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With temperatures rising and snow clearing from the trails, it’s an excellent time to start making summer plans. Why not put a multi-day hiking trip on your agenda? Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or taking your first trip there are walking trips for all levels.

If you need a little inspiration to get you in the mood, here are 10 reasons why a hiking trip could be just what you need this summer.

1. Health and well-being

Walking is an excellent way to maintain fitness and general health. Studies show that even a short walk outside for 20 minutes can reduce stress and boost your immune system. It also does wonders for clearing your mind and stimulating creativity. Thanks to its low-impact nature, it’s also suitable for most abilities, and requires minimal equipment. Hiking is good for you, and if done regularly over increasingly longer distances and on hilly trails it can be an ideal way to get fit. Plus, with the extra equipment required for longer walks the heavier rucksack will add to your exercise gains.

2. Scenery

The landscape around you is breathtaking. Often hiking trails take you to places only accessible on foot, allowing you to enjoy undisturbed natural environments.

3. Go somewhere new

A hiking trip gives you a perfect opportunity to visit a new place around the world and combine it with a 'theme'. Such as the mountains and flowers on the Mont Blanc Trail or Classic Haute Route to coastlines and history crossing Mallorca's Serra de Tramuntana (to name just a few!).

4. Get off the beaten track

To truly have a break for the norm explore nature on less well known trails like the Tour des Combins through Italy and Switzerland or Hikes in Hidden Tuscany.

5. Nature bathing

Nature’s benefits to health are well documented. The Japanese even have a term for it: Shinrin-yoko (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing), with doctors prescribing it as a treatment for all kinds of health issues. Time spent in nature can be an excellent way of relaxing and uncluttering your mind.

6. Meet friends: old and new

Walking on your own can be very therapeutic, but it’s also an excellent social activity! Joining an organised walking trip can lead to new friendships through an inspiring shared experience. Something you can then plan to do as friends, with your family, independently, or on another group tour.

7. Achievable objectives

A set hiking itinerary can give you a defined goal to focus on. This can help with committing to regular fitness and provides a great excuse to explore local walking trails.

8. Experience different cultures

Choosing a hiking route in a new country or area exposes you to different languages, food and traditions. It’s a perfect opportunity to step outside your familiar routine and expand your horizons.

9. Learn something

Whether it’s learning how to identify an unknown summit on the horizon, or a rare bird perched on a tree, there’s always something to learn out on the trails. Multiple books and apps can help with self-learning, but there’s something to be said for the knowledge and skills of a qualified guide to accelerate the learning process.

10. Sleep in a mountain hut

A multi-day hike often involves a night or two in a mountain hut or ‘refuge’. Strategically located in the heart of the mountains, each hut has its own character and charm. Some offer separate rooms and showers, while others are more basic with large dormitories. One thing’s for sure though, after a long day on the trail you’ll appreciate whatever they have to offer! It’s always an unforgettable experience and highly rated by all of our guests.

On Sunday, when I stood at the start of the 2018 Virgin London Marathon, I was full of the usual nerves and a few more. Training had been more difficult than usual: in January I had flu followed by a chest infection; winter in the Peak District had been severe by British standards so training had been in snow, ice and blizzards; only seven days before the start I’d sprained a ligament walking round a very muddy Chatsworth Estate and ridiculously, summer had arrived early and the temperature would be unforgiving.

Even though I have run at least 25 marathons (and set two British senior records) and I’m always very anxious at the start. (Is anyone confident?) But this marathon was really important. This time I was running for anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer and I was running for women over 60 who, in so many ways, have become invisible and written off.

This marathon was not about setting records it was about setting the record straight: there is life after cancer and there is life in the over sixties!!!

As someone who only took up running in my mid 30s it was a surprise to find I was quite good at it and a shock at the age of 50 to find that I could possibly be a record breaker. At that time I was a Director at the PR company Bell Pottinger so my training had to fit in with a demanding work schedule. But I was determined. In 2008 I made two attempts: at London in the Spring and then in Berlin in September – and failed! Then in 2009 I finally achieved my goal and set a new record in London by finishing in 2.53.18.

Although I hated racing, and only raced a few times a year, running was very much part of my life. I enjoyed it. It was part of my daily routine not only did it keep me fit, it was the time in the day when I could relax and either I could be on my own or I could run with one the very good friends who were, and still are, an important part of my life support network! And, I was quite good at marathons. I really couldn’t imagine a day when I didn’t run and the London Marathon had become a fixed point in my calendar which I looked always looked forward to with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

However life is full of surprises and having set a new British record for women over 55 at the London Marathon in 2013 (3.03.45) I was not prepared for the bombshell that was to follow in 2014.

