I was invited to go on a hiking trip to Italy with my mum and her pilgrimage group. Initially, some thoughts came up if I could keep up with them since they are such seasoned hikers and a tight knit and well-oiled team. I was honored to become part of their intimate group. They have completed the ‘Camino de Santiago de Compostela’ in Spain, the well-known pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Interestingly enough, they had a cool plan and strategy: not everybody can take off three months from their work. So, they did the pilgrimage in a few stages. They started out from their homes, basically from their backyards in Switzerland and hiked as much as they could in one week. A year later, the picked up at the location they ended the previous year. Within ten years they completed the journey together as a group and reached their goal. This time around, the small group of four female hikers scouted out a new route to tackle for September. Scouting out meant to check out the route, the transportation options, the hotel, but also the food options. It should feel comfortable for a bigger group to enjoy a long weekend in September.
The trip led us from Domodossola up into a valley (Alpe Devero) at almost 1,800 meters above sea level (close to 6,000 feet above sea level) I was under the assumption going to Italy meant wearing shorts and t-shirts. I was very surprised when the small bus took us up higher and higher and the temperatures dropped considerably. As a seasoned runner, I packed almost all my gear including a light hat, gloves, and a rain jacket. Due to my insights learned from growing up close to the mountains, I always bring a rain jacket. And I used it every single day. The weather can change quickly in the mountains and hikers need to be prepared.
Another insight for this trip I learned is to pack super light. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012 where we had porters who carried our belongings. On this three-day hike, I was carrying everything on the first day to where we would stay overnight. This region has been well developed as agritourism where they are used to people with backpacks and accommodate to their needs with extra space for their gears. When going on a hike, I do not need much as this is not like a fashion show; it is about being comfortable and for me being comfy and warm.
From a leadership aspect I appreciated their dedication to the goal as well as their dedication to the group and their dedication to have fun. They were all well-equipped with mountaineer gears, maps, and high spirits to accomplish this mission to be successful in September when a bigger group accompanies them. They made sure we stayed together through the wet and still snowy terrain, they took care of the slowest person and made sure that all were safe. When we hiked on the second day, we realized that one mountainous trail was not safe to hike yet. The water came down the mountain too fast and too vigorously; we were not able to pass the stream of snow melting water. We had to stop and return to our base.
There the biggest aha-moment came: we all sat together and enjoyed our food and specialties we carried in our backpacks. Amazingly, many little snacks fit into a backpack. It was about sharing a meal, sharing stories, and having a good time. I wished I could be participating in their September weekend; for now, I was only a participant and observer of their scouting.
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