Trekking in the Alps

In our opinion, you can find some of the most magnificient landscapes on earth in the Alps of Europe and the Rocky Mountains of North America (in the next breath we’ll add the Sierra Nevada, Appalachians, Blue Ridge Mountains…).

But trekking in the Alps is different from backpacking in the Rockies, or for that matter in any of the other mountain ranges in North America.

Backpacking in the Rockies

If you are planning on a several days long hike in the Rockies, for example, you typically shoulder a heavy pack loaded with enough food and camping gear to last you for the duration.

Backpacking in Grand Teton National Park Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Backpacking in Grand Teton National Park
Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

You expect to camp out on the trail, and return to a hot shower and a soft bed at the end of your trip.

In the U.S., a number of hard core backpackers hike with ultra-light gear. But if you’ve reached a certain age and your hips and your back can’t absorb hard ground as well as they used to, and if you’d like to eat decent meals at a table instead of dehydrated food in a cup, backpacking that way may not be for you.

You could also hike to one of the mountain huts available in several states. The huts of the 10th Mountain Division in Colorado or a well known example.  The gear you’ll have to carry is about on a par with packing ultra-light, but as you’ll see, hiking to one of those huts is a far different experience from that available in the Alps.  Also, the huts are generally in high demand, and if you are planning to hike from hut to hut, you better make your reservation long in advance.

Don’t get us wrong, there is nothing like hiking in the landscapes of the US West. If we want to experience wilderness, find solitude and enjoy wide open country, that’s where we go. Carrying a heavy load or spending the night on hard ground is the price we pay to see a sunrise over the Never Summer Range with only a couple of howling coyotes for company.

Hut-to-Hut Trekking in the Alps

In the Alps, trekking can be a more genteel, and certainly a more social experience. An abundance of huts that offers sleeping accommodations, food, drink, and space for social gatherings is one of the reasons we at Hut-n-Trek are heading for the Alps.

Winklerner Hut -Schobergruppe Photo Franz Unterwainig via Wikimedia Commons

Winklerner Hut -Schobergruppe
Photo Franz Unterwainig via Wikimedia Commons

On a several days long hut-to-hut trek the most important items you carry are personal articles, all-weather clothing, water and perhaps a little provender for snacks.

Because you are never far from the civilized world, you can leave all that heavy camping gear behind. There’s no need to carry pots, pans, stoves, and food. You also don’t have to tie sleeping pads, tents and tarps to your backpack.

You should, however, bring a special sleeping bag for spending nights in a hut. Typical hut sleeping bags are about as thick as a liner and weigh around a pound. In a pinch, you can buy or rent one at an alpine hut.

Here is one other reason Hut-n-Trek is using the huts and trails of the Alps as a venue: It’s easy to find facilities along the way for holding art seminars and workshops. Its also relatively easy to hike as far as your legs will carry through world class mountain scenery, find prepared meals along the way, and participate in a moving happy hour as you go.

Are the Alps Better than the Rockies?

The answer is an emphatic no.
What makes the difference in choosing your venue is the type of experience you are after. In the US you can still enter wilderness and find solitude with relative ease, especially in the Western US, if you are willing to make the effort. In Europe, at least in Central Europe, wilderness at a landscape level doesn’t exist. However, because of their well-established system of huts and trails, the Alps are much more accessible to the average hiker than the Rockies, the Sierras, the Sky Islands, or the Appalachians.

For the purposes of Hut-n-Trek, the Alps and all they offer – food, shelter and a space for social gatherings morning and night – are the way to go.

 

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