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Gear Matters: Highly Charged Walking

Gear Matters: walking gear blog by Sherpa Expeditions walking holidaysEvery month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month, he looks at the best portable chargers and some points to consider when choosing to buy a power bank for your next cycling or walking holiday.

 

The following scenario is a possibility on any tour, but more significant when you are walking in the mountains. There is an accident, you reach for your phone to make the emergency call, but, you forgot to recharge it last night and the one bar of power left is already flickering! However, help is at hand: you reach into your backpack and pull out a USB connected portable charger from which the device can feed off and perhaps recharge from fully. It could literally save the day.

I have been carrying one of these chargers on my walking holidays for some time now and had to use it to recharge my phone and camera, especially in remote destinations where there was no power supply.

 

Size & Capacity

Most portable battery chargers either are lipstick sized or a similar size to a mobile phone containing a lithium battery. Specifications of course vary, but they nearly all have USB couplings to power any kind of device that can be USB recharged. The size of the power bank will of course effect the weight, but also how many times you can do a full recharge. Measured in milliampere hours (mAh), the number of times a unit can recharge your phone or camera depends on its capacity and the capacity of the device itself. In order for your device to get at least one full charge from the charger, make sure the phone’s capacity is no more than 70 percent of the charger’s capacity. Another important consideration is the portable charger's power output. The higher the better, as it means it has the potential for powering up a device more speedily. 

 

portable phone charger for walking directions

 

portable charger for walking holidays Sherpa Expeditions

 

Hardware at Low Charges

Nearly all the portable phone chargers are very economically priced. On the small side, but beautifully light at less than 100g, are the little Barrel rechargers for example by Belkin or Anker. They have capacities of around 3000 mAh - enough to recharge a smartphone once or twice. At the other extreme, weighing five times as much, is the Zendure A8 Pro. This one has a capacity of 25,600 mAh and has four USB slots so you can really go to town recharging basically anything. In between these options, you can look at popular and cheap models from places such as Amazon, such as the AmazonBasics Portable External Battery Charger of which you can get models with different power ranges from 2,000 mAh to 16,100 mAh.

 

portable phone charger for remote locations

 

take pictures & find directions with portable chargers

 

Get Wired

Before you head for the hills and set off on your walking holiday with your portable charger, let me supply you with a couple of obvious suggestions:

  • make sure that the charger is itself fully charged (this can take hours depending on the capacity) and
  • take the correct USB coupling cables for your devices before you leave.

 

For more advice on the gear to bring on a cycling or walking holiday, contact our team of travel experts.

For more in John’s series of Gear Matters blog posts and tips and advice for cycling and walking gear, see the full overview of blog articles from the past months.





This Year Only: Hadrian’s Wall Path & Cavalry Exhibition

New exhibition offers rare insight in the role and daily life of the Roman Empire’s cavalry forces

Hadrian's Wall Walk with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Walking Hadrian’s Wall Path this year will give you the opportunity to gain a rare insight in the role and daily life of the cavalry forces of the Roman army. Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site hosts a temporary new exhibition: Hadrian’s Cavalry, which launched in April 2017.

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall forms part of the ‘Roman Limes’, which represent the border line of the Roman Empire when it was at its greatest in the 2nd century AD. At present, remains of this border line can be found in Germany, Scotland, and of course England. Protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk

A must-see for history aficionados, Hadrian’s Wall can be followed on foot along the adjoining 84-mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path. With Sherpa, you have two options, an 8-day and a 10-day version, that can take you on a self guided walking trip across the rugged countryside of Northern England, from Whitley Bay in the east to Carlisle in the west.

Roman bridge on Hadrian's Wall Path - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

Waymarks on a Hadrian's Wall walk in England with Sherpa Expeditions


The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall with a largely rural feel. Enjoy stunning vistas from places like Newcastle Keep, Highshield Crags and Bowness-on-Solway and walk in the Northumberland National Park. At night, enjoy the hospitality of country B&Bs brimming with personality and local charm. Self guided Hadrian’s Wall walking holidays depart daily between April and October.  

 


Hadrian’s Cavalry

Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition celebrates the cavalry regiments that once guarded this famous North West frontier of the mighty Roman Empire. Ten museums and venues form a unique wall-wide exhibition that takes place from Saturday 8 April to Sunday 10 September 2017. Ornate helmets, shields, decorations and weapons have been collected from museums around Europe and are now on display in various locations. Spectacular re-enactment events at different places along the Wall will also be part of the exhibition. From July, a specially commissioned piece of contemporary art will be on display at English Heritage’s Chesters Roman Fort and Museum (day 5 or 6 on our walks).

