A few years ago, my wife Odile gave me a book of the world’s most beautiful hiking trails as a Christmas present. Having realized over the years that September is a quiet period for me work-wise, I decided to tackle one of the walks in the book in September 2017 after a summer spent between a family road trip around Quebec and sea-kayaking in Brittany.
The Lechweg runs from the Formarinsee in Austria, a lake above the village of Lech and source of the river, to the Lechfall near Füssen in Germany. The path covers around 120 km, starting at an altitude of 1930 m and ending at 800 m above sea level at the Lechfall. Even though the path descends 1100 m in all over the course of a week, there are a fair number of stiff climbs.
Unfortunately, this first attempt at walking the Lechweg didn’t end too well.
Everything began in a spectacular manner after taking the bus from Lech to the Formarinsee and finding myself in a snowstorm! During the walk back down to Lech that day, I had every season of the year, starting in a wintery landscape before spring kicked in after about two hours of walking, then the heat of summer as I reached the valley, before the chill of the coming autumn in the evening. It was a fine first day and the second was just as good, with a great trail high above the Lech valley before a descent to cross the river and a steep climb up to Warth where there was a wonderful butcher’s/cheese shop. Then came another very pleasant climb through alpine meadows to Lechleiten where I spent the second night.
On the third day, I woke to pouring rain. I got to test my wet-weather gear and it turned out to be pretty effective. The trail was wonderful again – a sort of balcony high above the valley with views of waterfalls and nearby peaks through the mist. The rain began to ease off just a little as I began the long but gentle descent towards Holzgau, my next stop. And that was when disaster struck…
At one point, I stepped on a stone that rolled away beneath my foot and, in regaining my balance, I brought my heel down hard on the ground. Shortly after, I began to feel a twinge in my lower calf, like a muscular cramp. I tried to drink water to ease it, but my water pouch tube was twisted and I couldn’t get much out of it without unpacking in the rain. So I carried on. And, as I did, the pain got worse and worse. By the time I reached the valley floor in Steeg, I was limping badly and almost crying from the pain. It took me about two hours to cover the five remaining kilometres to Holzgau. I hoped that the hotel sauna and the massage I had booked would ease the pain and that I would be able to continue the next day, but I had to face the facts in the morning that this trail was over for me. I took a bus to the next hotel I had booked and, from there, went directly to Munich after cancelling the rest of my accommodation to take the train back to Paris.
By then, after consulting a number of web pages, I had decided that I had tendinitis of the Achille’s heel. All that could be done, apparently, was rest. The pain was bad, even when lying down, and worse when I had to carry the pack anywhere (as when I got off the train in Paris and was insulted on the platform for not walking fast enough). It lingered for a month or so, but was finally cleared up by my good friend Louise Williams, an acupuncturist in Vincennes. In two sessions, the pain vanished and I began walking normally again. It returned in 2018, after an awkward stumble on a kayaking trip in Croatia, in the other ankle, but Louise cleared it again in time for the hikes planned for summer 2018. I’ll post more in another article about the different ways of dealing with such problems.
And so the first attempt at walking the Lechweg was a disaster. But it would finally be conquered less than one year later…