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2016 Watzmann-Mont Blank


Farrier was there. Duplos are the shoes of choice. I lost one on the first ride. It can be found again, new shoe came on today. Kathy is going to put together a mineral mixture for the four Via Sbrinz horses.


We will be on the road again in August 2016.... 1000 km from the Watzmann to Mont Blanc Tyrol, Lombardy, Graubünden, Ticino, Aosta Valley, Valais

56,000 vertical meters and 60 passes in 30 days, with Artvin my Kabardiner and Pachlavan the Dillboz from Pat. The start is August 1st and we will cover 40 km a day. Two three-thousand-meter peaks are also included and we will hopefully have good weather. A stop after about 500 km has been booked and a spare parts package will be sent there, but apart from that we have a tarp, dry food and powdered drinks with us. We only have to buy oats or something similar. And also something for us to nibble on from time to time. We now have to make sure that Pachlavan runs again under his old saddle.


Loaded the tracks onto the Garmin, dragged the overview maps onto the tab. 12 portions of dry food cooked and prepared for drying. The dehydrator is currently working overtime. The rest is waiting in the freezer. Everything has to be ready for shipping in 8 days.


Watzmann to Mont Blanc is a mountain bike route that I found on the web. MBT routes are always good as they are usually doable on horseback. I looked at the route in Gpsies and made some route changes, always where the MBT had too much flat tar. So instead of Lago Magiore, we took the GTA and did exactly the missing section that we had to skip in 2007 because our Domingo had slipped on the tarred road and pulled a muscle. Another deviation in the area of the Upper Engadine, where I don't want to ride through the valley again, but rather cross the mountains behind it this time. Overnight stop at the start and middle station organized. Packet of spare parts put together and notified. Checked and added to equipment. Blog function tested and address list revised.


TA was there and put Cool and Artvin through their paces. They are both fit. Cool's breathing rate is slightly higher than normal. We will take a closer look at this on the upcoming Alpine tour.


DRY FOOD cooked. 12 delicious portions dried and vacuum packed. Beef jerky will also be ready soon. Protein snack for in between meals. With 4700 calories consumed per day, you have to get something between your teeth. Half of each is sent to the half-time station together with replacement material (fittings etc.).


Pads completed and tested. One pad needs to be a little thinner, the other two fit. Artvin, Cool and Jack are out on the Via Sbrinz. Then it's off on the Watzmann-Mont Blanc tour with Artvin, while Cool will be in France in the second half of August.


Back from the Via Sbrinz yesterday. Super nice tour with 8 very good riders. It was really fun to see the development of each individual. Optimized the equipment today and packed up for the next 4 weeks. Pat will arrive tonight, put together another package and prepare it for shipping. We will leave tomorrow and start in Berchtesgaden on Tuesday.

Elevation curve of the Alpine Adventure Trail from Watzmann (Berchtesgaden) to Mont Blanc (Grenoble) 1000 km 66000 hm 32 passes.... a little more than 1 pass per day completely self-sufficient for 12 days with 34 kg (16 kg oats) for Pat and 24 kg for me, incl. fencing material and tarp. Fittings and tools, electronics and repair material as well as kitchen.


We drive to Königssee and spend the night at the Seepferdchen Hof. Christine drives our train back to Schleitheim. After a restless night next to the owner's horses, we feed the horses and have breakfast. Then we set off over the first hills towards Ramsau, riding up the valley towards the Berchtesgaden National Park on beautiful hiking trails. At around 9 o'clock we arrive at the Zauberwald restaurant and ask for a cup of coffee and whether the horses are allowed to graze here. The landlord buys us the coffee and homemade schnapps for Mont Blanc. We thank him and let our two Russians run up the valley. At last Artvin is allowed to run without having to be slowed down.

On the way, we come across a landlord from the restaurant who asks us to stop for a bite to eat as he has been notified that we are coming. He takes a photo for his guest book, buys us a drink and is delighted to hear what we are up to.


