Best of the Alps Trekking

February 22, 2002

For the second time in a row a full house of Obsidians and guests attended the potluck, this time to hear Jim Blanchard (after too long an absence of eight years). Will the run of such good speakers and gourmet food require an expansion of the Lodge (as well as waistlines)? Jim has been organizing and leading treks (of about 20 days’ duration, for 10 to 15 people) for 20 years through the Western (France, Switzerland and Italy) and Eastern (Germany, Austria and Italy) Alps. He is also director of the University of Oregon’s Outdoor Pursuit Program.

Jim’s talk was very entertaining and informative. He is also a skilled photographer, as evidenced by the many stunning vistas that were shown. The Alps are steep and rugged, and occasional snowfields, scree or talus fields, cabled climbing routes and ladders are encountered. One photo showed some of his group cautiously peering down a 3000-ft. sheer ledge. It can snow in July, and late afternoon thunder and lightning storms are to be avoided on cabled routes.

Jim is highly concerned with safety. On the Matterhorn alone, some sixty hikers are killed during each two summer months trekking season (the Europeans must hike the way they drive!). We were shown the ice ax, harness and rope that he supplies (and recommended boots and helmet); and Jim teaches the correct way to use them. He obviously is a proponent of the view (voiced by David Walp at the November potluck on snowshoeing) that “most people who get into trouble are in trouble before they leave town”. No camping gear is required since overnight stays on trail are made at mountain lodges or huts that provide meals. And some of the treks can start with cable car rides that are very spectacular.

Jim’s trips typically fill by October of the preceding year. Contact “Best of Alpine Trekking” at 1458 East 43rd Ave., Eugene, OR 97405; (541) 683-3014. He will be taking a “sabbatical” this year. The next Western Alps trek is scheduled for July 2003, and the Eastern Alps for July 2004.

Bep Fontana


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