I know this summer in Europe ended abruptly. Well, here’s a nice long rambling post to make up for it, ha! Hey, I need to process this just as much as all of you. Believe me, I totally didn’t expect to leave so suddenly either. I saw the weather coming, and figured it was a front that would blow through and I’d still get a window in the following two weeks to finish out the handful of days I had left on the Walker’s Haute Route in the Swiss Alps. It just wasn’t going to happen, and there’s nothing to be done about unexpected weather. I have no regrets whatsoever and know it was the right decision. The weather that hit wasn’t going anywhere, and I had already completed all I hoped to do this summer. The Haute Route was a bonus.
It’s interesting that this year of all years ended this way because I’ve always envisioned my European ventures as a long term project. One that is much more relaxed, and I could just piece together what I was in the mood for each year. Then return the following year to pick up where I left off. It’s all one big trip with months of zero days thrown in between. I’ll be back, and it feels good to have a long term project I’ll be returning to for years to come. I do wish I had known my last night in my tent would be the final night. Now that I’m home (and already back at work substitute teaching), it’s hitting me how sudden it was. I feel like I didn’t get to process the transition home in the way that I usually do. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing, just a different feeling.
After the last 15 months, in which I was thru-hiking most days (I had a two month break before Europe), it feels pretty amazing to be home and in my comfort zone. It is a reminder of how fortunate I am to have such a fluid life and routine that fits so well into this lifestyle. The fact that I can make a last minute decision to go home two weeks early, and have a home and job immediately ready for me upon my return makes me feel like I’m doing something right. It just fits and is such a comfortable routine. I’m very grateful. I’m also very excited to take a break from nightly writing, haha!
A great perk of ending early is that when I changed my plane ticket, my flight out was moved to fly out of Paris instead of Geneva. Back when I started the summer in Paris, the one thing I wanted was a photo with a Wired pose in front of the Eiffel Tower. While I was with my friend Allgood touring Paris, he took the perfect shot that I was really excited about. Then, the next day, in the process of clearing memory from my phone, I deleted the photo! It really really was a bummer. I was sure to get a new photo when I went back through Paris on the way home. Even though the area of the original photo was blocked off for repair, I was still able to get a good shot further away…and it had the clouds very similar to the original photo that I loved! We all know how I love it when things come full circle!
As for my thoughts on hiking in Europe, I’ve speckled in some thoughts as I hiked this summer, but I’ll go through it all briefly here to have it all in one place. I really took to European hiking! Many warned me I might not like it, and I agreed that on paper, some things made me wary. I was told I wouldn’t like all the people, I couldn’t use my tent, it would be expensive, the hiking isn’t as remote as I would like, and I wouldn’t like the food. Maybe it’s just the timing of where I am in my hiking and personal development, but this summer was my most enjoyable summer thus far!
Hiking in the Pyrenees, French Alps, and Swiss Alps are by no means physically easy. People often recommend hikes to me, but know that I’m prioritizing hiking more challenging terrain and routes now, while my body can more easily enjoy physically demanding terrain. Comparing the three, I’d say the GR5 (French Alps) is the best blend of everything, and some of the most enjoyable hiking I’ve ever done. The Pyrenees and Swiss Alps have amazingly rewarding scenery often beyond that of the GR5 in the category of grandness. When I look at the photos, I can’t believe I was there, but it has to be warned that they also have much steeper, rockier terrain that can detract from the overall enjoyment. On all three ranges, I loved the ease of carrying very little food, and having shelter options often multiple times a day (I did hike more distance than most would prefer in a day) if bad weather moved in. I felt so spoiled after having learned to thru-hike in the US, where there are often long periods between food resupplies, water sources, and shelters.
Walking through a village almost daily on some of the trails was a luxurious perk in my opinion. Maybe it was the minimal amount of long concrete roads, cars, and people, but villages felt very different from walking through an American town or city. That would really bother me. Villages felt very natural and were an enjoyable part of the hiking experience. Plus, having cell signal much of the time, was pretty nice. I found all routes pretty easy to just grab a guidebook and jump on if you’re an experienced thru-hiker. That was relaxing.
