To be ready for the big day you must walk, walk, walk! And to help with this effort, include a few friends on the practice hikes – perhaps those who will accompany you on the actual trek – and any “wanna-be”s.
Previous winter: My training begins the previous winter, I walk whenever the weather allows, several times a week. These walks are without a pack and not particularly long: 3 to 7 miles.
Spring: Once Spring and better weather arrive the hikes lengthen to about 8 miles a couple of times a week.
May: Usually by May I get out my pack and start thinking about what I will need for my end-of-summer adventure. By the end of May I have gathered all components for the “pack build” and organized and packed the backpack, which is now ready to be included on my training walks.
June to End-of-Summer Trek Date: If you can hike close to the altitude of the planned trek, you will benefit. If you cannot hike “at altitude”, continual walking of any sort is the necessary ingredient to be ready for the challenges and fun of the trek. Note the longest days in the planned trek, and walk/hike at least that distance frequently. For many years I have spent my summers in the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains, south of Lake Tahoe. My Spring walking efforts prepare me to tackle these mountains during the summer, where these regular training hikes range from 5 to 16 miles at altitudes from 7200′ to 9600′ – often with other members of the Silver Lake Hiking Club. The goal is to be physically conditioned before the trek, which then becomes a safe, enjoyable walk, not a painful struggle.
Selection and Planning the Trek
Choosing a trek is the first step of my adventure. I am always open to suggestions from fellow hikers, online searches, periodicals and, my favorite, Cicerone guidebooks . I like to pick a hike that is at least 200 miles and one that we can stay in refuges, B&Bs or small hotels thus eliminating carrying camping gear. Spectacular mountains, charming villages, and historical significance also play a part in the choice.
Once the trek has been chosen, the planning can begin.
- Decide how many days the trek will take. The guidebooks set out daily stages; however, I sometimes wish to alter those stages. Planning for rest days is helpful not only to rest the tired body, but to give a little leeway in case of bad weather.
- Secure the flight thus having firm dates with which to work.
- Research lodging for each night. It would be great if the trek could be done without reservations, but these places are often booked especially on weekends and during August. Usually, I can find the lodging information in the guidebooks, but if not, a search online is most helpful. Many of these places can be contacted by email (some have a reservations website), but occasionally I have to call. Some refuges require a deposit which can be a little tricky as many do not accept credit cards. I have used Western Union and very rarely been able to use Paypal.
- Mark the route. Using topo maps, my computer and “Maps” on my phone, I mark our intended path both on the topo maps and on my GPS.
- Arrange transportation to and from the trail.
Joining an Alpine Club
As I familiarize myself with the guidebook I have chosen I find little nuggets of information. It was suggested to look into joining an alpine club for discounted rates at the huts. I investigated the Austrian Alpine Club https://aacuk.org.uk/, joined and received my club card in the mail! I stay in a number of mountain huts when in the Alps so it only took a few nights to recover the cost of my membership! There are additional benefits as well such as reciprocal agreements with other alpine clubs.