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.