Wednesday, December 24, 2014

From Our Family to Yours...


Season's greetings from our happy little gnome family to yours, and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Thank you for more than three decades of hiking through Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, France, Nepal, Bhutan and beyond. 

(Peter Walker, Karen Walker, Annica Abbott, Staffan Bjorklund, Terese Broderick, Eileen Burns, Melanie Eggers, Ken Fuhrer, Babsi Glanznig, Willi Glanznig, Dave Gruss, Ace Kvale, Nicole Nugent, Chris Pranskatis, Daniel Sundqvist, Mike Thurk, Branford Walker and the entire extended family.) 

ryderwalker.com
1-888-586-8365

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Standing Strong




Our recent post about black and white photos stirred some creative juices and prompted Eileen Burns, Ryder-Walker’s managing director, to send over this photo.

Eileen’s dad was a professional photographer, so Eileen grew up around images and developed a particular love for black and white. It’s not surprising then, that Eileen would choose b&w to shoot this photo of RW guest Margo Rubenstein on the last day of our Slovenia Triglav Circuit.

Eileen writes, “This photo says a lot to me. A bit tired and disheveled. Yet standing strong. I love the worn out poles just hanging and relaxing after a good trek."

She adds, “The stairs kind of speak to the trail that we took that day, broken and yet very sturdy.”

Do you have photos from past treks that speak to you? Please share them. Send us a note or post them to our Facebook page.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beauty is Black and White



Or at least it can be, as demonstrated by these photos taken by Ryder-Walker guides Dave Gruss and Willi Glanznig. Dave shot the above photo this past summer while hiking with guests in the Engadine region of eastern Switzerland.

Veteran Engadine travelers should have no trouble recognizing this shot. It’s a view of the village of Sils Maria (center of the photo). The lake in the foreground is called the Silvaplanersee (Lej da Silvaplauna in Romansh) and the lake in the background is called the Silsersee (Lej da Segl). What is Romansh? It’s a Latin dialect left over from the original Roman settlements known collectively as Rhaetia Prima. It’s also one of the four official languages of Switzerland, though only about 0.5% of the population speak it today.

Continuing with the photo, the village at the far end of the photograph is called Maloja. From there, a two-lane road carries travelers over the Maloja pass (1,815 meters), and down a spaghetti-like series of switchbacks into the wild and remote Val Bregalia. One of our favorite mountains in the Val Bregalia is the Piz Badile (3,305 meters)—the subject of the next photo:


Just imagine yourself sitting on a patio, in the perfectly preserved 1,000 year-old village of Soglio, gazing up at this peak. We do it every summer on our Engadine Trek and Engadine Summit Series hikes. It’s the kind of thing that makes you glad to be alive.

Speaking of patios, we offer you this photo:


These are the famous Aiguilles (needles) of Chamonix. Willi shot this photo while hiking our Tour du Mont Blanc.

It is a very special experience to relax at a street side café in Chamonix and send your eyes upward, across 12,000 feet, to the summit of Mont Blanc. The sheer number of mountain peaks surrounding Mont Blanc, the magnitude of the scenery, the jaggedness and myriad serrations of the rock; it’s almost more than a person can stand. Which leads to this:

I love looking at these photos in black and white. Some could argue that the emotions I feel are just nostalgia for a bygone era, a time when the spark of nascent alpinism ignited a world of discovery and geographical firsts. Others might say that I viewed too many black and white photos when I was child. My father was an antique dealer after all!

All of this is true, but there’s something else at work here.

Why do we continue to shoot black and white photos (a clearly outdated technology) when high definition cameras allow us to capture color better than ever before? Why do we throw Instagram filters on golden sunsets when the rods and cones in our eyes give us an all-access pass to ROYGBIV?

It’s because black and white photography is proof positive that after you strip way the color, when you delete the pixels and trash the hexadecimal codes, the beauty of the world remains. Life is beautiful, and nature is worth remembering no matter how we choose to represent it. The first Impressionists knew this. They shocked the world by demonstrating that when we think we've erased the details—when we distill our lives into a collection of tiny dots and strokes—we just need to step back to see that the beauty of the world is still there.

