Staying in a mountain hut in a remote and beautiful location is to be savoured. It is a wonderful experience and something which everyone who loves the outdoors should try at least once in their lives. There are many reasons for spending a night in a mountain hut, not least because it allows you to enjoy the high mountains in a wild and natural setting where you can escape the cares of everyday life. Nothing could be more relevant today as we remain in 'lockdown' in our homes. For now we can but dream of those 'mountain nights'.
Fall Line magazine this month interviewed Julia Tregaskis-Allen and her husband Oliver Allen, an IFMGA mountain guide, to find out their Top 5 Summer Hikes.
Julia’s choices extend from Scotland to North Africa, making every trip different. At number one is the classic walkers Haute Route which traverses from Chamonix in France to Zermatt in Switzerland. A bucket list hike for many mountain walkers.
Next up is the Tour del Gran Paradiso in Italy which includes summiting the Gran Paradiso mountain at the end of the week. Heading down into Morocco, Julia’s choice is the Taghia Gorge it’s a rocky scramble that’s not for the faint-hearted. A narrow traverse built by Berber farmers for moving their goats, it’s a climbers’ route!
In Mallorca, the Serra de Tramuntana makes the top five with a route that runs from the coast through the high mountains and a UNESCO World Heritage Site before returning to the coast.
Last, but by no means least, is The Four Tops in Scotland. This challenge involves climbing all four peaks in the Cairngorm National Park in under 24 hours.
How can 'fast packing' skills help you on your next walking holiday? What is fastpacking?
Well it's an interesting term! Is it how quickly you can pack your bag to leave the house on holiday? Or how fast you can stuff all your kit back into your rucksack in the morning to leave the hut (while your guide waits patiently outside)?
Walking and running are amongst the most popular of physical activities, but which is best? Nope, no easy answers to this vexing question - it all depends on what your objectives are! If you're looking to lose weight than running wins by, erm, a mile! A recent study published in the US has shown this to be the case: you can see the publication here: "Greater Weight Loss From Running than Walking". In fact, the survey showed in the long term if your main aim is to keep your body weight constant, then running is definitely the better of the two exercises.
Shock horror the 'guide' is wearing walking shoes! That was certainly the reaction a few years ago when I turned up to meet my group of Tour du Mont Blanc hikers with low cut walking shoes. The walking shoes in question were North Face Hedgehogs and five years later I am still guiding wearing 'Hedgehogs'. Certainly, since then it has become more and more common for 'walkers' to be wearing low cut 'shoes' rather than heavy duty walking boots and from my own experience the benefits are clear.
South Tyrol, known by the Italians as Alto Adige and German-speakers as the Südtirol, is a picturesque, tranquil region in northern Italy and home to the Dolomites mountain range. The Dolomites, also known as the ‘Pale Mountains’ for their limestone hue, are a UNESCO World Heritage site and the South Tyrol’s truly unique natural wonder. It’s no exaggeration to say that the forests and mountains here are widely regarded as being among the most attractive landscapes in the world. Indeed, the recognition given by the protected status of UNESCO since June 2009 is testimony to just how well preserved and unspoilt the natural environment remains.
Croatia’s Paklenica Riviera, a 20km stretch of coastline where the mountains meet the sea, provides a beautiful setting for our next Nordic Walking break in partnership with Sam Armstrong from Core Concept and Danijela Bucić of Mountain Traveller Croatia. The Paklenica Riviera is part of the Velebit Nature Park, which because of its specific relief, vegetative, and landscape features was placed by UNESCO in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Remember the good old days of fumbling with an OS map in a howling wind, then trying to locate the compass in one of your jacket’s many pockets (only to realise it's embedded firmly at the bottom of your rucksack…)? Remember too the early heart rate monitors that ate batteries, were clunky and didn’t seem to work reliably for more than a few weeks before they’d start to provide inaccurate readings that were off the charts?
Just back from a three week trip into Sikkim in the Indian Himalayas where I was guiding for our friends at KE Adventure Travel. A trek that finished in the shadow of Kangchenjunga the third highest mountain in the world after Everest and K2. A truly remote and wonderful experience in an unspoilt area.
WHY TRAIN FOR A WALKING HOLIDAY? It’s just a long walk, right? Not a race! So why train? Alpine walking holidays offer unbeatable views and memories but it should not be under estimated as to how challenging it can be on the body. The fitter you are the more likely you’ll enjoy every step of your holiday, and it's more likely you are to complete each day in good time with ease. The aim of adding some training in before your trip to the Alps is it will ensure that each day on trail is well within your comfort zone – ie easy! – rather than a struggle.