We take a break on the Kressenkaser Pass and Artvin makes a good neighbor and wants to be scratched. We lead the horses back down into the valley for an hour and then ride back up to the Römersattel. However, the path was declared closed as a violent storm had devastated the valley. We ignore the ban and ride up without encountering any obstacles. The path is perfect for a long trot and when it merges into the hiking trail, we have achieved our goal of 40 km for the day. A few climbs and we are at the top of the Römersattel, in the middle of a restricted military area. For the next hour, we lead the horses down to Hochfilzen, where we stay with a farmer. We have covered 53 km and 1600 meters of altitude.


After a quiet night under a starry sky, we get up at 6am and make breakfast. The horses are saddled and led down the valley. We ride between the railroad tracks and the road until we reach Fieberbrunn. Here we head up through the Platzergraben to the high trail to the Lämmerbichl Alm, where we let the horses graze. We are rewarded with a magnificent view over the Kitzbühel valley with the Wilder Kaiser in the background. At the top, we have to dismantle the first electric fence to create a passage for the horses. Two hikers tell us that we can't go through here, it's impossible for the horses. We ignore the friendly advice and climb down to Aurach on a path that is only visible to us and marked on the map. Over fallen trees and following a stream, we bring the horses down and enjoy a first beer at an inn while the horses graze. On the way to the main road, the police ask where we are going and want to help us. The people are amazed and admire the horses and we look doubtfully up the mountain that we have to climb on the opposite side. The horses don't care much, Artvin is undaunted and leads the team up the mountain to the Schwarzkogel. At the top, we leave the planned route and follow the road to the upper Blau Felder Alm. After 45 km, we've had enough today and Tony the farmer, who tends his cows up here, treats us to beer and fresh milk. With a wonderful view over the valley with the Wilder Kaiser and the Hahnenkamm above Kitzbühel, we go to sleep in Tony's stable after a dinner from his own supplies, while the horses mow the grass around the farm.


Following Tony's advice, we descend a few meters so that we don't have to open as many doors. With a magnificent view of the Hahnenkamm, we follow the contour line. Via the Steinbergkogel at 1836m, we come to the Pengelstein Alm, via the small Moosalm and the Stadlbergalm down into the valley, before heading up to the Rettensteinalm. We want to have lunch here and friendly people invite us to have lunch on their balcony. The two ladies drive their cars away so that the horses can graze. They offer us beer and after the pat leaves me her beer too, I am somewhat saturated with alcohol, which doesn't make the following ascent to the Stanglpass any easier. A few climbs later, we arrive at the border between Austria and Germany at 1800m above sea level and climb back down to 1300m. In a beautiful valley we now climb up to the Wildkogel at 2224 meters. Great views up here and time for very nice photos, only the signpost is a bit of a worry, it's already 4 pm and the 20 little doors that had to be opened and closed have made the day very long. It says four hours to Neunkirchen. No matter, we make it in two and when we arrive down in Neukirchen, a farmer hurries to meet us. But when he sees that the Pat has male company, his willingness to help is quickly over. A few minutes later, we are greeted loudly at the first houses and invited to stop. We ask if the people know where we can stay with the horses and are spontaneously offered the chance to spend the night right here with them. They would just have to ask the owner of the farm. Aloisis hurries over and explains without further ado that we can let our horses graze on the ski slope, she would take the blame for that, after all, she had been president of the Neunkirch tourism association for long enough. The guests from Aloisis offer to let us have dinner with them, and there's plenty of beer too. It turns out that Aloisis knows Hanspeter Gantner (our Venice tour 10 years ago) (nomad on horseback) and he immediately joins us for a beer. A happy reunion after 10 years. We have a nice barbecue evening with plenty of protein and pitch our tent by the horse pasture at 11 o'clock in the evening. At half past two in the morning, a squall pulls the pegs out of the ground and we move with bag and baggage under the garage roof of our host's house. As soon as we set up again, it starts to rain and in the morning a stream makes its way under our groundsheet.


