FKT: Karel Sabbe - Via Alpina, Red Trail (Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Monaco) - 2021-08-06

Route variation
Original Red Trail 2500km
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
30d 8h 40m 0s
GPS track(s)

The Via Alpina, a traverse of the European Alps.

The Via Alpina is the long-distance hiking trail that connects the 8 Alpine countries: Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, France and Monaco. It’s the European counterpart of the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. 1650 miles, with 100 miles of elevation change.

It had already been 3 years since my last major FKT adventure, back in 2018 when I set the speed record on the Appalachian Trail. Hence, I was more than ready to dig deep again, on a trail that would probably be even more challenging than the Appalachian Trail. More daily elevation change, often more technical, Alpine terrain, and more difficult weather conditions.

There was no supported FKT yet on the trail, so Guillaume Arthus held the self-supported and supported FKT of 44 days and a few hours. I wanted to go for a finish within the month and was aiming for 2 marathons a day, hoping to finish within 31 days.

The first 10 days are always the trickiest ones, with a high chance of becoming injured. No matter how much you train, the difference between your training load and your first 10 days of 2 marathons a day will always be huge. Luckily, no injury came and I was able to successfully get started well on the Via Alpina.

On day 7, however, there came a huge, unexpected thunderstorm. I turn around a cliff and suddenly found myself in the middle of a huge storm, with lightning extremely close. It was only 4 more miles to reach the valley floor and the campsite for the night, but I wisely decided to turn back and head for the nearest mountain hut. I ended up running for my life and being bruised from the huge hailstones that hit me. Luckily, I reached the hut and was able to spend the night there in safety.

From that traumatizing experience onwards, we started checking 3 different weather apps to prevent this from happening again. This lead to the interesting moment on day 17, where I was nearly finished with my double marathon for the day, when my crew informed me that the day after, starting at 3PM, there would be a huge thunderstorm again. With weather conditions still good, we decided that I’d push on through the night and continue on with next day’s stage, hoping to finish that stage by 3PM in the afternoon. I ended up pushing on, running about a hundred miles in 35 hours, finishing at the hut at 3PM, just as the storm hit. Good call!

Reaching the halfway point on schedule and without signs of injury was a good moment to start pushing on, and to really get into it. I managed to keep up with the 2 marathons a day, and a daily 16.000 ft of elevation change.

Seeing the Mediterranean Sea for the first time in a month, realizing the end was near, was a good moment to decide to push on through the last night as well, running the last 102 miles without sleeping. This way, I set a really solid FKT on the Via Alpina of 30 days, 8 hours and 40 minutes. What an adventure!

Watch the movie here



The movie "Solace" about the adventure on Via Alpina has been added to the description. Enjoy!