Digital photographs are modern impressionist works. They are millions of tiny dots, each one representing a point of light that bounced off some object and found its way into a camera lens and onto our screens. What we choose to do with those dots is up to us, but one fact remains. Nature will always inspire us, even when we view those dots in black and white.

Monday, November 10, 2014

An Open Letter To Swedes



If you’re Swedish, then you need to book a hiking/golfing tour in the American Southwest with Ryder-Walker, and you need to do it now.

This sage advice comes from Daniel Sundqvist, our trip development director, who recently led a hiking and golfing tour in the Desert Southwest.

Daniel writes:
Ryder-Walker came up with a crazy new concept to satisfy the hunger for anyone intrigued by hiking and playing golf. 
During the first week of November we went to St. George, Utah—a time of year when temperatures reliably reach the mid 70's (20+ degrees Celsius) during the day. This is the time of year when American national parks, as well as golf courses, really lend themselves to exploration.
Together with friends/guests from Australia, the sublime weather conditions motivated us to play 18 holes and hike 6-8 miles each day for a week. That turned out to be equivalent of 12-16 miles each day, leaving us with absolutely no daylight left by the 18th hole!
Anyone who has a hard time getting out in November for their training (this means you, Swedes!) should immediately book a flight to Saint George and get blessed.
Don’t let the cold days and dark nights of northern latitudes get you down. Contact Ryder-Walker for more info concerning our new hiking/golfing adventures in the sunny Southwest. Better yet, ask to speak with Daniel Sundqvist directly. He’ll give you a few tips that will help you up your game.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Myths and Mountains in Nepal



Here’s a great story about trekking through the Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang in Nepal by the New York Times.

Why is the Mustang Kingdom Forbidden? You'll have to read the story to find out:

THE tale begins with a demon.

Centuries ago, it destroyed the foundations of a Buddhist monastery under construction in central Tibet. Then Guru Rinpoche, who had brought Buddhism to the kingdom, pursued the demon west, deep into Mustang. The two fought among Mustang’s snow peaks, desert canyons and grasslands. Guru Rinpoche prevailed, and he scattered the demon’s body parts across Mustang: its blood formed towering red cliffs, and its intestines tumbled to the wind-scoured earth east of the cliffs...

Click here to read the full NYT story.

FYI: Our hiking tour through Nepal’s Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang runs May 23-June 9, 2015.

Guests have already signed up, so this trip is definitely on. Renowned explorer and photographer Ace Kvale will lead the tour in concert with local guides and sherpas from the Kingdom of Mustang.

Have you ever dreamed of hiking through Nepal? Now is your chance! Please contact us to register, or for more info regarding this trip.

Image credit: Prayer wheels by Ace Kvale.
http://www.acekvale.com/

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

This is why you want to go to Slovenia!




Here's a nice story about our Slovenia Triglav Circuit, (one of our most popular European hiking tours) and the vibrant Slovenian city of Ljubljana.

Ryder-Walker’s managing director, Eileen Burns, visited Slovenia for the first time during our fall trip. The story offers a few of Eileen’s first impressions.

While you’re at it, be sure to check out our Facebook page to see more of Eileen’s photos from the trip. Click on the album titled Slovenia: Hiking across the Julian Alps 2014.



Thank you Maribeth for writing this piece! Background: Maribeth Clemente, widely known for her popular French guide books including; The Riches of Paris, The Riches of France, and A Tour of the Heart, is also the founder/editor of bonjourcolorado.com and the host of KOTO's popular travel program, Travel Fun. Check out her work when you get a chance. It's good stuff!

Image: Slovenia Triglav Circuit. By Eileen Burns 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Read Our New 2015 Catalog Online



Our new 2015 hiking tour catalog hits mailboxes this week!  Can't wait for the mail carrier?  No problem. You can also view our 2015 catalog onlinehttp://ryderwalker.com/catalog_2015/

Flip through like a magazine. Zoom in. Print out a copy or download a pdf if you like.

Note: This catalog is bigger and better than ever before. You'll find award winning trips, insightful tips, feature stories and more.  A taste of what's inside:

Peter Walker talks about Ryder-Walker's green initiatives and our new solar installation on page four. 

Eileen Burns, RW's managing director, interviews head guide Ken Fuhrer and explores his nearly 20 years of "Swisscentric"exploration and adventure with Ryder-Walker on page five.