After a hearty breakfast at the Aloisis, we saddle up the horses and head along country lanes to Wald im Pinzgau. Via Hinterwaldberg we head towards Königsleiten up to the Gerlos Pass. Soaking wet, we ask at the top for somewhere to put the horses, find a farmer and unsaddle the horses in his stables in the hope that the weather will improve. While we slowly warm up and the horses chew their hay with relish, we have a snack and are given a decaffeinated drink by the farmer. We soon decide to move on, even though after two hours it is still pouring with rain. The dairyman gives us an address in Gerlos where we can put up the horses, provide them with enough hay and dry our clothes in a makeshift manner. We take a shower and go out to eat, the pizzeria provides enough calories and later the horses are given concentrated feed and we go to bed


today will be a long day. At 8am, after a hearty breakfast, we are on our way down to the main road, where we ride down the whole valley on side roads and reach Ramsau in the Zillertal via Gmünd and Hainzerberg. We have reached the lowest point at Mayrhofen and can now trot up the valley to the Schlegeiss reservoir at 1800 m above sea level. The horses are well rested and run up the mountain at a relaxed 12 km/h pace. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon, we reach the toll station in front of the dam and now have to drive up through some poorly lit tunnels on a single-lane road used by cars. We make it in the 12 minutes it takes for the cars to stop. We have almost 60 km behind us today and still have 15 more to pack before we reach our friends in Afens on the other side of the Pfitsch Pass. We take the hiking trail at a brisk pace up to the first hut, from here there is a road up to the Pfitsch. The horses trot this section again and now we have to master the descent from the summit on narrow hiking trails. After 11 hours we reach Afens and the Bacherhof, where we take a break. In the past six days we have ridden 250 km and 8000 m of altitude and the horses have impressively demonstrated their abilities as mountain endurance riders.


today is a rest day. The horses are out in the pasture enjoying their grass. Unfortunately, the blog is one of those things. The network connections here are very poor and my electronics and IT skills are very limited. I'm sorry that the reports don't come more regularly, but after a long day I don't have the nerve to bother with non-functioning communication technology. Some may wonder whether we are not overtaxing our horses.... No, definitely not, because Artvin and Pachlavan are Russian mountain horses that have been used in Georgia and Azerbaijan since time immemorial as the only means of transportation in the mountains. (120 kg 70 km a day) Pachlavan carries about 90 kg and Artvin about 120 kg and we haven't had to drive them a meter yet. On the contrary, I still have to slow Artvin down so that he doesn't run away from Pach and apart from yesterday, the horses haven't been tired yet. But at last he's allowed to stretch out and show what he can do. Yesterday I found out that I have to give Artvin 4 m of rope when climbing down steep paths so that he can keep up my pace. If I keep him shorter, 2 m, he obviously has trouble seeing where to put his feet, which means that he stops every now and then, which is very tedious for me.So enough work now, I'm going to move the horses and then have a beer with my friends here.


After a wonderful day's break with Maria and Rudi Hofer at the Bacherhof in Afens, we lead the horses down to Sterzing. There we mount up and ride along the cycle paths up the pass road towards the Jaufen Pass. We stay on the right side of the valley and have to cross exciting streams and bridges again and again. We come to the Sonnenberg, an ancient mine that we visited five years ago when we were here with Rudi and Maria. The horses pull up the pass road to the Sonnenberg at their usual pace. After two hours, we take a break at a fountain. We are overtaken by bicycles with electric motors. A short time later, however, they run out of battery. We arrive at the top of the mining station and decide not to use the cable car route but to walk across the gorge. We lead the horses up the mountain and have a wonderful view over the whole valley. The climb is quite steep, but we let the horses go ahead of us and make good time. At the top we take a break and enjoy the view, later we lead the horses down towards Rabenstein. A bridge - you can, but don't have to - makes us turn back. An hour later we are back on the road to Moos and it gets dark before we find a place to camp. Pat gets hit on the knee by Pach and cries out in pain. I can't help her much and try to maneuver the horses into the strand paddock. You shouldn't do this in the dark and not alone. Artvin gets tangled up in the wire and they both dash up the road along with the entire fence. By the time I bring the horses back, Pat has already treated himself. We stake the horses, but the ground is very stony and a few hours later both Arvin and Pach are free of their stakes, which aren't holding properly in the stony ground. I grab Pahlawan's stake and keep it in my hand while I try to sleep for the next 4 hours. In the morning I gather up the fence stuff and we break camp. At 7am we're on our way down to Moos and towards Eisjöchl, but Pat's knee is swollen and very sore.


After the 60 km the day before, we only did about 15 km yesterday before we stopped here. The horses are doing very well. Pat is now a little better again. Unfortunately we couldn't do the Eisjöchl today as planned, partly because it had snowed and partly because Pat's knee was too weak. That's why we decided to take the Meraner Höhenweg and ride in the direction of Vinschgau. The high trail was quite nice with some exciting stream crossings and bridges, otherwise very dry, which meant no fountains and above all no snack station all day. At 4 o'clock we decided that today was not going to be another 12-hour day and descended into the valley. At the Quellenhof, a 4-star hotel where the German national team had also stayed, we found accommodation for the horses and were able to have a reasonably priced dinner. We will sleep downstairs with the horses, we will find out how much the box costs tomorrow. We take a break above Moos.


After a breakfast of croissants and coffee from the buffet for €23, we leave the hotel in the direction of Schlanders and ride along the cycle path along the Passer. The route is entertaining, but unfortunately all paved. We reach Schlanders after about 60 km and find the Vill family's riding facility straight away. Nearby I hear voices and find the owner's son at work. He is tying up the shoots of his apple trees, helped by an Italian from Bologna who is on his way to Constance with his donkey. The junior boss drops everything and goes to get us some hay. Later, after the horses have been looked after, he will drive us to his hotel where we can have dinner. He talks to us all evening and as we snuggle up tiredly in our sleeping bags by the riding arena, the rising moon shines over us.


We have covered 404 km of 12742 meters of altitude and Pat's knee is already feeling better. We are not yet able to put much effort into the terrain, even trotting is painful, but she holds out bravely. We follow the cycle path to Prad am Stilfserjoch and then have to ride up the pass road. As there is no reliable information about the quality of the paths on the map, we choose the lesser of two evils, the tarmac. Artvin pulls away again and again and makes his way up the 19 km of the pass road at his own pace. I have to stop him again and again to let Pat catch up. Many motorcycles pass us and at the top of the pass our horses are greeted with applause. We are proud of the two of them. Since the horses are sweaty, we go down as quickly as possible and ride up the Forcola di Batita to go down to Fraele. On the way up, we are overtaken by mountain bikes, which we have to wait for later, as they have to push their bikes up the last 50 meters of altitude. The stretch down to Lago Cancanon drags on and Artvin is no longer running smoothly over the last few meters. We decide to give the horses a break tomorrow.


Break day in Val Fraele at the Ristoro San Giacomo. Severin is an old friend who we have been stopping at regularly for ten years. We look after the horses and Pat gives Artvin a dose of Rustox. The next morning we fence in a new piece of pasture where we will put the two horses during the day. We spend the day dozing and lazing around and Pat gives Artvin Traumel and we go to bed at 9 o'clock after the horses have been looked after.

Break days are stupid. The two gentlemen decide that they have enough energy after their concentrated feed to pay a visit to Switzerland. However, they don't bother with details like border papers. When I check on the horses in the morning, they're gone. We search for the horses' tracks on foot and by mountain bike, but as they have done their business shortly after leaving their pasture, we search the Val Gallo and the single trail to Val Mora in vain. Val Mora is blocked by a fence, so we assume that they did not make it as far as the alp. We were wrong, they simply climbed down into the riverbed and jumped over the fence. We spend the whole day looking for the horses and about 50 kilometers later the phone finally rings, a text message telling us that the horses are on the Val Mora alp after all. At 8 o'clock in the evening, the two runaways are in Val Fraele and this time locked up in the old chicken coop


We leave San Giacomo at 10 a.m. and lead Artvin the next 30 km to Carric in Val Viola. He runs cleanly, but we want to be sure. Pat rides him a few kilometers and even under load he doesn't give in.


We get a room at Carric and the horses a load of hay to graze on in the pasture where they are fenced in. We enjoy a good dinner with a glass of wine. The next morning we set off over the Passo Vialo to the Bernadino and Samedan. The way up is beautiful, many hikers are on their way to the Rifugio. It only gets lonelier at the top of the pass. Only one group of mountain bikers overtakes us on the way down to Lago Viola, where there are other hikers. We cool our horses' hooves in the lake and take a leisurely break. The path down to the Saoseo hut and to Sfazu goes quite quickly this time. Pat is walking well again. This time we find the path to La Rosa straight away and lead the horses up to the plateau. At the restaurant we ask about the possibility of stabling the horses, and the goatherd and the landlady consult with the owners and allow us to put the horses in the goat pasture, where we also pitch our tent. We eat one of our dry foods and get two beers delivered by the goatherd.


After a rainy night, we make breakfast on the gas burner and pack our stuff. At 7.30 we are on our way to the Bernina Pass and a wonderful view awaits us at the top. We climb a little higher to take more photos and then lead the horses down the pass towards Pontresina. On the way, we stop at a farmer's to shoe Artvin's two front hooves, whose shoes are already well done after 800 km. Pat has been treating him regularly with homeopathy and acupuncture and he seems to have recovered well. On the way down into the valley, I call Menduri from the Engadin River Ranch and ask him if he knows of any accommodation in Pontresina. He gives me the number of Caroline, the owner of Stall Costas, and we are spontaneously given two boxes and two beds. We go to the pizzeria for dinner and treat Artvin with a magnetic resonance therapy pad. It seems to do him good


We eat breakfast in the lounge of the stable and say goodbye to Caroline. The rest of the route takes us along Lake Sils to the Maloja Pass and down into the Orlegna valley towards Chiavenna. We take the high trail and it leads us through sparse forests and along beautiful paths further and further west to Lake Sils. At the top of the pass, we take the hiking trail, the shortcut down the Maloja and the path turns out to be a real challenge. First the path leads over a wooden footbridge through a swamp, then steeply over slippery rock steps down into a gorge. Pat is afraid that Pach will start to slide and wants to move to the side so that he has room, but falls 2 meters down the slope herself. Which doesn't exactly do her Beim any good. She now lets Pach run freely behind Artvin and he does a good job, except for one or two times when he tries to take a shortcut. But everything goes well and we get the two of them down to the road safely. This now leads further and further west towards Chiavenna and in Casaccia we ask two elderly ladies if they know of a farmer in the village. One of them points upwards and says that her son, who is a farmer, lives up there. We ask and are given the stable, hay and a pasture without any fuss. After the horses have been looked after, we have dinner at the hotel and then lie down in the hay with the cows. At the hotel we only have a set menu for CHF 26, spaghetti with tomato sauce, salad, coffee and dessert. No second helpings. But we can be grateful, cyclists who arrived 10 minutes after us were simply shown the door.


We thank the farmer and enjoy our breakfast from the gas burner. We continue west down the valley to Chiavenna on historic paths (Roman times). I lead Cool while Pat rides to take the strain off her knee. Around midday we reach the border, which we cross in the village and cross the center of Chiavenna on the pedestrian zone. We keep hoping that our horses have now been spurred out and we don't have to clear anything. We are lucky and can bypass the Splügen road on parallel paths to reach Mese San Vitore, where the road leads up to the Fuorcola Pass. Once again I am amazed at the inaccuracy of Italian maps, because not only is the road incorrectly marked, we are walking on a road that, although at least 20 years old, does not even exist on the map. While the marked road is nowhere to be found. We have to climb from 350m to 2400m and the road takes us up to around 1300m. It is now 5 p.m. and we have about 45 km in our legs when we see a small hill with a chapel and good grass and think this could be a good resting place. There are a few houses about 100 meters further up, so we decide to go up to ask if anyone would object if we camped there. At the top we meet two young couples with a baby and after some polite inquiries, we are invited to go up with them and see if the horses could be supplied with hay. We end up with cut grass, a lush if somewhat sparse pasture, right next to the house, where we are allowed to shower and are provided with a delicious dinner. The young woman doesn't miss the opportunity to fry a chicken fillet especially for us, so we crawl into our sleeping bags full. The view from the mountain is simply incredible.