 

Temple of Minerva on Hadrian's Wall Path - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Walking Hadrian's Wall to see Hadrian's Cavalry - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 
For more information on Hadrian’s Cavalry and our Hadrian’s Wall Path walking holidays, contact our team of travel experts or browse information on Hadrian’s Wall, Classic Hadrian’s Wall 8-day walking holiday, or the Hadrian’s Wall Trail 10 day walking trip.








(Semi) Centre Based Alpine Walks

Besides linear or circular walking holidays, you also have a choice to opt for a (semi) centre-based walking holiday in Europe with Sherpa Expeditions.

 

Perhaps you are interested in exploring a certain region more in depth or you like to reduce the number of times to unpack and prefer sleeping in the same bed every night. The European Alps are an excellent destination to enjoy this style of travel. From the Austrian Lake District and the Dachstein Alps via Meiringen and on to the Bernese Oberland, below you can find ideas for centre based walking holidays.

 

Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps

This semi-centre based walking holiday evolves around:

  • Bad Goisern
  • Gosau
  • Hallstatt

centre-based-walking-holidays-europe-austrian-lake-district

 

Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area. The heart of Austria’s Lake District encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier, and breath-taking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through mountain forests and alongside glimmering lakeland shores as you explore alpine villages of wooden chalets decorated with colourful window boxes.

We grade this tour as moderate-challenging and although most days are easier, you will find some steep stony trails and perhaps an element of exposure on certain occasions. For those that like to avoid the challenging parts, there is public transport available between centres.

Go there on the 8 day semi centre based walking holiday Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps.

 

Meiringen

This centre based walking holiday evolves around:

  • Meiringen

centre-based-walking-holidays-europe-meiringen-reichenbach-falls - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Situated at the convergence of three of Switzerland’s major passes, Meiringen is famous for the Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular cataract that was the setting for the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. A place for anyone who wants to see the real Switzerland, in autumn the landscape is painted with a riot of colour and in spring and summer you can find lush alpine valleys and flowers bloom. Walks here encompass all grades from gentle strolls to high ridges, while a superb integrated network of cablecars, postbuses and trams takes you in all directions quickly and easily.

The high places can be reached quickly without long uphill climbs out of the valley and, at any time of the year, you can fill a week with excellent day walks, from gentle strolls to high ridges. Choose yourself how easy or hard you care to make it.

Go there on the Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps 5 day or 8 day self guided walking holidays.

 

Bernese Oberland & Reichenbach Falls

This semi-centre based walking holiday evolves around:

  • Grindelwald
  • Lauterbrunnen
  • Zermatt

centre-based-walking-holidays-europe-bernese-oberland

 

A stunning region of rock and ice, Bernese Oberland is the perfect introduction to walking in the Swiss Alps. The route follows classic mountain trails to charming mountain refuges. Along the way you’ll be able to enjoy views from a variety of vantage points of vast glaciers that tumble from some of the highest peaks in the country, many over 4,000m!

Each day you can choose between a range of walks, often with differing grades and distances; you can also utilise the extensive mountain transport system to shorten the walks further. You also have the option to take the mountain railway to the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station.
Go there on the Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls 8-day self guided walking holiday or join a small group of like-minded travellers on the Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls Guided Walk.

 

Interested in more choice of centre based walking holidays in Europe? Find out about the advantages and extra suggestions for this type of travel in the article ‘In the Centre of the Action: 4 Trips’.

 

For more information or booking requests, please contact our team of travel experts in our London office.

 

Alpine Flowers: A Mountain Walker’s Guide

The alps are full with mountain flowers and especially in the summer months, you’ll very likely be rewarded with the sights of many colourful versions. When you’re walking in the Alps, bring a mobile device like a mobile phone or tablet with you, or print this article so you can look up a little information on the species that you’ll see along the way.

 

Yellow Gentian

Gentiana lutea

alpine-flowers_Yellow-Gentian_Sherpa-Expeditions

When does it flower? June-July

Where can I find the plant? There are many variants of gentians, we especially like the yellow gentian. The plant can grow as old as 70-100 years and the flowering part of the plant dies around July-August. This alpine flower is native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and grows in grassy alpine pastures. Other names by which the plant goes are 'bitter root', 'genciana', or 'bitterwort'. 

 

Alpine Pasque Flower

Pulsatilla alpina

alpine-flowers_Alpine-Pasque-Flower_Sherpa-Expeditions

When does it flower?  Very early in the season, May-June, sometimes springing up from under the snow

Where can I find the plant? The alpine pasque flower is native to the mountain ranges of central and southern Europe and you can find the flower in mountains all the way between Spain and up to Croatia. Besides the white one, there is a yellow variant of this mountain flower. Look at rocky areas or in dry stone wall gaps to find the flower.

