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Whether you’re walking, running or skiing, poles can be a major advantage to your speed and balance.

Tracks and Trails have teamed up with Leki who have given us four of their latest summer poles that offer something for all your summer mountain occasions.

1. Traveller Carbon - Nordic walking poles

The Traveller Carbon poles are designed for the Nordic walker. Featuring a quick release length adjuster, a glove-style strap system, and removable rubber pads covering the bottom, these poles are well designed to meet the rigors of Nordic walking.

Once deployed and fixed in place with a simple pull on each section, these poles feel extremely robust. Their carbon construction lends them a rigid feel, while remaining lightweight. Once you get used to how the glove system attaches and get the Velcro straps in the right position, you feel like the poles are an extension of your arm. The fit is very snug, like cross-country skiing poles should feel, and allows you to utilise the full range of motion while maximising your wrist/pole power and 'catch'.

With a simple thumb press of the button on top of the pole, you can release your hands from the poles, reattaching them by simply sliding the little rope attachment down the groove into the catch. On very hot days you may find the glove system makes your hands sweatier, but with a soft, breathable material with no seams inside, the risk of blistering is minimal.

Thanks to the removable rubber ‘paw’ covering the tips, you can use them with minimal noise on hard surfaces. However, this does also add to the weight which is less of an issue as it helps with increasing your workout effort!

We’re very impressed by these poles, and wouldn’t hesitate to choose them for our own Nordic walking workouts, or to recommend them for group use.

Find out more about Leki Traveller Carbon Poles

2. Micro Vario Carbon Strong – the ‘all-rounder’

If there’s one set of poles with the broadest appeal, it’s the Micro Varios. Featuring the same strong yet lightweight carbon construction as the Traveller above, they are also height adjustable, yet feature a simpler, quick adjust hand strap system, and well-designed shaft allowing for multiple hand positions. This allows for more versatility on varying mountain terrain.

The similar quick deployment system with solid joints works well for either hiking or running, and allows for rapid collapse and stowing in your bag. They are also light enough to keep extended and carry by your side if that’s your preference.

The one potential flaw with the quick-release catches is the small metal washers that could fall out if they become loose. The mechanism will still work, but would require further adjustment to ensure the pole doesn’t slip down under pressure. Something that we will certainly be feeding back to Leki. Despite this we highly rate these for their versatility when either trekking or running, and good compromise between features and weight.

Find out more about Leki Micro Vario Carbon poles

3. Light carbon folding pole

If weight is a major concern, and you are happy with a fixed length, the Micro RCM poles are the poles for you! With the same solid feeling carbon construction, these poles have been pared down to the essentials.

They have the same lightweight, simple strap system and grip range on the shaft, and the usual metal tips that provide solid, all-terrain traction. Being quick to deploy and stow without needing to worry about the height adjustment aspect, they can save you time and stress during changeovers at cols or summits in races or setting FKTs (fast known times!) or PBs.

The lightest of the range and coming in 5cm lengths from 110-135cm, they would be our choice for ultra races or multi-day trips to help with weight saving. Not the most robust of the series, so if you’re after something tougher but heavier, the last model could be a better bet.

Find out more about the Leki Micro RCM poles

4. Thermolite XL (Aluminium)

The 4x4s of the range and as tough as they come for hiking. The Thermolite XLs are slightly heavier (242g) due to the aluminium construction and thicker grip, but still feel easy to handle. This also makes them the most robust of the bunch, ideal for your trekking ambitions and a great choice for more remote areas.

They feature the light and simple strap system, ergonomic, cushioned grip with extension for multiple positions, and quick release length adjusters. They are non-folding, but shrink down to a handy size for stashing on the side of your bag.

Find out more Leki Thermolite XL poles

Thank you Leki for the excuse (as if we need one!) to get out in the hills playing with these.

We are already looking forward to receiving our winter batch for nordic skiing, snowshoeing and ski touring.

As a destination for nature and culture lovers, Switzerland offers an impressive choice of landscapes and traditions to enjoy. Whether hiking in the shadow of the Matterhorn, swimming in Lac Léman, or running beneath the Eiger, there’s something for everyone in this outdoor paradise.

Check out one of our guests films they made "Sweet Like Swiss Chocolate"for their take on this beautiful country.

Zermatt

It’s hard to rival the globally iconic status of that chocolate box 'Toblerone' mountain, the Matterhorn. Dominating the head of the Zermatt valley, this dramatic peak remains a popular challenge for mountaineers. It’s also a fantastic mountain biking, trekking and trail running area, with a well-marked trail network and access to a train and cable cars to accelerate your access to the higher itineraries, including to the Klein Matterhorn (Little Matterhorn) at 3883m.

