Posted by: Bob Fisher | October 16, 2010

Travelling the Via Alpina with Brandon Wilson

… a podcast with the author of Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps

This podcast was recorded through the Internet via Skype.

About Brandon Wilson

An author, photographer, adventure travel writer, and quintessential explorer of profound physical and cultural landscapes, Brandon Wilson goes where many ordinary mortals fear to tread. And yet, through his journeys, treks, and travels he takes his readers far and beyond what is initially visible to the “naked” eye.

The Via Alpina

This bold co-venture takes travellers along five international trails and through eight countries. Comprising a cornucopia of trails that are themselves multidimensional and very comprehensive, especially in an historical and cultural sense, the Via Alpina has 342 stages and extends over 5000 kilometres. You can walk the various colour-coded routes from sea level to 3000 metres, trails that vary, of course, in difficulty. However, depending on which of the alpine nations you find yourself — you could easily plan a journey through all eight,  especially with the help of Brandon’s book — you can essentially customize your walking tours to your particular needs and desires. But it is safe to say that “a walk” through the cultural heritage of the Alps on foot, is one of those grassroots and up-close-and-personal journeys that are enduring.

The largest natural space in Europe, the Alps are also known as “the cradle of mountaineering” and as a haven for observing unique species of flora and fauna. Home to almost 14 million inhabitants, the Alps are also one of the most interdependent and interconnected cultural regions on the planet. And if you walk even a few of the trails of the Via Alpina, you will also be retracing centuries of European history.

The innovative European project that the Via Alpina represents, which also includes both private and public bodies from all eight of the aforementioned Alpine countries, is also a relatively new venture in that the participating nations only began to come together in 2000 to develop and promote their unique and distinct alpine heritage. In so doing, they have also created a multiplicity of transborder experiences.

For more information on the Via Alpina, see the link at the bottom of this page

My favourite excerpts and passages from Over the Top & Back Again

“We pulled off our boots and unwound. Sunlight glistened off fields overflowing with a vibrant collage of yellow, blue and pink wildflowers.

Best of all, we were swaddled in a serene silence, the still and soothing solitude of the Alps. It had already won me over. By then, I cringed each time we entered a village of any size—and looked with pity at those who could escape only for a hard-fought day or two to explore those craggy monoliths.

What better way is there to discover nature, to find peace, or one’s true self?”

“After cresting a rise to the Col de Brévent, all of a sudden, Mt. Blanc and its snowcapped court rose in a jaw-dropping panorama. The symmetrical crown of the Alps and the adjacent 4000+ meter mountains were radiant. Peaks encircled us as far as the eye could see. We fell silent…. It was sacred, a cathedral among the clouds.”

“As with many such places, experiencing the Alps means listening, remaining silent, watchful, patient, as you let nature unfold.”

“… cold and hungry, we were welcomed into the church rectory by Père Alphonse, a gregarious priest in his 80s. The fellow with a contagious smile wined and dined us, sharing several bottles from his own private cellar along with never-ending plates of spaghetti and genial conversation. Time and again, he encouraged us saying, ‘Eat! Eat! You’re young!” Only once did we pause to come for air when he unexpectedly excused himself to go say Mass.”

“We’d discovered the Alps, one-step-at-a-time. It’s a land of much more than mountains, cheese and gnomes. It’s a revival of the senses. It’s the crisp freshness of the air, the scent of the pine, the riotous splash of wildflowers, and the taste of sweet milk straight from the cow. It’s history ever-changing, culture ever-evolving. It’s the chance to free yourself and seize the most from life, day after challenging day. It’s the humbling realization that we can never tame nature—only cooperate and hope to mutually survive. It’s more than bagging peaks; it’s the folks and experiences along the way. It’s a land of legends, towering giants, well-hidden gnomes, and an independent frame of mind. It’s the ultimate in tranquility. It’s the closest you can come to touching the stars.”


The Via Alpina Organization and maps

Pilgrim’s Tales Publishing

Gear, Maps and Fitness Support


Gossamer Gear

Omni Resources

Upcountry Fitness Maui

Another podcast with Brandon Wilson

See “Along the Templar Trail: Brandon Wilson’s Journey of Peace”.

All images courtesy of and copyright of Brandon Wilson



  1. Great travel blog. I will follow your travel blog.

  2. Hi Bob,
    As always, I enjoyed talking you you. One new update: Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps just received the 2010 Book of the Year Bronze Award (travel essay category) from ForeWord Reviews at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans.

    For everyone who has gone digital, it has also just been released on Amazon Kindle (lighter to pack that way!). Happy travels.

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