 

Cotton Grass

Eriophorum

alpine-flowers_cotton-grass-on-the-Haute-Route_Sherpa-Expeditions

When does it flower? April-June

Where can I find the plant? The leaves of the plant look like grass and it’s flower looks very similar to a cotton wool ball, hence its name. When you come across peat or acidic soils, open wetland, or moorland on your walk in the Alps, there’s a good chance that you can find a patch of cotton grass.

 

Edelweiss

Leontopodium alpinum

alpine-flowers_Edelweiss-in-Switzerland_Sherpa-walking-holidays

When does it flower? July – September  

Where can I find the plant? Edelweiss is quite a special mountain flower if not only because it being used a symbol for alpinism. Edelweiss normally grows between 1800-3000 metres altitude and in rocky limestone places. The alpine flower is a protected plant in France, Switzerland and Italy among others.

 

Harebells

Campanula rotundifolia

alpine-flowers_harebells-on-Switzerland-walking-holidays_Sherpa-Expeditions

When does it flower? July – September

Where can I find the plant? We believe that the harebell is perhaps one of the most attractive of all wildflowers. Look out for the mountain plant on dry grasslands, in the valleys or on heaths.

 

Heartsease

Viola tricolor

alpine-flowers_Heartease_Sherpa-Expeditions

When does it flower? April – September

Where can I find the plant? The wild kind of heartsease is quite rare and blooms yellow and white, it appears in a white or purple form and you may know it from your garden at home in the name of wild pansy or love-lies-bleeding. But did you know that it also is a powerful medicinal herb? It can benefit for example people with skin problems, respiratory problems or chest infections.

 

Martagon Lily

Lilium martagon

alpine-flowers_Martigen-Lily-mountain-flower_Sherpa-Expeditions

When does it flower? It only flowers a short period between late June and mid-July

Where can I find the plant? This plant is a Eurasian variety of the lily and it grows as far east as Mongolia. It’s also known as Turk’s cap lily, Lily of Istanbul, Sultan Lily or Dragon Lily. You can only see the Martagon Lily from late June to mid-July and plants can grow as high as 2 metres.

 

Pincushion Saxifrage

Saxifraga eschscholtzii

alpine-flowers_pincushion-saxifrage_Sherpa-walking-holidays

When does it flower? April - June

Where can I find the plant? Saxifrage is a very common alpine wildflower that appears in as many as 400+ shapes and forms. The plant is also known as saxifrages or rockfoils. Often you can find them on old grassland, especially on chalk or limestone soil.

 

Cobweb Houseleek

Sempervivum arachnoideum

alpine-flowers_Rock-Leek-(Haute-Route)

When does it flower? July

Where can I find the plant? You can find the cobweb houseleek (or cobweb sedum) between rocks that are quite moist. They form mats that cover up the rocks and are happy in full sunlight. Especially in the summer months, when it flowers, the colour of this wildflower is pinkish and reddish. 

 

Rosebay Willowherb

Chamaenerion angustifolium

alpine-flowers_Rosebay-Willowherb_Switzerland

When does it flower? July – September

Where can I find the plant? Usually the Rosebay Willowherb grows in rocky places or woodland clearings. It is common to find the plant in places where the ground was burned.

 

Vanilla Orchid

Nigritella nigra bzw. rubra

alpine-flowers_Vanilla-Orchid-Haute-Route_Sherpa-Expeditions

When does it flower? July

Where can I find the plant? It is quite likely to find the almost black or purple vanilla orchid in grassy, limestone meadows above the forest limit. The more grassy variant that we saw on one of our walks on the Haute Route is quite a rare variety. What’s special about it? Smell this wildflower and you understand where it got its name!

 

Alpine Crocus

Colchicum alpinum

alpine-flowers_mountain-flowers-are-alpine-crocus_Sherpa-walking-holidays

When does it flower? Around August until October

Where can I find the plant? A native flower to the Alps, you can find the crocus on mountain grassland in France, Switzerland as well as Italy. Besides the obviously pink version in the picture above, you can find paler rosy/pink versions of the flower.

 

See mountain flowers on one of our alpine walking holidays to France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria

 

Picture This! A Vision of Mont Blanc

Being one of Europe’s most impressive mountain regions, extraordinary Mont Blanc is hard to grasp in words. A diverse flora and fauna, ever changing scenery, charming settlements, and a plethora of tracks and trails all make up the mountain area that covers France, Italy and Switzerland.

 

To give you an idea what you may expect on one of our walking holidays circumnavigating the peak, check out this overview of Mont Blanc images and be awed.