Although don’t miss out on seeing close-up the lower alpine meadows with their abundant flowers and curious cows quietly looking on as it's the perfect location for some first class day hikes. It’s also the end of the classic Haute Route trek which begins in Chamonix, France and crosses the canton Valais to reach this quintessential Swiss mountain town.

Zermatt also provides an ideal base to relax, indulge and shop for those classic Swiss souvenirs - chocolate and Swiss Army knives of various kinds are in abundance here! Catering for most budgets and tastes, and being unusually 'car free' offers a feeling of escape from the pace of everyday life. Find out more to plan your visit with Zermatt tourism office.

Geneva

Many people fly into Geneva and hop straight on a transfer to their destination. Understandable if time is tight, yet there are some worthwhile places to visit either side of your trip. It's even possible with just 80 minutes to spare on your arrival to the airport to leave luggage and obtain a FREE travel card to make a quick visit.

With Lake Geneva (or Lac Lèman) the main feature, and the parallel panoramas of the Alps and the Jura either side of the city, it’s a prime spot to absorb the grandeur of the landscape and embark on further adventures in the mountains. A perfect place to enjoy all aspects is down at the Bains des Paquis: a community owned beach, restaurant and sauna (in the winter) located on a jetty stretching into the lake opposite the famous ‘jet d’eau’.

Geneva is spread out over several distinct districts, easily reached by public transport or using the free bikes (for up to 4 hours). The Paquis area near the main Cornavin train station offers department store shopping, quirky cafes and bars, hotels and the lake; Eaux-vives is the old town area with the Cathedral (great views from the top!) and narrow, cobbled streets lined with bars, cafes and restaurants; the student district of Plainpalais has the more reasonable and diverse range of eateries and bars and a large diamond shaped central area that hosts fares and has a flea-market most weekends; further out, Carouge retains a more traditional feel and has a lively outdoor scene in the summer, making it a pleasant place to stay.

Travelling by bike means you can enjoy getting a bit lost to discover some of the lesser known areas, or even head out to the vineyards and more rural areas in the vicinity. To help plan your visit to Geneva visit https://www.geneve.com/

Grindelwald

For a glimpse into the heart of the Swiss Alps, look no further than bucolic Grindelwald. Set among the high alpine pastures of the Bernese Oberland mountain range and overlooked by the imposing North Face of the Eiger, it’s an impressive village to arrive in.

Trekking, running, climbing and mountain biking are all well-catered for here, with further itineraries possible using the cable cars or Jungfraujoch railway. While not cheap, the full train experience that takes you through the Eiger up to the pass (joch) at 3466m is an incredible experience.

Multiple cafes and restaurants in the area offer local cuisine of Rösti (grated and fried potato), Käseschnitte (grilled cheese) and much more, and there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from.

A short walk out of town soon immerses you in a picture-postcard setting of wild Alpine flowers, towering cliffs and immense views set to the soundtrack of the characteristic Swiss cow bell! Find out more on Grindelwald and visit My Switzerland.

What we offer ... check out our trekking and running guided tours to the Swiss Alps. Either based in or passing through Switzerland these trips all still have places available this summer.

· Tour des Combins 1-8 September 2018

· Tour du Mont Blanc Highlights 4-12 August 2018

· Classic Tour du Mont Blanc 29 July - 9 August 2018

· Family Tour du Mont Blanc28 July - 4 August & 8-25 August 2018

· Mont Blanc Ultra Trail (Running) 2-9 September 2018

· Haute Route Highlights 8 - 16 September 2018

· Classic Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt 1-12 August 2018 & 18-29 August 2018

· Tour de Monte Rosa 6-16 September 2018

Still need convincing? Here are 97 more ideas on the Best things to do in Switzerland.

If you would like more information on any aspect of these trips then please contact us for details.

 

It's fair to say that we all like to browse and buy new kit and when heading to the mountains your backpack is by far the most used item.

If you've decided it's time for an upgrade whether setting out for one or several day’s hiking, you’re spoilt for choice from a bewildering range of rucksacks. To help you choose your ideal trekking backpack, we’ve short listed several models that will serve you well on your next mountain adventure.

When deciding on your rucksack of choice, it’s important you take some time to reflect on what you really need. Should it be zip, drawstring or roll down top? What size do you need? Hip pockets? Water bladder compatible? Outside storage pockets? Women's specific option? Lightweight vs Durability? And as i'm sure you've found out no pack is fully waterproof! So does have a integrated waterproof liner or rain cover?

There are many questions to ask, but generally we all need to have easy access to our food, drink, sun cream and of course cameras. Having to stop and remove your sack each time you need something can get tiresome, so the ones that offer multiple storage options accessible while on your back are well worth considering.

There’s also the obvious kit difference between going for a day hike and what you need for multiple days on the trails. With a heavier load, the structure and support design becomes especially important when making your choice. The shoulder straps and hip belt should feel comfortable and enable you to wear the pack for several hours on end, often while using walking poles.