Ryder-Walker's trip development director, Daniel Sundqvist, explains how finding nickel at age five sparked a lifetime of high mountain discovery and trip development on page nine.

Finally, Ryder-Walker's communication director and trip leader, Chris Pranskatis "Chris P.", talks trekking poles on page 63. 

Enjoy our new catalog. Please share with your friends and, as always, let us know what you think. 

Cheers!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Climb a 14er and Support a Great Cause!



Tune into KOTO Radio (Telluride, CO) tonight at 6:20 pm mountain time to learn about the 14er ascent that we recently donated to KOTO’s fundraising campaign. What’s a “fourteener?” It’s any mountain greater than 14,000 feet above sea level, and we’re lucky enough to have a handful of them in our backyard in Telluride, Colorado.

Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures, in conjunction with our sister company, Telluride Mountain Guides, donated a day trip to the top of a fourteener, (a $600 value). Your cost is just half-price-$300. Best of all, all the proceeds go to our community supported radio station KOTO.

Not into bagging peaks? That’s ok too. You can substitute your fourteener climb with a backcountry ski or ice climbing excursion.

Maribeth Clemente, host of KOTO’s popular Travel Fun radio program, will talk about our donation in addition to all the wonderful adventure travel companies based in Telluride (and their donations) on tonight’s show.

Tune in tonight. You can stream online http://tunein.com/radio/KOTO-917-s34580/ or listen with your old-fashioned transistor radio; 91.7 and 89.3 FM in Telluride, 89.5 FM in Norwood or 105.5 FM Down Valley. Check out koto.org for more details.

Photo: Telluride and the stunning San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. By Ken Fuhrer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's not too late to save!



We extended our pre-season offer!!!

Book a trip between now and September 30th and we'll give you this year's price. This deal applies to guidedprivate, and self guided tours. Just give us a call, or send us an email to book your trip. Do it now. Save money on your dream vacation. Yes!

Image: Terese Broderick straddling the border of Italy and Switzerland during this year's Tour du Mont Blanc

Monday, August 25, 2014

Exploring Italy's Via Ferrata



Guided tours rock! RW guides Daniel Sundqvist and Babsi Glanznig (behind the camera), took our Alpino Wunderbar guests on a Via Ferrata outside of Cortina, Italy. 


Via Ferrata literally means “iron road” in Italian, and many Via Ferratas have their roots in World War I when they were installed to aid troop movements across the rugged peaks of the Italian Dolomites.


Despite the name, a Via Ferrata is certainly not a "road." Via Ferratas are generally climbing routes with nothing more than a thin steel rope or a small iron step precariously bolted to the rock for safety.

What the Via Ferrata lack in walkability they more than make up for in scenery. The views from these high mountain "paths" are breathtaking. This particular segment crosses Monte Averau (2,649 meters), a tower-like mountain in the Averau-Nuvoleau mountain group of northern Italy's Dolomite range.


While the troops are long gone, the iron roads remain, and they offer an exhilarating way to explore some of the most rugged corners of the Alps. 

Note: Next Year's Alpino Wunderbar explores the three alpine villages of Chamonix, France, Courmayeur and Cogne, Italy. Will you join us? Please email us for more details

Photos: by Babsi Glanznig

Saturday, August 16, 2014

2015 Schedule Online | Book Early and Save!



Our new 2015 guided hiking tour schedule is online

We're proud to announce three new tours for 2015; Sicily, the Brenta Dolomites and the Alpino Vino Wunderbar. Wait? Didn't we offer the Alpino Vino Wunderbar last year? We sure did, but we're offering a new itinerary for 2015. The new trip visits the famous alpine resort villages of Chamonix, France, Courmayeur and Cogne, Italy.  

Wait, there's more! Book a trip between now and September 15th and we'll give you this year's price. This deal applies to guidedprivate, and self guided tours.

What if you're still working on dates for your private or self-guided tour? No problem! Just send us your deposit and let us know when you have your dates. We're happy to hold you a spot while you plan your itinerary. 

Let us plan your dream vacation! Just give us a call, or send us an email.

