Telluride Ski School for 20 years would know how to build the perfect world-class mountain bike trail on terrain that he’s been skiing for years. It makes even more sense when you consider that Mr. Walker, let’s call him “el Jefe” (the boss) after this ride, spent more than 25 years hiking European trails designed by Romans and ancient livestock herders. It makes sense that he would know exactly how to prospect a mountain biking trail that gives people an extraordinary experience. Thank you for prospecting this goldmine. It makes me feel richer than most people will feel in a lifetime!

Keep walking and ‘ryding'...Melanie

Image: Jessica Sullivan (left). Melanie Eggers (right). 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Via Alpina is a Hidden Gem!



Here's a little update from the Via Alpina Uno:

The Via Alpina is a hidden gem! We met up in the town of Weistannen, tucked far up the valley from the city of Sargans, surrounded by massive peaks and waterfalls everywhere. Rain overnight dusted the peaks with snow and the contrast from the green alps and white summits was astonishing.


We climbed through the morning until we crossed over the Foopass and descended into Elm, a small but artsy little village that sits on the valley floor. We ended the day with a few Appenzeller beers on the patio and watched as the sun set up for a evening alpenglow show. 


Today we left Elm with our sights set on Braunwald. A big day of passes, high alpine meadows, and the threat of rain (but only a threat) kept us busy as we descended into Linthal and hopped a cable car to the carless town of Braunwald. 

The trip so far has been stunning and we only hope our luck with views and weather will hold! 

Tschüss,
Mike Thurk, RW Trip Leader and Bon Vivant

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Few Things You Didn't Know About Hydration




Daniel Sundqvist sent this photo yesterday from the Hiker’s Haute Route. Here, one of our lovely young guests pauses for a water break before continuing her hike through Switzerland and the Pennine Alps.

You can almost feel the refreshment and the cool mountain air just by looking at this photo. But don’t let that hose fool you! In the Alps, many of the spigots, hoses, and watering holes find their source in artesian wells deep underground. You won’t taste city-bred floro-chloro laundry runoff coming out of that hose. No way! That hose carries the nectar of the high Alps. It’s pure mountain spring water.

While we’re on the subject of water, let's take a moment to address a topic that is extremely important during a hiking tour, hydration. As trip leaders, we’re constantly telling our guests, “Stay hydrated. Drink water. Drink water. Drink water.” We’ve all heard it. We know it’s important, but how important is it, really?

Here are a few surprising facts. According to the Wilderness Medicine Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), when your body is down merely 1.5 liters, your endurance may be reduced 22 percent and your maximum oxygen uptake (a measure of heart and lung efficiency) can be lowered by 10 percent. Down 3 to 4 liters can knock your endurance down to 50% and reduce your oxygen uptake by almost 25%!

Every wonder why your hiking partner, who never trains as much as you do, just dropped you on your favorite climb? Maybe she's not naturally gifted. Maybe you just didn’t drink enough water. Think she's heard that before?

Estimates vary widely, but I’ve heard it stated many times that the an average person at rest on a normal day loses between 2 and 3 liters of water just by sitting around. Put another way, without replenishment, that’s already a 22-50% drop in endurance just by doing nothing! Add strenuous exercise to the mix, and the fluid loss increases by 50% or more.

Think you can just down a two-liter of water and everything will be fine? Think again. It takes about one hour to put one liter of fluid back into circulation. If you're two liters down, you'll need at least two more hours to bring your body back to level. (Not including any additional fluid loss during that time). So drink early, and drink often. Have a tall glass of water as soon as you wake up in the morning. Even when you think you’re drinking enough water, you probably aren’t.

Camelbacks, like the one that you see in this photo, have gone a long way toward helping hikers stay hydrated. I know from personal experience that I tend to drink more when I have that little blue tube dangling in front of my mouth. The camelback is easy to fill, and it’s a pleasure to use. You can even pull the reservoir out, and use it with different packs, making it extremely versatile. There is a drawback to all that water sipping, however.

We don’t see this very often, but you can actually drink TOO much water. The condition is called Hyponatremia, and it results from drinking copious amounts of water without enough salt. We lose a lot of salt (and a host of other trace minerals) when we perspire, and when blood sodium gets too low, we begin to develop symptoms that feel a lot like dehydration and heat exhaustion. We get headaches; weakness; fatigue; lightheadedness and we might even experience nausea. The symptoms vary among individuals, but if you’ve ever experienced hyponatremia, then you probably found yourself wondering why you drank lots of water all day, but you still felt like crap.

