Nine days of running through the Alps, soaring above the treeline and plunging into flower-filled valleys, refueling with incredible food at night? Sure, it might take a pronounced masochistic streak to count that as a bucket list experience — the trip averages nearly 17 miles a day, with thousands of feet of climbing thrown in — but once you get to the end of Christopher Solomon’s teeth-gritted travelog, you might just decide the wonder is worth the wincing.
As we gained altitude, the Via Valais uncorked the first of its many lessons: trail running here isn’t like trail running back home. Often it isn’t running at all, because the paths are so steep. How steep? I’ve been on escalators with less pitch. But aren’t there switchbacks? No, these apparently are the invention of lazy Americans. The Swiss favor the diretissima, the most aesthetic and uncompromising line straight up the mountain. On trails like this, a runner’s pride will ruin him faster than any blister. He must find a humbler rhythm to match the terrain.