#BookEarlyAndSave

Friday, August 01, 2014

*NEW InstaParapluie by Terese



Introducing the new InstaParapluie by Terese. Just activate the onboard deployment system and VOILA! Within seconds, you’ll have effective protection from rain or sun.

Based on similar technology used by today’s popular avalanche airbag systems, the new InstaParapluie by Terese deploys instantly with the tug of a small cord. Never again will you suffer the indignity of a freak cloud burst, the mental exhaustion of a day-long drizzle, or the embarrassing sunburn that often accompanies an otherwise perfect day filled with UV rays. The InstaParalpluie by Terese has you covered.

Add a touch of class and versatility to your next day hike or long distance trek. Note: The InstaParapluie by Terese is not available in stores. Look for it on Kickstarter, and reserve yours today!

Image: Terese Broderick | Tour du Mont Blanc 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mid Summer (and Above the Clouds) in the Alps



There are basically three types of hiking in the Alps.

1. Hiking below tree line.
2. Hiking above tree line.
3. Hiking above the clouds. 

The first two categories are straightforward. Experiencing the third category, however, requires a special blend of weather, timing and geography. Fortunately for our guests, the last two weeks have been exceptional for getting above the clouds. 

In the first photo, our group of 14 hikers enjoyed ethereal views while descending the famous GR10 long distance hiking trail on our Pays Basque and Pyrénées Trek. The photo shows the stretch of trail between the Refuge Bayssellance and the village of Gavarnie, France in the Haute Pyrénées. Situated at 2,651 meters, the Refuge Bayssellance (our home for one night) is the highest hut in the Pyrénées. The time was 8:20 am when we shot this photo. 


In the second photo, Ryder-Walker trip leader Dave Gruss pauses above the Lunghinsee, a dramatically situated mountain lake in the Engadine region of eastern Switzerland. The Lunghinsee, (Lac de Lunghin in French) sits at 2,484 meters—just 300 meters shy of the summit of the Piz Lunghin (2,780 meters). The Piz Lunghin is a very popular climb on our Engadine Trek and Engadine Summit Series hikes. (Image by Mike Thurk.) 


The third photo puts the splendor of central Switzerland's Berner Oberland on center stage. Ryder-Walker trip leader Babsi Glanznig shot this photo of her guests on top of the Schilthorn (2,970 meters). In the distance you can see the famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks. The Schilthorn makes a nice addition to the Eiger Trail or any of our self-guided Berner Oberland hikes.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Superhuman in Austria or....?



Superhuman, or a master of quantum physics? Only Tucker, a recent guest on our Heart of Austria hiking tour, can explain how he appeared in two places at the same time.

Note: This image is not photoshopped.

Ryder-Walker guide Daniel Sundqvist shot this photo of Tucker on July 4th in the Alps above Hallstätt, Austria. According to Daniel, "I lined up my shot, pressed the button, and the next thing I knew, there were two Tuckers waving flags on my screen. Granted, Tucker is a fast hiker, so it is possible that he ran between both locations within a nano second. Or, he warped space time to work in his favor."

Either way, Tucker's pose with the American flag in the Austrian Alps made for a great Independence Day photo. We hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Scotland and England Photos: View At Your Own Risk



You've been warned.


Ryder-Walker guest Paul Loch recently returned from a self-guided Rob Roy Way and Cotswolds Way and he kindly shared these photos from his trip. One of his favorite memories: “The Famous Double Gloucester Cheese Race. While no longer sanctioned by authorities, it’s a real hoot!”

Paul wanted to see this race for a long time, and he finally made it this year.

What is the Gloucester Cheese Race? It’s an annual event where competitors race each other down a dangerously steep hill while chasing an 8-pound wheel of Double Gloucester Cheese.

Maybe that's too kind.

The Sports Gazette summarized the race this way; "twenty young men chasing a cheese off a cliff and tumbling 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to the hospital"—a more apt description.

The event takes place at Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester England and draws between five and ten thousand spectators each year. It’s total chaos and injuries are common. The cheese has been known to touch speeds of 70 mph! To date, no participant has actually caught the cheese.

It’s worth noting that pictures cannot, and will never, do this race justice. The hill is insanely steep. If Cooper's Hill had a ski lift, it would be labeled Double Black Diamond (experts only).