For myself, I know that I’m getting sodium or mineral deficient when the water that I drink stops quenching my thirst. That, or I start craving salty snacks like French fries and pretzels.

So what to do?

One easy way to stay hydrated, but also keep on top of your salt supply, is to carry a bottle of electrolyte drinks. There are a ton of electrolyte drink products out there, and the one that I like comes from a company called Trace Minerals Research. They make an Electrolyte Stamina Power Pak that is less sugary and not so artificially colored or flavored as other brands on the market. The drink comes in a little powder packet, and you simply mix it into your water botttle, camelback, gin bottle, whatever. I like to reserve my camelback for pure, clean mountain spring water, so I usually mix the Power Pak in a backup Sigg or Nalgene bottle and carry that in addition to the Camelback. Overkill? Perhaps. The electrolyte mixture leaves a residue that permanently changes the flavor of your bottle. For me, it’s nice to have one bottle devoted to electrolyte drinks. On my road bike, I have one bottle filled with clear water and one filled with electrolytes.

Natural alternatives. There’s been a lot of buzz lately surrounding coconut water. Some people call it “Mother Nature’s Mega-Electrolyte Drink.” I tried it, and I find it extremely sweet. Maybe you’d like it. Give it a whirl and let us know what you think.

One other note: A little bit of salt goes a long way. A handful of salty nuts, mid hike, will do the trick. Don’t plan on downing a bag of potato chips at every water stop, though, or you might end up with serious high blood pressure down the road. Everything in balance, that’s the key.

Wrapping things up, here are our tips:

  1. Drink plenty of water. Lots of it, in fact-especially if it’s hot or during periods of strenuous and/or extended exercise. Getting just a little behind in your water consumption can seriously affect your endurance during the course of the day. (A 22%-50% drop)!
  2. Camel backs make it easy to stay hydrated. Any type of water bladder that slips into your pack with a drinking tube will do the trick. Go for it. Take a sip and keep on sipping!
  3. Replenish your electrolytes. They keep you going strong and feeling great.

We’d love to hear your hydration stories. Got a system that works well for you? Ever dried up on the trail and been eaten by buzzards? Drop us a line.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More Guest Photos: The Engadine + 1000 Days



Woody Campbell likes to take photos. He likes to take photos so much, in fact, that he started a photo blog in 2009 and vowed to post one image per day until he runs out of space on his server. In his own words, “I started this project on October 19, 2009 and have posted a picture each day without a miss for 991 days.”

That’s almost 1000 days!

Lucky for us, Woody and his camera joined Ryder-Walker for a private hiking tour through eastern Switzerland, and some of the trip images wound up on his blog.

One of my favorite images is the b&w mountain photo taken above tree line. (See above) Woody shot this photo while hiking between the villages of Guarda and Zuoz. I’m a sucker for high mountain passes, big sky and clouds, so this photo satisfies. That's just me. Woody also posted some great color photos of the Swiss landscape, people and architecture.

Check out Woody’s blog, then find your own favorite photo. The Engadine action begins with blog post June 21, 2012 and continues onward toward July. Don’t want to scroll through posts? You can also view just the Swiss portfolio at woodycampbell.zenfolio.com/p922387965

I recommend a visit. There’s a great evening shot of Soglio that didn’t make it into the blog.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Guest Photo: The Historic Village of Soglio | Eastern Swiss Alps



Ryder-Walker's longtime guest and adventure-seeker, Greg Light, snapped this photo in the historic mountain village of Soglio, Switzerland.

Greg writes, "Greetings. Great trek. Great guides. Took this photo a few minutes ago from the hotel after a day of rain, thunder, etc. Rainbow put a great end to a perfect trip."

Perfect trip, indeed. Nestled on a (usually) sunny mountain terrace, Soglio is one of the most atmospheric villages in all of Switzerland. Situated within a stone's throw of the Italian border, it's also the terminus of our Engadine Trek, a week long hike through the eastern Swiss Alps.

Thanks for the photo Greg! You certainly found gold at the end of the rainbow.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Photo of the Day: View From the Grand Teton



This is yesterday's view from the summit of the Grand Teton in Wyoming. At an elevation of 4,199 meters, the Grand Teton is the high point of Wyoming's Teton Range. The Grand Teton is a particularly pleasing peak to look at, and it's a fun climb, which makes it a favorite of mountain climbers from around the world.

