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Report 1021: Switzerland in Slow Motion: 100 Miles on the Alpine Pass Route

By Kaydee from Tennessee, Summer 2005

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Page 3 of 19: Getting Ready to Walk

photo by Hotel desk clerk

Leaving the hotel in Engelberg the first morning of the walk

We should have been in better physical condition for this walk. Although Charley and I had hiked extensively during our six and a half month stay in the Luberon area of France, and left France in our best physical condition in years, we had slacked off on much serious hiking during our 11 weeks in Italy (mid April to early July) due to the summer heat. We probably put on a few pounds in Italy just enjoying all that great pasta!

We were in Austria for a few weeks before making our way to Switzerland and the beginning of the walk, and we had planned to do a lot of "training" there. We did hike several times in the area around Salzburg, but we failed to do some of the most important preparation: ascending mountains. We were surrounded by mountains and had lots of opportunities, but it always seemed easier to take a cable car or mountain railway UP the mountain, walk around on the top, and then hike down.

Because we've done several other long-distance walks, we had most of the gear we needed and knew how to pack for a trip like this. We each had one rolling suitcase and a day pack. On this walk, our bags were actually moved on the Swiss Rail System, so we had to ensure they weren't too big or heavy. This was a major packing challenge for us, since we had been traveling for almost 14 months. We shipped several boxes home and left a trail of possessions behind us in the months before we finally reached Switzerland.

Our most important investment for this walk was telescopic, aluminium hiking poles that we bought in Italy and Austria. These turned out to be invaluable given the altitudes in the Swiss Alps, equally important for going up and going down. Kelly and I also found that the "Nordic walking" with poles helped us set a brisk rhythm for walking, even on flat surfaces. Kelly and I also bought cropped hiking pants while we were in Germany, very popular in the Alpine countries.

We probably experienced a swing of 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the walk... from a low of 35 up into the mid 80's, I'd say. Some days we hiked in shorts and tank tops. Other days we hiked in fleeces and long pants. And on our most challenging family day (over the Sefinenfurke), we even pulled on wool hats and gloves. We needed our rain gear several days: rain jackets, waterproof pants and pack covers.

We were ready to walk!

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