 

Tracks & Trails

mont-blanc-images_follow-a-mountain-stream_sherpa-expeditions

 

mont-blanc-images_scenery-of-forest_sherpa-expeditions 

mont-blanc-images_break-from-walking_sherpa-expeditions

 

mont-blanc-images_walking-up_sherpa-expeditions

 

Mont Blanc way markers - Sherpa Walking Holidays 

Flora & Fauna

Deer in the Mont Blanc region - Sherpa Expeditions

 

bird Mont Blanc - Sherpa walking holidays

 

mountain flowers of Mont Blanc - Sherpa Expeditions

 

cute marmot, Mont Blanc, Sherpa Expeditions

 

butterflies, Mont Blanc, Sherpa walking holidays

 

animals around Mont Blanc - Sherpa Expeditions 

marmot, mont blanc, sherpa expeditions

 

Scenic Mont Blanc Region

mont-blanc-images_look-into-the-valley_sherpa-expeditions

 

mont-blanc-images_mountain-peaks_sherpa-expeditions

 

mont-blanc-images_swiss-cows_sherpa-expeditions

 

mont-blanc-images_glacier_sherpa-expeditions

 

mont-blanc-images_mont-blanc-sign_sherpa-expeditions

 

mont-blanc-images_mountain-views_sherpa-expeditions

 

Alpine Mountain Hamlets

settlement of Mont Blanc - Sherpa Expeditions

 

mont-blanc-images_mountain-art_sherpa-expeditions

 

room with a view - mont blanc images - Sherpa 

village life of Mont Blanc - Sherpa walking holidays

 

mont-blanc-images_lake-boats_sherpa-expeditions

 

amazing setting on Mont Blanc, imagine yourself here

 

 

Inspired?

Do you, after seeing these fantastic Mont Blanc images, like to experience this part of France, Italy and Switzerland for yourself? You can on one of our Mont Blanc walking holidays:

Tour du Mont Blanc – 14 Days >> An extended self guided circumnavigation around the highest mountain in Western Europe, through the meadows and mountain passes of Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland.

               Show me more >>

Tour du Mont Blanc – 11 Days >> A classic alpine walk that starts in Les Houches and finishes in Chamonix walking around Western Europe’s highest mountain through the valleys of three contrasting countries.

               Show me more >>

Mont Blanc Classic Walk – 8 Days >> Discover the highlights of the Mont Blanc region on this self guided walk through France, Switzerland and Italy.

               Show me more >>

Mont Blanc Guided Walk – 8 Days >> An exhilarating hike around Mont Blanc taking in sweeping vistas of famous peaks and glaciers.

               Show me more >>

Mont Blanc Family Adventure – 7 Days >> A special family walking adventure through the Alps to view the Mont Blanc regions famous peaks and glaciers.

               Show me more >>

Mont Blanc in Comfort – 6 Days >> An exhilarating guided horseshoe circuit hike around Mont Blanc staying in private rooms instead of dorms.

               Show me more >> 


 

A Closer Look at Compact Binoculars

Gear Review - Compact Binoculars - Sherpa Expeditions guide reviewEvery month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. In this post, he takes a closer look at compact binoculars. Get the basics of binos, learn about testing, find out about the difference between Porro and roof prism and much more.   





The whole walking experience can be enhanced by bringing with you a decent pair of compact binoculars. Maybe you are walking and you catch a bird flitting about and you would like to identify it; maybe there are two paths some distance ahead and you want to check which is your route; and is that a bull or a horse running across the field to greet you? Nowadays, the best compact binoculars are light and hardly get in the way. You could bring bigger ones on your trip, but they are heavier and if you just carry them in your rucksack, you will never use them! So here we just concentrate on some of the smaller models.

best compact binoculars - Sherpa Expeditions

Then comes the question of how to choose binoculars. There is a whole range from ‘el cheapo’ ones with plastic lenses, ones with dodgy hinges that break after a few views, all the way up to compacts with titanium chassis and beautiful optics. From personal experience, I would always aim for a mid-range pair, but it depends on how you want to use them.

Binocular Basics

Let me first focus on the basics. Binoculars are often referred to by two numbers separated by an "x". For example: 8x25 or 10x42 or 10x50. The first number is the power, or magnification, of the binocular. With a 10x42 model, the object being viewed appears to be ten times closer than you would see it with the unaided eye. The second number is the diameter of the objective or front lens measured in millimetres. The larger the objective lens, the more light enters the binocular and the brighter your image appears. The utility of more expensive pairs such as Leicas, Opticrons or Swarovski are increased because of the quality of their lenses and prisms which allow the binocular to be used in low light situations, observing that owl floating along at dusk for example.

Not all compacts are created equal and there is a difference between ‘Porro prism’ and ‘roof prism’ compact binoculars. Many of the cheaper options are built using 'Porro prisms', in this case the lens and the eyepieces are unaligned. This prism design means that the compacts will be less compact when folded than the roof prism varieties. But the quality can be very good. 

