The RheinSteig is a 320 km trail on the right side of the Rhine that links Bonn, Koblenz and Wiesbaden on mainly narrow paths with steep climbs and descents, leading walkers and hikers to forests, vineyards and spectacular views. (from the official web site, www.rheinsteig.de)
The WiBoLT (Wiesbaden-Bonn-Long-Trail) is a race that follows the official track of the Rheinsteig hiking trail:
Great effort, man! I will be attempting this track end of May as well. This seems very far out of my capability zone, but you never know.
I'll attempt to set a new supported FKT northbound (standard route) starting next Thursday, June 16th at 6 AM local time. If I get one in time before the attempt, I will carry a tracker and post the livetracking link before starting.
Alright ... here we go then. I will attempt the self supported FKT from Wiesbaden to Bonn starting on Thursday 25.05 at around 08:30 to 09:00. I might post on Instagram (heikolampe), but not sure how much time I make for social media. I will post an edited video a few weeks later, documenting my attempt. There is also a sub-section of this trail that has no self supported FKT yet, so technically, @Patrick129 also holds that one right now.
I am writing this report with mixed feelings. As I am sitting here, my Suunto has just loaded the 3rd day of my trip, but the (combined) first and second are still stuck in my logbook on the watch and refuse to go to the app, from where I can download and publicize them in order to have this FKT count. So while I try to sort this out, I figured to write the report as soon as possible after my effort. I also have my YouTube video I will publish plus 3 days worth of Insta stories … but I am aware that without the GPX, it will not count.
So here goes nothing.
After a lot of planning, training, investing money and time into this FKT, I went to Wiesbaden on Wednesday 24.05. This feels like a lifetime ago now. I got off the train and walked to my hotel. After check in, I got a Pizza around the corner and walked to the start location. It is a beautiful castle, but I was a bit taken back by the street running in front of it, which I assumed to be car infested the next morning as well as the lack of a plague for the Rheinsteig. Feeling a bit stupid standing in front of the castle, I went back to the hotel and tried to sleep. It was 19:30 by now.
I had a rather good night of sleep and woke up at 06:00. I got up, prepared my stuff and had breakfast at 06:30. A toilet visit later, I did not know what to do anymore. I originally planned to start at 09:00, but I decided to go early to the start at around 07:15. I started to do all the video preparation and recordings and found myself filming my opening at 07:35 … so screw it. Off I went, 1.5h ahead of plan). Running along that packed road, cross it and follow the river a bit. There was a little diversion after 3k, but that was nothing. In total after around 5k we left the river as planned and I would move up to the hills for the next 40 – 50k. Navigation was a bit iffy here and there. It took a while to understand how the signs are places and for my brain to register the symbol of the Rheinsteig everywhere. Slowly uphill I went, mostly fields and forest, before I reached Schlangenbach as planned after around 17k. Good thing I noted the shop in preparation, since I would have never found it on the day itself, had I not known for it to be there. I refilled my water and left. I cleaned out stuff from my shows in the park and left around 1h45m ahead of my good pace planning. Little did I know that cleaning out my shoes would become quite a recurring topic. After leaving that village, there is quite a climb out, through the forest. It was the first sting for the legs, but I had trained for that. What I was not prepared for, was the heat. The weather was sunny with temperatures rising quickly. It was close to 10:00 by now and the forest was gone and I was going through open fields. There was still the moisture of the morning in there and my feet were getting wet. Plus, I got all the grains again stuck in my socks and shoes (see the recurrence already?). Also, the sun started heating everything up and without the prospect of shade, I was set to suffer. At 27k I approached Kiedrich. I was well on pace (2h ahead of plan by now). They have a water fountain in the main square, which was great (if a bit slow). So I refilled and headed out asap. The next stage was supposed to be rather steep again and long. Added to that was that most of it was wine country. I sweated my way through the stage, reaching my first marathon. Shortly after I reached a forest with a long, steep climb. After the heat, this was a dual sword. A reprieve from the heat, but also a biting uphill. From there, a long, runnable descent through a pine forest. It smelled like a holiday in Greece. Floating down, I saw my waypoint distance shrink and with 400m to go could see the monastery I was aiming for on my right below. I descended a steep slope to a surprisingly big crowd of parishioners wandering the open place before an outdoor altar. I followed my way around the building and to my delight found a water tap in the wall. While refilling, the mass started.
