G3VGR Lechweg      

The Lechweg is a 125Km long-distance hiking path along one of the last near-natural alpine river valleys of Austria. It was opened in June 2012 and follows the course of the River Lech from it's source at the Formarinsee in Vorarlberg, through the Lechtal Nature Park in Tirol and ends at the Lech Falls by Füssen in the Allgäu. The trail joins three regions and two countries and is advertised as an easy long-distance alpine hiking trail for "inexperienced alpine hikers and people of average fitness". It is also the first cross-border long distance path to achieve "Leading Quality Trails - Best of Europe" status by the European Ramblers Association. The height profile shows it not to be hard alpine walking and I wasn't sure if this what I really wanted. However, at 66 years of age, it would probably be sufficiently challenging for me. It's always nice just to be in the Alpine regions and I enjoy walking alongside the beautiful turquoise alpine streams and rivers in Austria. The prospect of enjoying the varied scenery from the Arlberg Alps down to the floodplains around the alpine foothills was appealing. Also, Füssen with it's Royal Castles and Altstadt would be a superb place to end the trail. Anyway, I reasoned that if I became fed up with the trail, I could always abandon it and find a few mountain ridges to walk instead.

The official Lechweg website has much information about the trail and useful guides can be either downloaded or ordered free online. I also purchased the Kompass Wanderführer and the related Publicpress Map. When I checked various "Wandern ohne Gepäck" packages, I found them to be rather expensive (usually around €700 for 7 nights B&B plus baggage transfer). Some research of the Lechtal area showed that it was possible to base oneself centrally and use the 4268 bus which runs between Lech and Reutte to move between the stage start/end points. A bonus is provided by the Lechtal-AktivCard, which entitles one to free travel on all buses (as well as all cablecars) in the area. I was able to book a room at a Gästehaus in Holzgau for 9 nights which included the Lechtal-Aktiv card for an extremely reasonable rate of €25 per night.  This is a much lower cost than any of the hiking packages.

The trail is normally walked in 6 (Sporting) or 7 (Classic) days. Although my intention was to complete the trail in 6 days, I scheduled an 8 day stay to make an extra 2 days available to use either for contingencies or some additional mountain hikes. Planning a long time ahead has major advantages as I was able to buy a Heathrow/Munich return air ticket from British Airways for £114. As usual, I set reminders in my calendar (90 days ahead) to get advance booking discounts on Deutsche Bahn journeys between München Flughafen and Reutte via Garmisch. I'm not sure why I decided to go via Munich as it takes much longer than flying to Zurich from London City then catching the Railjet to Langen am Arlberg. Perhaps I harboured a subconscious desire for a change of travel scenery from my usual Montafon hiking trips to Bludenz.

Prior to the holiday, I took some long hikes in the Epping Forest to help condition myself. Unfortunately, during a walk two weeks before my departure, I developed a pain in my right foot after walking about 9 miles. I visited a Podiatrist who diagnosed Plantar Fasciitis and I was worried that this would spell the end of my trip, especially as I had already decided on an aggressive schedule. The Podiatrist prescribed a course of treatment (including rolling a frozen can of coke under the foot's arch twice daily) and some stretching exercises. He also fitted my boots with new orthotics which provide more support of the arches of the feet and told me I should manage OK on the Lechweg walk.

Lechweg stages:
· 18/08/13   Formarinsee - Lech am Arlberg 14 km
· 19/08/13   Lech am Arlberg - Steeg 26 km
· 21/08/13   Steeg - Elbigenalp 18 km
· 20/08/13   Elbigenalp - Stanzach 21 km
· 22/08/13   Stanzach - Wängle 22 km
· 23/08/13   Wängle - Füssen (Lechfall) 25 km
· 25/08/13   A hike along the Lechtaler Panoramaweg
· Conclusions and notes after completing the Lechweg