A Closer Look

Over to testing and choosing the best compact binoculars for you. Ultimately you have to make a choice in relation to the cost, but if you have a chance to test your binoculars, reject any models whose hinges don’t offer much resistance when you widen them etc. Reject models with extreme chromatic aberration, this is when things you look at may be miscoloured especially along edges. Distortion is another factor, binoculars are sharper in the middle rather than at the edge. The better models of lightweight binoculars have better edge to edge focusing. Reject any that have misaligned barrels – the image is not smooth, for example if you look at a telegraph wire, it is slightly lower from left to the right barrel. It is said that the ultimate test for your binoculars is to take them outside at night and look at a bright star (not the sun!). Then after you have the star centred and brought the binoculars in focus, the star should be a sharp near-point-like image, without any irregular spikes. It should remain a round disk.  

how to choose binoculars - Sherpa Walking Holidays

lightweight binoculars are easy to carry - Sherpa Expeditions

Focus on Binocular Brands

Resolving the brands may be useful as well. If you just want a cheap pair then that is fine, but a little bit of investment goes a long way in terms of optics and better hinges. Bushnell makes a very good range of affordable compact binoculars, some claiming to be waterproof such as their H2O models. Have a look at the PowerView 10x42 or NatureView 10x42 models. Pentax, Nikon and Hawke all do varying compact binoculars at this level. A bit higher up the scale look at the Opticron Discovery WP PC 10x50 roof prism binoculars, an exceptional optical quality in an ultra-compact and waterproof design. The Discovery WP PC series are among the smallest waterproof roof prism binoculars available.

Image Stabilisation

Now on to resolving different types of compact binoculars. Canon have gone down a different route with their models using image stabilisation. Their 8x25 model is the smallest in this range. These so called IS binoculars are larger and heavier than other, non-IS binoculars of a similar performance. Although the dimensions of these binoculars aren’t vastly larger in comparison with other Porro prism models (roof prisms are smaller and more compact by design), the weight is more of an issue. The Canon’s are about around 200g heavier than many of their 8x25, however you get a tripod socket, and they are easier for comfortable viewing due to the stabilisation.

Close look with compact binoculars

A Case for Binoculars

Finally, it makes sense to have your small binoculars in a little pouch that either attaches to your rucksack belt or clips on to a handy strap from where you can access your them very quickly. Bear in mind that if your compact binoculars are not waterproof your pouch should at least be highly water resistant. 

 

If you like more information on choosing the best compact binoculars for you, contact John and our team of travel experts by phone or email.

 

Further Reading

Interested in learning more about your walking or cycling gear? There is a whole range of Gear Matters blog articles that range from advice on walking poles, water bottles, how to clean hiking boots, and much more. Find them all under the Gear category

compact binoculars for Ring of Kerry - Sherpa Expeditions

Switzerland's Alpine Pass Route According to a Travel Writer

Cicerone guidebook author Lesley Williams - Alpine Pass Route

 

The Alpine Pass Route (APR) – now fully waymarked as Swiss Via Alpina 1 (VA1) – is a hiking trail of over 350km across Switzerland. It crosses high mountain passes through the eastern Alps, the Bernese Oberland and the Vaudoise and Lesley Williams, Cicerone guidebook director, describes this relatively quiet walking trail for us. 

Imagine spending three weeks in the mountains traversing the Swiss Alps, with a central highlight of the Bernese Alps crowned with glaciers and summer snows, either side of which are mountains, valleys and lakes rarely visited by anyone but the alpine trekker. In the valleys, villages that are still centred around cheesemaking provide simple accommodation and high above, farms and alpine huts offer refreshments amid the sound of cowbells.

This may sound like a tourist brochure, but the reality of the Alpine Pass Route (Swiss Via Alpina 1) is just that – many days where you rarely see another person, although there are also days, particularly in the Bernese Alps, where you become something of an object of interest among the tourists thronging the railway platform at Kleine Scheideg!

 

"A break in the cloud and a shaft of afternoon sun revealed our first view of the mighty Wetterhorn when we walked the Alpine Pass Route."

Walking the Alpine Pass Route - Sherpa Expeditions ©Cicerone

 

As the name implies, The Swiss Via Alpina 1 route involves crossing sixteen Alpine passes, and showcases some of the country's most breathtaking mountain landscapes. The route is not suitable for first time alpine trekkers, but best undertaken by those with some experience of Alpine trekking: it amasses over 20,000m of ascent and involves some steep and occasionally exposed sections, mainly on the three high passes – the Sefinenfurke (2612m), the Hohturli (2778m) and the Bunderschrinde (2385m). The entire route can be completed in 2-3 weeks, although it is also possible to walk shorter sections; alternatively postbus, cable-car and rail connections could be used to allow for a tighter schedule if time is limited, and may be recommended in order to avoid one or two sections of walking through urban areas and busy roadside paths.

