What happened?

I started this website with the intention of doing reviews of the gear that I use when I’m in the mountains, climbing, skiing,…

The thing is, I stopped buying gear, and I really don’t care about reviewing stuff anymore. Period.

A change was bound to come

I changed my mind. I often do. I realised that consumption is a vicious circle. Once you start consuming, it never ends. No matter how much money you make you will always find ways to spend it. And I don’t want that anymore. So I stopped consuming, mindlessly shopping for stuff that I want, but never need. Stuff that brings joy to my life for a couple of days and then just weighs me down. Financially, but also mentally. Honestly, there are very few things that make me happy in life: Sports, Music, Women. Oh yeah, food and sleep, too. But everything else is just luxury. Nobody needs a TV, a sports car or a mansion to be happy. We are all just slaves to a system that makes us chase after an endless dream.

Capitalism? It’s a trap!

I have been a minimalist for years. But not the kind of minimalist that I am today, but the kind of minimalist that likes to travel light, that likes to do long distance hikes and mountaineering as light and with as little stuff as possible. Problem was, I didn’t really translate these ideals to my everyday life. The things I consumed eventually consumed me, and for a while I stopped doing the things that I truly enjoy in favor of endless hours of research on what speakers to buy for the expensive amp I bought when I was perfectly happy with listening to music over my headphones; or on what display to use to connect my Macbook to while I was perfectly happy with the built in screen. All this ended, quite abruptly, when I realised that I had worked every day for half a year, and nothing to show for it but a room cluttered with expensive electronics I didn’t need and the feeling that I had to use all this expensive crap because I had payed top dollar for it. Basically, all this stuff chained me to my room, making the act of going outside and actually living ever so harder.

I am not a normal person

I live between the extremes, I’m either black or white. If I do something, I usually go all in. So I decided I needed to change my ways, to become a more frugal and deliberate person. This time, I went from hoarder to minimalist, and so far, I love it. In the coming weeks, there will probably be more posts, but about stuff that really matters in life, and most definitely no reviews.

Form Munich to Venice – crossing the alps on foot

I had had the idea of crossing the alps in the back of my head for a long time, but neither the time nor the money to really go trough with it. But in the summer of 2013, me and a good friend of mine had both, so we decided to seize the opportunity and cross the alps.

The preparation:

Because I am a very passionate mountaineer, I didn’t have to buy any new equipment for the trip except for a second merino shirt, but my friend had to spend quite a lot of money in the months before the trip, among other things for a new backpack, new shirts and underpants. Both my friend and I are mountain addicts and didn’t really do any special training for the hike, but kept to our routines and it worked out great. Looking back, I put the most effort in finding ways to get my backpack lighter and it actually payed of, as my backpack came in at about 4kg (base weight without water or food).

For me the trip was never about finishing, about getting to Venice, for me it was about just doing it, about enjoying it as much as possible, and I never doubted for a second we would reach the Piazza San Marco in less than a month. So as we stood there on the Marienplatz, about to take the first step of a long journey -promising blisters and sore feet and privation but at the same time beautiful landscapes, fun and impressions that I would never forget as long as I live- I was happy.

The journey:

To be honest, the beautiful part of the trail begins 2 days after munich and ends 3 days before venice. Everything before and after is a necessary evil. As we make our way along the river Isar, upstream, we long for the mountains ahead of us in the distance, waiting to be conquered, getting closer with every step we take. And on the third day we finally make our way up to the first summit and by the evening we reach the first mountain lodge, with a spactacular view on the “Benediktenwand”.

From there, we make our way through the “Karwendel” mountains, paying a quick visit to it’s highest peak, the “Birkkarspitze” (2749m) and soon find ourselves on the way down to the Inn Valley, an passing in Hall, only about 10km downstream from Innsbruck, before we leave civilisation behind once more.