The shade was inviting, but I decided to press on. Up quite a climb, but at least through forest. Once the climb was done, so was the forest and the next 10+ k where relatively flat, but through Vineyards again. I got severely cooked. It was past 16:00 by now, so I was hoping for the sun to lose power, but that was not the case, yet. I dragged myself through the afternoon until I reached Assmannshausen. Coming down the steep banks to the village (criss crossing under a cable seats), I was eager to find food and some cold drink. I managed to score both in the “Alte Bauernschaenke”, with the waiter encouraging the kitchen crew to be quick. Since I was the only guest, I left stuffed very quickly again and started climbing the asphalt streets of the Vineyards. Finding some shade on top and given that it was past 17:00, the temperature got more bearable and I made my way on this rather relaxed stage towards Lorch. I just needed to recover from the day. Coming into Lorch, I had a few options for refreshments. However, all was closed. Also the public toilets closed at 17:00 (and it was 19:10 when I arrived), but I remembered “The insider”, which was a bit off the main route. I was considering the fountain in 10k, since I still had water, but I decided for fresh drinks now. So I ran to “The insider”. I had a cola (one of the first in a long time, a apple juice and refilled my water. Leaving just 10 minutes later and climbing up the familiar banks of these valleys, I felt refreshed. I even had to climb on some metal ropes and steps a bit, as it got steeper. The original plan saw me “run” this at around 22:00, but now I was still light, which made it much easier. The 28k to the Loreley would have more than 1000m up. Followed by another 24k with similar elevation. The temperature was dropping, the route was a constant up and down, but also some nice overviews of the valley from above. When I came down to Kaub, I saw a lady water her plants on the balcony and asked her to refill my 1 bottle. She gladly did so, which was amazing. Running further into the village there was even a Pizza place still open, allowing me to have another Cola, to stay awake through the night. I left through the village, climbed the stairs to the Vineyards and now, at around 22:00, the night was properly there and I started the long race through the night. It went through fields on top of the valley and then a long section through the forest. All the noises were there. The temperature dropped further as I arrived at famous lookout points (cliffs overlooking the valley), shortly after which I got to the fountain I wanted to fill up. Luckily, I still had plenty of water, as the fountain was dry. Shortly after I reached the Loreley, where the public toilets I had as backup were closed. I did some foot maintenance (popped a big blister and put a patch on it), but a long sleeve on and continued. More forests, some fields, but most importantly a few valleys that required very steep descents, followed by very steep climbs again. These few hours almost broke me. It was a long, hard night in total, but when the first light started to show around 04:30, I knew I made it. I reached castle Liebenstein, my refill point, too early for them to be open, but that was OK. I still had water and the next stop was just 10k further. So I made my way there. However, the next 8k were a constant change of open fields, meaning wet feet due to the morning dew and all kind of seeds stuck in my shoes and socks. I stopped often to fix this, but it was to no avail. When I finally reached Filsen, I refueled at the village shop, cleaned my feet once again and settled into the long day ahead.
Being fully filled up again after the night, I took my waffles I bought in hand and started the next stage. Fully in forest with temperatures still OK, I slowly made my way to Braubach. I got lost above the place when I ran down half the mountain on the wrong path and climbed up again, just to take a long and hard climb on the other side. Shortly before arriving I also understood that the waypoint distance on my phone was based on “as the crow flies”. I do not know who thought that was a good measurement when running a route … anyways, I was finally at the planned bakery. My knees were in pain from the few steep descents I had in the last hour or so. I had a fanta and a coke, took a sweet pastry right there and some raisin buns to go. Climbing out of the valley I crossed the 100m mark. This was the first time I did 100m and I was very happy with my 28:38, given all the climbs in it. However, by now I was in survival only mode. Lots of walking followed. It was not as hot today, which was a blessing (or perhaps because I was more in forests), but the climbs and downhills made up for it. When I arrived in Friedland I was gone. I was hallucinating little things I thought I saw from the corner of my eyes. I did that often the night before, but now it was daylight and it happened every few minutes. Rocks, roots and other stuff turned into everything … turtles, bunnies, trash cans, accordions, … you name it, I saw it. It did not help that I then had to navigate a watery ravine followed by some tough navigation choices (I “ran” the wrong way again and used my phone to determine the correct way, since my watch was not clear). Another very steep climb (stacked with 2 more, if I remember correctly) and then a brutal descent, before finally closing in on Koblenz. I ran through the beautiful forest close to the city and made it to the river again. I was looking forward to a Pizza, but the Pizza place I wanted to go to was closed. So Lidl was the next option. I found it, refilled and moved on. I had the hope of being at the hotel early and fresh enough to continue on next day’s stage already and come back by taxi. However, the climb out of Koblenz to the castle was brutal. I was stumbling up the stairs and the pathways. My watch was fine with my speed, but it felt slow. The next couple of kilometers made me re-evaluate my goals. I settled for finishing at the hotel and made my way there. The last 10k mostly over open fields. I arrived at 19:46, checked in and went to my room, where I found the package I sent myself a week earlier. I recharged what I could and tried to take a shower. However, the water was cold and I simply could not. So I decided to sleep with two blankets that night to keep the muscles warm. I spent 30 minutes cleaning my socks and shoes off all the grains and seeds that were deeply engrained in there. I popped a lot of blisters, took care of vitamins and did what I could. Next, I recorded a race report to help me remember, before falling unconscious.