It’s hard to do extensive testing when in a shop for a short time, but asking for extra weight to add in the pack, and taking your time and doing some online research can really help you to make an informed choice.

Montane £60-£90

The Montane Featherlight range offers a series of lightweight packs between 21-35 litres in size ideal for single day to multi-day hikes. They feature roomy hip pockets either side, a well-aerated back panel, and conveniently stows in its own pocket for packing in your main travel bag. We've had these on test and love the design and feel of these noticing every small feature having been carefully considered. They are incredibly comfortable even when fully loaded.

If planning a multi-day tour that requires you to carry everything on your back, or you want a more durable material to withstand any mountain environment then we'd recommend the new Halogen or Oxygen series. The Oxygen being the womens specific version. Available in either day pack size 24/25 litres or for bigger loads 32/33 litres. Again the design, fit and comfort of these is hard to beat along with being excellent value for money.

The Montane Ultra Tour 40 is a lightweight yet comfortable larger sack with everything you need for a bigger mountain adventure.

Berghaus £70-£100

The BerghausFreeflow 25 litre rucksack, redesigned in 2017, includes a back panel with increased air flow to keep you cooler, a built-in water bladder and an integrated rain cover. A good choice for day hikes also available in a womens specific version. We also like their Fast Hike 20 designed with speed in mind! It weighs just 535g (compared to 1155g for the Freeflow pack). It has a detachable waist-strap and back pad, among other removable components, which means you can leave behind a further 125 grams when you need to travel ultra-light!

For longer hiking trips, the Freeflow also comes in 35 litres and the highly customisable and comfortable Fast Hike 32 litre.

Northface £70-£135

The KutaiNorthface range has two small day pack options the 18 & 24 litres. They are big enough to fit in all of the essentials but small enough so that you don't bring extra! Then the 34 litre Kuhtai is a super lightweight 'large pack' alternative. With 'zippered' access and all the essential features designed specifically with weight in mind it's another perfect pack for fast mountain hikes as it only weighs 794g.

The NorthfaceBlanchee range are all designed for bigger adventures in mind. The smallest in this series is the Blanchee 35 litre and it's bigger brother or sister is the Blanchee 50. They are sleek looking backpacks featuring hip pockets, a removable/floating lid and lots of pockets on the outside to stash extra bits of kit. These sacks can also be reduced in volume to accommodate a lighter load.

Osprey £60-£120

At Tracks and Trails we've been testing hiking, skiing and climbing specific Osprey sacks for many years. With a broad range of rucksacks available made with fastidious attention to detail, Ospreyoffer an excellent choice for all mountain adventures. Their 18 or 26 litre zippered Hikelite sacks offer a well designed back ventilation system and essential features in a slim compact design allowing you to store and access everything you need whist on the move.

Their trademark Talon range, with male and female specific designs, are an established classic that feature the full host of essentials you need to cope with whatever length of trip you take in the mountains. Choose from 11 - 44 litres packs and there's also a 6 litre Lumbar waist/hip belt in this range.

Lowe Alpine £60-£135

Lowe Alpine have over 50 years of experience in designing packs. Their extensive rangeoffers hip belts to full on 55 litre expedition sacks. The two groups of packs we like are the Airzone and Aeon series which offer packs for any mountain adventure. Notably the AirZone Z 25 litre sack which features a solid construction with a well-ventilated back system, along with plenty of handy storage options in and outside this zippered pack.

For longer trips, the Aeon series offers either the 33 (for women) or 35litre versions which come as traditional top loading designs. Lightweight yet robust materials with plenty of space but keeping weight as a premium.

Of course this list is by no means an exhaustive but should give you a good idea of what's currently on the market and a few features to look for. If you need any more advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch ask our advice.

We've had lots of pack purchasing experience!

Julia

To support the changes in EU data regulation (GDPR), we have amended our Privacy Policy to make it easier for you to understand what data we collect and give you control over the collection and use of that data.

What's changing?

Nothing is changing about the type of data Tracks and Trails collects or how we use it. Tracks and Trails doesn't share your data for marketing purposes, and we don’t share your information with other parties, except for the specific reasons listed in our Privacy Policy.

We've re-written our Privacy Policy for improved clarity. We've added more information about what your data is used for, and who it's shared with in order to provide our Services to you.

If you are on our newsletter mailing list and you no longer wish to be contacted by us in this way then you can unsubscribe at any time via the link at the foot of any newsletter email you receive.

If you have any questions about our updated Privacy Policy or the GDPR, you can contact us at info@tracks-and-trails.com

Thank you for choosing to travel with us and we look forward to seeing you again in the mountains.

The Tracks and Trails Team

Thank you TUCK the 'sleep experts' for their fascinating guest blog this month on the importance on a good nights sleep and how it can help prevent injury in everyone.

