Wanderlust

Words & Photos: Florian Reichert

“Before I turn 70 I want you to take me across the Alps – on foot!” my 69-year old mother Katharina said to me this spring. Now, Katharina has never been an athlete. She has never followed a training regimen, never done any serious endurance exercises, has never been interested in competitions and racing. Whenever the question came up – preferably at some significant birthday or other festivity where the family was assembled – where my desire to push myself to the limit, to compete, to test myself in the elements came from, everyone was at a loss, including myself.

However, Katharina has always been a lover of nature. “The forest is my church”, is one of the sayings she took over from her father. She likes to go on long walks or work in the garden until it’s too dark to find the snails attacking her salad.

So I started planning our trip. Six days, three countries, about 180 kilometers and 9000 m of altitude gain and loss. Because I work as a teacher I’m bound to the school holidays, which meant that we weren’t able to go in August or September, the time of year when the weather is most stable and all the huts are open. However, we had the luxury of being accompanied by my step dad with his mobile home, which meant that we always had a place to stay and only had a to carry light backpacks. Furthermore, and for me the most important factor, was that we had the usually busy trails to ourselves!

We started in Oberstdorf, Germany with light hearts and sunshine in our faces. The first two stages felt like summer. Our legs were fresh, we were well rested and felt a great wanderlust running through our veins.

I was impressed by my mom how she handled technically difficult sections and steep trails.

And we got to talk a lot. Because we live in different cities, we don’t see each other too often, maybe three or four times a year. My parents got separated when I was six and we never talked about some parts of my childhood – I never wanted to, because it hurt too much. But out here, surrounded by the mountains that we both love so much, it just felt right to talk about the past, the now and the future.

Our near future looked pretty bleak though; overnight a snowstorm set in and all of a sudden our easy-to-follow trails were covered in deep snow.

Because some sections of the trail involve crossing small glaciers, our mission was on the verge. However we decided to keep going, slowly and with caution, and always with the option to turn around. The lure of the mountains, the mutual understanding between my mother and me and our confidence in each other were extremely high. In the end we had some of the most beautiful days in the mountains I’ve ever experienced.

As I usually like to move fast through the mountains when I’m training or competing, it was a new experience to set every step consciously, carefully. It felt meditative. My mom followed my steps, and we spoke little. Still, we had an amazing time together.

We eventually made it through Austria and crossed the Italian border.

The last descent in the fading light was filled with feelings of melancholy that our trip was over. More importantly, however, I felt gratitude. Gratitude for my mom, for our relationship, and that we were able to spend these memorable days together in the mountains.

Gear list:

Arc’teryx:

Alpha SL Jacket, Norvan Jacket, Alpha FL 30 Backpack, Palisade Pant, Aptin Short, Norvan LD Shoes, Stradium Pant, Cerium SL Jacket, Thetis Zip-Neck LS, Cormac Crew SS Shirt, Phasic Evolution Crew Neck Shirt SS, Phase SL Shirt, Rivet Glove, Bird Head Toque

Miscellaneous:

Suunto 9 GPS watch, Julbo sunglasses (Renegade), Leki hiking poles, Buff, Snowline light crampons, First aid kit and emergency blanket, Mobile Phone, GoPro 5 Camera, Tape, Maps, Gels, energy bars and salt tablets, Chocolate, Toiletries