Into the Heart of the Alps

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Déjà Vu; Before There Was a Via Alpina

My favorite book growing up was Heidi. Because of Heidi, I fell in love with the Alps before I ever saw them. My mother, brother and I visited the Swiss Alps when I was 11 or so; we went to Heidi’s birthplace and hiked Heidi’s mountains and meadows. I fell in love with the Alps for real.

Hiking the Alps with a 5- and 9-Year Old

In 2000, 20 years after being diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), we did a home exchange in Oberstdorf, Germany (the southernmost town in Germany, virtually surrounded by Austria). Bob and I took the two kids (Sierra was then 5 and Woody was 9) on a 3-day / 2-night hut-to-hut tour in the Bavarian Alps. My love for the Alps only intensified (but the uphills were doable only because we were moving at a small child’s pace).

Come to find out, part of the 2000 Alpine adventure was one link of what is now known as the Via Alpina. Here is a description from my travel journal of our departure from the Mindelheimer Hütte (a part of the Via Alpina we will retrace in a future year, but I suspect that global warming has changed the snow conditions):

Woody going down snow slope No more switchbacks for me!

Up the pass and across a few snowfields was easy. Going down the zick-zacks was a heart-in-your-mouth experience, with everyone containing their anxieties very well and maintaining total concentration for hours on end. The “trail” had been hacked into the sheer rock and covered with gravel, much of which had a strong preference to be further down the trail. We had to be careful with every footstep, and where snow had not fully melted off the trail, climb around the snow off-trail. At certain points there was a cable to give the illusion of safety, but for the most part, I led and tried to identify difficult spots, Woody followed and used his walking stick to maintain balance (I couldn’t watch), Sierra followed him, with Bob bringing up the rear and holding Sierra’s walking stick out to her side as the supposed safeguard against a free-fall down mountain.

Halfway down or so, we were presented with a choice of continuing on the trail on ever more gravel but less side-hanging, or boot-skiing down a (double black ??) snowfield. Woody really wanted to do the snow thing, but lost his footing early on and ended up in a freefall on his butt to the bottom of the snowfield. Bob followed behind (with more control) to pick up the pieces. Woody got so shaken he wouldn’t allow anyone to speak of the adventure for the rest of the day.

Sierra and I opted for the trail, and slipped and slided our way down holding hands and singing songs.

They serve killer apple strudel at the hut over there! They serve killer apple strudel at the hut over there!

Via Alpina Training

It’s been raining so much in SLC, it was hard to figure out last week where to go for distance training without getting totally muddy. Ended up doing two days back-to-back of road-walking (11 mi roundtrip each day) – City Creek Canyon to the end of the road and East Canyon Road up to Big Mountain. Found snow (falling from the sky and underfoot) at the turnaround point both days.

Used the awesome Distance Trekking Poles generously donated by Black Diamond (they only weigh 12.3 oz / pair!). Really helped me keep a rhythm going uphill; they will come in very handy on the Via Alpina.

Only 18 days before we leave, but who’s counting …

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