About

Welcome to our Via Alpina Blog.
This started as a GR5 blog describing our trek from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean. But before we finished that, we began to wonder if this 450 mile walk couldn’t be part of an even longer walk. And so we discovered the Via Alpina, which would take us from Trieste in an enormous arc of the Alps, crossing national borders 44 times, and eventually joining with what we have already walked in France.
On the map below we plan to more or less follow the red route. I’m not sure how far it is, but it looks like a long way, and I suspect it is quite hilly. Taken a little at a time it is going to take many summer holidays (edit: since writing that sentence it occurred to me that I could probably look up how far it is: 1561 miles and 765877 feet of ascent apparently- the imperial measurement is strange to me, but it doesn’t matter because right now that is an unimaginable amount.)

Via Alpina - Wikipedia

Or there is an interactive map to play with here: https://hiiker.app/trails/italy/muggia/via-alpina-red-trail/map
We originally thought we would finish the GR5 walk to the Mediterranean before starting in Trieste, but our attempts to get to do the final section of that walk have been frustrated by COVID travel restrictions. So we will do one section in Slovenia before going back to France when we have the opportunity.

We will endeavour to post daily updates of our travels (internet connection allowing).

Because these are posted with the latest entry at the top, I have also created separate pages for each trip with the entries in chronological order, so that they are easier to follow, reading more like a diary. They are below:

The original ‘About’ page is below.

Welcome to our GR5 blog.

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After completing Alta Via 1 through the Dolomites last summer, I suggested to Judith, my long suffering wife, that our next venture might be to walk from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean through the French Alps. To my surprise, she immediately said yes. But there was a condition. We weren’t going to do this long walk like everybody else- we were going to do it our way, with our own special rules. What could this mean? Were we going to hop? Only walk at night? Take in the actual summit of any peak over 3000m? No, the challenge set before us was to undertake this walk ‘without too much effort’.
The GR 5 (Grande Randonnée cinq) actually starts in Holland, but the bit we are interested in is the Grande Traversée des Alpes, starting on the shore of Lake Geneva and ending at either Nice or Menton, depending on choice of route. Estimates of how long the walk is seem to vary dramatically, I suppose because there are a number of variants possible, and going steeply up or down hill there are a lot of zigzags, which makes measuring distance problematic. But it is something like 725km (450 miles). That distance doesn’t naturally lend itself to a ‘without too much effort’ approach, but I’m afraid that distance is not the main problem. Even the most casual observer will notice the 3 dimensional nature of the Alps, with some very big hills (or deep valleys, depending on viewpoint). The walk involves something in excess of 40,000m of ascent and descent. That’s 131,250 feet, or 41 ascents of Scafell Pike, or Everest from sea level 4.52 times.
The more I thought about it the more appealing the without too much effort conditionwas. If anything it was going make things easier. One thing it wasn’t going to make easier, though, was the planning, and it was necessary to revise our approach to ‘without too much physical effort’. As carrying camping gear would be an immediate fail on the effort clause, we had to investigate suitable accommodation. The essential guide in English is Paddy Dillon’s published by Cicerone Press, and it has been a vital part of the planning. Paddy, though, seems to have the opposite approach to us and is quite happy to put in a lot of physical effort. Often it is possible to shorten his days by staying somewhere else, but sometimes we will have to leave the GR5 and make an alternative route.