Taking a proactive approach to injury prevention can help you enjoy the activities you love. One of the easiest and often forgotten ways to prevent injury—sleep.

How much sleep do we need? Sleep is easy to forget; it’s so fundamental. However, the question remains—are you getting enough sleep? The average adult needs seven to eight, and if you're getting less, you've entered a state of sleep deprivation.

The Heavy Toll of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation causes neurons in the brain to slow down the rate at which they send messages. Critical thinking skills, decision-making abilities, and higher reasoning all suffer when you’re tired. The slow down of the brain also affects reaction times, putting you at higher risk for injury. A split-second delay can mean the difference between staying on your feet and taking a dangerous fall.
Sleep deprivation leads to other changes that can affect your ability to perform at peak efficiency. For example, the immune system becomes depressed when the body is tired. That not only means more illness but illnesses that last longer. When you're not feeling well, you may not be as aware of your surroundings or could be sluggish in your response times both of which could lead to injury.

Stay Upright, Alert, and Safe

A study conducted with teen athletes found that those who got over eight hours of sleep were 68 percent less likely to get injured than sleep-deprived study participants. Their muscle strength, reaction times, and alertness were all improved when the mind and body got adequate rest. Healthy muscles are stronger and more flexible, which gives them better injury resistance.
Sleep also plays a vital role in injury recovery. Muscle regeneration occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, but if you only get four hours of sleep, the body doesn’t have time to stay in this deepest of sleep levels. A full night’s rest gives the body time it needs to repair, and heal. Read all about the 5 stages of sleep and sleep cycles.

Getting Better Sleep

Sleep can be elusive. Good rest starts in a bedroom devoted solely to sleep. That means the home office or gym should be kept somewhere else in the house. If frequent night waking is a problem, check the mattress. There should be no lumps or valleys, and it should support your preferred sleep position. Tuck offer advise on mattresses for all sleeping styles.

To give yourself the best chance of full muscle recovery, try developing the following habits:

A Regular Sleep Schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to help the brain acclimate to a regular sleep cycle.

A Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids. They relieve stress and tension before bed and help trigger the brain to release melatonin, a sleep hormone.

Turn Off Electronic Devices: The bright light from smartphones and laptops can suppress melatonin and delay the onset of sleep. Turn off your devices two or three hours before bed to prevent a delay in falling asleep.

Exercise Regularly: Exercise not only keeps your muscles strong and flexible, but it also helps you feel more tired at night.

Healthy, Smart Eating: Try to avoid heavy, high-fat foods close to bedtime. If you need a late night snack, reach for foods like bananas, almonds, and dairy products that promote melatonin production.

Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources

With temperatures rising and snow clearing from the trails, it’s an excellent time to start making summer plans. Why not put a multi-day hiking trip on your agenda? Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or taking your first trip there are walking trips for all levels.

If you need a little inspiration to get you in the mood, here are 10 reasons why a hiking trip could be just what you need this summer.

1. Health and well-being

Walking is an excellent way to maintain fitness and general health. Studies show that even a short walk outside for 20 minutes can reduce stress and boost your immune system. It also does wonders for clearing your mind and stimulating creativity. Thanks to its low-impact nature, it’s also suitable for most abilities, and requires minimal equipment. Hiking is good for you, and if done regularly over increasingly longer distances and on hilly trails it can be an ideal way to get fit. Plus, with the extra equipment required for longer walks the heavier rucksack will add to your exercise gains.

2. Scenery

The landscape around you is breathtaking. Often hiking trails take you to places only accessible on foot, allowing you to enjoy undisturbed natural environments.

3. Go somewhere new

A hiking trip gives you a perfect opportunity to visit a new place around the world and combine it with a 'theme'. Such as the mountains and flowers on the Mont Blanc Trail or Classic Haute Route to coastlines and history crossing Mallorca's Serra de Tramuntana (to name just a few!).

4. Get off the beaten track

To truly have a break for the norm explore nature on less well known trails like the Tour des Combins through Italy and Switzerland or Hikes in Hidden Tuscany.

5. Nature bathing

Nature’s benefits to health are well documented. The Japanese even have a term for it: Shinrin-yoko (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing), with doctors prescribing it as a treatment for all kinds of health issues. Time spent in nature can be an excellent way of relaxing and uncluttering your mind.

6. Meet friends: old and new

Walking on your own can be very therapeutic, but it’s also an excellent social activity! Joining an organised walking trip can lead to new friendships through an inspiring shared experience. Something you can then plan to do as friends, with your family, independently, or on another group tour.

7. Achievable objectives

A set hiking itinerary can give you a defined goal to focus on. This can help with committing to regular fitness and provides a great excuse to explore local walking trails.

8. Experience different cultures

Choosing a hiking route in a new country or area exposes you to different languages, food and traditions. It’s a perfect opportunity to step outside your familiar routine and expand your horizons.

