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Border Stories is a muscle-powered journey along Switzerland's complete borders, from its highest mountains to its lowest lakes.

Depending on when you read this, I'm days or weeks into Part 3 of my attempt to follow Switzerland's complete borders while exploring what makes a people a nation, a border a boundary—and am I capable of doing this? I am blogging each day on swissinfo.ch/harlin and Facebook Swiss Borders. After I finish, I'll write books and give lectures, perhaps even produce a film.

The journey was meant to take 100 days and be completed last summer. On 22 June 2010 I launched from my childhood home village of Leysin and hiked to the border on Lake Geneva, where I launched into the mountains heading south along the French border. Ten days later, on July 1, a boulder-sized rock came loose and I fell about 50 feet (15 meters) until a badly frayed rope stopped me. With five broken bones in my feet, I was helicoptered to safety by Rega (Swiss Air Rescue).

On 4 October I started again, but with a new plan. Because it would be six months until my feet were fit for hard hiking, I decided to paddle and bike along Switzerland’s relatively flat northern borders (Germany and France) taking about a month to descend the Rhine River by a kayak and then mountain bike the Jura Mountains back to Lake Geneva. It was a marvelous voyage filled with rich cultural insights, and finished where I had started four months before.

Now comes the hard part

On July 6 (2011, of course) I start again at the Rhine River to ascend the border with Liechstentein and over to Austria, traversing Piz Buin and many high summits before reaching the Italian border, where the real excitement lies. My plan is to spend 70 or 80 days hiking and climbing back to Mont Dolent at the French border, which overlooks the site of my accident. Along the way my route goes up and down about 220,000 vertical meters (720,000 vertical feet), which is like climbing Mt. Everest from the sea to the summit and back down to the sea 12 times over. This comes to roughly 3,000 vertical meters (10,000 feet) each and every day. I'm expecting to learn a lot about the people, the landscape, and the history of the border country—and also about my body and its capacity to endure. 

I would love to share this  journey with you. You can follow my daily progress on swissinfo.ch/harlin or Facebook Swiss Borders.

While I'm getting wonderful support from my main partner in this project, swissinfo.ch, with logistical help from Switzerland Tourism, this does not fully cover my expenses, which include food, shelter in mountain huts, flights to Europe, and medical and rescue expenses from the accident last summer. Due to unexpected exclusions, my insurance and rescue policies did not pay for this emergency (and yes, I have better policies for this coming summer).

For these reasons, I've launched this Kickstarter campaign, in which I hope that a combination of pre-sales of my books, early bookings of my lectures, and your generosity will help pay some bills from last summer, shelter me in huts along the border, and put cheese in my fondue pot. Thank you for your interest in my project.

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    A handwritten postcard mailed from the Swiss-Italian border thanking you for your support of my journey. All additional rewards listed below also include this postcard.

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    1 backer

    An large eBook in coffee-table style showcasing the best photographs and extended captions with short stories about my Swiss border journey, with a card thanking you for your support.

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    A signed DVD of my multimedia presentation Swiss Border Stories thanking you for your support. It will be available by November 2011, with many additional videos included.

  • Pledge $40 or more
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    1 backer

    A signed copy of my narrative book on Swiss Border Stories, thanking you for your support. This will be published by a major publisher (probably in several languages) and available in late 2012 or 2013. International shipments require $5 extra for postage.

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    A signed DVD of the IMAX film The Alps (from MacGillivray Feeman Films) thanking you for your support of Swiss Border Stories. Languages include English, Spanish, German, and French.

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    A signed copy of my book, The Eiger Obsession: Facing the Mountain That Killed My Father, thanking you for your support of my journey. The book is available in American, English, French, German, and Italian editions. International sales require $5 extra for shipping.

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    Any two of the above rewards.

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    Any three of the above rewards.

  • Pledge $100 or more
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    4 backers

    A lavishly printed coffee-table book of my favorite photos and stories from the Swiss borders, signed with a thank you for your generous support. Available in early 2012. International orders require an additional $5 for postage.

  • Pledge $120 or more
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    Any four of the above rewards (except the coffee-table book).

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    All five of the above rewards (except the coffee-table book).

  • Pledge $800 or more
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    I will lead you on a week-long visit to one or more of my favorite sections of the Swiss border, according to your interests. Requires a minimum of 4 persons (ideal is to book 4 persons together, but I can also combine four independent donors with compatible interests). Transportation and ground costs are extra. Mutually agreeable dates will be arranged for 2012 or 2013. Longer trips are also available.

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    I will present my multimedia show on the Swiss Borders journey to your club, organization, school, or friends. Transportation costs are extra.

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    I will present my multimedia corporate motivational talk to your business. Transportation costs are extra.

Funding period

- (33 days)