Early in the year I found what I thought might be a spot or even an insect bite on the back of my upper arm. I couldn’t see it but felt it when I was showering. I wasn’t worried but asked my husband Mike and my regular running partner, Katherine, what they thought of it. None of us was worried even though we didn’t know what it was. It didn’t go away and after a couple of months I decided to get it checked out. (Two years earlier a friend of mine had died at the age of 39 from malignant melanoma so I think I was certainly more alert to the possibility of cancer than I otherwise would have been.)

The referral by my GP to a dermatologist didn’t particularly worry me – as someone afflicted with ‘fatuous optimism’ (according to my husband) I was certain it would turn out to be nothing serious. There then followed an escalating level of medical intervention which culminated in an appointment at Christies (the North West’s cancer hospital) where a kind but solemn consultant told me that I needed urgent surgery for the melanoma and a lymph node biopsy as there was more than a 50 per cent chance it had spread.

It seemed as if my world had been turned upside down. One moment I was bobbing along on the sea of life negotiating the occasional ripple or gentle wave when, quite without warning, I found myself on the edge of a deep whirlpool not certain whether I would be dragged down forever or dragged down momentarily only to be spat out again.

Fortunately for me, following surgery, which involved taking a large lump out of my upper arm and removing a lymph node, I was told that there was no evidence that the cancer had spread. However for the next five years (which will end for me in August 2019) I am being checked regularly for any signs that the cancer has spread or that I have another melanoma.

Getting a cautious thumbs-up is not the end for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. For me it was certainly life-changing. Having already retired from full-time PR, I went back to work as a non-executive director in the NHS as well as working with a small cohort of personal training clients. I was keen to get back to normal life, which included running again. But the hard truth is I had had a wake up call – none of us know what is ‘round the corner.’ One day I was fit, healthy and happy the next day I had cancer which is indiscriminating and the outcome often uncertain. From that point on I was determined to make the most of life and not spend time doing things that I didn’t want to do. Life is too short!!!

Running competitively and setting records was no longer important. I didn’t want to put myself under that sort of stress again. What does it matter if I run more slowly as long as I am enjoying it?

For many months after surgery I didn’t believe the cancer had gone. Slowly that anxiety has dissipated. It probably has gone, it may not have done. But I am certainly a cancer survivor and I owe it to myself to now live life to the full again. Which brings me to the 2018 London Marathon.....

Without boring you with a step-by-step account of the event I can safely say I had never imagined it would my toughest ever 26.2 miles! It was London’s hottest marathon at 74 degrees C and runners fell like nine-pins from early on in the race, which is quite disconcerting, to say the least. Cramp took hold before the halfway mark and after that it was a painful journey. My determination to finish on my feet (rather than a stretcher) was strengthened by the reasons I was undertaking the challenge and made crossing the finish line even more gratifying, despite the fact if it was my slowest performance!!! For the record, I came home in 3 hours 40 minutes 50 seconds and was the third fastest 60 year old woman. The statistics do not matter. Everyone has their own personal reason for running a marathon, mine no more or less significant than anyone else’s.

Last November I celebrated my 60th birthday. How did I get that old? But here I am, happy, healthy and running again. I decided that I would get to the start line but I knew, however long it took me to reach the finish, it would be a victory for me, for all cancer survivors and for every woman over 60 – it would show we are not finished yet!

Vicki Perry ran for Macmillan and raised over £2,000.

Tracks and Trails are supporting Vicki too and we know if you'd like to do the same she'd be very grateful:

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Victoria-Perry6

It has been less than two weeks since I took my skis off for the final time at Nordkapp on completion of my solo ski journey the length of Norway. The immediate rush of emotions and elation that energised me that day has subsided into a deep sense of contentment.

For those of you who were not aware, this winter I took time away from work to press pause on life and embark on a journey that I have dreamed about for years.

“Norge på Langs” is the term Norwegians use to describe this journey. The idea is to travel on foot from one end of their very long country to the other. From Lindesnes lighthouse on the southern coast to Nordkapp in the arctic north, or visa versa.

You can see an Instagram record of my journey by following the link:

It has become recognised as one of Europe’s finest long distance summer treks. More recently people have started to attempt it in winter on skis. One of the most charming aspects of this journey is that there is no fixed route, nor style in which you have to do it. You choose how you engage with the challenge, whether you travel alone or with friends, what route you take and how much distance you travel each day. There is no real recommended route, just lots of options and choices to be made about how to link a logical line through over 2500km of wild and mountainous terrain.

