Hiking report

Expert hiking from Brilon to Willingen!

I guess you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I indeed like hiking. Even though I am very happy with the easy going Sunday hikes, I also think it would be nice to have more challenging ones every now and then. It is, however, extremely difficult to offer one on Couchsurfing on an ordinary Sunday, as you might end up leaving people behind in the worst case (well the worst case ever would be people complaining afterwards, although this ever happened). But then, I came up with this great idea of organising what we now call “expert hikes” on public holidays, like today, on the German reunification day.

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So this morning, we took a train that left at 8:21am, which was around 2 hours earlier than usual. It felt so weird to get up early and start moving right away.

Brilon not being inside VRR, we had to buy NRW tickets this morning. And not quite surprisingly, we had a great chaos inside the WhatsApp group. As I reported last time, I had ordered an NRW ticket beforehand, for which only a date had to be written.

A long journey like today’s one of course involves problems with the German railway; our train from Betwig to Brilon, which was the last part of the train journey, was cancelled and there were replacement buses instead. This made us arrive at Brilon something like half an hour later. Brilliant job, Deutsche Bahn.

Nevertheless, we arrived at Brilon before noon. I must say it was worth taking a train so early, since we could start hiking before noon. Well, it wasn’t all good, since it started —- raining. I already talked about the end of the summer last week, but the weather never recovered since then and apparently it’s going to continue raining in the foreseeable future. That’s life in autumn in Germany. What can we do.

Today’s trail was essentially the first part of what is called Rothaarsteig, which is a relatively famous set of hiking trails going from Brilon to Siegen, basically traversing the Sauerland area. Sauerland being already a very famous mountainous area, I was really looking forward to today’s one. And things started off quite wildly from the beginning. That was what it should be like in an expert hike.

There were quite a few places which offered beautiful view over the valley, but it was mostly misty and/or rainy at the beginning. It would have given me a great opportunity to take a few great photos for the upcoming events, even though it’s fairly clear that we are not coming back to this region in the near future (i.e. people would have seen a few photos from this area on the event pages even though the events themselves would be in completely different places).

The rain was getting less strong and frequent over time today. Relatively at the beginning, we found a small hut of shrine, in front of which we had a short break (whether it was appropriate or not…). Some people, mostly the ones not directly in the shrine, were freezing. It’s hard to believe that the temperature goes down so quickly these days.

There was quite a mixture of up and down after the break. I wasn’t really aware of this point because just looking at the map on the Komoot page, it looks very much like it’s rather constant. I just had to look more in detail to realise that the axis ranged over 300 m, so that a slight difference was actually quite important.

So it wasn’t quite surprising to stop sporadically, just in order to quickly recover from a sudden slope etc. As everyone had a different level of fitness, some people looked like they were about to black out, while others looked quite bored. In addition, there was this one quite independent group specialised in taking photos on the way. That’s the 21st century, the Instagram generation.

And here comes the math failure of the Ph.D in theoretical physics: Today, we started hiking some time before noon. The total distance being something like 23 km, it was clear that the entire event would take something like 7 hours. Somehow in my head, I thought 7 hours after noon would be 17 o’clock, which, naturally, isn’t. It was around 4pm that I realised that the destination was actually very far away form where we were in that moment. I looked up train connections on the spot, and the most optimistic choice from that point was to take a train at 18:24 from Willingen (our destination), which would have made us arrive in Düsseldorf at 10pm, in my great stupefaction. What’s more, it had still required us to sweep through the rest quite consistently (otherwise the following connection would shift everything by 1 hour).

I didn’t really share this information with the rest of the group, as I didn’t really know whether it was still possible to reach the train station according to the most optimistic plan, but also because quite a significant portion of people were simply not there. Anyway with the people around me, I started walking at full speed.

There was one thing I had to think of while walking: If there’s a great lesson from today’s hike, it’s the fact that weekend hikes are actually not at all superfluous (as I used to think especially after the very first weekend hike). That’s because if we think of arriving at our destination around 7pm, as we would have if we hadn’t had to walk fast, it would have been the perfect timing. The only problem is that we had to go back to Düsseldorf today, which would take a few hours, as it would usually be the case on weekend hikes.

As you can see on the Komoot map above, we had to overcome a challenging part towards the end, but then we could see that we were overtaking the remaining time given on maps.me. In the end, we indeed made it – at least partially, as only the ones around me made it. Except for students (who can travel anyway for free), there were two tickets, one from me, another one from a Norwegian guy. Technically, it would have been still okay for both of us to travel with the people who needed a ticket in that moment, as there were still enough tickets on the way to allow everyone to travel. I decided to stay. Not really because I wanted to stay, but simply because I could afford one hour, i.e. going back to Düsseldorf at 11pm instead of 10pm, but I had the feeling that I would lose something unimaginable if I had left without caring about other people.

Some people, who could have taken the train, also remained. After we let the train leave, we went to one of the restaurants, called American restaurant, right in front of the train station. This place, Willingen, is actually a famous ski resort. Therefore there was a range of restaurants around the station. After a hike of 24 km, I was empty. I got a veggie burger and French fries and devoured them as if I had ever adored American burgers and French fries. Over the next 30 min, people arrived more and more. Actually, it was a really nice ending, since we could all have dinner together, which was a comforting moment since we didn’t have a proper break today. Then we peacefully took the train to go back to Düsseldorf.

And here comes the punchline of the day: At Hagen, where we were changing trains, we realised that the ones who had left Willingen earlier were exactly on the same train. They actually missed the right train station right after they left Willingen (or rather, apparently no one on the train really knew where they were supposed to change trains). Then they had to wait for something like 40 min in the cold in the middle of nowhere, then got a train, but then got one train somewhere on the way cancelled. So in the end, they were arriving just as late as we did, with the only one difference being the nice cozy restaurant for us and the cold rainy moment for them.

Well, today’s hike was certainly an unexpected big adventure, but I must say I really needed it. I’m now very much partial to long challenging hikes like this one.

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