IMG_0098_2In the next days we pass the “Tuxer” Alps, reaching the highest point of the trail, the “Friesenbergscharte” with 2904m.Even though it’s the middle of Juli, there’s is still lots of snow, and we are the first one’s to do the traverse in that year, most of the hikers chose the longer way, avoiding the snow and danger. When we arrive at the “Olperer” lodge, we agree that the risk was totally worth it, because it’s one of the most beautiful lodges on the trip, one of the most beautiful I have ever been to, and we would have missed it if we had taken the detour. From the modern lodge, there’s a beautiful view on the “Schlegeisspeicher”, a big water reservoir surrounded by mountains.IMG_0126_2

Next stop: South Tyrol. We reach the boarder before noon and have lots of time to regenerate when we finally reach Stein, where we spend the night. We pass through South Tyrol quickly, every day, the number of Italian tourists rises and we notice a change in the landscape to. The dolomites are more rocky, more craggy, more rugged. The green fields we had gotten used to are rare and bare rock is now the more common sight. It’s beautiful, but when we crossed the boarder to Italy, we decided we would step it up a notch. We had IMG_0138_2multiple reasons, for example the accomodation, and especially the food, was more expensive in Italy, furthermore, we had reached our daily destinations around noon the last couple of days and thought we could easily fit in two stages in one day. But frankly, the real reason was the Italians. They are so loud, so strenuous. That’s just not what I was looking for on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, the sothern dolomites are still beautiful, but the well developed infrastructure and the almost constant noise came as a bit of a shock after the long days in peace and quiet we spent to that point.

IMG_0198_2It is the evening before we climb Schiara, the last mountain between us and Venice. The only way over the Schiara is a via ferrata, so we are supposed to have a harness, a via ferrata set and a helmet, but we have none of that. Still, I am pretty positive, we have trained a lot for this, and the way is actually not very hard. All the way, I never feel like I “need” any protection. And because we don’t have to clip in and out of the steel rope every few meters, we reach the destination our guide recommends at half past 10 and decide to go on to Belluno after a quick Coke. When we reach Belluno in the evening, we decide to go to the local Sporting Goods Store and each of us buys a pair of running shoes and a smaller backpack. We put all the things we don’t need for our last few stages to Venice -our boots, down jackets, gloves,…- into a big box and send that box for home. That way, nothing weighs us down and we are more comfortable and faster.

If you only do the hike because of the landscape, you should stop in Belluno and maybe go to Venice by train. To be frank, the last stages aren’t that exciting. You basically walk of the last kilometers to Venice. That’s it. The only real upside is the great food. But when we finally take our shoes off at the beach of Jesolo to walk the last few kilometers to the ferry, barefoot, I am happy.

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Munich to Venice (München – Venedig) long distance hiking trail

The long distance hiking trail from munich to venice is not as well known as for example the E5, and it’s much more demanding. The highest point of the trails is at nearly 3000m and even in august and september, there is usually snow and storms can always surprise you in that altitude, so waterproof and technical clothing is essential. Moreover, if you want to do the traditional route a via ferrata is but one of the challenges.

IMG_0075_2But if you have some basic understanding of mountaineering and some experience with long distance hiking, there’s no excuses! It’s a beautiful trail, passing some of the most beautiful places in the alps, challanging but rewarding with breathtaking views, diverse landscapes and many unique lodges with great food!

IMG_0138_2The trail is 550km and about 22.000 altimeters, going through Bavaria, austria, South Tyrol and Italy from the Marienplatz in Munich to the Piazza San Marco in Venice. That should take you about 30 days. I used a german guide, published by “Rother”, but I am not sure there’s a guide in English. But you can find GPS tracks online, so if you have a GPS, you should be fine.
If you want to do the trail and haven’t done any long distance hiking trails before you should be ready to drop quite a few bucks on equipment! There are a few essentials you will need, like a waterproof, breathable jacket and a good backpack. For me, priority number one is always function, than weight. So if you have the money, really focus on lightness. I managed to do the trail with a backpack that weighed about 4 kg (base weight, without water and food) and saw people that had backpacks as heavy as 20kg! If you want to enjoy the trail and don’t want to make rest days every week, shedding weight is key. This could mean some sacrifices, you might have to leave some things at home, but ultimately, the trip will be so much more relaxed and enjoyable!

