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Get Outta Town

Peak Takeaways from One Designer’s Solo Hike Across the Alps

Get Outta Town BY liz 02/02/2018

 

“I’m a big fan of traveling alone,” Aliza Guttman explains. In fact, getting to jet off on solo trips is part of the reason that she loves being the founder, CEO, and sole employee of the ornate (but never, ever fussy) jewelry line Faeber Studio. One of her most recent forays was a trek around France, Italy, and Switzerland via the hiking trails of Tour du Mont Blanc, or TMB as it’s known among insiders, and you’ll have officially joined their ranks after reading all of Aliza’s tips and takeaways.

 

PICK YOUR PATH CAREFULLY

“I love to hike, and obviously in New York I don’t get to do much of that. I knew I wanted this trip to be over 150 miles, I knew I wanted it to be mountainous, and I knew I wanted to wild camp, which means you can just set up your tent in the woods. The TMB hits all of those. I flew into Geneva and took a bus to the tiny town in France where the trail starts. It’s a through hike, so it’s a loop. The accumulated elevation of the whole path is as much as Everest. I think one of the things that’s amazing about traveling by yourself, especially in that kind of setting, is you’re so much more tuned into your baseline instincts. Your body is there for you. Also, register with the U.S. embassy in each country you visit. This helps speed up to process should you lose your passport or find yourself in a sticky situation, and you can do it online in less than five minutes.”

 

STOCK UP AND STAY SAFE

“I did my grocery shopping and stocked up on stuff. I have a friend who had done this before, and she told me not to bring anything I didn’t need since you can get most of it there. Also, pack light and assume everything is cash-only. Compeed is one of my must-haves. It’s a bandage that mimics your skin so if you get a really bad blister when you’re hiking, it will save you so much pain. I double-checked my med pack and everything. My best friend made me turn on the GPS feature that shows where all of your text messages were sent from.”

 

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MAKE FAST FRIENDS

“The first day ended up being really beautiful, but I had never done a trip before where there was no cell service for a lot of it. I’ve never had to bring a map, and the first day I ended up getting lost. I ran into a family—two of them were Marines, but they couldn’t get us back to the trail. But the mom and I looked at the order of the towns we were near and somehow found a shortcut for everyone, so I got camp a few hours early.One of the best tips I got was you’ll never be lost as long as you’re listening. Everyone else on the trail will tell you which part was crazy, where there’s a good grocery store, that the ATM is broken in the next town. It’s this nomadic community with people of all ages. I hiked for a while with this 55-year-old couple of physicists, and there were a few other people who were in their mid-twenties like me. They were all so sweet.”

 

PREPARE FOR THE LESS-THAN-PICTURESQUE

“The TMB is almost a vertical ascent in some spots—I was expecting it to be steep, but not the kind of thing where I needed to use my hands to really push myself up. The first four days were the hardest physical days of my life. The second day, it was freezing and raining, and the visibility was really low. When I got to the top, I was like, ‘I came all the way here to see the Alps, and it’s dark and hailing.’ The trail kind of came to an end, and I couldn’t see anything—then I looked over, and this tiny tour guide with a huge group of tourists was on the other side of a wall of rock motioning that I had to scale over. Sometimes it doesn’t go as planned, and you have to put your trust in random people!”

 

STOP FOR THE SWEET STUFF

“There are these refugios, little huts on the top of the mountain sprinkled throughout the trail. You can usually get some food there or even spend the night. When you’re crossing the French-Italian border, there’s one called Rifugio Bertone that’s famous for its hot chocolate. It was so thick that it was almost like pudding. You’ve been working so hard for days, and you just sit there and drink it and look over the view. You’re just in heaven. On day seven, I crossed through all three countries on foot. I walked, like, 25 miles that day because the day before I had found this gorgeous meadow to camp in that was so beautiful I couldn’t leave. I even stopped to press wildflowers. But just know you’ll have to make that time up the next day to stay on schedule.”

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