Into the Heart of the Alps

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If It's Not Up, It's Not Worth Seeing

We just got a big pile of maps in the mail covering the various parts of Monaco, France and Italy we will be trekking through this summer. Which reminded me how the trip itself is only a third of the fun of these adventures – the planning and anticipation are the first third of the fun, while looking at pictures and telling stories for years to come are the final third.

As a reflection of how Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) did and didn’t affect my ability to hike over 30 years, I will share some stories about previous adventures in several blogs (hopefully maximizing my fun and yours).

Alaska is a Hiking Paradise – 3+ Years After AFib Diagnosis

I recognized no symptoms when I was diagnosed with AFib at the age of 25. In the hospital for something else (which turned out to be nothing), the doctors asked whether I ever get dizzy. I fainted “on command” and they informed me that I had an “irregularly irregular” heartbeat. They put me on rate control medicine (digoxin) and sent me on my way.

In retrospect, I realize that my hatred of running (I was always out of breath) and my high heart rate during aerobics classes (I thought I was counting wrong) were symptoms of AFib. So it may well be that I had AFib for several years before I was actually diagnosed. Undiagnosed AFib is a serious problem in the population as a whole, as the undiagnosed person has a totally unknown risk of stroke.

Our honeymoon was five weeks in Alaska, mostly backpacking. Four years after being diagnosed, the major impact of AFib was that I was slower than most on the uphills (I counted my breaths – breathe in for three steps, breathe out for three steps, repeat to the top). There was no wheezing or dizziness, and I rarely needed to stop to catch my breath.

A year after our honeymoon, we moved to Alaska and lived there for three years. We hiked and backpacked extensively, covering a lot of miles and bagging a lot of peaks between 5 pm Friday and midnight Sunday during the no-darkness summers.

Brooks Range Brooks Range, Alaska

By the end of our time there, now eight years after AFib diagnosis, I started thinking twice about climbing long steep mountains and had Bob carry the lion’s share of the weight. My breathing patterns by the top were often one breath in, one breath out. But I was still a speed demon on the flats and downhills.

Via Alpina Anticipation and Training Update

We have the plane tickets.

We have some of our gear (thanks to a generous donation from sponsor Black Diamond Equipment) and a list of what’s still needed.

We have a daily itinerary showing distances, elevation gain, possible accommodations, cultural attractions and available services (all gathered from the incredible Via Alpina website).

I am training regularly. Living in the foothills at the edge of the Salt Lake valley, every daily walk has significant uphill built in. Every weekend is a training hike with my coach (husband Bob). Last weekend was a long hike on Stansbury Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, with a half mile straight up tacked on because … it was there … and even greater views beckoned at the top.

Stansbury IslandStansbury Island, Great Salt Lake

And we’ve read Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps, describing Brandon Wilson and wife’s trek along the Via Alpina all in one summer season.

Email Your Questions and Suggestions

I’ve set up an email account for this trek: If you have questions, comments or suggestions, post them on the blog itself or feel free to email me. I will get back to you.

One topic I welcome suggestions on right now: What equipment and phone service do I need to blog on the trail this summer? (We will be mostly in France.)

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