So here’s a list of the essentials, that I had with me on the trail:

  • Backpack, about 35l (depending on the load, the heavier you pack, the heavier the backpack has to be (more cushion,…), but it shouldn’t weigh more than 1kg)
  • Waterproof Stuffbag, if your Backpack isn’t waterproof
  • Trekking Boots, above all: comfortable, wear them in before, I prefer full leather boots, e.g. the HanWag Tatra or Yukon, I didn’t get a single blister over the whole trek with these!
  • Guide, GPS, Mobile, Headlamp, Chargers, First Aid Kit, Sunglasses, ID, Alpine Club Card, Money, Ziplock Bags to put it in
  • Waterbottles, 3×1 Liter, I use Platypus, they are very light and foldable when empty
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste (Travelsize), Bodywash (Travelsize), Traveltowel, Sunscreen (Travelsize), Painkillers, Ziplock Bag to put it in
  • Rain Jacket (Gore-Tex or something alike, waterproof and breathable, I prefer Gore Tex Active because it’s light, breathable and still pretty durable, but Paclite is also fine, best option would be the Arcteryx Alpha FL Jacket)
  • Zip-off pants or shorts and long pants
  • 2 Baselayers, preferably Merino, because it doesn’t smell
  • 3 Underpants, Merino obligatory
  • 2 Pairs of socks, preferably Merino
  • Insulation Layer, down or synthetic down, e.g. Primaloft One
  • Hat, Cap, against sun and cold
  • Light gloves against the cold
  • Buff, multipurpose
  • Second pair of shoes, light, I love Vibram Fivefingers (e.g. TrekSport)
  • Trekking Poles, preferably foldable and light, I used the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Pole

Optional:

  • Vest (e.g. Softshell), Protection against the wind, comfortable, light
  • Rain Pants
  • Camera (if your Mobile isn’t enogh)
  • You can rent the equipment you need for the via ferrata in the lodge before, if you don’t want to do that: Helmet, Harness, Via Ferrata Set

 

How to Run Barefoot

Barefoot running is great fun, but starting is not so easy. Here are a few tips that I wish I got when I started:

  • Start with short runs! Don’t run for more than 5-10 minutes for the first few times, and don’t run much longer too quickly. Your calfes will thank you!
  • You don’t have to run barefoot all the time to enjoy the benefits!
  • Transitioning from a full-on technical running shoe to barefoot is not a good idea! Better buy running shoes with a lower drop, 6mm or 4mm, than after a while 0mm. Merrell and Inov8 have some great transition shoes!
  • Don’t overdo the forefoot running! Many barefoot beginners -including myself- make the mistake of running on the forefoot too much. Your forefoot touches the ground first but your heel still touches the ground. Don’t try to absorb all the weight with your calf muscles, that’s impossible!
  • Shorten your stride! Try to take 180 steps per minute. Music with 180 bpm can help you get the rhytm, if that doesn’t work, many sportswatches have a cadence-function!
  • Buy some casual barefoot shoes! Try to be barefoot at least 80% of the time, your feet will thank you.

After a while, your calfes will get acustomed to barefoot running and you will be able to run longer distances and get used to running with a higher cadence! Barefoot running is much more fun, especially trail running, where feeling the ground gives you much more control, and you can focus on nature because it’s nearly impossible to sprain your ankle when you are that close to the ground!

If you want learn more about barefoot running, there’s tons of videos on youtube and vivobarefoot has a great educational website (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/us/learn).

First Blog

I have had the idea of blogging in the back of my head for quite a while now, but never had the time or muse to really go through with it. So now that the semster is over and I have a week to spare, I decided I would finally go ahead and put up my own blog. So here it is! In this blog I am going to write about my struggles as a student (I want to become a teacher for English and Physical Education), my life in Innsbruck, Austria and the rocky road to happiness. I hope you’ll like it!