Overall, I have to say that Europe has come at the perfect time in my life and hiking career. I’ve reached a new level of peace, calm, and contentedness that I didn’t know I’d be capable of. I’m not going to start meditating or doing yoga anytime soon (or ever!), but I’ve found the perfect Wired-esque bliss and am just pretty dang happy and grateful.
So, many of you are wondering where we go from here. I do feel like there’s been a progression over the years, and that each trail has naturally led to the next. Offering new challenges and experiences that push me just enough out of my comfort zone for a challenge that brings reward and growth in many ways. Along the way, there have been little leaps at times to a next level that may be just out of reach, but I hope are not. This coming spring may be the leap with the biggest unknown for me to date. One that I never imagined attempting and am in such awe and impressed by, that it doesn’t seem real. This coming April, I’ll be attempting the Great Himalaya Trail spanning the width of Nepal. Oh man!
I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, other than to say that this is a route that is well traveled in sections, but it will require some luck with weather and health to complete it all in one go heading east to west over about 2.5 months. This is definitely not a trip I would want to attempt on my own, so you all will be happy to hear that Griggs (who I hiked with the last 1.5 months of the Te Araroa in NZ and Tasmania last year) will be joining me! Griggs just completed the Continental Divide Trail and will be doing even more hiking before Nepal, so be sure to follow him on Instagram.
We have a third person joining us as well, who is a good friend of mine, but he is not ready to be public with that announcement just yet. The idea behind having three is twofold. Having three is recommended for all that can happen in the Himalayas. Also, knowing my history with acclimating to elevation, there is a chance my body may not take to this trail (many passes are well over 16,400ft/5000m), and I may have to bail and do the shorter circuits. Having three people gives the option for the other two to still continue on if one needs to drop out for health reasons. I have to say, I’m pretty stoked about this solid team we have, and it’s going to be a great experience no matter what the result. We are going into this with the attitude that we’d rather attempt a thru-hike and accomplish what we can within our abilities than to do the more traditional loop hikes and out-and-backs. We are all thru-hikers at heart that enjoy a challenge, and this is definitely it.
I hesitated to mention the GHT because I know there will be many questions to follow with how little is known about it. However, I also knew I’d just be asked repeatedly, “What’s Next!?” I won’t be answering questions about the GHT until closer to the spring. For anyone wanting more info on the Great Himalaya Trail, know that there is a lot of general advertising out there from various guiding companies with little quality information and some of it misleading. The three of us are in contact with the right people and have hiking acquaintances that have completed either the high route that includes technical passes or the lower route option, which we will be doing that bypasses the 5 technical high passes at the points where mountaineering skills would be required. Our contacts have been very helpful in giving us the information we need, and most importantly, assuring us that this is within our range of ability. Seth Wolpin, co-founder of Himalyan Adventure Labs, and part of the first team to complete the GHT high route traverse in 2014, has been very helpful, and I want to thank him for that. We were put in touch through mutual friends. Here is a good link to start from that Seth has created for anyone wanting to find more information on the GHT.
Anyone doing the math will notice that I will still have the summer months available to do more hiking after the GHT. It will most likely be Europe. What exactly will depend on many factors, and if the three of us on the GHT plan to spend summer together as well, or head out on individual ventures. All of that will be worked out in future months. All I know is that no matter what’s to come, 2018 looks to be quite an exciting year! As always, it’s been great to be able to bring everyone along on this journey we’ve been on since 2011, and I thank you all for being so supportive. Now time to hermit in my hoodies! Wired out!
Such a thrill to travel with you. We miss you and Portland. Maybe we can get there before winter. Ready for Ethiopian???
Big hugs and kudos! You rock!
Yes Debbie! I hope you do! It’s been too long!
