Into the Heart of the Alps

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Via Alpina, 8 Countries in 1500 Miles

Seven years ago, eight European countries established a trail that goes through the heart of the Alps from the Adriatic Sea to the Mediterranean. (The eight countries crossed by the Via Alpina are Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland.) For the most part, they connected a network of existing trails, broke it down into daily stages, and collected and published information about available accommodations and cultural opportunities along the way. This wealth of information can be found on the Via Alpina website.

8 Countries in 1500 Miles

There are five Via Alpina trails, with the red trail being the only through-trail from Trieste, Italy to Monaco. The red trail is approximately 1,500 miles long, broken into 161 stages (each equivalent to a day’s hiking). The hiking involves significant elevation gain, averaging 3,500 feet up and down per day over an average of 10 miles.

Bob and Michele StraubeA Dream Reborn Post-Ablation

I learned about the Via Alpina when it was first created and wanted to hike the whole thing ... that very year! I’d been looking for a long-distance trail to hike for several years, not willing to accept that AFib was taking away one of my favorite activities – hiking in the mountains. My husband and I had talked about doing the Pacific Crest Trail over several summers, but I’m not that wild about backpacking anymore.

The Via Alpina, staying in mountain inns and huts while eating fabulous food and drinking local beer and wine, sounded perfect. After a little research into the elevation gains, though – as much as 6,000’ on some days – I reluctantly realized that it just was not possible as long as I had AFib (which at the time, I thought would be forever).

My “miraculous” cure after three decades of AFib (thank you Dr. Marrouche), after having been told by most doctors that someone with such a long history of AFib could not be cured, prompted my desire to raise awareness about this condition. The dream of hiking the Via Alpina from end to end was reborn.

I plan to hike the entire length of the Via Alpina over 4-5 summers, starting in Monaco and ending in Slovenia, to raise awareness about Atrial Fibrillation and funds for AFib research. I will be accompanied by my husband Bob for the entire journey, and by a shifting cast of friends and family – and potentially other AFib survivors – for portions of the trip. Of course, you my blog-readers will also accompany me virtually.

Our tentative schedule is as follows:

  • Summer 2011 (3 weeks in July) – Monaco, France and one day in Italy
  • Summer 2012 (5-6 weeks) – France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany
  • Summer 2013 (5-6 weeks) – Germany, Austria and Italy
  • Summer 2014 (5-6 weeks) – Italy and Slovenia

I am very lucky to already have three generous sponsors for this great adventure:

Other sponsors are welcome, of course!

Training for the Via Alpina

After 30 years of AFib, in the last few years barely able to huff and puff my way up a flight of stairs, I have a lot of training to do to get ready for this adventure. Lucky for me, I am surrounded by incredible hiking opportunities (the Wasatch mountains) and I have the world’s best coach (my husband Bob).

We are trying to hike every weekend, alternating distance with elevation gain. I’ll be sharing our training venues every week, in part to keep me honest and in part to document that heart-health can be rebuilt. (There will be a future blog on this topic.)

Last week, we hiked through snow almost to the top of Little Black Mountain, at the northern edge of Salt Lake City – approximately 3,000’ elevation gain, half of it in the last mile. I definitely had to stop regularly to catch my breath, but the daily uphill walking in my neighborhood is paying off. And, no need to nap when I got home.

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