9. Learn something

Whether it’s learning how to identify an unknown summit on the horizon, or a rare bird perched on a tree, there’s always something to learn out on the trails. Multiple books and apps can help with self-learning, but there’s something to be said for the knowledge and skills of a qualified guide to accelerate the learning process.

10. Sleep in a mountain hut

A multi-day hike often involves a night or two in a mountain hut or ‘refuge’. Strategically located in the heart of the mountains, each hut has its own character and charm. Some offer separate rooms and showers, while others are more basic with large dormitories. One thing’s for sure though, after a long day on the trail you’ll appreciate whatever they have to offer! It’s always an unforgettable experience and highly rated by all of our guests.

On Sunday, when I stood at the start of the 2018 Virgin London Marathon, I was full of the usual nerves and a few more. Training had been more difficult than usual: in January I had flu followed by a chest infection; winter in the Peak District had been severe by British standards so training had been in snow, ice and blizzards; only seven days before the start I’d sprained a ligament walking round a very muddy Chatsworth Estate and ridiculously, summer had arrived early and the temperature would be unforgiving.

Even though I have run at least 25 marathons (and set two British senior records) and I’m always very anxious at the start. (Is anyone confident?) But this marathon was really important. This time I was running for anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer and I was running for women over 60 who, in so many ways, have become invisible and written off.

This marathon was not about setting records it was about setting the record straight: there is life after cancer and there is life in the over sixties!!!

As someone who only took up running in my mid 30s it was a surprise to find I was quite good at it and a shock at the age of 50 to find that I could possibly be a record breaker. At that time I was a Director at the PR company Bell Pottinger so my training had to fit in with a demanding work schedule. But I was determined. In 2008 I made two attempts: at London in the Spring and then in Berlin in September – and failed! Then in 2009 I finally achieved my goal and set a new record in London by finishing in 2.53.18.

Although I hated racing, and only raced a few times a year, running was very much part of my life. I enjoyed it. It was part of my daily routine not only did it keep me fit, it was the time in the day when I could relax and either I could be on my own or I could run with one the very good friends who were, and still are, an important part of my life support network! And, I was quite good at marathons. I really couldn’t imagine a day when I didn’t run and the London Marathon had become a fixed point in my calendar which I looked always looked forward to with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

However life is full of surprises and having set a new British record for women over 55 at the London Marathon in 2013 (3.03.45) I was not prepared for the bombshell that was to follow in 2014.

Early in the year I found what I thought might be a spot or even an insect bite on the back of my upper arm. I couldn’t see it but felt it when I was showering. I wasn’t worried but asked my husband Mike and my regular running partner, Katherine, what they thought of it. None of us was worried even though we didn’t know what it was. It didn’t go away and after a couple of months I decided to get it checked out. (Two years earlier a friend of mine had died at the age of 39 from malignant melanoma so I think I was certainly more alert to the possibility of cancer than I otherwise would have been.)

The referral by my GP to a dermatologist didn’t particularly worry me – as someone afflicted with ‘fatuous optimism’ (according to my husband) I was certain it would turn out to be nothing serious. There then followed an escalating level of medical intervention which culminated in an appointment at Christies (the North West’s cancer hospital) where a kind but solemn consultant told me that I needed urgent surgery for the melanoma and a lymph node biopsy as there was more than a 50 per cent chance it had spread.

It seemed as if my world had been turned upside down. One moment I was bobbing along on the sea of life negotiating the occasional ripple or gentle wave when, quite without warning, I found myself on the edge of a deep whirlpool not certain whether I would be dragged down forever or dragged down momentarily only to be spat out again.

Fortunately for me, following surgery, which involved taking a large lump out of my upper arm and removing a lymph node, I was told that there was no evidence that the cancer had spread. However for the next five years (which will end for me in August 2019) I am being checked regularly for any signs that the cancer has spread or that I have another melanoma.

Getting a cautious thumbs-up is not the end for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. For me it was certainly life-changing. Having already retired from full-time PR, I went back to work as a non-executive director in the NHS as well as working with a small cohort of personal training clients. I was keen to get back to normal life, which included running again. But the hard truth is I had had a wake up call – none of us know what is ‘round the corner.’ One day I was fit, healthy and happy the next day I had cancer which is indiscriminating and the outcome often uncertain. From that point on I was determined to make the most of life and not spend time doing things that I didn’t want to do. Life is too short!!!

Running competitively and setting records was no longer important. I didn’t want to put myself under that sort of stress again. What does it matter if I run more slowly as long as I am enjoying it?

For many months after surgery I didn’t believe the cancer had gone. Slowly that anxiety has dissipated. It probably has gone, it may not have done. But I am certainly a cancer survivor and I owe it to myself to now live life to the full again. Which brings me to the 2018 London Marathon.....