Wow, I’ve been refreshing your blog the last few days anticipating this finale post and it did not disappoint. What an interesting change of continent and I so look forward to hearing more …
Yay that you are home and yay that you have more exciting plans and yay that you will be hiking with Griggs again. Oh and yay that you feel so contented.
5000M passes on the lower route? Yikes, that sounds pretty scary but really exciting, I can’t wait to read about it.
I’ve really enjoyed your trip this summer and made me consider hikes I’d not looked at before. Which is good as Europe much closer than the US or AUS/NZ! Next year sounds amazing and great that you’ll be hiking with Griggs again.
I’ll miss your posts but enjoy your well deserved blogging break and TV catch up! Thanks as always for sharing 🙂
This is amazinnnnnnnng! The GHT! With Griggs! A great team mate to travel with! So excited for you, and for us to read it all! Lol. Enjoy your ‘break’ between hikes! Best wishes x
As soon as you mentioned the GHT I about jumped out of my chair! I knew that wasn’t a solo hike and Griggs immediately came to mind. Wow! Super exciting. Griggs is rock solid. “A” team all the way.
Also welcome home.
Haha! Exactly how I feel. It’s perfect timing on so many levels, and it was Griggs’s influence that even brought this whole idea about. Full story to come in 2018:)
Hmm, just let me be sure I have this clear, Erin.. the Pyrenees “have much steeper, rockier terrain that can detract from the overall enjoyment,” so next you are off to the Himalayas?!!
I’m looking forward to it, mind 🙂
So far as the Pyrenees are concerned it is precisely the mountain terrain that attracts me. I understand that they are not busy trails, like in the US, but as a means of connecting with true nature they can’t be beaten.. in my opinion, of course!
Haha! I have to say, I don’t know how I’ll react to the Himalayas, but I know it’s something I need to experience in life, and the timing has aligned quite well for it, so it will be an experience…
Wow. Just WOW! So excited for you, and looking forward to following your travels next April. Have a good autumn and Christmas!
Wow. You continue to impress me! How ya gonna keep’em down on the farm . . .
Walk circumspectly in those parts.
Wow. Very nice concluding journal entry. And pretty exciting that you’re going to be doing the GHT. I treked in the Himalayas/ Nepal and rafted there in the 80s. We treked in the Annapurna Himals and up the Arun Valley with porter’s carring our rafts. It was a whole new world. Farmers and people ever present all along the way. The steep hills were terraced for cultivation. We would set up our tents and first thing you know someone was sticking their head in the door! It was difficult to find the privacy to go to the restroom. Driving the roads to the starts of our treks was death defying. One lane mountain roads and every so often you would see a big truck or a bus that had rolled off the side of the hill. The lowland roads were dirt, one lane, all of course with two way traffic. Vehicles would drive toward each other at high speed, in the last second each going halfway off the road to pass. It was just so very different being a “Third World “country. But people are people, and ever so compelling. I did some treking on my own but had a young Nepalese man who acted as my interpreter. In that way I was able to stop in the homes of the people that he knew for meals and lodging. That was nice because I wasn’t around just English-speaking travelers all that time. And I got to be more integrated with the Nepali people. Their greeting was always Namaste. Which means something like, “the God in me greets the God in you “.
Yeah, I can imagine in the 80s! There’s been of course a lot of development for tourists since then. I’ve heard a point of contention is that many of the trails are those one lane roads now. The transportation will be interesting to say the least.
I was going to recommend next the Everest base camp trek, which most hikers who have done it think it is the best in the world. There are villages every several miles with much cheap tourist facilities.The language is Hindi but the owners all speak English.
The best views are in October-November. Spring is cloudy in the PM. Summer is rainy. and winter is snowy and cold in the elevations.
The trick to altitude sickness is never sleep at an altitude more than 1000 ft (300 m) higher than the previous night. It is rare under 12000 ft The first symptoms are headache and nausea and the treatment is to descend 1000 ft asap You might want to take Diamox to treat or prevent it.Email me if you need any other medical advice. I am a retired emergency doctor. The Annapurna circuit is also easy.
