After decades of hiking some of the world’s great trails, adventurer and author Brandon Wilson was excited to hear about the Via Alpina, new paths running through eight countries along the backbone of the Alps. Besides promising total immersion into Alpine life and wilderness, he knew it’d be the ultimate adventure. It meant climbing nearly 1000 meters from valley to rugged mountain hut every day—almost 1900 kilometers—for months. It’d also provide perfect fodder for Wilson’s fourth exciting travel adventure book, Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps.
Originally, Wilson envisioned it as a European Appalachian Trail, only with better food and wine. Faster than you can say “schnitzel,” he coaxed his desk-jockey wife into leaving their cozy Hawaiian home to join him.
Brandon & his wife Cheryl left Trieste in June 2009 to begin their 111-day thru-hike across Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and France, planning to arrive in Monte Carlo in September before snow covered the trail.
Unlike their historic 1992 trek across Tibet, they wouldn’t dodge bullets. But given the climbs, they’d sure miss Sadhu, their Tibetan equine Sherpa.
It was an expedition of highs and lows. The couple trekked over mountain terrains in extreme conditions, from freezing temperatures high atop Alpine passes to dreaded Föhn winds, hail, ice fields, snow, and more than 40 days of rain—and this was summer weather. As always, there were injuries plus the daily mental challenge of completing 20 kilometers, a virtual marathon, knowing it meant climbing yet another formidable mountain again tomorrow. For the record, they ascended and descended 211,000 meters total—the equivalent of climbing 12 Mt. Everests from sea level in just 3 1/2 months. Then again, who knew lethal ticks and cow patties could prove even more dangerous?
However, it was far from all pain and peril as they hiked in the shadows of Mt. Blanc, the Eiger, Mt. Triglav and the Dolomite Range. Little could compare with the rarefied beauty, serenity, wildlife, legends, delicious cuisine and eccentric folks they’d find along the way. And what a unique and ecological way to witness Alpine culture–one-step-at-a-time.
Asked why they set-off on this quest, Wilson explained, “The Alps are so much more than gnomes and cheese. For folks seeking peace in these difficult times, I can think of no better solution than to simplify, disconnect from the distractions of the world and head off the beaten track. Sure, it was one heckuva challenge, our toughest ever. But ultimately, I hope this tale of our journey will help open this unique trail to others. Plus,” he added, “there’s no better, more exciting, weight loss plan!”
Wilson’s keen eye and dry wit captures it all in Over the Top & Back Again, as they witness the Alp’s changing lifestyle and fragile landscape. As with the other three books in this exciting adventure series, each night Wilson chronicled their wild adventures while muscles were still sore and clothes were still wet. It’s all here, the triumphs and “agony of de feet,” captured in his witty, gritty, award-winning style.
Join this intrepid pair, among the first to tackle this route, as they confront their most difficult escapade ever. Inspiring, empowering, humorous, (yet slightly crazy), Over the Top & Back Again sweeps you along for an unforgettable look at the peerless Alps—and at an everyday couple who once again dare to follow their wildest dream.
Over the Top & Back Again is the first trans-Via Alpina travel narrative book published in English, with 53 photos by the author, maps, and custom illustrations by Ken Plumb. It provides a humorous first-hand preview for those who dream of making a similar journey themselves—on foot or maybe just in their mind.
2010 Book of the Year Bronze Award Winner (travel essay), ForeWord Reviews