The Swiss alpine route officially begins in Lichtenstein, a week later reaching Engelberg, starting point of the Sherpa Expeditions itinerary. Engelberg is a thriving town with an impressive 12th Century monastery situated on the eastern border of Switzerland. From here you spend three or four days wandering through mellow alpine landscapes largely ignored by tourists. The passes are generally of a steady gradient, however there is nothing mellow about the views – as you see alp upon alp stretching far into the distance. From the Bernese Oberland, the landscape changes as the mountains become higher and the impact of tourism becomes more evident. When I did a late summer trek in 2016 researching the new edition of the Cicerone guidebook, the weather was unsettled and on one day we realised we had only taken three photographs, and very poor ones at that!

 

Alpine Pass Route Switzerland - Sherpa Walking Holidays ©Cicerone

 

A break from walking the Alpine Pass Route - Sherpa Expeditions ©Cicerone

“Over the next two days however, the skies and moisture gradually cleared. High on the new Via Alpina route hugging the crest of a grassy ridge, views down to the valley below were mainly shrouded in cloud. But a break in the cloud and a shaft of afternoon sun revealed our first view of the mighty Wetterhorn; its great bulk and snowy peak seemed unimaginably high. The following day we crested the Grosse Scheidegg to walk beneath the ‘giants’ of the Bernese Oberland – Wetterhorn, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in perfect clarity against a vivid blue sky,” says Cicerone director Lesley Williams.

These giant mountains remain in view for several days as you follow the route through the beautiful, but busy Bernese Oberland, leaving the crowds, trains and cable cars behind as you scale two huge passes on the way to Kandersteg. 

The final few days of the trek to the west of Adelboden again revert gradually to more verdant lower mountain scenery, although some days of necessity are quite long. Although the official Via Alpine route takes walkers to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), Sherpa Expeditions finishes the hike in Lauenen (short bus ride to Saanen) to allow for a two-week itinerary. 

 

The new Cicerone guidebook on the Alpine Pass Route contains a wealth of practical advice and information on local points of interest and is written by Kev Reynolds. The trail is one of the great Alpine routes and embraces much of the best scenery Switzerland has to offer. 

For more information on walking the Alpine Pass Route with Sherpa Expeditions, have a look at the 14-day self guided The Alpine Pass Route or look at The Alpine Pass Route Guided Walk that departs at the end of July. 
For more information and booking requests, contact our team of travel experts by phone or email



 

Walking in the Alps: The Alpine Pass Route vs the Tour du Mont Blanc

Travellers who are looking to go walking in the Alps often ask us, 'Which is better, the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) or The Alpine Pass Route?' We believe that’s a pretty tricky question: both are 2-week long challenging walks threading their way through some of the finest alpine scenery one could find in Europe.

A number of travellers who have walked both routes judge The Alpine Pass to be top of the list, however the Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the world’s most popular mountain walks. This spurred us on to compare the two walks to try and explain popularity of the alpine walking holidays.

 

walking in the alps - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

Scenic Variety of Europe’s Alps

The Alpine Pass Route is said to have more scenic variety and is claimed to be more spectacular with more sheer-sided peaks flanking the route. The Tour de Mont Blanc concentrates quite naturally on the majestic domed top of the highest mountain in Western Europe that seems to draw walkers like a magnet to the Mont Blanc Massif. Here, the impressive sideshows along the way include the Dent Blanche and Aiguille Vert. In contrast, the Alpine Pass Route has a whole procession of beautifully different mountains including the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, Titlus, Wellhorn, Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Breithorn, Gspaltenhorn, Blumlisalpernhorn, Doldenhorn and Wildstrubel.

 

Walking the Alpine Pass Route - Sherpa walking holidays

 

walking the Tour du Mont Blanc - Sherpa walking holidays

 

Both tours stay at mountain inns in beautifully quiet locations. Both routes involve walking up a multitude of alpine valleys and over high passes. The Fenetre d’Arpette (2665m) is the highest one on the TMB but this is trounced by the Hohturli (2778m) on the Alpine Pass, an amazing gateway into the glacial scenery suspended above Kandersteg and the magnificent Oeschinensee glacial lake. The other two big passes on the Alpine Pass Route, Sefinenfurke (2,612m) and the Bundechrinde (2380m), have very different outlooks.

 

Circuit vs Linear Walks

The TMB is a circuit, the Alpine Pass a linear route – is there a preference? Is closing the loop preferable to completing A to B? The efficiency of the Swiss rail system certainly makes starting and ending in different places insignificant.

The route that you follow on the Alpine Pass walk with Sherpa Expeditions is the most spectacular half of a 4-week walk that crosses Alpine Switzerland. It’s holistic in its own right passing between the high Bernese Oberland peaks into the Valais and towards the Rhone Valley.

