I’ve read somewhere that if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. I guess this saying is perfectly appropriate to what we experienced last summer in the Alps.
Marie COUDERC and Nil HOOPENOT share a common passion : travelling and trekking. They’ve created 2PVA (Two Steps Towards the Other: https://www.deuxpasverslautre.com). Two Steps Towards Others, is above all an incredible European adventure: the human project, sporty and a little crazy to cross Southern Europe on foot with ultralight hiking equipment to meet its inhabitants. Compressport® is proud to partner with them on their European trek and shares here one of their numerous enthralling experiences in their own words.
Across the Alps… Beyond our Limits
Challenged, definitely, we were, and surely, in some ways, we have changed too.
When we decided to cross Southern Europe on foot, we sure expected those 10,000kms across 17 countries would have an impact on how we see the world and how we see ourselves, but I think that none of us really got the measure of how intense and difficult this particular part of the trip would be.
Reaching the foot of the Alps 6 months after the beginning of our adventure, we thought we were, at least, physically ready.
To begin with, the first weeks in Portugal were difficult. The terrain was not, but we had to tame the weight of our packs, our first pains of all sorts and this lifestyle that we adopted on each trail, day after day. In Spain, we got thirsty, crossing through no man’s land where we often had to carry food for days and days.
By mid-July, we had reached the Mercantour and all of this was already a part of us and we felt ready for what would be the toughest part of this journey – Crossing the Alps.
But, in no time, we understood that the game had totally changed here. We had to unlearn what we knew and learn to no longer focus on distance, to take into account the elevation gain, the exact type of terrain and the fast changing weather conditions.
From the National Park of the Mercantour in France to the National Park of the Triglav in Slovenia, we had crossed the Alpine arch in a little less than 4 months passing through Switzerland and most of Italy.
Almost 100,000 meters of elevation gain (and the equivalent in descent) and more than 1,500 km, a serious playground which took us from the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen to the toughest we’ve ever been.
The paths of the Via Alpina should have been a challenge to take from time to time but the truth is, we trusted our instinct to guide us through these mountains. From valleys to passes, from national parks to mythical summits, we mapped our own crossing of the Alps. It did not look exactly like the one we had drawn on the map or the one we had in mind, but it was in fact much better than that!
Some of the wonders that took our breath away were initially not planned, but we were attracted to them like magnets. We pushed the limits and reached summits as high as +4400m and discovered the majesty of mountain ranges like the Gran Paradiso, the Monte Rosa, The Bernina, among others.
The difficulty of accessing those places greatly contributed to underlining the beauty that we encountered, spicing up everything and revealing the mighty power of life.
We had to learn to be wise, to adjust our equipment, to remain safe and learn to behave on the mountain with a heavy pack, bearing in mind that the next day we would not be back home toasting our feet in front of a chimney but once again sweating and pushing ourselves beyond limits. We knew It would take us time to cross the Alps…
But in a way we did not realize how lengthy it would be. We understood the need of taking the best care of our bodies, the importance of recovery, the stretching, we saw our legs changing and felt more and more at ease with any kind of surface. We were becoming, little by little, mountain shadows ourselves; – rugged and chiseled.
While crossing the Alps we were never really alone. On the way we got the chance to meet fantastic and passionate outdoor people, but not only. An intense wildlife eased up the natural hostility of those technical terrains. Sometimes, slowly passing by herds of ibexes made us feel accepted for a short moment. We were invited to picture life as it is not portrayed in a zoo, mountain shadows were as agile as graceful and we encountered some of the rarest birds and some of the fattest marmots.
Some of those places we got to see will be engraved forever in our heads. On the way we crossed some great glaciers, particularly the Aletsch glacier, the biggest of all the Alps.
A giant of ice as deep as more than 900 meters and as long as almost 25 km. A place on which we certainly felt like walking on another planet and which shook us to the bones ! Something we could not grasp on-screen or through a photo. A dimension, something you need to sense.
We could never have foreseen being so amazed by the sublime and formidable Dolomites. We knew those mountains are mythical for a reason but you have to see it to believe it! The rock formations are unique, having nothing in common with the rest of the Alps. The Dolomites were an amazing surprise to us – an incomparable mountain range that offered us some of the most impressive views of the entire journey so far. We crossed a magical world in the solitude of the off-season which often left us speechless.
All on our own, we happened to enjoy warm moments in countless small shelters, making our home for the night in some of the cosiest spots of the Alps, pitching our tent in scenic places and waking up with the feeling that nothing could ever be wrong again.
We came out of the Alps blown away, but having learnt a little more about ourselves as well. Leaving our comfort zone, challenging ourselves with something that seems impossible at first and to get through it after all… Yes, it changed us !