I woke up at 05:15 on my own accord. It took ages to get up proper and pack my bag. I took it slow and was ready at 06:30 with everything so I could have a quick breakfast and head out. However, it turns out Saturdays breakfast starts at 08:00 … so I left grumpy and without food. My bars and gels had to last, but I had to eat. It went through fields before going back to forests. Up and down and up, as usual. Making it to Sayn in good time and better spirits again, since I was running quicker than planned and relatively well, I promptly got lost due to a lack of signs. I followed the watch into the park and out again, where I found a sign. From there, it went through forests for quite some time to Rengsdorf. I arrived 20 minutes slower than planned, but still way ahead of schedule, since I left earlier than the budgeted 08:00. The supermarket I chose was quite off route, plus I had already 3k more on my watch than budgeted for. This put me down quite a bit, as did the lack of nutrition. Also, it was heating up again and I had dropped my GoPro and now it was refusing to work. So I was behind schedule but on plan. Anyways, I had good food and headed off again. It took an hour or so, but eventually also the GoPro resumed working, the stomach settled and energy returned. It was promptly sapped by the many open fields I had to traverse with the increasing temperatures. At around 40k I found a water park that sold ice cold apple juice. Heaven! The owner, when hearing what I was doing, even offered me a small flashlight 😊
I skipped my planned stop in Feldkirchen just a few kms later and then ended up on terraces and wine area, interspersed with just a few small forests here and there. I suffered heavily in the heat. I started hallucinating again and mostly had to walk. I made OK time, but it was hard work. When I finally made it to Bad Hoenningen I was desperate for food and cold drinks. I found both with a kitchen check that was willing to take up the challenge to cook the quickest cheese pasta ever, got filled up with coke and apple juice and headed back up the mountain on the other side of the valley. The full stomach slowed me down quite a bit, but luckily it was a relatively flat stage to Linz. I came past a football pitch, where teenagers were having a big party and camping for the weekend and after some more down and up stood atop Linz, seeing the sun approach the horizon. Standing there I knew I could follow my secret plan and run through the night again. Shortly after I made it to the market square in time to order a Pizza and two coke. I barely finished drinking before I was handed the Pizza and left. Walking and eating a (not really good) Pizza was not the best, but I managed a few kms before I had to sit down and readjust my stuff. I needed to prepare for the night, as it was getting dark. So I started the night, went around the Erpeler Plateau (which was the first time the Rheinsteig was crossing itself) and made the long run/walk through mostly forest above Bad Honnef. That night was horrible. Pure zombie mode, many times sleep walking, steered by my subconscious. I did not pay attention where I was going, but hoped that something guided me … and it did. I forced and willed my body onwards and then switched off and just let the body go … it was a weird night. I passed a big party in a house in the forest (I confirmed today that this party location exists), but I am also sure many animals and shapes I saw were not real. Only when I made it down to the asphalt of Bad Honnef itself, shortly before ascending to the Drachenfels, did I slowly wake up again. The signage had been bad so far all around the area of Bad Honnef. I cannot for sure say that it was me who missed all of them or they really were so bad, but it was really demotivating. Now, with the climb to the Drachenfels, again I got turned around here and there, but I finally stood on top of this iconic location shortly to 05:00 and was 100% sure I would make it to the end. The spirits returned. I realized that I stood a chance to make it in under 75h, but had lost the 3 day battle. So I was unsure what to do. I also could not eat bars anymore, so I switched to gels only … which my body was not too happy with. This was the first time my stomach started to complain during the whole trip. Anyways, I reduced the intake (every 10k iso every 5k) and soldiered on. I still had to do a few nasty climbs, but I knew the end was near. Leaving the last climb above Bad Honnef I saw the first sign towards Bonn. I was getting closer. I started to smell the barn and increased the pace. I started running more and found myself racing up to the Petersberg, down again and over in the direction of Oberkassel. This panoramic route I was running much more than I had thought possible. And, in true Rheinsteig fashion, shortly before the final turn down to get to the river, it turned right up a hill to a little pavilion, which had no function, no view, but at least a few meters of elevation. Anyways, also this passed and I made it down back into civilization. Between me and the river there were construction works with some detour, but even that did not slow me much. I had a chance of sub 74h, so I pushed hard … going to the river and following it. Waiting to see that final bridge. I ran a lot of that, came to the bridge, over and back the other side until I turned right and made it to the terminus of the Rheinsteig on the market square in Bonn. I did not feel really that relieved or ecstatic. I knew when I started at the hotel I would make it to the end … and if I make it to the end I have the record. I did not break the 3 days, which I dreamed of … but I am happy with the time of 73h32m … taking a big chunk off the current record.
After making more videos, I limped back to the metro station and left.