Yes, everything is quite inexpensive (except where guides/permits may be needed). Yes, very familiar with the process for acclimation, but the most common advise these days is to avoid the Diamox as it can mask more serious things and the side effects can be worse for some than the altitude sickness anyway. Yes, I know of the more common circuits and the weather, but the April-mid June window is the most likely chance of successfully completing this as a thru.
>but the most common advise these days is to avoid the Diamox as it can mask more serious things and the side effects can be worse for some than the altitude sickness anyway<
None of this is true, but in any event it's possible to acclimatize w/o it.
Thanks for all your effort at keeping up the blog. I looked forward to your adventures over my morning cup of coffee. Enjoy your time off! I can’t wait to virtually hang with you in Asia.
Whoa nellie-pie! More excitement! I will await …. eagerly.
Oh yes, and welcome back to Oregon.
“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
Not sure why, but those words from The Jabberwocky (Lewis Carroll) jumped into my head as I read this news.
Nepal! Griggs!! Mystery third, who must be special, too.
So looking forward, but happy that you have some months to cocoon in your hoodies and recharge!
Thanks for bringing us along this summer
Wow, wow, wow! Exciting news. Happy planning.
GHT is exciting. Griggs is a solid choice for a team member. A team of three sounds very good thinking.
Loved the Europe photos. Thanks for sharing your blog with us all.
“I’m not going to start meditating or doing yoga anytime soon (or ever!), but I’ve found the perfect Wired-esque bliss and am just pretty dang happy and grateful.” Chuffed (happy) for you. What a great experience and breakthrough.
Will you perhaps do a quick wrap up of all the miles you covered? I know some of the trail had no miles, but it’d be cool to see the totals for the trails.
Glad you are safe home in Portland and can hermit for a while!
Now that I’m home, on the France tab, I’ll get a total for days/mileage/zeros taken at the top of that page in the next week or two when I get time. Good reminder to do that!
I’m so excited to hear about your next adventure! And with Griggs! Double awesome! Enjoy your time at home.
Thanks for sharing your journey with us this year.
What you are planning for next year sounds awesome and I look forward to following you next April.
Take care and have a great Christmas and New Year
PS; if you ever write a book about your adventures I will be first in line to buy one
I get the book question/suggestion a lot, but I feel like it’s great the way it is and I wouldn’t want to change any of it from how I felt as I wrote it in the tent each night. Plus, the photos are such a part of it as well. They would be looong books, so I just keep them on the blog:)
Great stuff on Europe Erin-really enjoyed it. Back with Griggs on the GHT eh….amazing 🙂 I really wanted to do it when it came out a few years back. I have done 2 passes (Kongma La and Cho La) on the Everest trail, the Annapurna circuit/sanctuary, Langtang/Helembalu and K2 basecamp in the Karakorams. Was helicoptered out of the 3 passes route 2 years ago when my partner got appendicitis…..so our $130 insurance premium really paid off for that one.
Will really look forward to following your journey next year 🙂
Off next Thursday to do the 32 days of the Rim of Africa trail which will be the longest one for me…..you have inspired this old fart to go longer!!!!
Good thing Griggs already had his appendix removed! That Rim of Africa Trail sounds awesome!
Awesome news. Great to see you and Griggs organising another thru-hike together.
Wow, your plans are so amazing! I have been to the Everest region five years ago and learned that the key is to have patience and gain elevation slowly. Even if it means shorter days and long afternoons in camp.
After the trek I learned that I had been pregnant with my daughter all along, but everything worked out fine, I couldn’t understand why I was so short of breath, but could do Cho La pass and Kala Pattar all the same.
So, best luck with your preparations, and have a great time at home and in a real bed!
Yes, we definitely plan to ease into that elevation following the suggested acclimation most do with short days and gradual gains. Fortunately, the trail naturally does that starting east and going west.
