Grab an equally unqualified girlfriend or buddy and decide to cross the Alps together by foot
Ever since I came across an article about the trans-alpine E5 Route, which takes you from Germany, through Austria to Italy, my friend Sophie and I began talking about attempting this feat together. But one of us was either always pregnant or lactating (usually me) so it took a few seasons to get our act together. This year – only four years later – we roped in my sister-in-law, Tuuli, and set July 3 as our departure date.
Spend at least 3 weeks before you go talking about all the gear you will most definitely need
I don’t remember how many emails went back and forth with lines such as who is bringing the pen-knife? Do we need a pen-knife? What about your trek towel, how big is it? How big?How many litres does your rucksack hold? Are your poles collapsible? Forget it, who needs poles… Did you get the blister band-aids? How many pairs of pants are you taking? JustOne? And so on. We hadn’t even left and already we felt ready to accompany Reinhold Messner on his next expedition.
Don’t do any training and realize days before you leave that you have a terrible injury
Not one but both of my girlfriends called days before we left, wavering about whether or not it was a good idea to go. So just before setting off on our once-in-a life-time, been-looking-forward-to-it-for-four-years trip, I didn’t know whether it was actually going to happen. One had a terrible coccyx injury and the other an inflamed hip. Think we’re in our 70s? Almost, we’re only 40 years short of that.
Set yourself a target way outside of your comfort zone. In our case starting in one country, crossing an entire other one, only to end in a third.
When we started our trip we kept thinking, “If it gets too much, we can always stop…” But now I know: Giving up is impossible once the mountains get hold of you. And they get hold of you the moment you put your boots on. When we reached our first ascent, I thrust my arms out wide embracing the vast landscape. It was so overwhelmingly wild and Jurassic. Tears of gratitude trickled down my cheek. I never knew it could feel this good to feel so small. There was me, and beyond there was Earth. I am so here, I thought. All my senses activated. Open. Breathing. Expanding. Then Tuuli said: “There is no way, it is going to be as beautiful tomorrow. It just can’t be.” But every day, it always was. We walked through it all: from steep snow-covered crags, to forest-filled ravines, verdant valleys dancing to the sound of cow-bells and butterflies raving near a stream.
Suck it up then celebrate with a Hazelnut schnapps
Eight ascents, 74 blisters and a near rock landslide later, we reach South Tirol. Although we were now in Italy and technically it was the height of summer, it was foggy, raining and you couldn’t see much. But we had never been happier. The last six days had kick-started our mountain mojo, which had been lying dormant in some box called: The former you. We had battled with fear, vertigo, exhaustion, heat, snowstorms, pain and a slightly inexplicable unease around cows but in the end, we had conquered the mountain. Because the wilderness out there made space for the wilderness in here. (That’s the bit where you picture me patting my heart).