Fed up of the Alps? Can’t afford Aspen? Don’t fancy the Japanese powder of Niseko?

Published in Skiing

From lift passes and gondola times to slope information and snow conditions, here’s our ultimate ski guide to the Jungfrau resort of Grindelwald-Wengen – plus 7 reasons why to choose Grindelwald-Wengen for your next skiing holiday.

Published in Skiing
Monday, 08 August 2022 11:51

A journey of meaning

In a little over three weeks, I’ll be stood on a railway platform in Cheshire waiting for a train and the start of an 8000km adventure. Over the following 18 days I’ll be taking the trip of a lifetime through the French and Swiss Alps before heading north through Germany, Denmark and Sweden to Norway’s Arctic Circle and the Lofoten Islands. Unlike any trip I’ve undertaken in the past, though, this one will rely entirely on train, bus and ferry.

Follow your curiosity

As a child I had no expectation of international travel, it was something exclusively available to the rich. In the days before Freddy Laker the best I could hope for was a day trip to France with the long-gone British Visitors Passport or possibly, one day, a one-year passport from the Post Office. As I come to the end of my travel days, however, society has changed and international travel has become something of an entitlement to the majority of Brits. From sun-soaked siestas on the Costas to Gap Years backpacking Asia and South America there’s an expectation of travel from childhood onwards.

It may be down to the lack of such expectation in my formative years or it may be some intangible impact of maturity but for me travel has always been a privilege. Travel with adventure, even more so, and I’ve been fortunate to travel on a regular basis over the last four decades. I’ve never done the traditional holiday, travel has always been linked to adventure and with adventure comes responsibility. Whether it’s crossing the Rockies from L.A. to Denver in Winter or Paragliding the Chamonix and Zermatt valleys there’s always been an element of purpose. But now, as I start my sixty-second year the time has come to call a halt to my travels.

Zurich train station Zurich Train Station

I’ve done enough travelling for one person. Not because I’m tired of it, but because the planet is tired of it. In the late 80’s I was among the first batch of students in the UK to gain a degree in Environmental Science and thirty plus years on it’s high time I acted on the lessons I learned. The dilemma is balancing the benefits of travel with the costs to our future.

Put simply, our planet cannot sustain the unregulated use of fossil fuels and flying is one of the main offenders along with petrol and diesel based transport. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that travel not only broadens the mind but has brought enormous benefits to society. For me the balance comes down to relevance. At sixty-one I’ve had my share of the benefits, I’ve broadened my mind and my experiences and I’ve lived a life I couldn’t even imagine as a child. Now my job is to enable others to do the same; but young people and responsibly. It’s the young who will benefit most from travel and adventure, and the young people who will inherit the planet we leave them.

By train through Switzerland

By train through the Alps

Two and a half years ago I gave up driving, ditching car and van ownership for public transport, and switched to a sustainable energy provider, but as long as I continued flying it was little more than a symbolic gesture. Throw in a healthy dose of 21st Century consumerism and I’ve been taking more from the planet than my share. So this upcoming trip will be different.

The primary principles behind the trip are sustainability and education. Over the years I’ve built up a degree of influence in the outdoor industry and I have a responsibility to future generations to lead by example. I want the following generations to experience what I’ve experienced, but without change it’s a doomed hope. Travel and adventure have to become more responsible, losing the reliance on flying and using up resources. And so my last big trip will forgo planes but take the slow-route of trains, buses and ferries.

As with any trip of this nature there are kit requirements. Where possible I’m using kit I already own but where I need new I’m also aware of the environmental impact of constantly buying new products so I’m choosing to use either 2nd hand kit where possible or if new insisting that at least 50% of the components are recycled. Thanks to assistance from Vango, Rab, Lowe Alpine and Big Agnes and East River PR I’ve managed this with the big items, with a tent from Camping Recycled by Vango and the rucksack, sleeping bag and insulated mat all meeting these environmental requirements.

F10 Hydrogen

F10 Project Hydrogen from Camping Recycled by Vango

The trip will see me leave Cheshire early in the morning of 1st September and by evening I’ll be in Geneva, via London, Eurostar, and Paris. Over the next 8 days I’ll be visiting Zermatt, Interlaken and the Jungfrau region, and Lugano before heading north via Zurich, Hanover, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Oslo and Trondheim in a series of mammoth train rides to arrive in Fauste in Norway. From there I transfer to buses first to Narvik and the Arctic then on to a series of wild camps in Lofoten for a week. The return will see me board a ferry in Moskenes to Bodo before rejoining the trains to Trondheim and home via Oslo, Gothenburg, Malmo, Hamburg and Zurich before 5 days camping in the Chamonix valley. A month after setting off I’ll be back on Eurostar from Paris to London and the final journey home to Cheshire.

It's an epic journey, made possible by the Interrail tickets and a favourable deal that’s seen me benefit from “Senior” prices and a 50% off sale as Interrail celebrates its 50th birthday. Along the way I’ll be walking, zip-lining, camping, paragliding and with luck finally ticking off my ambition to see the Northern Lights in person. The logistics have been a nightmare, with 32 separate train journeys alone, but more of that, and a kit list for a month weighing in at 12kg, to come over the next few days and weeks. The plan is to post updates using photos, drone and video footage and words along the way.

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