The permits look a nightmare for the GHT. Have you worked how much they will all cost? I’ve been to Nepal 4 times and for the Manaslu I had to employ a guide as part of the entry requirements – even though he’d never been there before!
Maybe it’s easier these days, that was 8 years ago.
Love the blog BTW, I had visions of bumping into you in Chamonix when you were on the GR5, but it looks like you left a day before I got there. I went to Zermatt, the last week was amazing, hope you get to finish it one day.
Yes, the logistics of the GHT appear to be taxing in time and financially. However, we have the benefit of riding the coattails of our connections that have done it before. One conveniently co-founded the guiding company I linked out there, and knows the ins and outs of it all very well and will save us a lot of time and money. We will be quite thankful for his help.
Btw, not sure if you have seen this blog before, but these guys are doing the GHT right now and might have info that helps.
Their blog is pretty awesome, just like yours of course! ?
Oh exciting! I’m totally checking this out, THANK YOU!
You’re welcome. ?
Congrats Wired…another great adventure in the books (or blogs to be more accurate). Looking forward to the GHT!
Hey Wired! A friend of mine who you met on the TA, Zeke, told me you would be hiking the GHT. I’m in Nepal now and doing some research on the trail in hopes of also doing the thru hike next year. I admit I don’t have much experience, my first thru hike was the HRP just a few months ago (where I met Zeke). Finished in 40 days with one zero day on the second to last day (wasn’t quite ready to finish!). So now I’m looking for my next hike and since I’ll be in the Himalayas for some time, I thought why not the GHT! Not too keen to be alone on the hike because I’m aware of the risks. Would be awesome if we could keep in touch and hopefully we can exchange some information about it. Hope to hear from you soon!
Cynthia, that’s exciting for you. I’m going to email you directly.
As an avid European hiker, I really enjoyed last summer’s blog and am psyched to know that you’ll be coming back to Europe this year!
Some European hikes you might want to look into (if you’re interested):
– The GR20 in Corse, people love it or hate it. It is fairly crowded and the huts can be depressingly basic but oh so pretty. Got me hooked on hiking. If you do it, early July is the best time.
– The Eagle Way (der Adlerweg) through north Tyrol. Classic Sound of Music landscapes with wide, expansive views of the Inn Valley. Very few people hike this route though, so you might be lonely (there are still dayhikers).
– The Dreamway from Munich to Venice. Crossed paths with it twice and section hiked the Dolomite part. Insanely beautiful, possibly the most diverse crossing of the Alps.
– Alta Via II in the Dolomites. This route overlaps with the Dreamway and although I’ve only hiked a section of it, it is very pretty with expansive views. The Dolomites are truly unique to the world.
Anyway, I hope you have a great spring and summer hiking, looking forward to your stories!
With kind regards,
Oh thank you! Yes, the Dolomites are at the top of the list. I just need to figure out what all I want to do in Italy and Dolomites. Many options! The GR 20 is one I know I’ll do someday, but may not love due to the crowds. Not in a hurry for it, but if it fits a window, I may do it this summer.
Gr 11 has beautiful spanish villages and goes through a couple of kick ass national parks. There are few people on trail & you could practice your Spanish. Plus, tapas!
I’ve loved reading about your hikes and gear reviews this last year – such useful info but also a really emotionally honest account. I’m hiking the GR10 and GR5 back to back this summer and then the PCT next year (fingers crossed) so its all essential research (and daydreaming material!). Did you find your raptors any less effective in France given the rougher terrain and rainfall in comparison to the US? I really want to drop the big boots but everyone thinks I’m crazy! I used big boots on the Tour de Mont Blanc and GR7 in Spain and they were so hot. So excited to read about your Nepal trip. I did the Annapurna Sanctuary and Helambu trail a few years back and loved it. Hope you have an amazing time. Sarah x
Hi Sarah, great choices for this summer! Trail runners were no problem at all on either of those trails. Boots aren’t necessary. I use the La Sportiva Bushidos, and they were just fine. I do wish they had more cushion, but they do have nice grip!