On the other hand, the TMB is a complete long distance walk. The Tour du Mont Blanc route certainly has more walkers, is best-known and has many articles on it appearing in magazines and books. Perhaps you can ‘dine out’ for longer with a Mont Blanc tour under your belt. The Alpine Pass Route has less press; perhaps this is one of the main reasons for the difference in popularity.

 

Alpine Highlights

There are highlights for mountain lovers on both alps walking holidays: particularly Grindelwald and Klein Scheidegg on the Alpine Pass Route, and Chamonix, Champex and Courmayeur on the Tour de Mont Blanc.

Walking in the Alps on both tours include 'rest days.' Although most people would use these for doing extra walks or variations, they are handy if you want to rest weary limbs or go sightseeing. On the 14-day Tour du Mont Blanc you have rest days in La Palud, Champex and Chamonix (on the 11-day option, we have removed these days and you can continue walking). On the Alpine Pass Route, you’ll have time at leisure in Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Kandersteg. From Grindelwald you can join other visitors and take the train up the Eiger, while from Chamonix you take the cable cars up the Aiguille du Midi for equally spectacular views. 

 

Viewpoint when walking in the Alps - Sherpa Expeditions

 

TMB walking in the Alps - Sherpa Expeditions 

Borders of the Alps

Perhaps the TMB is popular because you get the chance to walk into three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. This does mean that you have to remember changing your money into Swiss Francs and Euros. The Alpine Pass Route passes from the German speaking Oberland to the French speaking Valais, two areas with distinct cultures and traditions (and that have the Euro as their currency).

 

Getting Out of the Mountains

One concern when walking the Tour du Mont Blanc is what to do if you are unlucky and experience really bad weather or sprain an ankle or knee. Some of the sections do not have public transport to the next place, or if they do, it may take a lot of time. On the Alpine Pass Route, there are no such worries as all accommodation can be reached by rail and post bus combinations.

 

Alpine Pass Route, Switzerland walking holidays

 

Tour du Mont Blanc walking holidays in France

 

So, which is best?

We have to say it is hard to find a clear difference on these walking holidays in the Alps. Perhaps the Alpine Pass Route has the edge on scenery but the Tour De Mont Blanc has the recognition. Certainly, if you have already enjoyed a walking holiday on the TMB, we believe you should definitely consider the Alpine Pass Route for your next trip, and vice versa! Afterwards, do let us know which you preferred.

 

 

With Sherpa Expeditions, you can begin a self-guided Alpine Pass holiday on any day from mid July through to the end of September.

This season’s escorted departures for the Alpine Pass Route start on 3rd July and 14th August and there are just a few spots left.

 

Walk the Tour du Mont Blanc in either 11 days or go for the 14-day version that includes rest days.

 

If you are toying with the idea of walking in the Alps around France and Switzerland, besides considering the TMB don’t overlook the Alpine Pass Route as a great alternative. To discuss your options with one of our travel experts, please contact us by email or phone

 

England’s Coast to Coast Walks Cheat Sheet: A quick guide to choosing your walk Part II

Planning for Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk in England 

Planning for Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk: Cheat Sheet Part II

In the previous cheat sheet for planning a walk on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, we helped you with general information on the trail that included more on the background of the route and different grading of the walk. In this blog article, we wanted to help you with more detailed questions on walking England’s most famous long distance trail.

Read on to find out about the type of accommodation, food, weather conditions, walking pace and how to get there. And as always, if you have specific questions, please do get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London office.

 

Click here for a complete overview of 9 holidays on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast >>

 

I Like to Walk in a Group, But I'm Not Sure if I Should Go for the 15 or 18 Day Option?

To make sure you can enjoy your walking holiday in the best way possible, last year we added a second longer, guided walking holiday on the Coast to Coast route. There are now two options to choose from and these are a guided 15-day Coast to Coast Walk or a guided 18-day Coast to Coast Walk. The 15 day itinerary is the classic 13-day walk and the 18 day itinerary breaks up a couple of the longer walking days extending out to 16 days walking.

The 18-day walk departs in May and July and the 15-day walk on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast in June, July, August and September.

 

Pub break on the Coast to Coast walk in England _ Sherpa Expeditions

 

Small Group Walking Holidays - England

 

Can I Start the Coast to Coast Walk in Robin Hood’s Bay Instead?

At Sherpa Expeditions, we typically take the walking route from West to East (St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay). This follows Wainwright’s original description of the walk and is the way all available guidebooks describe the trail. If you follow this direction, it means that you’ll have the wind in your back and towards the end of the day, the sun will not set in your eyes! On all of the Sherpa Expeditions Coast to Coast holidays we follow this direction.

