Guidebooks - and why I'm writing some

The Via Alpina (VA) is a European ultra-distance walk. While there are other contenders for great mountain walks, like the Appalachian and Continental Divide trails in the USA, this has to be Europe's pre-eminent mountain walk.

You might then hope that handbooks are available to guide you. Well, as at December 2006, the only specific Via Alpina handbooks available are:

  • Auf der Via Alpina von Monaco nach Garessio (Bade und Mikuteit) 15 stages near the Mediterranean
  • Via Alpina - die bayerische und angrenzenden etappen (Hofler & Stitzinger) 44 stages in Southern Germany
  • Naturkundlicher Fuhrer Via Alpina - Karnischer Kamm (Mair & Heinricher) 6 stages on the Austrian/Italian border

In part, this is because the VA often roughly follows existing trails, the suggestion being that handbooks for those trails will be all you need. However the VA often differs quite a bit from original trails, for example:

  • The Italian GTA shares around half of the 52 stages from the Ligurian Alps to Lago Maggiore.
  • The French GR5 coincides with the VA over about 60% of the 44 stages from Mont Blanc to Monaco.

The VA web site contains outline information about the whole route, with distances and height gained for each stage, however more detailed mapping and directions would be useful, and there are some errors and inconsistencies.

People I've spoken with feel that uptake and interest in the VA is limited by the absence of trail journals, publicity and guidebooks. Personally, I can hardly wait to walk it as it looks so great, and hopefully this site will tempt you as well.

I shall be taking a GPS data logger with me. As I walk it, my plan is to collect notes, directions, distances, heights and times for every stage, so I can publish a series of lightweight, low cost guidebooks for others to use.

I hope to have English language copies available for on-line ordering from Spring 2008. If these might be useful to you, please let me know where you are interested in walking and I will email you news as they are developed.