After a good deal of reflection on what motivates me in Nordic skiing I chose not to take a pulk (tow a sledge) and to try to be as self-sufficient as possible whilst travelling relatively light. I hoped that I would be able to travel good distances when the weather was favourable and enjoy the skiing more, whilst at the same time not compromising safety. When travelling off-track in the Norwegian mountains it’s always advisable to have enough clothing and equipment to survive an emergency bivouac should the weather suddenly turn against you or you encounter a problem.

First ski tracks encountered after 3 week of breaking trail

Of course this meant that my rucksack wasn’t as light as I would have liked. I always carried a goretex bivvi bag, sleeping bag, thermarest and roll mat together with a gas stove, pan set and several days’ worth of food. I’ve estimated that my rucksack weighed between 15-18kg depending on how much food I was carrying.

When I set out on the 14th January, although I hoped for a safe and successful journey, I recognised that I could encounter conditions or circumstances that would prevent me from completing it. By choosing to travel alone, I had to factor in the higher level of commitment involved. I am not, and never have been a high risk taker. As a Mountain Guide I evaluate and manage risk all the time but I am always making decisions for the group as a whole; for my clients. One aspect of this journey that I particularly enjoyed was the freedom to make decisions concerning my condition and capacities in relation to the environment and the challenge, and at times to see how close to that line I was prepared to venture.

Reaching my next overnight stop

I know that I have been incredibly fortunate with the snow and weather conditions this winter season. Although I experienced some of the coldest and continuously cold conditions of my life (several weeks between minus 30 and 40 degrees C!!), this winter has been marked by lots of snow and remarkably few days of very high winds. That isn’t to say I didn’t have bad weather, but I rarely had to sit tight because of it.

It has been one of the most memorable, continuously uplifting and important challenges that I have ever undertaken. Each of the 82 days of my journey was special and satisfying in unique ways, and I am grateful for each of them, no matter how difficult or unpleasant certain sections seemed at the time. There was always something for which I was grateful and now they are all woven into a very special place in my memory.

Meeting a herd of reindeer in Finnmark

Norway is a fascinating and beautiful country. The people who I met along the way, who welcomed me, advised me, helped me and encouraged me have made my journey more than just a physical one. I have made many new friends, and although it may be some time before I get to see them again, they will remain one of the best parts of my journey.

Every journey comes to an end. For me, this winter, my physical journey ended at Nordkapp, when I took off my skis for the final time. Inside, that journey continues, and I find myself brimming with new energy and ideas about how to share my love of Nordic skiing with a wider audience. As I said to myself on so many occasions this winter… “This is amazing… I love Norway, I love snow, I love skiing… “ and I loved skiing the length of Norway! Totally recommended!

Tania Noakes

Through the course of her journey Tania has been raising money for the charity “The Ulysses Trust” which provides a vital source of funding for Army Cadets to undertake expeditions and adventure education. Tania has almost reached her fundraising goal and Tracks and Trails have also supported her goal. So if you can help with that last little bit we know it would be deeply appreciated! https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/tanianoakes1

The cliffs at Nordkapp

What a stunning route, 135 km of cross country skiing through the heart of the Norwegian mountains.The Hallingdal Track, to the east of the famous Hardangervidda, is one of the lesser known long distance ski routes, but it's a cracker! We saw a grand total of four other skiers on the whole route, can you imagine how wonderful it felt to be out there in the wilderness and feeling as though you had the mountains to yourself. Such tranquility and solitude, and searing blue skies. Having just returned from our 'recce' trip I can't wait to get back there next winter to see how you like the latest addition to our ski portfolio.

One of the great joys of working as a Ski Instructor is the need to be constantly on the look out for new journeys. It usually starts with Jim Wilkinson, an exceedingly loyal client, giving me a verbal nudge that he wants new trips on the agenda for his next outing on 'skinny' skis. Out come the maps, and the highlighter pens. Then the head scratching begins, the hunt for a bed for the night along the route gets underway, and slowly things start to take shape.The fact I never know what is round the next corner is definitely a great incentive, or indeed, whether the tracks were cut this morning, or a month ago, all adds to the sense of adventure. The more I ski tour on Nordic skis the less inclined I am to ski in an alpine downhill resort with its queues and noise, and skiers full of lunchtime beer.

We know that many of you love the 'journeying' aspect of ski touring, and it really has to be calling out to the adventurer in all of us, the 'will I make it to the next accommodation', 'what's it going to feel like today climbing that mountain', 'what if the weather turns vicious', all the tantalising thoughts that drift through our minds as we drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind in the eaves. One thing you should realise is that it is quite 'normal' to be a little anxious at the start of a ski trip, but everyone settles down once that first day has been enjoyed and they realise that they can ski the distance after all. I have never left anyone out on the mountain yet, though it's a threat that can be useful with our guests that have come to know us well over the years and are inclined to give the 'guide' a hard time! Tracks and Trails has been running for over 11 years now and so many of you have become regulars, and friends, that exploring a new area is a true joy.

