We recently spoke to the operators of our new Walking in the French and Swiss Alps tour, Mark and Carey. They are passionate about the region and excited to offer this experience to Peregrine travellers.
Hear from Mark and Carey, in their own words, about why this part of the world is so beautiful. Then hurry up and book a trip so you can experience it for yourself!
Tell us a bit about yourself - who are you, where are you from and what is your favourite food?
My name is Mark and I am married to Carey and together we run High Trails. We’re both British but have a love and passion for the mountains (in both summer and winter) and now live in Switzerland in the heart of the Alps.
Personally I like a nice juicy steak. Carey is fond of fish and salad. That said, living in Switzerland we have both become partial to a cheese fondue! The Swiss will eat a fondue as often as the Australians would have a BBQ. It tends to be the men who prepare it too!
How did you get started in your job? What was the motivation?
Mark: The initial spark was wanderlust and came from a holiday with my dad when he took me to Egypt as a teenager. To this day I don’t think I have ever been more bowled over than when I saw the Pyramids that first time. Simultaneously, whilst growing up in Scotland, I loved walking, biking and skiing. In my logic I thought what better work could there be than being paid to organise peoples holidays and tour the world doing it. I get a huge amount of pleasure visiting spectacular and beautiful places and nothing makes me happier than showing visitors new sights and jaw dropping views.
Carey: Languages was my introduction to travel and I toured Europe and South America practicing as I went. As a side shoot to this I became a keen walker and went onto leading walking groups in different mountain ranges around the world. As you can image this could be a tough act to follow so I feel incredibly fortunate that I am now able to live and work in my favourite mountain range, the Alps.
We are very excited about our new tour, Walking in the French and Swiss Alps. Were you excited to see the itinerary for the first time?
Indeed we were. In fairness one could blindly stab a pin in a map of the Alps and the chances of landing on a beauty spot is high. Everywhere is stunning. That said Chamonix and Zermatt stand out as two centres of extraordinary appeal. Chamonix has its huge glaciers, fantastic walks and Mont Blanc. Zermatt sits below one of the world’s most iconic mountains, the Matterhorn. It is great to make a trip that combines the two in a week. The extra cherry on the top is the journey between the two and a visit to Sion en route. Sion has two Châteaux to visit, one 12th century the other 13th century and a nest of mediaeval alleyways, pedestrian roads with terraced cafes and a mixture of chic boutiques, museums and gallery’s that all go to make a fascinating visit.
What can people expect on this tour?
Awesome scenery, great trekking, good food (a lot of cheese!) and a great deal of diversity. The diversity comes in all guises. Of course there is the geographic difference between the valleys and the mountain tops, the glaciers and the forests, all of which we see but also the people who visit and live here. The Alps attracts everyone from young families to pensioners to extreme skiers, climbers and daredevils. The mixture and liveliness, all laid out on a stunning Alpine stage, makes for a very rewarding holiday.
Tell us a bit about the region
Comparing a photo of the Himalayas and the Alps, or perhaps the view from a plane of the two if you were flying over, both are very similar. Yes the Alps are not as tall but the peaks, sheer cliffs, waterfalls, steep sided valleys, glaciers and forests share a similar look. In the Alps though you can get up close and touch it, not just look at it. There are also all the first world trappings.
It is easy to find solitude in the Alps, it’s a big area, but for the most part the Alps have been developed and have good roads and restaurants and cable cars whisking us to mountain tops, great quality walking paths and cafes in just the right places. This in turn attracts a wide variety of visitors, some who end up living here (ourselves for example). The Alps is a huge, visually stunning, well developed Alpine adventure centre that has interest and appeal for virtually everyone.
What is one of the unforgettable sights people will talk about when they return home from this trip?
Probably the view of the Matterhorn. The Swiss made the Toblerone chocolate bar to the same dimensions as the mountain and from a distance the Matterhorn can be perfectly obscured by passing the little triangle of chocolate in front. It is impressive to say the least but it also has a certain menacing quality. With binoculars it is possible to see climbers trying to scale its walls.
There is obvious danger and jeopardy involved and this can leave a certain lurching feeling in your stomach. The steep triangular sides were carved out by enormous glaciers, visualising this in your mind’s eye is quite humbling and makes one think of how small and powerless a human is compared to the forces nature needed to shape a 4478 metre fang of rock. Then, if just simply seen for what it is, it is an intricate and staggeringly beautiful mountain that never fails to impress.
Any hints or tips for people considering a walking tour for the first time?
Comfortable good quality walking boots are essential. There are some decent sized hills and descents and having comfortable feet are vital.
Get walking fit. Try to get out and do some long walks before you come, some hills if you can. The days are easily achievable but you want to spend your time looking at the view, not continually catching your breath.
Pace. Now you have a little walking fitness, don’t waste it on going fast. What’s the rush, you’re on holiday? Pick a pace that you can keep going at for 45 min without needing to have a break. Many trekkers dash off only to find they run out of steam long before they ought to.
Describe your town in three words:
We live in Sion and it’s historic, picturesque and sophisticated.
If you've been to this part of the world, leave your comments below. Then head to twitter and Facebook to upload photos and stories for other travellers to enjoy. We love hearing from you! Feel free to email any images to us at firstname.lastname@example.org as well.