After a hearty breakfast, we saddle the horses and lead them towards the Fuorcola Pass according to the signposts. The map continues to show paths that do not exist, and the path we are following does not exist on the map. But it leads steadily along the mountain to an alp, which is again not marked on the map, and then vertically up the mountain following the river. Pat rides as long as he can and then I go up the mountain leading Artvin. It is an arduous climb in misty, rainy weather and when we finally reach the top of the pass, it really starts to rain. We lead the horses up steep and sloping paths through knee-high grass and soon their feet are squeaking in their wet shoes. We take a break at a shelter, the horses stand outside in the lee of the hut while we have a quick snack inside. The paths get a little better and we finally reach the first houses where people still live. There is a notice on a tree indicating that it is not possible to ford the gorge during high water. So I go to find out what the current situation is and get a positive answer. So we continue on our way and although the slippery rock slabs, which are intended as steps, cause our horses to slip again and again, and Artvin also slips down the embankment with his hindquarters, we manage to lead the horses slowly but surely to the bottom of the gorge. There we are relieved, because the ford is completely unproblematic and the question arises as to why my head cinema has once again caused me so much pain. I should know better. We reach the valley and decide to continue on to the next village, Losstallos, and look for accommodation there. On the way there we pass a pasture with Trakener horses and we are joking that we will just put our horses in the pasture when we notice a car waiting for us at the end of the pasture, apparently to let us pass.

When we are level with the car, the driver rolls down the window and asks if we would like to spend the night at her place, as we look like we belong in the dry. We gratefully accept and lead the horses back along the pasture to a stable where we can put them up and look after them. Afterwards, the woman (her husband is a farrier and they both drive traditional carriages internationally) drives us to her house, where we are treated to lasagne and can sleep in the guest bed.


We ride along the Moesa down the valley until shortly before Bellinzona we ride north again towards Biasca. Now we follow the Ticino, on forest paths and winding trails, which are also used by the Ticino Endurance Riding Association. We soon reach Cresciano, where we unsaddle the horses after almost 25 km and let them out into the paddock. We arrived at our halfway point a week later than planned, having covered 750 km in the three weeks and climbed almost 18,000 m of altitude. Pach and Artvin are both fit, Pat's knee is now feeling better and we decide that we want to head into the Versasca, Magia and then the Formazza Valley in the remaining week, before heading over the Bedretto to the St. Gotthard, where we should be picked up on Saturday.

The horses have a break the following day. Artvin's hindquarters are shod again, the green Duplos have over 900 km on them and need to be replaced.


In the morning we carry the two spare parts parcels to the post office and ride along the Ticin towards Biasca up to Personico to cross the Passo dei Gagnone into Val Versasca. We had to cross a few bridges, but the way up was easy. We were in good spirits that we would manage the route well, as the horses were fit and rested. At one of the last pothole bridges on the way to the pass, Pach's hind hand slips and he remains lying on the bridge. He is trapped between the railing and the bridge, can't get up and we can't free him.

Pat sedates Pach and goes to get help and 3 hours later Pach is flown down to the valley in the Rega GTRD helicopter. While I wait, Artvin, who is tied up nearby, whinnies again and again, but Pach (sedated) doesn't answer. Somehow Artvin understands that Pach will be in the valley and he can hardly be stopped on his way back down. When we reach the bottom, Pach is already loaded on his way to the animal hospital in Zurich and Artvin starts whinnying and wants to go to his buddy, who is no longer there. I am picked up and we are back in Schaffhausen.

Pach is doing well. As he was in top condition, he recovered very quickly and will be going home in the next few days. Pat has overcome the shock well and we have decided to publish this information here at the end so that nobody wonders what has happened to us. We are grateful for the many nice people we met who spontaneously offered help and accommodation. Many thanks to the GTRD Ticino team and the vet, who all worked very competently and purposefully.


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