Feel like falling down the rabbit hole? Check out the following website. It’s the definitive source for cheese rolling in Gloucester, England. http://www.cheese-rolling.co.uk/

And don’t forget to check out Paul’s photos from his walk. Note: You'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the images from the Cheese Roll.

Thanks Paul, for sharing these images!

Image by Paul Loch

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New Photos of Norway



Be sure to visit our Facebook page if you haven't done so already. We just posted new photos from our Norway hiking tour that finished today. Norway: The Islands of Loften offers a special outdoor experience. Unlike the majority of our inn-to-inn hiking tours, this multisport extravaganza offers hiking, scrambling and kayaking along Norway's scenic fjords. Click here to see the photos.

You can also see 85 more photos from last year's Norway hiking tour by clicking here.

All images by RW guide and adventure racer Staffan Björklund.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Ryder-Walker Featured in Travel and Leisure | Best Adventure Travel Destinations 2014



We think that Travel + Leisure did a very nice job when they produced a caricature version of Ryder-Walker’s founder and CEO, Peter Walker, for their June, 2014 edition. To quote head guide and nearly 20-year Ryder-Walker veteran, Ken Fuhrer, “The resemblance is uncanny!” Click here to see the caricature.

T+L’s version of our esteemed leader appears on page 82 of the June edition (on newstands now). T+L profiled Peter Walker for their feature story Adventure Travel 2014—our picks from the top outfitters, plus insider tips and itineraries.

What are Peter Walker’s picks for adventure travel in 2014?

On Peter’s radar: “The Balkan states of Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro, for their incredible landscapes, cuisines, and history. They’re the full package.”

Read the full story by grabbing this month’s edition of Travel + Leisure, or read Peter Walker’s insider tips by clicking the following link. Enjoy it!

Image: Slovenia is hot right now! Bled Castle, Slovenia. | By Ken Fuhrer

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hot Spots of Italy's Dolomite Mountains



Travel + Leisure offers a nice taste of the Italian Dolomites in their recent article, Hot Spots of Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. Their well-written piece does a nice job of capturing the essence and soul of the Dolomites experience.

What’s more, the article mentions most of the places that we visit and/or stay in during our Jubliäum Fronte Italiano hike (our 30th anniversary village-based hiking tour through the Italian Dolomites). The Rosa Alpina Hotel, Pizzinini's private hut and the Rifugio Fanes all make appearances in the article.

Already been to the Dolomites? No problem. The story will rekindle fond memories.

Note: Our Jubiläum trip is completely sold out, but we still have space on some of our other Dolomites hiking tours. We can also arrange a customized self-guided hiking tour if, for some reason, a guided tour doesn’t work for you.

Treat yourself to Hot Spots of Italy's Dolomite Mountains, but be forewarned; You’ll probably drool on your tablet/copy of the article.

Image by Ken Fuhrer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hiking in Slovenia’s Triglav National Park



National Geographic has a nice story about our Slovenia hiking tour. Check it out.
FYI; we only have 3 spots left on our guided trip. Please join us!

Hiking in Slovenia's Triglav National Park
By Kelley McMillan
National Geographic Adventure

As we topped out on Prehodavci Pass in Slovenia’s Triglav National Park, our guide, Ken Fuhrer from Ryder Walker Alpine Adventures, recounted the legend of Zlatorog, a celebrated Slovenian myth about a local girl who demanded that her suitor, a hunter from the neighboring Trenta Valley, fetch for her the golden horns of Zlatorog, a chamois with a gilded rack. Read more.

Image by Willi Glanznig

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Big Mountain Views...



...are the norm in Bhutan. Ryder-Walker guest Lisa Barry captured this image during our Bhutan Chomolhari Trek. She and her group spent 12 nights/13 days hiking breathtaking mountain passes at the top of the world. It's no wonder that Bhutanese residents refer to their homeland as the "Happiest Place on Earth." Big mountains views like this make us happy too!

Our next Bhutan trip runs during the spring of 2015. Please drop us a line to get on the guest list.

Friday, May 02, 2014

#FotoFriday-Discovering Archery in Bhutan



Guests of our Bhutan Chomlhari Trek recently enjoyed an archery lesson in the popular village of Paro. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, and every Bhutanese village has its own archery range.