Without boring you with a step-by-step account of the event I can safely say I had never imagined it would my toughest ever 26.2 miles! It was London’s hottest marathon at 74 degrees C and runners fell like nine-pins from early on in the race, which is quite disconcerting, to say the least. Cramp took hold before the halfway mark and after that it was a painful journey. My determination to finish on my feet (rather than a stretcher) was strengthened by the reasons I was undertaking the challenge and made crossing the finish line even more gratifying, despite the fact if it was my slowest performance!!! For the record, I came home in 3 hours 40 minutes 50 seconds and was the third fastest 60 year old woman. The statistics do not matter. Everyone has their own personal reason for running a marathon, mine no more or less significant than anyone else’s.

Last November I celebrated my 60th birthday. How did I get that old? But here I am, happy, healthy and running again. I decided that I would get to the start line but I knew, however long it took me to reach the finish, it would be a victory for me, for all cancer survivors and for every woman over 60 – it would show we are not finished yet!

Vicki Perry ran for Macmillan and raised over £2,000.

Tracks and Trails are supporting Vicki too and we know if you'd like to do the same she'd be very grateful:

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Victoria-Perry6

It has been less than two weeks since I took my skis off for the final time at Nordkapp on completion of my solo ski journey the length of Norway. The immediate rush of emotions and elation that energised me that day has subsided into a deep sense of contentment.

For those of you who were not aware, this winter I took time away from work to press pause on life and embark on a journey that I have dreamed about for years.

“Norge på Langs” is the term Norwegians use to describe this journey. The idea is to travel on foot from one end of their very long country to the other. From Lindesnes lighthouse on the southern coast to Nordkapp in the arctic north, or visa versa.

You can see an Instagram record of my journey by following the link:

It has become recognised as one of Europe’s finest long distance summer treks. More recently people have started to attempt it in winter on skis. One of the most charming aspects of this journey is that there is no fixed route, nor style in which you have to do it. You choose how you engage with the challenge, whether you travel alone or with friends, what route you take and how much distance you travel each day. There is no real recommended route, just lots of options and choices to be made about how to link a logical line through over 2500km of wild and mountainous terrain.

After a good deal of reflection on what motivates me in Nordic skiing I chose not to take a pulk (tow a sledge) and to try to be as self-sufficient as possible whilst travelling relatively light. I hoped that I would be able to travel good distances when the weather was favourable and enjoy the skiing more, whilst at the same time not compromising safety. When travelling off-track in the Norwegian mountains it’s always advisable to have enough clothing and equipment to survive an emergency bivouac should the weather suddenly turn against you or you encounter a problem.

First ski tracks encountered after 3 week of breaking trail

Of course this meant that my rucksack wasn’t as light as I would have liked. I always carried a goretex bivvi bag, sleeping bag, thermarest and roll mat together with a gas stove, pan set and several days’ worth of food. I’ve estimated that my rucksack weighed between 15-18kg depending on how much food I was carrying.

When I set out on the 14th January, although I hoped for a safe and successful journey, I recognised that I could encounter conditions or circumstances that would prevent me from completing it. By choosing to travel alone, I had to factor in the higher level of commitment involved. I am not, and never have been a high risk taker. As a Mountain Guide I evaluate and manage risk all the time but I am always making decisions for the group as a whole; for my clients. One aspect of this journey that I particularly enjoyed was the freedom to make decisions concerning my condition and capacities in relation to the environment and the challenge, and at times to see how close to that line I was prepared to venture.

Reaching my next overnight stop

I know that I have been incredibly fortunate with the snow and weather conditions this winter season. Although I experienced some of the coldest and continuously cold conditions of my life (several weeks between minus 30 and 40 degrees C!!), this winter has been marked by lots of snow and remarkably few days of very high winds. That isn’t to say I didn’t have bad weather, but I rarely had to sit tight because of it.

It has been one of the most memorable, continuously uplifting and important challenges that I have ever undertaken. Each of the 82 days of my journey was special and satisfying in unique ways, and I am grateful for each of them, no matter how difficult or unpleasant certain sections seemed at the time. There was always something for which I was grateful and now they are all woven into a very special place in my memory.

Meeting a herd of reindeer in Finnmark

Norway is a fascinating and beautiful country. The people who I met along the way, who welcomed me, advised me, helped me and encouraged me have made my journey more than just a physical one. I have made many new friends, and although it may be some time before I get to see them again, they will remain one of the best parts of my journey.

Every journey comes to an end. For me, this winter, my physical journey ended at Nordkapp, when I took off my skis for the final time. Inside, that journey continues, and I find myself brimming with new energy and ideas about how to share my love of Nordic skiing with a wider audience. As I said to myself on so many occasions this winter… “This is amazing… I love Norway, I love snow, I love skiing… “ and I loved skiing the length of Norway! Totally recommended!

