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Reflections on our guided Bernese Oberland Traverse

Reflections on our guided Bernese Oberland Traverse

Susie, Jack and their daughter Katya joined us on a guided Bernese Oberland Traverse this summer.  Susie’s letter thanking us for the trip was one of the more inspiring notes we’ve received.  Thanks for coming and sharing… you did it!  Pictures are from their guide, Jakub Doubic.

When my husband, Jack, and I committed to a traverse of the Bernese Oberland some 4 months before the trip, we knew that we had a lot of work to do: We are both in our mid 60s, active, but out of shape, and began conditioning that day with ever increasing hike distances. In Maryland there are not hikes comparable to the Alps, and so it was, to some extent, a leap of faith and determination that we could achieve our dream and do this. We knew that our 25 yo Colorado daughter, a professional athlete, would be fine. But we didn’t want to let her down.

Alpine Hikers was fantastic from the beginning. Eryka Thorley arranged the trip, kept us posted, and dealt with minor panics (like the fact that Katya had to take a remote proctored final exam from Murren on July 30 for summer school with questionable Wi-fi), and answered every query promptly. Mike Cullen helped, too.

Alpine Hikers has put together a meticulously arranged hike, with breath-taking views of the Alps and its meadows, rivers, waterfalls, moraines, glaciers, cliffs, flora and fauna; friendly and comfortable inns (that clearly find it a great company with which to work and genuinely like the guides), fine food, great beer, fun diversions. There are more challenging and easier options for each segment–excellent contingency planning. They have done their research and trip design beautifully, and gave us great descriptions of each area and what to expect. Luggage transfers were flawless. We were also graced by a blood-moon eclipse in Wengen, and the Swiss National Day parade and fireworks in Kandersteg. We felt welcomed as family everywhere we went. Already, it was the trip of a lifetime.

But what elevated the traverse from wonderful to truly magical was our guide, Jakub Doubic. Jakub is a multi-sport athlete (hiking, skiing, climbing, mountain-biking, and I began to lose track after that). He is a real professional with superb attention to detail and safety, and certification in all kinds of rescue. Jakub is a polyglot, fluent in German, Czech, English, and comfortable in Japanese, Spanish (and again I lost track). He has traveled to nearly every continent and immersed himself in learning their ways—a true world citizen! Everyone from kitchen staff to innkeepers knew Jakub by name and vice versa–there was clearly great mutual affection. Jakub didn’t balk when he learned (the week before the trip) that I am a multiple amputee. Non-judgmental, creative, upbeat, and adaptable, he urged us to find our own pace and enjoy the way. He coaxed us through blisters and tummy upset, never letting us get discouraged, never letting us feel ashamed of going slowly, just staying enthusiastic and showing us the beauty of the Alps. By the first day, he knew what we could do better than we did. And we did it!!! As Jack and I descended the strenuous last-hike from the glaciers near Lotschen pass (while Katya and Jakub pushed it another few thousand feet ascent just for fun), we marveled that we had climbed it, because it looked so steep and long on the way down! Jakub did this–he took us from dreamers to hikers.

Each of us found a friend in Jakub. Katya, in their extra scrambles and climbs, found a confidante, big brother, mentor, playmate, and lifetime kindred spirit. Jack and I found a philosopher, caring coach, trustworthy and admirable guide, who became what feels like family. Indeed, in 10 years, were Jakub to call and say that he needed a place to stay in Maryland, we would rush to get him. He will always have a place with us. He is our own, personal Aragorn.

So what began as a bucket-list trip cannot be, because we feel way too healthy and strong to kick the bucket before we try more hikes with you. Our cardio status feels like it did 25 years ago, and, despite eating like royalty, we each lost weight to healthier levels. Our Alpine Hikers trip was worth every penny, and we cannot recommend you highly enough. Of course, we will ask for Jakub on future trips! Thank you with all of our hearts.


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