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Some Favourite Walks


Bill & Nedra Orme - from Striders 120

We have always refused to nominate our favourite walk, as there are so many, and they are so different that they cannot be ranked or compared.

Each has its own charm and serendipity. It is hard to remember a single day’s walking we regretted doing as always at least one part is memorable, even if only from laughing about hours of white walls of rain when finishing the day in the warm dining room of a French inn.

Nedra is known for her hard earned ‘Basics’ for roughing it after many years of doing it tough. At the end of each day she now wants hot water, clean sheets, good food and plenty of wine. American friends wrote to tell us of their ‘Basics’ after three days snow bound in their tent in Austria; ‘cold water, wet sheets, a freeze dried meal, but plenty of “whine”’. And we do it for fun, and often pay good money for the experience!

When we roughed out our first list of favourites we found they would fill a whole issue of Strider. Also we have a similar wish-list of walks we would love to do in the future, but at 76, multi-day walks with full pack are beyond us. However there are now the grandchildren and others to try them. We are just back from day walking Rome, Naples and the Cilento National Park with its 280 varieties of orchids. This has now become our walking style – exploring from a base.

We prefer to walk in spring to see it break out, though this can be wet, or in autumn when the weather is the most stable with blue skies and little wind. We avoid the hot crowded summers and cold winters.

Below we have taken some of the countries where we have walked in our retirement, and selected a round dozen memorable walks. Our apologies to the ones deleted, or ones we haven’t walked. We started too late!

Australia:

Bibbulmun Track

The Path: 1,000km from Perth to Albany. www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au

Highlights: Some of the world’s best wildflowers, towering forests, beaches with raging seas and 48 free shelters for walkers.

A Sydney Harbour Circle

The Path: 59 km four day walk from the Opera House, see Page***. Free brochure (4th ed. 2011-12). Detailed maps and historic notes www.walkingsydney.net

Highlights: Sparkling blue sky & harbour with its many islands through bushland, aboriginal heritage, historic forts and housing, returning each night by ferry to a home base.

Spain:

Pilgrim Path to Santiago de Campostela

The Path: From all over Europe, but the last section, 820km from the Pyrenees to Campostelle captures the full spirit of this ancient Pilgrimage. Guides Cicerone, and www.csj.org.uk

Highlights: We started from Vézelay near Paris, and while fascinating, many of the French hospices, and monasteries were destroyed in the Revolution. From St-Jean-Pied-de-Port the living experience begins and the heritage remains in the buildings and hearts of the inhabitants.

France:

Grande Traversee des Alpes (GTA)

The Path: Part of the E2 and GR5, Approx 28 days from Lake Geneva to Nice. Guide Cicerone Press and Topo Guides (www.ffrandonnee.fr).

Highlights: 32 passes, each like a window into the next room, along the French-Italian border. Constantly changing alpine scenery. NB: Grande Traversata delle Alpi (GTA- E1) on Italian side.

The Pyrennees

The Path: GR10 & Haute Route, Approx 400km and 50 days from Atlantic to Mediterranean. Guide Books: Cicerone Press and 4 Topo-Guides (www.ffrandonnee.fr).

Highlights: 44 km of vertical climbing along a ridge with France to the north and Spain to the south through wild high mountains, pastures and villages. There is a parallel route on the Spanish side.

Italy:

Grande Escursione Appenninica (GEA)

The Path: Part of the E1. Approx 20 days along the knife edge Appennine ridge on the Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna border. From La Verna where St Francis received his stigmata (east of Florence) to Passo della Cisa. Guide Tamari.

Highlights: St Francis’s cave, differences between looking north and south, regular knife edge ridges to be crawled in high wind, forests and wild crags. Alpi Appuani to south.

Switzerland

The Alpine Pass Route

The Path: 10 days, east to west from Rhine Valley (Sargans) to Lake Geneva (Montreux) through 14 passes along the northern alpine chain. Guide: Swiss National Tourist Office.

Highlights: This was part of our 10 month walk in 1984 following the seasons, spring from Crete to winter in Corsica, via Scotland. By August we set out from Munich, then along the Austrian ridge to Switzerland. It took us through passes we thought impossible as we looked ahead, had us camping on ridges with villages far below, and the fun of overcoming many language barriers in alpine club huts.

Corsica

Corsican High Level Route

The Path: GR20, 14 day 200km along the central ridge of Corsica. Topo-Guide (France) and Cicerone (UK).

Highlights: Best walked south (easier end to settle in) to north. A ridge walk to make even Wainwright jealous.

Great Britain:

Macmillan Way

The Path: 500 km from Boston-on-the-Wash to Weymouth on the Channel. www.macmillanway.org.uk

Highlights: Constantly changing countryside and villages, superb guidebook and accommodation list.

Lands End to John O’Groats

The Path: A cross section of England and Scotland (and perhaps Wales). LEJOG for an early start or JOGLE for a late start. Our first route included North Downs, Offa’s Dyke, Pennines, West Highlands, our second 2,300km east route via Lyme Regis, Lincoln, Tees, Pennines, Edinburgh. Many guides but we used Andrew McCloy’s Land’s End to John o’Groats (1994 ed.) with variations.

Highlights: A cross section of the UK, its geography and people.

USA

John Muir Trail

The Path: A 21 day 340km high level path in California from Yosemite National Park, through the Ansell Adams and John Muir Wildernesses, and the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Guides Cicerone (UK) & Wilderness Press (USA).

Highlights: A true memorial to Scot, John Muir whose vision founded National Parks and the Sierra Club. Mainly 3,000-4,400 metres through high passes, beside deep lakes & towering trees and shimmering aspen. Very remote, we carried 21 days food, but in planning failed to notice it finished on top of Mt Whitney (4,418m) with another day down to Lone Pine!).

Nepal

Rolwaling Valley

The Path: 21 day triangle along the Nepal Tibet border under Mt Gauri Shanker 7,145m, west of Everest.

Highlights: Our second big walk, particularly special to us as we walked as a family with our four children guided by sherpas and supported by porters. I heard of it when reading Hilary’s original notebook of his six monthstay with trainee astronauts, describing it as ‘the most beautiful valley in the world’. It cemented our love for long distance walks, which grew to a passion.

Thanks

From the start we have had unstinting help from fellow members of the LDWA and Austrian Alpine Club, without which some of our walks would never have been completed. Many of our fellow members have become firm friends, friendships which will continue. Alan Castle said as we walked together, ‘When you first wrote to me about your walks I said to Beryl “this chap is either a great walker or a big liar!” ’ Nedra, ever supportive, commented ‘He’s a bit of both’.

We have tried to assist other walkers starting out in a similar way, and hope our Practicals articles will be of some help. In the meantime we train for the Serengeti and Masai Mara and the great migration in August. As for next year, the options are firming up!

This article was written by Bill & Nedra Orme, Walking Volunteers, and first appeared in Strider.
Anyone is free to copy it with this acknowledgement.

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