Mont Blanc: A Climb That Took Everything We Had

We knew the third day of our 110-mile trek around Mont Blanc would be our most challenging backpacking test ever. But were we ready? Our first long-distance trek, Spain’s Camino de Santiago, had taught us to be prepared for surprises at every corner and over every hill.

We climbed all morning, 4,317 feet, to an altitude above 8,000 feet. When Sue reached the snowy mountain pass, or col, she was greeted by cloud cover, which closed in quickly, along with a chill. And then came a realization that reminded us of our climb to O’Cebreiro in Spain. But the bad news in France’s Alps was worse than what we faced on the Camino.

We were one col short. Another climb, on slopes steeper than they look in the photos, loomed. Reg was anything but a happy hiker when he turned sideways in the bottom photo to look back at Sue. The path led up, into dripping clouds, around and over rock and ice. Our rubbery legs and aching knees then faced more than 3,000 feet of descent to our hostel in Les Chapieux.

So how have we learned to endure such difficult times? Our lessons began in Pamplona, Spain, as we took the first steps of our monthlong pilgrimage. We tell and illustrate our story in our book, Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows. Click on “trekking slide shows” in the menu to view Sue’s short slide shows from each of our treks.

I would love to hear from you.

Mont Blanc: Are We Really Going Up There?

Courage. Sue and I needed a backpack full of it on the Tour du Mont Blanc as we faced climbing into the mountains behind us.

During our two-week adventure around the highest peak in the European Alps, I packed more courage (mixed with a measure of fear) than I ever imagined possible as I tackled the greatest physical challenge of my life. My courage was born on the paths and in the albergues during our walk on Spain’s Camino de Santiago. And I borrowed bravery from Sue, for whom “give up” has never been an option.

Our book, Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows, tells and illustrates our story. Click on reviews on the menu to see comments from readers. I would love to hear what you think.

This Road to Freedom Will Captivate You

Freedom. Henry David Thoreau wrote about it in Walden. Cheryl Strayed experienced it as she walked the Pacific Crest Trail. Jon Krakauer wrote how a young man encountered it in Into the Wild.

When Ken Ilgunas graduated the University of Buffalo with $32,000 in debt, he feared a life without the freedom he valued more than anything. Defying his mother and conventional wisdom, he endured hardships and life-threatening adventures in Alaska as he worked jobs few would consider. He knew that difficult times, mixed with astounding experiences, would build memories he would treasure forever. Through it all, he penny-pinched himself debt-free.

Now what? he thought. His answer may seem out of character for readers of Walden on Wheels. I will reserve it for your discovery when you read Ilgunas’ superb book, which often made me recall the words of Thoreau, Strayed, and Krakauer.

Ken Ilgunas is as extraordinary a writer as he is an impressive person. His book is an adventure, but so much more. It will tug at your heart, tickle your funny bone, and spark thoughts like “I wish I could do that!”