Bhutanese archery is not the simple bow-and-arrow stuff that most of us learned at summer camp, however. In Bhutan, archery is a very social affair with lots of eating, singing, dancing and general indulgence. Many archery teams also have their own singers and dancers whose sole job it is to distract the opposing team. They gather around the targets, dancing, singing and heckling—making fun of the shooter’s ability and doing everything they can to steer a hopeful arrow from its mark. When an arrow does find its target, lots of clapping and cheering ensues. Oh, and did we mention the drinking? It’s a big part of the sport.

Could archery and partying be the secret behind Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness? Perhaps. Or maybe it's just the fact that Bhutanese people have a rich social network and they love to celebrate life. Either way, maybe there was value in those summer camp archery lessons after all.

Our next stop is the Tiger’s Nest, then into the mountains for a night of sleeping beneath the 'Mountain of the Goddess' (24,035 feet).

Photo by Daniel Sundqvist

Friday, April 25, 2014

Hiking to the Rifugio Alpe di Tires (2,440 meters)—Dolomites



That little white house in the distance is called the Schutzhaus Tierser Alpl (Rifugio Alpe di Tires in Italian), and it’s our home for the night on Day #3 or our Italian Dolomites hiking tour. 

Here’s a closer look.


Many guests have gazed upon that tiny red roof, excited about the promise of a hearty meal, refreshing drink and comfortable lodgings after a long day on the trail. 


The day begins with a short transfer by van and cable car. This is the view as we hike past Tyrolean farmhouses and into the Sciliar-Catinaccio Nature Park. The big mountain in the photo is called the Sciliar (2,563 meters) (Schlern in German). The snow-capped peaks of Austria stand to the north, while the tallest peaks of Switzerland occupy the horizon in the northwest.


The trail continues through flower-filled meadows and passes a Tyrolean chalet that serves delicious coffee, schnapps and home-cooked snacks. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. The coffee and Apfelstrudel top off the tank before we switch on our climbing legs and spend the next few hours switchbacking above tree line. Here’s a view from the top of the hill.


Again, those peaks in the distance lie in Austria. You can also see where we started in the morning. There’s a small village called Compatsch about two-thirds of the way up the photo.

From this vantage point, it’s a rather quick jaunt to the Rifugio Bolzano (Schlernhaus), a veritable castle in the sky and our lunch stop for the day.




The interior feels like a German beer hall meets Italian climber’s hut. It’s comfortably rugged, the food is delicious, and the beer comes in tall steins. It would be very easy to settle into this place and have one beer after another. 

The trail calls, however, so we eventually leave the Bolzano Hut and spend the afternoon with views like this:




The jagged peaks in the left side of the photo are part of the Rosengarten Group (Catinaccio in Italian).  This region is called the “Rose Garden” because the limestone formations glow with a pretty rose color in the evening light. The pinkish hue is one of the defining characteristics of the Italian Dolomites.


Finally, we arrive at the Rifugio Alpe di Tires (2,440 meters), grab some hot showers, drink a few schnapps, and find a cozy table reserved especially for us. It’s worth noting that the Rifugio Alpe di Tires is a sophisticated mountain hut. The sound of the espresso machine greets hikers as they stroll through the door. Wind and solar energy provide power for the hut, while books, games, and a fully stocked bar ensure a comfortable stay. Guests can also purchase homemade cookies and cakes, postcards, and souvenirs. They even sell rain ponchos in case your outerwear unexpectedly dies. 

Here’s another shot of the hut.  


The hut owners, Stefan and Judith take awesome care of us! They've become family.


And finally, a view that many people will never see. RW guide Ken Fuhrer shot this image while climbing above the Rifugio Alpe di Tires. 


We don’t climb up here during our regular hiking tours, though it’s something we can do upon special request. Rather, the normal hiking route follows the winding dirt road on the left side of the hut. Next stop, the village of Selva—“The Jewel at the Foot of the Dolomites”—Day 4 of our Italian Dolomites hiking tour. 

Images:
Bolzano hut by Porter Teegarden. 
#1-5, 7 and 11 by Chris Pranskatis
#8-10, 12-14 by Ken Fuhrer

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!



Get outside and enjoy this beautiful planet!

Photo: Horses of the Italian Dolomites | By Ken Fuhrer 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rolling Green Meadows...