Ryder-Walker guide Porter Teegarden put on a big smile when she reached the summit. She and veteran trip leader Daniel Sundqvist accessed the Grand Teton via the Exum Ridge. The conditions were perfect, as you can see from the photo.

Now it's back to Europe. Daniel leads our Hiker's Haute Route on July 5th.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Every Day is Bike to Work Day!



June is Bike Month for the state of Colorado, but for the staff at Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures, EVERY day is Bike To Work Day.

This is Peter Walker's bike parked in front of the office yesterday. Peter uses his bike to commute to work, to run errands around town, and to carry much needed office supplies including, but not limited to, bubble wrap.

Truth be told, we feel quite guilty about using bubble wrap. It's not the most environmentally friendly product on the planet, but it's better than packing peanuts, and it's fun to pop! It's also the best thing we've found to ensure that your expertly assembled tour materials arrive unblemished. When we find something better, we'll definitely use it. Any eco-friendly ideas out there?

In the meantime, our bikes help to mitigate some of our "bubble guilt."

In Peter Walker's own words, "Bubble wrap is not perfect in environmental soundness. But factor in that this bubble wrap traveled nine miles and over 1200 vertical feet to get to the Ryder Walker office. (on my Salsa Vaya Titanium XBike)!"

Transporting the bubble wrap by bike is one step closer to something we call, "bubble neutral."

Side note: This is a much smaller load than what Peter normally carries. You can usually find him with tour packages stacked 18 inches tall, a load of groceries, and a much larger roll of bubble wrap.

When I asked him about the small load he replied, "They only had a half roll at Mailboxes. I feel cheated."

He didn't really feel cheated, of course. We never feel cheated when we get to ride our bikes!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Your Best Mountain Photos Ever: Photo and Film Classes in Chamonix, France



Here’s an idea. Register for the Adventure Photo School, running August 20-23, 2012 in Chamonix, France, then use your new found skills to grab some awesome shots during your self guided Tour du Mont Blanc or Hiker’s Haute Route. Both hiking tours begin in Chamonix, France, which make this year’s Chamonix Adventure Festival and accompanying photo courses an easy add on.

This year’s Chamonix Adventure Festival takes place August 20-26, 2012. There’s an initial one-day workshop on August 20, which lays the groundwork for improving your photography, followed by the three-day Adventure Photo School covering everything from equipment and composition to post production. Take the one-day workshop as a standalone course, or use it as a primer for the more advanced three-day course.

How awesome would it be to take outdoor photography classes in Chamonix and then apply your skills during your ensuing hike!

What about aspiring film makers?

There’s a course for you too! The three-day Adventure Film School runs during the same peroid and focuses on movie making skills from novice to expert. Award-winning outdoor filmmaker Paul Diffley, together with local Sébastien Montaz-Rosset, will offer tips, tricks and practial information for filmmaking on and off camera. What better place to dabble in movie making, (or hone your skills), than in the spectacular mountain setting surrounding Chamonix.

Let us know if you’re interested in attending the festival and/or the accompanying courses. We can help you plan your hiking tour around these dates.

Get more information on the Chamonix Adventure Festival and courses at: www.chamonixadventurefestival.com

Image: Chamonix's famous glacier, the Mer de Glace, snakes its way down from Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Photo of the Day: Ireland's Beautiful Beaches



THIS is what hiking in Ireland is all about! Longtime Ryder-Walker family member Jon Moyer shot this image while hiking Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.

Beach walks are part of western Ireland's charm. That's Mount Brandon in the distance, Ireland's second highest mountain at 952 meters, (3,123 feet). 

Friday, June 08, 2012

Rockslide Closes Swiss Railway Line to Italy



Thinking about visiting Italy after your Swiss hiking tour? Doing a little sightseeing in Ticino? What about entering Switzerland from Lake Como or Milan? Check this out:

The Gotthard railway line, the main north-south axis through the Swiss Alps, will be shut down for at least one month after a landslide damaged the track near Gurtnellen in canton Uri.

Affected connections include the international line from Zurich and Basel to Milan, Italy.

Other routes to Italy remain open.

Those leaving Zurich can transfer to buses to get around the accident site, though travelers should expect to arrive at their destinations up to 90 minutes later than usual.

The railway line from Brig, Switzerland to Domodossola, Italy (through the Simplon Tunnel), remains open, as does the scenic bus line from St. Moritz.

Read more about the landslide here.

Please give us a shout if you think this affects your travel itinerary. We can help with your plans.