Tania Noakes

Through the course of her journey Tania has been raising money for the charity “The Ulysses Trust” which provides a vital source of funding for Army Cadets to undertake expeditions and adventure education. Tania has almost reached her fundraising goal and Tracks and Trails have also supported her goal. So if you can help with that last little bit we know it would be deeply appreciated! https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/tanianoakes1

The cliffs at Nordkapp

What a stunning route, 135 km of cross country skiing through the heart of the Norwegian mountains.The Hallingdal Track, to the east of the famous Hardangervidda, is one of the lesser known long distance ski routes, but it's a cracker! We saw a grand total of four other skiers on the whole route, can you imagine how wonderful it felt to be out there in the wilderness and feeling as though you had the mountains to yourself. Such tranquility and solitude, and searing blue skies. Having just returned from our 'recce' trip I can't wait to get back there next winter to see how you like the latest addition to our ski portfolio.

One of the great joys of working as a Ski Instructor is the need to be constantly on the look out for new journeys. It usually starts with Jim Wilkinson, an exceedingly loyal client, giving me a verbal nudge that he wants new trips on the agenda for his next outing on 'skinny' skis. Out come the maps, and the highlighter pens. Then the head scratching begins, the hunt for a bed for the night along the route gets underway, and slowly things start to take shape.The fact I never know what is round the next corner is definitely a great incentive, or indeed, whether the tracks were cut this morning, or a month ago, all adds to the sense of adventure. The more I ski tour on Nordic skis the less inclined I am to ski in an alpine downhill resort with its queues and noise, and skiers full of lunchtime beer.

We know that many of you love the 'journeying' aspect of ski touring, and it really has to be calling out to the adventurer in all of us, the 'will I make it to the next accommodation', 'what's it going to feel like today climbing that mountain', 'what if the weather turns vicious', all the tantalising thoughts that drift through our minds as we drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind in the eaves. One thing you should realise is that it is quite 'normal' to be a little anxious at the start of a ski trip, but everyone settles down once that first day has been enjoyed and they realise that they can ski the distance after all. I have never left anyone out on the mountain yet, though it's a threat that can be useful with our guests that have come to know us well over the years and are inclined to give the 'guide' a hard time! Tracks and Trails has been running for over 11 years now and so many of you have become regulars, and friends, that exploring a new area is a true joy.

So what did I find on the Hallingdal Track? How does it compare to our other trips? Well, it's certainly different in that it feels more mountainous with a lot of the skiing above the treeline. We very quickly claim a summit early in the trip, and then have several days in high open complex terrain with crags, and knolls, cliffs and hummocks, high tops, and lakes. A truly beautiful landscape that totally blew me away. And we had some wonderful surprises!

Our first taste of the unusual was at Fagerhøy Fjellstue (a Fjellstue is the name given to a 'high mountain lodge') where the new owners Isabella and Øyvind have fast gained a reputation for excellent food. They've been extremely inventive in terms of getting a reputation for themselves by creating the Fjellplanken! Such has its fame spread that international magazines and TV have visited the Fjellstue. Imagine a Norwegian take on 'tapas' and add in 5 different beers to go with each tapas and you have the Fjellplanken. Absolutely delicious!

Next stop - Langedrag, where we were told 'It is not what you will expect.' Well, what do you think we were expecting? Certainly, not sharing

our space with 4 lynx, overgrown pussy cats in my opinion, though when one hissed when I got too close, the size of her incisors made me re-think the pussy cat description. Add in a muskox, amazing pre-historic looking creatures; reindeer, artic foxes, elks, wild boar and wolves and I can agree it was not what we were expecting for our overnight companions. Langedrag is an amazing nature park high in the mountains where the emphasis is on educating young people (and old) about the wild animals of Norway while allowing them to live as naturally as it is possible to live in a Park situation. That combined with the location and the views to the huge lake of Tunhoovdfjorden make it a wonderful overnight stop.

There are, in fact, over 3,000 wild reindeer in this area and they are often to be seen on the high ground on the ski journey from Langedrag to Haglebu.The reindeer are so well adapted to their wintry environment and the first thing you notice is that they 'click'! Essentially a tendon moves over the bones of their legs just above the hooves and makes a very audible clicking sound. Apparently, it is to help them follow each other in 'white out' conditions. How cool is that! "Hang on Rudolph you need to 'click' louder, I didn't quite catch that!"

The day from Langedrag to Hagelbu is probably our highlight day. It's a big day, only 30 km, but the high terrain and the amazing long descent at the end to our log cabin make it not one to be taken lightly, but it is to be savoured. Another interesting overnight stop at Haglebu and different lodgings again, this time in basic, but cosy cabins in the valley. A warm welcome from Mona who was surprised to know we were skiing the Hallingdal Track. She told me that she rarely sees people skiing the route, but would love us to spread the word and keep her little Fjellstue in business feeding and sheltering cross country skiers.

