Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2 For 1 Swiss Pass Special



Thinking about traveling to Switzerland this fall? If you have a travel partner, then you’re in luck!

Book a Swiss Saver 4-day Consecutive Pass or a Swiss Saver 4-day Flexi Pass by November 21, 2012 and your partner rides for free. This is nearly $400 in savings for first class and $250 in savings for second class.

What's Included:
  • Unlimited travel on the Swiss Travel System. This includes trains, buses, trams, lake steamers and cable cars.
  • A 50% reduction on most private railways outside of the Swiss Travel System.  
  • Choice of 4-day Consecutive or 4-day Flexi Saver passes.
  • A Swiss Museum Pass with free access to over 400 museums.
The Details:
  • Valid for travel from September 1 to November 30, 2012 only.
  • Each rail pass is only valid for 2 travelers.
  • Additional adult travelers can purchase a regular Swiss Pass.
  • Bookings must be made on or before November 21, 2012.
  • Swiss Family Card is valid with this offer.
This offer pairs well with:

Please contact us for more details.

Image: The train from Kleine Scheidegg descends to Grindelwald, Switzerland. The Wetterhorn peak rises in the background. | Chris Pranskatis

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Daniel's Photos From The Desert



There are two kinds of archers in this world. There is the type that shoots arrows, and there is the type that hunts for sand stone arches in the deserts of southeastern Utah. The guests in this photo are the latter, and they were overjoyed when we hiked to Delicate Arch outside of Moab, Utah


Here we're hiking off the beaten path! The background looks like putty that's been sculpted by an ancient god and left to bake in the sun. A person could spend a lifetime exploring the intricate shapes that characterize the desert country of southeastern Utah.

-Daniel


Daniel Sundqvist posted this entry while leading a private group through the redrock country surrounding Moab, Utah. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ken’s Pick: the Hiker’s Haute Route




It’s not often that our guides divulge their favorite Ryder-Walker hiking tour, but 15-year Ryder-Walker veteran and senior guide Ken Fuhrer finally spilled the beans. Will this inspire the rest of our trip leaders to break their silence? Maybe with the help of more wine.

Here is the Hiker's Haute Route in Ken's own words. 

When people ask me about my favorite hiking tour, I usually give a decidedly vague answer. I usually skirt the issue by talking about the trip I like “this year,” or I’ll defer to something that happened at “that place.” Truth be told, my favorite Ryder-Walker hiking tour is the Hiker’s Haute Route. There. I said it. The Haute Route is definitely my favorite hiking tour, and not just because it’s the summer version of the legendary ski tour either.

I like the Haute Route for many reasons, but I really dig the way it begins above Chamonix, France, with the legendary Mont Blanc mountain chain reflecting in the high alpine tarn, Lac Blanc. It's a great way to start a tour.

I enjoy the food, too. The cheese, (of course!), comes from small batches made in tiny alp houses, and it has a melt-in-your-mouth flavor that you just plain do not get anywhere else.

There is also nothing that compares to the chocolate-almond croissant that you can only find at a particular bakery in downtown Argentiere. A croissant, I must add, that actually brought tears of delight to one of our guests, an in-the-know New York specialty food grocer, as he stood on the French/Swiss border on the Col du Balme.

I love the lakeside village of Champex, and the three generations of the Favre family that greet you at the Hotel Belvedere. They’re doing it right! But course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the hiking and the unexpected, progressive views of all the big, dreamy mountains.

From the views of the Matterhorn as we ascend the Pas de Chevre, to the Dent Blanche and its cozy position with the Weisshorn as we look east from the Col du Torrent, the views are as good as it gets in the Alps. In addition to the views, the trail itself amazes me. We follow ancient paths that have connected these valleys for as long as history has been keeping record.

The great Val d' Herens cows deserve some credit too, big black and often sporting their numbers from the early season wrestling matches. The cows still have their sides adorned with chalk numbers from the annual Combat de Reines, (the "Battle of the Queens"), and it looks like they survived a demolition derby. With large horns and bells clanking, the cows are an instant crowd pleaser.

It must be said, that the Valais is also the greatest wine region in all of Switzerland. On the Haute Route, we get to try local wines featuring unique hybrid grapes and delicious blends that always surprise.

In addition to the croissants, and the cows, and the wine, I love hiking over the language line, crossing the Forcletta pass from the French-speaking part of the Haute Route to the German-speaking side.

Making the descent into the quiet and very remote Turtmanntal is always a treat. Then we recap the day and share trip stories with other 'Haute Routers' while the sun goes down. It is a valley that time has forgotten, a point driven home upon the following day's arrival in the bustling capital of the alpine world; Zermatt.



The feeling of completion and accomplishment, while holding a beer and gazing up at the Matterhorn, provides the big finish for what is, I admit, my favorite Ryder-Walker trip.

-Ken Fuhrer


Editor's Note:
We asked Ken how long he’s been hiking the Haute Route, and if he’s noticed any changes in area over the years. This was his response:

I have been doing the trip as far back as my first summer. I hiked it as a private trip with Ron and Jeff Silverman, who are still clients and happen to be our connection with Janice Kaplin, who, incidentally, made it on the cover of this year’s Ryder-Walker catalog. (She’s the girl on the far right). The trip was shorter then. We used to start in Arolla, and we hiked to Saas-Fe, skipping Zermatt. We still offer the shorter version. We call it the Swiss Haute Route because the hike stays entirely in Switzerland.

Anyway, I like the balance of the trip now, and, as it is the original High Level Route from France to Switzerland, it is only right to start in Chamonix, France and end in Zermatt, Switzerland. As far as changes go, change fortunately comes slowly to Switzerland (as many people know), and when something does change, it doesn't change by very much. I would say that in the years that have gone by, I have changed more than the place!

Images: Top to Bottom: Col de la Forcletta by Ken Fuhrer; French pastries by Chris Pranskatis; Zermatt, Switzerland by Chris Pranskatis.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fitness and Training: Get In Shape for Your Weeklong Hiking Tour




You signed up for a weeklong hiking tour. You purchased your gear. You poured over your maps. You read and reread the daily hike descriptions twenty times or more. There’s only one thing left to do. Get in shape! A higher level of fitness will make your hiking tour more enjoyable and fun. Better yet, getting in shape doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are some tips to keep your pre trip training fun and effective.

Things to remember.
  1. Anything is better than nothing. Taking the first step is the first step toward better fitness. Put on your shoes and go for a hike!
  2. Consistency. Short hikes three or more times a week for a month are better than one long hike once a month
  3. Start small. Work your way up over time to make gains and prevent burnout.
  4. Mix it up. Use a mix of exercises, intensity and duration to make your body grow stronger.
Be Consistent

This is arguably the most important thing you can do to get in shape. Seven time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong often said that if given a choice between three short bike rides every week or one super long ride once a month, he would always pick the short frequent rides for better fitness. This advice may sound strange coming from a man who rode insane mileages during the Tour du France, but he understood that the human body undergoes physiological changes when it’s exercised frequently. Whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours to exercise; do it regularly. Do it often. This will make you stronger, and it will teach your body to recover after a workout.

One of the primary challenges of a multiday hiking tour is that you’re on the trail every day. Unless you’re used to hiking on a regular basis, and/or have a good level of fitness already, the cumulative mileage will gradually erode your energy stores and wear you down. You’ll eventually get stronger, but you’ll risk injury during the mid term, and you’ll feel really tired. Make a training plan, and stick to it. Also, don’t be afraid to amend your plan because of a busy schedule. Go for half an hour instead of an hour if you have to. Jog for 15 minutes instead of 30. Most people abandon their plans when if feels like they just don’t have time. The key is to do something, anything, even if it’s less than you intended. In fact, you can actually do a lot in just 10-15 minutes.

Start Small

If you’re totally out of shape, then shoot for something easy. Walk, jog or run for 20 minutes twice a week. Gradually add more time, and/or a third exercise day as you begin to feel stronger. The ultimate goal is to keep adding time and/or intensity until you feel comfortable hiking the distances listed on your specific tour itinerary. Keep in mind that many of our tours feature 8-12 mile hikes. While it may not be feasible to hike 8-10 miles three times per week, it is possible to walk 2 miles every other day in addition to a 5-9 mile hike on a Saturday afternoon. Every bit helps. You’ll be amazed. Mix it up.