 

People Say It Rains a Lot in England, What Weather Can I Expect?

The climate of northern England is variable with rainfall occurring throughout the year, although this is much more likely from October to April. If you’ve been to continental Europe, you’ll see the weather is similar to that of countries along the North Sea coast and northern France. The sunniest months in the English Lake District are June, July and August and temperatures between April and October fluctuate between from 4°C (40°F) to 20°C (68°F), although it may be slightly cooler on the higher sections of the trail. 

 

Walking on the Coast to Coast, England - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk, meals with Sherpa Expeditions

 

Do I Miss Anything if I Choose a 15-Day Classic Coast to Coast Option?

Besides the classic, 15 day guided or self guided, option to walk the Coast to Coast route, you can choose for a 16, 17, or 18-day version as well. In principle, all of these walking trips follow the same route. This means that whether you choose to walk the classic route or one of the extended versions, you will still take in all the important villages, sights and wonderful nature. When we look at the exact sections of the trip covered, there are minor differences between the routes in that you cover slightly different paths in order to arrive in a village on time.

The main difference between the four durations of the Coast to Coast walk, is the walking pace.

 

I’m More of a Cycling Person…

Then you’re lucky! Because of the Coast to Coast Walk being such a classic route, it was inevitable that a cycling version would be developed. This cycling route is referred to as the C2C or Sea-to-Sea and covers a slightly different route and embraces different scenery. We are currently working on updating our Coast to Coast cycling holiday to create an itinerary that combines the Cumbria Cycle Way Route and the popular C2C cycle route, offering a superb week’s cycling amidst great scenery. If you like to keep up to date or find out about options to cycle the route already this year, please get in touch with our team for advice.  

 

What Are the Nearest Airports to the Start and Finish of the Coast to Coast Walk?

For both the start of the Coast to Coast Walk in St Bees and the end in Robin Hood’s Bay, the nearest international airport is Manchester. You can also choose to fly in and out of London. From both airports you can get a train to Carlisle and from there a local train to St Bees (1 hour 15 mins). It’s then a short walk from the train station to your hotel, or you can get a train from Carlisle to Whitehaven, which is a short taxi or bus ride away from St Bees. 

Domestic nearby airports to both St Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay are Leeds, Durham, and Newcastle.

At the end of the English walking holiday you will need to take a bus or taxi from Robin Hood’s Bay to Scarborough and then a train to either London or Manchester.

 

What Type of Accommodation Will I Stay at On the Coast to Coast Walk?

There is limited accommodation on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk due to it being such a popular route and the remoteness of the route. Because of that you will stay at different Bed & Breakfasts, guesthouses, inns or hotels, which are all run by the friendly people of the Lake District and northern England. With the enthusiastic hospitality of the locals, you will feel like staying in a home away from home. There is no 5-star luxury accommodation available on any Coast to Coast walking holiday, but we can help you look at upgrading your accommodation where available if you prefer so. This would then involve short transfers to nearby villages.

 

English food - Coast to Coast, Sherpa Expeditions

 

Accommodation on the Coast to Coast walk - Sherpa Expeditions

 

The English Food, What Can I Expect of My Meals and Will There Be Variety?

Dinners and lunches are not included on our walking holidays on the Coast to Coast route, so you can decide per day what you feel like ordering. Whether it be typical British fish & chips along the coast or a good meat pie after a long day of walking, in the pubs and locally run establishments you’ll be surely taken good care of. And if you feel like international cuisine, there will be Italian, Indian and lots of other restaurants to cater for your needs in the bigger towns such as Grasmere, Kirkby Stephen and Richmond.

So yes, there will be variety, but we definitely advise to enjoy the hearty pies, a proper fish & chips and of course a good roast.

 

Haven’t seen Part I of the Coast to Coast Cheat Sheet yet? You can find more information on Wainwright’s walk here >>

 

If you have any other questions or like to have more details related to your specific situation, please do get in touch with our team of travel experts in our London offices. It is our pleasure to assist you in choosing the best walk for you. 

 



Sherpa Shows: Walking in Tenerife

Self Guided Walking Holiday: Tenerife on Foot

Watch this short video in which Sherpa Expeditions shows you what it's like to go walking in Tenerife. 

 

 

Are you after some days of leisurely walking in Tenerife? Up for an active inn to inn Tenerife hiking trip? Or are you looking to mix your active walking days with a day of relaxing? On the 8-day self guided walking holiday on the Spanish island, 'Tenerife on Foot', you have plenty of freedom to adjust the days to your wishes. Spend your rest day at the beach or exploring towns and coastal paths and have the opportunity to use the network of buses to shorten your walks. 

 

>> Learn more about Tenerife, one of Spain's Canary Islands

>> View the 8-day self guided walking holiday Tenerife on Foot