So what did I find on the Hallingdal Track? How does it compare to our other trips? Well, it's certainly different in that it feels more mountainous with a lot of the skiing above the treeline. We very quickly claim a summit early in the trip, and then have several days in high open complex terrain with crags, and knolls, cliffs and hummocks, high tops, and lakes. A truly beautiful landscape that totally blew me away. And we had some wonderful surprises!

Our first taste of the unusual was at Fagerhøy Fjellstue (a Fjellstue is the name given to a 'high mountain lodge') where the new owners Isabella and Øyvind have fast gained a reputation for excellent food. They've been extremely inventive in terms of getting a reputation for themselves by creating the Fjellplanken! Such has its fame spread that international magazines and TV have visited the Fjellstue. Imagine a Norwegian take on 'tapas' and add in 5 different beers to go with each tapas and you have the Fjellplanken. Absolutely delicious!

Next stop - Langedrag, where we were told 'It is not what you will expect.' Well, what do you think we were expecting? Certainly, not sharing

our space with 4 lynx, overgrown pussy cats in my opinion, though when one hissed when I got too close, the size of her incisors made me re-think the pussy cat description. Add in a muskox, amazing pre-historic looking creatures; reindeer, artic foxes, elks, wild boar and wolves and I can agree it was not what we were expecting for our overnight companions. Langedrag is an amazing nature park high in the mountains where the emphasis is on educating young people (and old) about the wild animals of Norway while allowing them to live as naturally as it is possible to live in a Park situation. That combined with the location and the views to the huge lake of Tunhoovdfjorden make it a wonderful overnight stop.

There are, in fact, over 3,000 wild reindeer in this area and they are often to be seen on the high ground on the ski journey from Langedrag to Haglebu.The reindeer are so well adapted to their wintry environment and the first thing you notice is that they 'click'! Essentially a tendon moves over the bones of their legs just above the hooves and makes a very audible clicking sound. Apparently, it is to help them follow each other in 'white out' conditions. How cool is that! "Hang on Rudolph you need to 'click' louder, I didn't quite catch that!"

The day from Langedrag to Hagelbu is probably our highlight day. It's a big day, only 30 km, but the high terrain and the amazing long descent at the end to our log cabin make it not one to be taken lightly, but it is to be savoured. Another interesting overnight stop at Haglebu and different lodgings again, this time in basic, but cosy cabins in the valley. A warm welcome from Mona who was surprised to know we were skiing the Hallingdal Track. She told me that she rarely sees people skiing the route, but would love us to spread the word and keep her little Fjellstue in business feeding and sheltering cross country skiers.

Another wonderful day swooping through gullies, and round lakes, and some fantastic downhills brings us to Tempelseter. Well, how disappointed were we to find that Tempelseter Fjellstue had burned down a few years ago and there was 'no room at the inn', in fact 'no nothing at the inn'. So a descent of 700 metres to the valley was required to find a bed for the night. Eventually we ran out of snow and skis on our packs we marched down the road, more than ready for a drink and a meal. Tim, my long suffering 'significant other', is usually of a very upbeat and positive disposition, but even he wasn't enjoying the march on tarmac. Standing in the middle of the road when the next vehicle passed, and climbing onboard before the driver had worked out what was happening soon solved the problem. Norwegians are definitely the most generous people when it comes to helping other mountain people. 'Nature' is such a huge part of their lives that they welcome anyone who is also out there enjoying it. A staggering 70 per cent of the population of Oslo heads for the hills at Easter weekend, and the long standing tradition of having a family home, a 'hytte' in the mountains is alive and well with demand for second homes in the high places continuing to rise. At the moment there are some 60,000 hytte for sale in Norway, many of them new builds, as developers try to meet demand.

So did we find somewhere to rest our weary heads after our long march? Did we ever! What a find! In a little village in the middle of nowhere we found Eggedal Borgerstue. What a treasure, wonderful decor, artwork and four-poster bed complete with chandelier. If you like a trip with amazing skiing, stunning views, and constant variety this is the one for you! A huge thanks to Elisabeth for taking us in! I hope you enjoyed your holiday and that we actually get to meet you next time.

Oh, one last thought. My education in all things Nordic was complete this winter when I discovered 'hygge'. Where have I been? Why did none of you tell me about this trendy movement before? I was oblivious to the fact that finally the rest of the world has woken up to the Nordic way of things and that it's cool to get into the hygge. Those of you who know about 'hygge' will know what I mean and the rest of you can 'google' it.

See you on The Hallingdal Track in winter 2019?

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