At the end of October I was invited by Gore-Tex to attend the International Mountain Summit in Italy, to test out their new walking shoe technology ‘Gore-Tex Surround‘ and to write about it for the Simply Hike blog. It was quite a last minute adventure with only a few days notice, and at first it felt quite daunting to be travelling so far for work for a fleeting visit of less than 48 hours in the country, but I knew that it would be well worth the initial anxiety and frantic planning! Plus I felt very lucky to be doing something so exciting suddenly with my weekend.
I packed my bags on the Friday ready to be picked up at 2am (ouch!) by taxi and head to the airport with my colleague Shaun. We flew to Vienna and then to Innsbruck where we would be met by a driver to take us to Brixen in Italy for the event. The trip was more eventful than i’d hoped – as Austrian Airlines managed to lose my bag. I was already quite nervous and this made me panic and I had a few tears at Innsbruck airport, but all I could do was head to Brixen without it. Our driver didn’t understand English and we could not speak Italian or German so it was a little difficult explaining the bag situation but eventually we began our journey to Brixen. Luckily the stunning mountains of Austria had me glued to the car window. It was such a beautiful place, i’d love to go back.
Once we arrived at our hotel we decided to find the Forum where the event was based and grab some food. Feeling a bit exhausted as it was now 3pm and I hadn’t slept at all before catching our flight, plus I felt disgusting as i’d been unable to freshen up from travelling due to my lost bag. We found the Forum and collected our press passes for the event and spoke to some Gore-Tex representatives about the order of the day.
The Saturday mainly consisted of a presentation about Gore-Tex Surround – you can read my blog about them for Simply Hike here. We were given some hiking shoes to try which no one else had yet which was pretty exciting! Afterwards we had dinner at the Forum. Although we were in Italy, Brixen seems more German and for dinner I had German Sausage and Sauerkraut which was delicious! We had dinner with the other bloggers we had met in the taxi and at the presentation. It was a fantastic evening, laughing and joking with our new Swedish friends Jonna and Angeliqa. I was looking forward to the day after when we would be hiking up the Plose mountain with them.
I was a bit concerned about the next day however, as I had still not had any news about my bag. Constantly checking my phone to see if Austrian Airlines had been in touch but didn’t hear anything. Once back in my hotel room, I rang them and they told me they had found my bag which was a relief – until they told me I would not get it until the following day…
I was appalled to be told that my bag would not be delivered to me that evening, even after I explained that it contained my hiking gear (and basically everything I had taken away with me) and I needed it to be able to go on the trip. If I missed it, it would have been a waste of a journey, bearing in mind we would be returning on Monday morning. After arguing for some time and crying hysterically down the phone (I was sleep deprived!) wearing nothing but the airport issue large white t-shirt I had been given in my ’emergency female kit’ (I must have looked mental) they agreed to send my bag to me that night free of charge (after trying to make me pay for it!!). I was very grateful and went to bed a bit emotionally drained but relieved knowing that I’d receive a knock on the door in a few hours time with my bag.
The next morning I awoke bright and early, feeling like I still needed to sleep for 500 hours and pulled on my hiking gear and new shoes ready to grab a croissant and jump on the coach with Shaun. We sat with Jonna and Angeliqa and again had our faces glued to the windows as we climbed the mountain until we got off the coach at the gondola station. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but the gondola ride wasn’t too bad and the good company took my mind off the fact we were dangling high above the pine trees and ascending through the clouds, as well as the killer views.
Once at the top we began walking to the summit and at this point I instantly regretted leaving my walking poles at the hotel. Being from Kent and all, i’m not used to walking up hills very often, let alone steep mountains. I don’t know if it was lack of fitness, lack of experience, sleep deprivation or altitude that made it tough – it was probably a bit of all of those. Boy did I sweat.
We stopped halfway to listen to some talks from some of the mountain greats that were with us on the walk such as Herve Barmasse, Peter Habler and Mark Inglis, it’s a shame that most of the talks were in Italian as i’m sure they were amazing. This has encouraged me though to learn languages this year, as you feel so ignorant surrounded by people who can all speak your language.
Once we reached the top we stopped for brunch – german white sausage, pretzel and mustard. I passed on this mostly, nibbling a bit of pretzel, feeling a little rough. Luckily the rest of the day was a little easier as it was mainly downhill, though when I say easier, it was a little hairy at times, trying not to go bum first down the mountain. The ground was pretty rocky and you had to concentrate so you didn’t lose footing and stumble down the slope. When I wasn’t looking intently at my feet so I didn’t fall, this part of the journey was the most beautiful. I wanted to stop occasionally and just take it all in. The warmth from the sun, the mountain air and the stunning panoramic views of distant peaks. It felt good to be doing this was so many other people who were all enjoying themselves. I really enjoyed looking more closely at the rocks underfoot with all their unusual colours and the flowers that looked like metal.
We eventually came to the Rossalm where we ate a huge lunch and chatted to other bloggers, again the talks were mainly Italian which was a shame, but there was a great vibe about the place with loud fun music and lots of people drinking and eating in the sun. Afterwards we decided to head a little further as a small group and explore the area, taking more time to take photographs and enjoy the scenery. We later headed back to re group and head back to the Gondola and onto the coach to take us back to the Forum.
That evening we ate together again in the Forum restaurant with other bloggers, sharing stories from the day. We then went to a talk in the Forum called Mountain Xtreme by Steph Davis, Sebastian Steudtner and Warren Verboom which was completely mind blowing and inspirational – Steph’s talk especially. She is a rock climber and she uses a wingsuit to jump off mountains and out of helicopters! The footage was completely insane, but her story was emotional and inspiring. There was a theme of facing fears throughout the talks and she spoke of doing what she does after she lost her husband base jumping together. I struggled to hold back tears when she was talking. I admire her resolve and courage, and her passion for what she does. Definitely look her up!
There was more of a party atmosphere on our last night, after the talk we celebrated our last night with new friends with apple strudel and apple cocktails and juice. The whole event was sponsored by Kiku who produce apples so there was a LOT of apples around..
In the morning we got ready to leave and jumped in our taxi to take us to the airport where we said our goodbyes to all the other bloggers from Sweden, France and Spain. It was heartwarming to feel like we had made real friends in such a short time and it was genuinely sad to have to say goodbye so soon, but I hope to see them all again one day and have some more adventures!
Check out these blogs by the lovely bloggers we met at the summit: