Whe goes long-distance hiking? If anyone can answer this question, it is Christine Thürmer, who describes herself as the “most migrated woman in the world”. The former manager has already walked more than 45,000 kilometers.
How this works, which shoes are suitable for it, and how digitalization has changed hiking is the subject of her new book “Weite Weg Wander”, which was recently published by Piper-Verlag (290 pages).
In it, Christine Thürmer tells what she experienced on her way around the world, but above all she gives tangible hiking tips.
Nothing goes below 1000 kilometers
First of all: what exactly is long-distance hiking? The Alpine Club speaks of a long-distance hike from a distance of 500 kilometers, but Thürmer himself “does not even start under 1000 kilometers”.
What is more important than all the numbers, however, is what long-distance hiking does with you. A long journey on foot cannot be less than fears for the future and therefore give self-confidence and freedom, she writes and promises: “It will make you a happier person.”
But what exactly that is, happiness, can be put into perspective on the way. So it can break out in enthusiasm when it rains over a dry place to sleep – even if it is actually just the floor next to an outhouse in the forest. She calls this “lowering the happiness threshold”.
In conversation, the 53-year-old Thuringian describes himself as rather unsportsmanlike. She ventured on her first long hike 16 years ago, quit her job as a manager in 2007 and has been on the road almost constantly since then.
Hiking with podcast and Nibelungenlied
Instead of using expensive and heavy maps, she navigates through nature with a GPS device and uses a smartphone as a backup. The GPS device operates them with batteries, the smartphone via a power bank. While many enjoy not having to stare at screens while hiking, Thürmer is enthusiastic about the new possibilities.
On the way she has a lot of time for audio books and podcasts, on a tour in the USA she listens to the Nibelungenlied on her smartphone. And just as Siegfried is fighting the kite, she faces an alligator in Florida’s swamps.
Since there is no path around the swamp, Thürmer has to wade through the water for better or worse. “I stand on the edge of the depression for almost five minutes and take several deep breaths to calm myself before I start the next attempt according to the motto ‘close your eyes’,” she writes. “With a hectic pace I splash noisily through the water – and after a few fearful seconds I reach the other side safely but wet down to my underpants”.
Underpants are always an issue. Because Thürmer combines long-distance hiking with ultralight hiking. If you think that hiking shoes, rainwear, a tent and fresh underpants are the minimum equipment, you have to carry a lot or have to learn a lot.
Save even on underpants
Thürmer removes the paper flags from tea bags, sabers the handle of the toothbrush shorter and separates the washing instructions from the pants to save weight. Experience shows that every gram counts less.
She knows the shelters at the beginning of the 3,500 kilometer hiking trail through the Appalachian Mountains in the USA, which are full of unnecessary and abandoned equipment. Many ultralight hikers even left their underpants at home in the summer. “If you don’t want to do without it, you should at least limit yourself to one copy.”
Shoes are of course elementary for hikers, but which ones? In Europe, high hiking boots are important, while the American “Thru-Hikers” – those who go extremely long hikes in one go – only wear trail running shoes.
They look like running shoes, are light and not waterproof, but they dry quickly. Thürmer also explains that the equipment must fit together. If you are traveling with a 30 kg backpack, you need more stable shoes. Thru-hikers who hike for months, on the other hand, need an extremely low backpack weight of often significantly less than ten kilos.
4G beats the mountain panorama
Thürmer hiked the “Triple Crown of Hiking”, i.e. the three US long-distance hiking trails Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail – together a distance of 12,700 kilometers. When asked about the differences between the United States and Europe, she called the so-called trail angels, along with the much longer trails and light equipment, the committed community of hikers and supporters along the way.
In addition, for the US Trails, there are groups on social media, a kind of digital hiking community, as well as specific apps and offline maps that show waypoints, shopping and accommodation opportunities, and water sources. In Europe, she had to research the supply logistics herself. “I covered some sections with Google Street View to spy out shopping opportunities.”
Doesn’t that sometimes result in a tiny bit of longing, again without wandering all the digital? “No, quite the opposite.” If she had to walk through the wilderness for a week in the involuntary digital detox, the sight of five bars of 4G reception was better than any mountain panorama.
Christine Thürmer, “Long Walks”, Piper Verlag, 290 pages, 18 euros
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