Crossing the Alps: along an endless variety of routes
“The journey itself is the reward.” Perhaps that's why more and more people want the journey to take that bit longer and even be that bit more demanding. Traversing the Alps on foot has become a classic item on the itinerary of most mountain sports enthusiasts. Over 200 years ago, Goethe's route took him over the Brenner Pass to Northern Italy. In those days there were no waymarked footpaths and no mountain huts where he could stop for a break. Today, people wanting to traverse the Alps can follow a huge variety of routes and enjoy a wealth of different itineraries. There is no end of alternatives to choose from.


The well-travelled route - from Oberstdorf in Germany to Meran in South Tyrol
Certainly one of the most popular routes across the Alps, starting in the Allgäu region of Germany and ending in Italy's South Tyrol. The Alpine crossing from Oberstdorf to Meran normally involves six days of walking and 5,730 m of ascent. It follows Europe's E5 long distance footpath, taking you past lots of those typical Alpine huts where you can stop for refreshment. Although this route can get very busy in the summer, walkers get to experience an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna, ranging from the beautiful alpine pastures and green forests of the Allgauer and Lechtaler Alps, continuing on into the Pitztal Valley and up into the 3,000 m high peaks surrounding the Ötztal valley with its stunning alpine and glacial scenery. More information: https://www.lifetimetrails.com/crossing-european-alps/
The classic crossing: from Munich to Venice
A route that long-distance walkers will not want to miss: the classic crossing from Marienplatz in the centre of Munich to St Mark's Square in Venice. The route takes you from Upper Bavaria and the Isar Valley to the Piave River valley in northern Italy, covering a distance of 520 km through farming country and glacier regions. From the foothills of the Bavarian Alps into the Karwendel mountain range, from the glaciers of the main ridge of the Alps to the southern part of the Dolomites. After 28 days of walking you can enjoy a leisurely stroll through what is arguably the most beautiful city in the world: Venice, and its St Mark's Square, Rialto Bridge and Grand Canal. For more information visit https://www.tyrol.com/things-to-do/sports/hiking/hiking-tours/a-munich-venice-dream-path
For the more easy-going walker: from Tegernsee to Sterzing
2018 is the fourth year running that the Tegernsee, Achensee, Zillertal and Sterzing tourist boards have joined forces to participate in a waymarked footpath across the Alps. As the difficulty rating is easy to intermediate, any practised hiker will find this route to their liking. It is usually completed in seven stages, beginning in Gmund on the edge of Lake Tegernsee and continuing through Wildbad Kreuth, Achenkirch and Maurach on Lake Achen, in Austria. From there the route takes you through Hochfügen, Mayrhofen, Pfitsch and the Pfitsch Valley, past traditional farmhouses and picturesque villages, to Sterzing, Italy's most northern town. For more information visit https://www.die-alpenueberquerung.com/en/
A test of stamina: the Grande Traversata delle Alpi (GTA)
The Grande Traversata delle Alpi, otherwise known as the GTA, is one of the most challenging alpine traverses. It runs through valleys that are not only largely inaccessible but have also suffered more from population decline than any other valleys in the Alps. Starting at the Novena Pass in Switzerland, the crossing between the cantons of Valais and Ticino, the trail follows old mule paths, offering magnificent views of many of the Alp's four-thousanders. It runs through the arc formed by Italy's western Alps and after more than 900 km arrives at the Mediterranean Sea. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the “forgotten” alpine valleys of Italy's Piedmont region have been fighting against urban migration and the decline of their farming traditions. When there is nobody left to look after the countryside, the slopes of the mountains are even more vulnerable to severe weather and erosion. The GTA originated in 1979 when it was mapped out in an attempt to counteract these negative developments. The idea was to attract more overnight hikers by restoring the old paths connecting the valleys in the hope that this might give the residents of the villages at the end of the valleys a reason to stay. In other words, rather than investing in new infrastructure, they wanted to maintain and support what was already in place by encouraging responsible tourism. Hikers walking the GTA trail can admire spectacular scenery while also enjoying a fascinating kaleidoscope of local cultures. 59 day hikes along the GTA's five sections, for more information visit https://longdistancetrail.wordpress.com/trails/2013-gr5-the-grand-traverse-of-the-alps/
In comfort: from Garmisch to Sterzing
From the Bavarian Alps to Italy's most northern town: this hiking trail takes alpine enthusiasts past a myriad of lakes, including Möserer See, Lichtsee and Obernberger See, where they can admire the spectacular panoramas of the surrounding mountains reflected in their waters. The sections: the trail begins with a gentle ride on a chair lift to the top of the Eckbauer from where the route continues to Mittenwald and then on towards Tyrol through the Karwendel mountain range. After crossing into the Inn Valley, it enters the Stubai Alps, wending its way towards South Tyrol to end in Sterzing. Travel company ASI offers this tour with an itinerary that has been designed for comfort. They will transport your luggage and have hand picked comfortable three and four star hotels.
For individualists: along the Alpe Adria Trail from the Großglockner to Lake Millstatt
“The absolute highlight of this alpine traverse is the Pasterze Glacier. Plus it follows historic pass routes, boasts wild water gorges and offers breathtaking views from panorama viewpoints high above Lake Millstatt,” says hiking professional Ambros Gasser from Alpinschule Innsbruck. The trail passes Heiligenblut, a mountaineering resort that used to be a gold mining village, historic watermills known as the Apriacher Stockmühlen, and the artists town of Gmünd. But the best bit comes at the end: walking enthusiasts will love the panorama tour of the Millstätter Alpe mountains with its spectacular views of the lakes of Austria's southernmost state, Carinthia, the High Tauern National Park and the Großglockner.
Gear recommendations:
Crossing the Alps in the summer doesn't mean to say that you're not going to get caught in pouring rain, or maybe even snow. Don't forget that in 2017 it snowed in July! That's why anyone setting out to traverse the Alps should equip themselves with waterproof GORE-TEX garments to protect them from the elements, preferably ones that pack down small, plus a pair of hiking shoes that fit well and incorporate durably waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology