It’s time to think about this past year and what it has meant for me as a hiker. Just for a bit though as what’s done is done, and what’s to come is in the stars.
Let’s take a moment to think about gear first. This is the year that I decided to go ultralight. Not that I hadn’t wanted to before, I just don’t like buying stuff to replace old stuff just because it’s old. But this year I overcame that and decided to be nice to myself, my knees and to my body in general.
I got a new backpack, Montane 40L Ultra, a new sleeping mat, Thermarest NeoAir Xlite, a Z-Seat Trekking seat, a set of Fizan Compact Ultralite Trekking Poles and an MSR titanium kettle.
I also bought a synthetic jacket from Mountain Warehouse, a pair of Rab Power Stretch gloves and Montane Punk Balaclava (I love the name!). It cost me a quite bit of money, but man, these things are some of the best investments of my life. That feeling when you put a backpack on and you’re all of a sudden a few kilos lighter… Amazing. I should have done it ages ago.
When I think about my hiking life over this past year, I didn’t do as many hikes as I’d planned (another reason not to plan!). Anna got sick in Canada and the bills for doctors were a killer so we had to escape back to Europe. No bills here.
Nevertheless, I did manage to get some good hikes in Canada, Czechia, Slovakia, France, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Spain, and, of course, Scotland, my new home as of September.
I didn’t do many long distance hikes, I think I was quite discouraged by my pathetic hiking failure in the Pyrenees. The funny thing is, though, that it was this hiking failure that led me to meet a few international mountain leaders who encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing. Thanks to them I took a Summer Mountain Leader course this year in the Cairngorms. Another great thing I managed to nail this year was to publish the PPT hiking guide which I’m really proud of, even though it’s far from perfect. Ah, it almost makes me sentimental so let’s dive into my 10 favourite hikes of 2018.
As in every year, they’re not listed in order I’ve just picked 10 hikes that stuck in my head more than the others. These are the hikes I can look back on in 10 years and say “Oh yeah, so that’s what I was doing in 2018!”
1. Two days along the Cathar Way, France
I didn’t manage to complete this hike. But, I learnt so much from the experience that I need the hike to be here. It was important for me to accept the failure, learn from it and make something positive out of it. It took me a few months, during which I didn’t write a single article or go hiking. But eventually I got over it and I can now look back on it and be grateful that it happened. Good things need time.
2. A hike along the Spanish / French coast
This was a hike I didn’t write about on this website. It was magical for me. Yes, a few almost-crying moments happened, it was just too beautiful not to. I spent two days hiking around Cerbére / Portbou, where the Spanish coast meets the the French one. A forgotten part of Europe with some beaches and people.
3. Juan de Fuca Trail, Canada
This is one of the longer hikes I did last year. It is an incredibly beautiful section of Canadian coast on Vancouver Island with long beaches, Anna, lots of mud and a black bear.
4. Coastal Trail in the East Sooke Regional Park, Canada
This was quite a short hike with a long road section at the beginning and at the end but overall a beautiful hike. These coastal trails are growing on me!
5. Wasserfallweg to Hesshütte and back through Sulzkar Valley in Gesäuse National Park, Austria
I haven’t done as much hiking in Austria as I’d like to, but this day hike was a stunning snapshot of what Austria has to offer. It was a good introduction to their Via Ferratas, valleys with Alpine cows and fancy mountain huts.
6. Velki Vrh in the Karawankas, Slovenia
This a spectacular area in Slovenia to go hiking. It’s in the shadow of Julian Alps but the views, oh man, the views are top world class!
7. Hahlič in Gorski Kotar, Croatia
One of my few glimpses of the mountains of Croatia.
8. Ben Cruachan, Beinn a’Chochuill, Eunaich & Stob Daimh, Scotland
4 Munros in 2 days in late autumn in Scotland. This was our first multiday hike in Scotland. It was cold but magical.
9. Glen Loin Loop, Scotland
This was a challenging day hike over 2 Munros. It stuck in my mind as it was my first “off the beaten track” experience in Scotland.
10. West Highland Way, Scotland
The West Highland Way is a 153 km path across the west coast of Scotland from just north of Glasgow to Fort William. I spotted only a few rain drops and even less hikers. Perfect.
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