From Italy to Oslo: Hiking Across Europe to Test Amundsen Boots
The incredible tale of how Norwegian gear maker Amundsen tested their new boots on a 12-day trek from the Italian Dolomites to Norwegian fjords
Over the last few years, we at Amundsen have been developing our brand new boots, the Ilujjiniq Mountain Mucks. But before we put them into full-scale production, we wanted to put them to test—so we decided to pick up the final prototypes from our boot factory in Montebelluna, Italy and walk them home to Oslo.
The journey began at the factory, where we got the rundown on the handcrafted production process in which shoe-guru Fabio Deon and the master shoemakers at Monte Sport brought the boots from vegetable-tanned leather to finished footwear. When our four prototype pairs were ready, we chucked our old trainers, laced up our brand new Amundsen Boots, and made our way through Montebelluna towards our first obstacle: the Dolomites.
We woke up early the next day in the town of Cortina to a clear blue sky, no wind, and warm temperatures. The winter's snow still stretched far down the valleys, but we'd brought wooden skis from Rønning Ski that have bindings made to fit regular hiking boots with us. Skiing this way was a new experience for all of us, but it worked surprisingly well.
The first part of our journey took us up a path through the forest. At several spots, we had to make detours around recent avalanches blocking the way. Even the mountain guides stayed away at this time of year, but we'd received friendly advice from a local guide who helped us plot out a fairly safe route through the high faces and deep valleys. As the trees thinned, grand views of the Dolomites shooting straight up on all sides appeared. We found a good spot for lunch (pancetta, salami, parmesan, and a glass of Italian red wine) before continuing up towards the high mountains. As we ascended, a few big avalanches showed their strength on the other side of the valley—reminding us not to take any risks.
Ten hours of ski touring later, we reached Grosse Fanesalm hütte and were relieved to find the door unlocked. Once inside the small, rustic hut, we fired up the old Italian fireplace, cooked the steaks and pasta we'd brought from Montebelluna—the extra weight was worth it!—and settled in for the night.
"Avalanche conditions made the plan too risky, and we were lucky to catch a ride around the mountain with some locals."
The next morning, we had breakfast and coffee in the sun and went over the day's route one last time before filling up our water bottles in the nearby river and setting off. Our 120-liter backpacks felt substantially lighter after eating two meals, which was a welcome change since the day started with a few hundred meters of ascent into Limosee to the highest point on the entire route.
The descent down to Fanes Hütte was easier going. As was everything in the Dolomites at this time of year, the rifugio was closed, but its beautiful terrace made a great spot for lunch and taking in the views. After another round of pancetta, salami and local cheese, we took a nap in the shadows on the hot stone floor of the terrace. We skied most of the remaining descent down to Pederu. From here, our original route headed over high faces and down to Braies on the other side, but avalanche conditions made the plan too risky, and we were lucky to catch a ride around the mountain with some locals. A nearby hütt set on a frozen lake was also closed, so we strung our hammocks beneath its stilt foundation and used the floor above for shelter.
The heat returned the next day and as we headed through the forest the snow became patchy, but we decided to ski anyway. This was how we learned that our wooden skis also slide well on grass and mud, so we glided down through the forest on all types of ground. Later, as we skied down the grassy hills near Wellsberg, learning that they're slow on fresh green grass, but fast on the brown dry grass, several farmers came out with their binoculars to watch. It was a new experience for all of us (and an efficient way to travel, too).
We caught the morning train from Wellsberg to Brenner Pass, leaving Italy behind and entering Austria. Disinvited from staying at a nearby monastery—after hiking up 600 meters to get to it—we changed our plans again, deciding to rent road bikes and make the downward journey to Innsbruck on two wheels. We arrived in town late and, since our bike rentals lasted till the following afternoon, we spent the next day exploring the city. It felt good to have an easy day just drifting around observing life in Innsbruck. After many cups of coffee and glasses of milk (the sweet milk in this area is unbeatable) we needed to carry on, and boarded the train to the Garmisch.
Over the following days, we hiked up to and swam an alpine lake called Plansee, got our best night of sleep yet in a horse crib, and made our way to Munich before heading into the Black Forest. The hotel we'd booked on the forest's edge was in a quiet, deserted-looking neighborhood in a small town. We arrived late, but after 15 minutes of knocking, the old woman working there showed us through an interior that reminded us of The Shining; dim, with wall-to-wall carpets covered in flowers. We all locked the doors of our rooms behind us and slept with one eye half open that night.
It was cooler in the Black Forest, the setting of "Hansel und Gretel" and other spooky Grimm tales, than it had been during our previous week in the high mountains. The contrasts were many—we walked on small paths rather than steep terrain—but it reminded us of the forests near Oslo. We met beer-drinking lumberjacks along the way and eventually found ourselves on the other side of the forest in a town called Baden-Baden, where we filled up, got clean, and made ready for the following day's 17-hour train journey to Aalborg, Denmark.
After a long and not-too-comfortable train ride, it felt great to walk again. It's rare to find Denmark's west coast windless, but this was the weather that welcomed us back to Scandinavia. We walked up beaches all day, ate a warm meal in the first restaurant we passed in the small village of Lønstrup, and fell asleep to the sound of the ocean at a grassy campsite among the dunes.
We woke up on the final day of our journey with rime coating our sleeping bags. We'd be home soon, but there was still time for a pulled pork breakfast before continuing north along the beaches of Jutland. Another calm and beautiful day followed us all the way to the ferry that would sail us across Skagerak to Norway. Back on home ground, we stopped at Jørgen’s family's summer cabin for celebratory BBQ and a bottle of red wine before camping on the rocky coast one last time.
In the morning, we warmed cold hands on our Primus camp stove while awaiting the seaplane pilots who'd fly us the rest of the way home. Unloading our big backpacks and skis— our good companions since the Dolomites—marked the end of a fortnight of adventures and a great field test of the Ilujjiniq Mountain Mucks. The results were in: the boots had delivered above all expectations.