Another wonderful day swooping through gullies, and round lakes, and some fantastic downhills brings us to Tempelseter. Well, how disappointed were we to find that Tempelseter Fjellstue had burned down a few years ago and there was 'no room at the inn', in fact 'no nothing at the inn'. So a descent of 700 metres to the valley was required to find a bed for the night. Eventually we ran out of snow and skis on our packs we marched down the road, more than ready for a drink and a meal. Tim, my long suffering 'significant other', is usually of a very upbeat and positive disposition, but even he wasn't enjoying the march on tarmac. Standing in the middle of the road when the next vehicle passed, and climbing onboard before the driver had worked out what was happening soon solved the problem. Norwegians are definitely the most generous people when it comes to helping other mountain people. 'Nature' is such a huge part of their lives that they welcome anyone who is also out there enjoying it. A staggering 70 per cent of the population of Oslo heads for the hills at Easter weekend, and the long standing tradition of having a family home, a 'hytte' in the mountains is alive and well with demand for second homes in the high places continuing to rise. At the moment there are some 60,000 hytte for sale in Norway, many of them new builds, as developers try to meet demand.

So did we find somewhere to rest our weary heads after our long march? Did we ever! What a find! In a little village in the middle of nowhere we found Eggedal Borgerstue. What a treasure, wonderful decor, artwork and four-poster bed complete with chandelier. If you like a trip with amazing skiing, stunning views, and constant variety this is the one for you! A huge thanks to Elisabeth for taking us in! I hope you enjoyed your holiday and that we actually get to meet you next time.

Oh, one last thought. My education in all things Nordic was complete this winter when I discovered 'hygge'. Where have I been? Why did none of you tell me about this trendy movement before? I was oblivious to the fact that finally the rest of the world has woken up to the Nordic way of things and that it's cool to get into the hygge. Those of you who know about 'hygge' will know what I mean and the rest of you can 'google' it.

See you on The Hallingdal Track in winter 2019?

Alpine towns don’t come any more iconic than Chamonix, nestled in the heart of the French Alps. Renowned for its proximity to Western Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, Chamonix has long been considered the centre of Alpine mountaineering.

With easy access to Geneva and bordering both Switzerland and Italy, Chamonix, offers visitors the possibility of a '3 country experience'. The options for exploration and adventure are endless and are open to all fitness levels and experience.

The Chamonix valley offers something for every visitor in summer or winter, what ever the weather. Be it those wishing to relax and simply soak up the mountain environment to those wanting the extremes of outdoor adventure.

Chamonix is a mecca for walkers and trail runners thanks to the outstanding range of trails in the area. Numerous itineraries are available for day trips or multi-day adventures with the luxury of mountain refuges located in stunning locations. Chamonix also hosts the mythical Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc trail race around the peak, placing it at the heart of the international trail running scene.

For those looking for a somewhat less demanding experience but with the same jaw-dropping vistas, you can also use the many mountain railways and cable cars that take the sting out of the ups and down. Such as the world famous 'Aiguilles du Midi' - Europe's highest cable car or visit the 'sea of ice' - Mer de Glace on the Montenvers Railway.

Making Chamonix a great way of introducing children to the mountains, their history, geology, flora & fauna - enjoying a family adventure together.

The Tracks and Trails Way

We offer a wide range of trips designed to make the most of your time in the area through our expert knowledge after over a decade of living and working in and around the Chamonix Valley.

If you’re a walker looking for a challenging and world famous trek, the Classic Tour du Mont Blanc or Highlights Tour should be top of your list. For something even more demanding and just as revered, the Classic Haute Route or Highlights Tour from Chamonix to Zermatt in Switzerland is not to be missed. If you are short on time then choose from a day or half day walk. Lac Blanc, a glacier-formed lake high above the valley, is one of the classics of the area. It has been described by some as one of the 'best day walks' in the world!

In more recent years Chamonix has also become THE trail running destination of the world and there's no wonder why. The Mont Blanc Ultra Trail and Mont Blanc Marathon have become some of the 'must do' race routes for any seasoned trail runners calendar.

For those wishing to reach these dizzy heights (and distances!) we offer three different Chamonix based running holidays. All of which are designed to help prepare runners for their own trail running ambitions or to simply just enjoy running in nature.

We offer a week long Chamonix based trail running camp, 4 days of Chamonix 'Classic' Trail Runs and the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail broken into 3 or 6 manageable bite sized chunks.

Families also have several options to choose from, including our family friendly Mont Blanc Tour, an action-packed week of fun and adventure on our Family Adventure Trip or something more bespoke.

After a day out playing in the mountains there is also plenty to profit from at a slower pace too. The town centre offers excellent shopping and wonderful cafe culture all under the back drop of Mont Blanc, it's glaciers and surrounding peaks.

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