The Striders - Packs live testing

Sierre-Zinal


It has now become a tradition: every year, my dad and I organise a day walk somewhere in the Alps for friends and relatives. There are usually different options to suit every level of fitness. This year we decided to go for the beautiful and yet demanding trail of the mythic Sierre-Zinal race. A great opportunity for me to combine a nice day out on the trails and live testing for the Nordkalottleden.

Sierre-Zinal - the Race of the 5 4'000m Peaks


31 kilometers. 2'200 meters ascent. 800 meters descent. The mountain race that takes place in the Val d'Anniviers in Valais/Switzerland, is considered as one of the finest in the world. Beautiful forest and mountain paths. Breathtaking scenery. Some serious climbs. Unforgettable!

Find out more on the race

Live test


I knew the path pretty well having done the race once and run&hiked it a few times. The challenge here was to take all participants to Zinal. We were only 5 in Sierre, and 2 would joined us half-way in Tignousa. 2 of them just arrived directly from Australia! and out of seven,four were above 60 y.o! The first 15 k are really demanding and definitely require a good physical condition. The next 15k are far better, with no rough or steep uphills.


It sounded like a perfect training opportunity for me and the dogs: Sparta and Nyx carrying their 1.5kg packs and me some 12kg. This way, no matter the pace, it would be a great and long day on our legs!

The dogs packs


It was their first long session with their Ruffwear packs loaded. I was wondering if they would get tired or bothered by the weight and/or movement on their back. First we took the bus down from Zinal (where we spent the night) and the starting point down in Sierre. Sparta and Nyx looked really relaxed during the 50-minute journey. Once we set off on the trail, it all changed: used to train mostly with me alone, now they had a whole group to take care of! From the start, they wanted to be in front, pulling non-stop on the leash. As I was in charge of the group, making sure everyone was all right, I frequently had to stop, wait, walk back a few hundred meters or catch up with the ones ahead. And Sparta and Nyx never - never!- got tired of pulling, running, yelping until the group was together again. Over 30 km. Had they not been on the lead, they would have done at least twice the distance... I can tell you: I can feel my arms more than my back or legs ;-)
So it turned out the packs didn't bother them the least. No irritation. No injuries. After that long day, they arrived at the car fresh enough to start playing around the car, while I was preparing their food.
And when I got home late that night, they managed to take a sprint after Foxy the fox... maybe I should go for their diet..?

Regarding the boots, it hasn't really been convincing yet. But I want to give it another try before writing any further about it. Keep you updated!

Rachel's pack


It was a first with my new OMM backpack. With its 1.600kg for 55+ litres and leanweight chassis, it looked like the perfect match for me. I won't do a full review of the pack here - that will come after my expedition - but I can already say that after some adjustments, I am pretty happy of my choice: it needed to be well-adjusted to me (back length, straps tensions, etc.) before I felt comfortable wearing it.
For Saturday walk, I loaded it with the whole gear I plan to take for the expedition (tent, sleeping bag, spare clothes, etc.) + the equivalent in weight of the food I will need for 6 days: 5kg for me and 3.5kg for the dogs. Let me tell you that the rest has to be really really light as I still want to be able to run & walk at a decent pace :-). The volume of the pack is impressive and leave plenty of space for a few extras if need be.

After some 9 hours with the 12kg backpack on my shoulders, I can say this first test was successful. I felt really strong all the way, ran the last descent to Zinal and have very little bruises on my shoulders. I must readjust the waist harness to improve the transfer of the weight on my hips and will also probably add some padding to the shoulder straps to make them more comfortable for my bony shoulder-blades!


A successful day!

 



It's been hard. The never-ending steep climb nearly got them. But they kept on, not giving up despite the challenging effort, walking slowly but surely up the hills. We reached Chandolin around lunch time. Then Tignousa and mid-afternoon the Weisshorn hotel, the highest point of the trail. The last 10k to Zinal seemed far easier for the whole group, walking at a really good pace along the path before the final (and for some... painful!) descent to the village.


I am so proud of them! Rosa, Asa, Ken, Alain, Charles and of course Dad: well done guys! It's been quite a challenge and they took it up!

After effort comes comfort ;-)

Weisshorn Hotel - well-deserved break



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