Mix It Up

The human body is an amazingly efficient organism, which can be a real challenge when you’re trying to get fit. Your body will only do what you’ve asked it to do and nothing more. Consider this: If you walk 2 miles every day, your body will only grow enough muscle tissue to walk that same two miles every single day. You’ll become really good at walking two miles, but the day that you decide to walk 15 miles, you’ll be torched. To be sure, you’ll handle it better than if you hadn’t exercised at all, but you’ll still feel it. The reason is that the body doesn’t grow extra muscle just in case it will have to walk a really long distance or lift more weight sometime down the road. If it did, then we’d all be marathon runners and body builders without lifting a finger.

The body responds to change, so if you want to improve, then you’ll have to mix things up. Adding mileage is one way to keep the body stimulated. However, unless you’re retired or a professional athlete, you probably don’t have the time to hike 10-12 miles every day in preparation for your hiking tour. Even if you did, your body would eventually plateau, and you’d still have to change your routine in order to get stronger. Our tip: Supplement your hikes with other exercises. Run. Swim. Bike. Lift weights. The lunge is a great training exercise if you like weights. If you’re concerned about injury, then focus on low impact exercises like biking and swimming.

Important: Don’t forget to rest. Your body needs rest to repair and strengthen itself. Your fitness can actually decline if you don’t give your body the rest it needs. A lack of appetite, a decline in enthusiasm, and a marked drop in physical performance are all signs that you’ve over trained. Your body needs rest. Take a day off. Get good sleep.

Extra Credit

Try to simulate your upcoming hiking tour as much as possible. Wear the equipment, especially the boots and shoes that you plan to take on the trail. Load up your daypack (including water) and wear it during your training hikes. Use your trekking poles. This makes a huge difference during the tour.

Mountains

Unless you live in the mountains, it can be very difficult to simulate the climbs that you’ll experience during our tours. Do your best. Stairs are a great training tool, but they can be very boring. Climb every steep hill you can find, and do it with your daypack. Sprinting is also a good training tool for climbs. Sprint all out for 15-30 seconds. Then rest for 2 minutes. Repeat. Note: Don’t attempt this without a good level of fitness. If in doubt, check with your doctor first.

Nutrition

In reality, this item should be #1 on the list. We could write pages and pages on nutrition, so we won’t do it here. Just remember that if you want to get in shape for your hiking tour, then you need to eat right. I’ve actually heard trainers say that the “secret” to getting fit is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. No matter how you slice it, eating right makes a huge difference. Your body needs good quality fuel in order to get stronger.

In closing, remember these important tips:
  1. Anything is better than nothing. Get out there!
  2. Be consistent. Stick with it! 
  3. Start small. You’ll advance quickly.
  4. Try different things. It’s good for your body and mind.
  5. Eat right. Always. 
Follow these tips, and you’ll be amazed by your fitness when you hit the trail this summer. Good luck!

Image: Mike Thurk in the mountains outside Telluride, CO. | By Ken Fuhrer

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bhutan Photos: Jomolhari Base Camp



Hi there,

Technology reaches out to Bhutan where we are situated at the base camp of Jomolhari, the 3rd highest peak in the country at 7,314 meters. The trekking has been flawless, with great views and occasional afternoon snowfall for an extra sugar coating on the Himalayan giants surrounding us. Back to the US next week!

Greetings, Daniel

Daniel Sundqvist is currently leading a fun group of hikers through Bhutan on our Bhutan Chomolhari Trek. You can learn more about the trip here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Photo of the Day: The Bears Are Back in Town!



Telluride local Himay Palmer shot this photo just downhill from our office in Telluride, CO. It looks like the bears are back in town! What a beautiful big brown bear.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Will Hike for Cheese: The Better Way to Hike the Tour du Mont Blanc



The Wall Street Journal published a funny story about one couple's experience while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. The couple had a great time, but they also had some experiences that could have been avoided if they'd hired Ryder-Walker to plan their hiking tour. Case in point: If you sign up for our guided Tour du Mont Blanc, you won't have to ditch your pack and take off running in the dark, and you certainly won't have to hire strangers to run across the Alps retrieving your gear. Make no mistake, our guides will show you adventure, but there are better ways to enjoy yourself then skipping dinner because you arrived late, cold, dripping wet and exhausted.

The same applies if you sign up for our self guided Tour du Mont Blanc. We'll take care of you. The couple in this article chose to go it alone, but as the author put it, "I spent the afternoon silently berating myself: What were you thinking? Why didn't you train? Why didn't you hire a guide?"

We've spent three decades fine tuning our self guided hike descriptions so that you'll know what time to leave in the morning and when you can expect to check into your hotel during the late afternoon. Granted, some people are slower hikers than others, and the Tour du Mont Blanc is a strenuous tour, but we've accounted for this. We've sent literally thousands of people around the TMB, and we know the average time that it takes a weekend warrior to connect the dots on the map. Things do happen, but that said, it's pretty rare that one of our guests misses dinner. When they do, it's usually by their own design. They either slept late, or they got sucked into a French café.

In the author's defense, we realize that she wrote most of this article with her tongue-in-cheek. I enjoyed her piece. It made me laugh. I especially enjoyed the paragraph describing the madame at the Refuge du Col de Balme. The author nailed it. The cantankerous French woman that runs the old hotel on the French/Swiss border is an interesting person indeed. We don't stay overnight at her hut, but we typically stop there for lunch and/or refreshment during the Tour du Mont Blanc and Hiker's Haute Route. We, too, have some pretty funny stories to share.

One day, I warned Geb, one of our repeat guests, in advance about the hut warden's surly ways. "If you want to use the bathroom," I said, "then you need to get the clé. Clé means key in French, and in order to get the key, you have to buy something."

I felt a bit like Johnny Depp explaining how to find the Island That Can't Be Found in Pirates of the Caribbean.


"Always," I added. "Always return the 
clé the second that you're finished using the bathroom." The clé went missing a few years ago, and everyone, (on both sides of the border), heard about it.

Geb, who is a Ryder-Walker regular, is a very fun, outgoing, and gregarious fellow. He prides himself on a natural ability to make people smile, even grumpy people. So, of course, he took my warning as a challenge and he made it his duty to win the heart of this French drill instructor at the top of the mountain. Long story short; when we walked out of there he turned to me and said, "Man! She's one tough woman."


It must be acknowledged that Geb came closer than anyone to getting her to crack a smile. She almost went there. Almost.

Getting back to the article, the couple in this article didn't really experience anything that a tall glass of schnapps and a large pot of fondue couldn't cure. That said, we have known people that simply grabbed a guidebook and went for it. In the end, they shared the author's sentiment, a "growing hatred of the guidebook."

We love the Alps. That's our thing, and we want you to love them too. So please, let us do the leg work so that you don't have to. Let us plan your trip so that you'll arrive in time for dinner and you won't have to nibble on a lint-covered piece of pocket cheese in lieu of a home-cooked French meal.

Bonne journée!


Image: Crossing the Col du Sapin (7,992 feet), a scenic variant of the Tour du Mont Blanc

Outskirts of Courmayeur, Italy | Porter Teegarden

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Swiss Bliss: Hiking the Engadine Valley, One Delicious Inn at a Time



The Engadine region of eastern Switzerland delights visitors with great hikes, delicious cuisine, and a culture that is truly unique from the rest of Switzerland. The architecture is different, the local dialect is mysterious, and the food presents a mouth-watering flavor that is all its own.

Real Eats contributer Janice Caplan wrote a nice piece about her self-guided hiking tour through the Engadine, and she wrote with a special emphasis on the food. We think she did a great job of capturing the spirit of our Engadine Trek. Check it out for yourself, but be forewarned; you’ll want to splurge on a plane ticket to Switzerland right away.

Article from Real Eats
Swiss Bliss: Hiking the Engadine Valley, One Delicious Inn at a Time
By Janice Caplan

Hiking inn-to-inn in Switzerland’s Engadine Valley can feel magical. The mix of breathtaking scenery and Swiss hospitality was so exhilarating during the week I explored the region with my husband Ron and our younger son Matt that I suggested almost immediately we should stay there forever… Read the full article.

Image: A church tower in the picturesque village of Scuol, Switzerland.
Self Guided Engadine Trek, Switzerland | Janice Caplan