A very nervous feeling started to hit me as I lifted my packed rucksack for the first time. What was I thinking? In about half an hour I will start an adventure that I have been so looking forward to for a long time and yet suddenly I had doubts. Doubts if I am physically strong enough. Fears my body will let me down. Doubts if I will enjoy it the way I had imagined…. Thankfully there was not much time to question it. My boots stood there waiting to feel the earth beneath them and my curiosity was so much bigger than any other emotion.
I wasn’t alone with my feelings of excitement. My good friend Giulia said yes when I asked her a few months ago if she would join me. It filled me with happiness as my intuition told me we would be perfect for each other. Perfect, not only because we are similar within our physical capability but mainly because we each have something within us that would help the other. Something to learn or simply a fresh perspective on life.
So on we went. Giulia and myself setting off on our journey of hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc - self sufficient and choosing tents and camp food over huts. Everything we would need for hiking 170km with a vertical ascent of 10.000 m was now weighing heavily on my shoulders and hips. We were not quite sure how long this journey would take but we expected it to be around 10 days. What I was sure of was the joy and exhaustion that would fill every bone in my body.
Zoe Valérien & Giulia Margreiter
The straps of my rucksack had left a diamond print on my shoulders when I removed my pack in the evening, after our first day of hiking. My upper body hurt. It was hot and we were relieved to have found our first camp spot next to a beautiful river in the woods. The first day felt so special. When we sat down feeling hungry and tired but so incredibly happy, I saw in Giulia´s eyes what I was thinking. We had arrived to where we had chosen to be for the next 10 days. In nature, surrounded by silence. Together.
From now on every day felt different. Not only the landscape and its atmosphere changed with every step we made but also our moods, power levels and motivation. The temperature varied from baking hot in narrow valleys to freezing cold while crossing high mountain passes. Change was the only constant during this journey, but looking back now I believe that this was exactly what kept me curious. Curious about what’s to come around the next corner. Curious about where I can take my mind in order to push through pain for hours on end. I always thought it takes a good amount of harshness on yourself to be that physical for many days, but as this journey unfolded I realized how much softness entered my body and mind. It´s probably that combination of strength and softness that I learned to appreciate. We need both in life and if those feelings balance each other in harmony, we can enjoy them each at a time.
After 6 days and around 53 hours of hiking, I felt my feet like never before. The 19kg pack had really got to me by now and my body started to be upset. Every muscle hurt but I felt so alive. Connected to the elements, like I belonged. The weather has been on our side until now. We haven't had a single raindrop but we knew that some storms would come our way towards the end. We also knew that it would be a different story fighting through rain and storms. Without discussing it much, Giulia and me just kept walking. One day 9 hours, another day 12 hours…
Our last night was a little different to the previous ones. The tent until now was our shelter from the cold and fear of storms. Little did we know, its waterproofness was far from perfect and after it started pouring down, we ended up hiding underneath our umbrellas throughout the rest of the night. The weather cleared by the morning and we set off for our last day. It was an emotional one, knowing that this journey is coming to an end. On our last steps before we arrived in Chamonix, I asked Giulia how she felt about this journey. She answered and then asked me. It was too early to reflect but now I look back with fond memories. Memories full of joy, fatigue, reflection, friendship and perspective, but mainly a deep feeling of fulfilment.
Zoe Valérien is an Ayurvedic chef and nutritionist. She offers health consultations, workshops, catering, cooking classes and retreats, all based on the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda. Zoe is originally from Munich and has spent the last 5 years there and in Chamonix.
text: Zoe Valérien
images: Zoe Valérien, Matt Helliker
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Back from two months of adventures on the new continent full of powdery snow and bloody cracks.