Nordic walking in French Alps

Nordic walking in the French Alps is quite a different business from, say, walking in the Central park in Helsinki. So, for our first Nordic walking experience we decided to attend a non-competitive event with, not 5 kilometers, not 10 kilometers, not even 20 kilometers, but 36 kilometers of walking, and 1600 meters of vertical climb and almost 800 meters of descent. And do this within 7-hour time limit. We did it in 7 hours and 4 minutes.

We started at the Grenoble Jardin de Ville at 9am. It was +12C and drizzling. The warm-up exercise warmed us some. After four kilometers of walking we were in Parc Karl Marx and started climbing to St.Nizier-du-Moucherotte. In the first uphill we were really toasted, but given the 7-hour time limit, we needed to keep up a pretty good pace (about 6km/hour).

After three and a half hours we reached the half-way mark, and were done with most of the ascent. It was really chilly in St.Nizier-du-Moucherotte, but fortunately the sun came out — it did not only make us warmer, but also the colorful landscape much prettier and brighter. From St.Nizier we followed Via Vercors to Lans-en-Vercors. We thought that we had all flat or downhill to Villard-de-Lans, but how wrong we were! Unlike the previous editions of the event, when the route continued the flat and straight Via Vercors across the fields, this time it took us again up to the slopes, and we had an endless series of uphills and downhills to conquer before crossing the finish line.

This was a nice experience, the event was well organized, the spirit among the walkers pretty good, and the weather turned out perfect in the end. However, I have a sense that some are taking this Nordic walking thing way too seriously — given the number of rules and regulations about what was allowed and what was not (for instance, “hiking” was not allowed, nor was running, i.e., either foot had to be in contact with the ground at all times), and the fact that in the comments to the organizers afterwards several orthodox individuals complained that too few participants actually did Nordic walking, but were more or less just walking with sticks (or not using their sticks at all). I was also probably the only one who stopped to take photos …

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