Lots of them! The bucolic meadows keep rolling and rolling in the Italian Dolomites. The meadows are called "Alms" in this part of the world, and the Alms that you see in this photo are part of one grandaddy Alm called Seiser Alm. Seiser Alm, (the Alpe di Siusi in Italian), is the largest high elevation meadow in Europe—and we get to hike across it every year.

If you join our Italian Dolomites Trek, then you'll enjoy this view on your first hiking day. The first day's hike is a loop that begins in the medieval hill village of Völs am Schlern (Fié in Italian). The hike climbs through forest and meadow, passes a pretty lake and tops out at a Tyrolean farmhouse/restaurant at Tuff Alm, just in time for an Apfelstrudel, a coffee, or beer depending on your mood.

Following a bit of relaxation, with eye-popping views of the Schlern mountain from the restaurant deck, the hike turns back into the woods and descends to a Tyrolean forest house for a sampling of schnapps, sweets, and/or a home-cooked meal. Another sun-drenched deck slows the hands of time before the trail descends again and leads to the view in this photo. Continuing downward, we pass castles, orchards and innumerable Tyrolean chalets before checking back into our hotel beneath the ramparts of a 14th century tower. 

If you like this day, then you'll love hiking day #2 on our Italian Dolomites Trek. We spend the morning hiking through grassy meadows, then we leave the pastures behind and climb above tree line for some serious mountain hiking. 

Click here if you'd like to read more about the Italian Dolomites region. 

Image by Chris Pranskatis

Friday, April 11, 2014

Foto Friday: Peak Bagging Scotland!



The nice thing about peak bagging in Scotland is that you don’t need a bunch of gear to do it. Many of the peaks are accessible to everyday hikers. Just load your day pack with a few essentials and hit the trail.

In this photo, Daniel Sundqvist stands atop one of Scotland’s Munros. Named in honor of Sir Hugh Munro, a Munro is any mountain with a height greater than 3,000 feet (914.4 meters). Click here to read our previous blog about Munros and mountain hiking in Scotland.

If you’re an avid hiker, then you’ll love peak bagging, or “Munro bagging,” as they call it in Scotland. Some of the locals, calling themselves “Munroists,” actually try to hike as many Munros as they can in their lifetime. There are 282 Munros in Scotland, and, as of 2009, 4,000 people claimed to have bagged every peak. (They call it a “compleation.”) There are also 509 Tops and 221 Corbetts. A Top is a secondary peak over 3,000 feet and a Corbett is any distinct peak greater than 2,500 feet (but less than 3,000). Some people try to climb all of these too!

The Scottish Mountaineering Club maintains a full list of all the Munros, Corbetts, and the hill walkers that have compleated them. Check out their site, it’s a worth a visit.

We don’t have time to bag every peak, so we’ll take in some of the most famous climbs during our Scotland Highlands and Islands hiking tour. It's worth mentioning that we do NOT offer this trip as a self-guided version. So, if you’d like to bag some Munros then please join our guided hike. Daniel Sundqvist will lead this trip, and we have four spots left on this year’s tour.

Note: While many of Scotland’s Munros can be summited by the average hiker, some require a bit more skill, and all require a basic level of fitness to start. No matter which peak you summit, there is no excuse for going unprepared. Always be prepared for inclement weather and carry enough gear for unforeseen circumstances. Remember the old adage, “You can’t cheat the mountain!"

Thursday, April 03, 2014

FAQ: What is the difference between 1st and 2nd class Swiss passes?



Question: When traveling in Switzerland, what is the difference between 1st and 2nd class rail tickets?

Short Answer: First class tickets offer more legroom and a generally quieter experience. And, if you buy 1st class tickets on a Swiss boat, then you’ll typically enjoy upper deck seating with phenomenal views.

Long Answer: It must be said that 2nd class tickets are perfectly fine. Second class seats are clean, safe, fun and they’re less expensive than 1st class seats. That said, the majority of people that travel through Switzerland do so in 2nd class, so 2nd class seats tend to see more wear-and-tear, and are sometimes more crowded, than 1st class seats. This varies by region and train. On some trains, the difference between classes is negligible. On others, the difference is more noticeable. On all the trains, however, the upholstery and carpeting tend to be a bit nicer in 1st class (less wear-and-tear), there’s more legroom, and it’s usually easier get a seat by your self (or with your friends). One caveat: First class seats can be quite crowded with business types during intercity rush hours.

So, should you splurge on 1st class tickets?

That’s your call. Having traveled both for many decades, we have to admit that 1st class offers a more comfortable experience. If you value quiet time to yourself, you like the extra legroom, or you’d rather be surrounded by businessmen than families, then by all means, go for 1st class. If you’re on a budget, you don’t need absolute quiet, or you’d like to mingle a bit more with the Swiss public, then choose 2nd class.

Note: Smoking is not allowed on any Swiss train.

It’s also worth stating that traveling by train in Switzerland is NOT like flying. Second class seats have plenty of legroom. You won’t feel cramped just because you chose the less expensive option. Also, we almost never have trouble finding seats in 2nd class. The 2nd class cars are just generally busier and more full than in 1st. Again, this varies by train, region and time of day. In some cases, you might have an entire 2nd class car to yourself.

Regardless of what you choose, you’ll have a wonderful time traveling through Switzerland. The Swiss Travel System, which includes trains, buses, boats, funiculars, trams and cable cars, is one of the most efficiently run transportation systems in the world. It is also, in our opinion, one of the most fun.

Photo: View from the train to Grindelwald, Switzerland. By Chris Pranskatis.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day Tripping: Visit the Fairytale Castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau



If you subscribe to our e-newsletter, then you recently read about our Bavarian Tyrol Trek.

We also gave a nod to Nueschwsanstein, southern Germany’s most popular castle. Just over two hours from the finish of our Bavaria hike, Neuschwanstein makes an easy day trip or one-day extension after the tour.

For today’s blog, we thought we’d show you a few more photos of Neuschwanstein and of Hohenschwangau, the often unknown and underrated castle that sits next door.

A little background:



Neuschwanstein is THE castle that people imagine when they think of fairytales and sleeping beauties. It’s one of the most photographed buildings in Germany, and it’s been featured in countless magazines, books and films. It’s also widely believed that Neuschwanstein inspired the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, but building the castle wasn’t always “magic.”

King Ludwig II started construction of the castle in 1869 and he racked up a sizable credit card bill while doing so. The Bavarian government eventually deposed the king, so the castle was never finished. Interestingly, while the outside of the castle looks complete, many of the interior rooms remain totally bare.

You can tour the interior of the castle, but since so many of the rooms were left unfinished, the tour ends pretty quickly. For princely furnishings, however, look no further than Hohenschwangau, King Ludwig II's childhood home which lies next door.


The two castles sit in close proximity to each other. King Ludwig II spent his childhood in Hohenschwangau, (above), then tried to out do his parents by building Neuschwanstein. In actual fact, Neuschwanstein was just one of King Ludwig II's many elaborate building projects, some of which were never finished.

Both hilltop castles warrant a visit, but beware, 1.4 million people visit these castles every year. This is tourism at its finest.


Our recommendation: Visit the castles, just so you can say that you've seen them. Both tours are relatively short, but after standing in line for one, you probably won't feel like doing another. If nothing else, shoot photos of Neuschwanstein's exterior, then tour the interior of Hohenschwangau to see how the Royals lived during the 1800's. The Marienbrucke (Mary's Bridge) is a great spot to grab the Neuschwanstein photo that you see in so many magazines. Grab your photos, take a tour or two, then wander around the Alpsee which is the big lake to the south of the castles. Pack a lunch, or stop for refreshment at a lakeside beer garden. If you have extra time, and you're feeling extra historical, than visit the Museum of Bavarian Kings which is also nearby.

Before you go: The Hohenschwangau Ticket Center is the go-to source for ticket prices, maps and tourist info.

Travel: Bahn.com is the main site for the Germany's railway system. Doing a quick search from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (the finish of our Bavarian Tyrol hike) to Hohenschwangau, yields a travel time of two hours and six minutes with an 8:04 departure and 2 changes. A more convenient departure (no changes) leaves at 9:40 but lands you at the castles just shy of noon.

From Hohenschwangau, it's just two and-a-half hours back to Munich.

Images: by Chris Pranskatis