Phil Boorman is a founder, owner, and guide here at Active Adventures. He has been guiding for more than 20 years, and has spent a lot of time guiding and travelling in Europe for Active. Phil has taken some time to reflect on a previous Tour du Mont Blanc adventure, and more broadly on how it feels, and what it means to do what we do here at Active.
“The Tour du Mont Blanc is such a famous hike. It is one of the world’s best multi-day hikes, not only for the incredible scale of the mountains and the scenery, or for the fantastic food and wine, or for the friends and cultures you’ll meet along the way, but for all of those things combined – and add in there that it can all be experienced without ‘roughing it’ as we so often do (and love!) down in New Zealand!
I love our itinerary for the Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. As we always do, we changed the way this trip is usually done by other adventure travel providers, deciding not to just hike around the incredible Mont Blanc range, but to hike, sea kayak, bike and explore a few extra places along the way. I guess that’s what we do – we take a regular trip idea and flip it on its head – not just to see how it turns out, but because we know it’ll always be more interesting.
I discovered something else on this latest trip too. Something that has been obvious to us since we started in 1996, but never really articulated properly; the destination and scenery, as spectacular and eye opening as they are, are merely the canvas on which we paint our experience, because ultimately it comes down to how we share it. Over the 12 days on our TDMB adventure we all experienced spectacular mountain scenery, village life, and European culture but it was enhanced 10-fold by what we as a group brought to the table. And that’s exactly what our trips have been about for the last 20 years.
We’ve built a first class guiding and leadership team in Europe. It’s fair to say that our adventure hiking around the Mont Blanc Massif was enhanced every step of the way by our lead Mont Blanc guide – Jean Marc Valliant. Jean brought along stories of the region’s natural and cultural history, along with his personal stories of life growing up in the Alps, his time as a high mountain guide and a professional ski racer. But by equal measure, we all found ourselves drawn to each other’s stories.
Hiking the Chamonix Valley, we heard about life growing up in New York City from 77-year-old Louis D’Agostino, before looking across to the Boossons Glacier. It seemed like it was the exact thing that I was meant to be doing at that moment in time.
Hearing about Steve Jochman’s experience flying Boeing 747s across the Atlantic and his many adventures in different parts of the globe (including 10 trips with us!) over a bottle of wine in the Aosta Valley, it was a perfect way to end the day of hiking over the Col de la Seigne, having seen the huge granite peaks up close and personal.
Ally Gaylor – a pharmacist originally from Texas recounted her many stories of past trips with us, along with her love of marathons and road cycling.
Jim Curren – an Active Adventures veteran since 2008 captivated us all with his stories of working in the Peace Corps in Liberia a couple of years ago, not to mention reminiscing about the great times he had on our very first Active Adventures Himalayas trip in 2011.
Then there are the themes that develop on a trip. Amusing anecdotes that a group somehow identifies with make their way back into individual conversations and group exchanges. Throughout this particular trip, Donald Trump impersonations and 80’s German love songs had us all in stitches. Common in-jokes and themes such as these add so much colour to a trip. When the weather doesn’t play ball and you’re hiking through a bit of rain, these amusing themes and anecdotes make their way into the hiking conversation and turn a grey sky day to blue.
And then there’s the heroes. For me, the heroes of a trip are those who overcome their obstacles. 99% of the time, the obstacle is self-doubt. When “Can I do it??” melts into “I can DEFINITELY do it!” a hero emerges and we walk away knowing we’ve played our part in opening a door for someone.
The hero of our Tour du Mont Blanc was Nancy Metzloff from Durham in North Carolina. Nancy and her husband Tom had done a few adventure trips before their trip with us (although this was their first experience with Active Adventures) but Nancy was a little nervous about some of the uphill parts of the trip, and whether she’d keep up with the group. To Nancy’s surprise (but not to ours) she kept a steady pace the whole way and gave us all a renewed lesson in perseverance & optimism.
So, a fourth destination has been added to the growing number of places you can go exploring with Active Adventures. And what we are so proud of, above all else, is that this latest destination, and the three trips we’ve built there, retain the Active Adventures DNA that makes our adventures so special. Europe is an amazing part of the world, but it’s the shared experiences that make a Europe trip, or any Active Adventure, so enormously memorable.
I can’t wait to get out and go on the next one!”