Corinne Austin | Personal Training

Trekking the Alps – Corinne’s Story

Wow, just wow.  When dreams become reality.  Oh my.  


I’m not sure there are words that will do justice to what I experienced in the Alps, but I will try.


The promotional poster mesmerised me with lovely pictures of foreign mountainous landscapes.  The promotional booklet captivated me with previously intangible possibilities.  Could it be real?  Could it eventuate?  Could it actually happen?  Somebody pinch me.



Trekking the Alps was completely alien to me 18 months ago.  I’ll even be so brave as to tell you that as far as I knew the Alps were in the South Island of NZ!  I didn’t know that in a magical far-away land there lay a landscape so mysterious, so mystical, and so memorable that it would provide me so graciously with one of my life’s most unforgettable experiences.  An experience so grand that, even after being immersed inside it for ten days, I still can’t for the life of me locate the words or language that’d effectively articulate the substantial effect this life-changing adventure had on me and my trekking counterparts.  It was wow, just wow.



This story begins over a year ago when a fellow by the (nick) name Mavis approached me to see if my company – Fit Fix – would collaborate with his adventure travel company – Dream It – to develop, oversee, and undertake amazing overseas adventure experiences with enthusiastic groups of thrill-seeking clients.  It was an idea sold at the very first meeting – because what an absolute honour that would be!  Admittedly, at first, I was a little apprehensive – for who was I to be involved with something that was well beyond my wildest dreams?  Who was I be invited to participate in a group voyage that would take me beyond my own kiwi shores?  Who was I to be in that kind of an incredibly privileged position?


Yep.  I pinched myself.  This was real.


And so the journey began, recruiting 20 diverse individuals who, as well as us, were a little unsure exactly what they were signing up for – let alone what was in store for us!  It was a real mixed bunch – some married, some single, some males, but mostly females, some thirty-somethings, and a handful of sixty-somethings, some mothers, some daughters, some fit bunnies, some normal everyday people.

What we didn’t know was that, despite them being so radically different in personality and profile, they were to become one of the most significant groups we’d possibly ever have the honour of working with.  Diverse they may have been, but unified we were all about to become.



Saturday August 12th – departure day.  There was much hustle and bustle as we paraded around Auckland airport in our affiliated team wear.  A champagne or three, some pre-departure treats, and oodles of excitable conversation as strangers quickly became acquainted.  And then all of a sudden we were on the plane bound for Geneva Switzerland, making the whopping long haul trek to the other side of the world in just 27 hours.



We were welcomed with sunshine as we touched down into Geneva – a land which we could have sworn was the spitting image of New Zealand.  As it were to be, that sunshine that graced us on our very first day was not to leave our side for the remainder of our time in the Alps – a truly incredible feat in it’s own right!  We had half an afternoon to settle into our first accommodation, a pleasant hotel nestled into the beautiful valley of Chamonix in France, and which had the magnificent Mont Blanc honouring us with her presence, protecting us with her might.


At dinner that same night we were introduced to two pretty amazing people who couldn’t have possibly been better fit to our group.  Alex and Bruno were to be our guides for the Tour du Mont Blanc – our circumnavigation around the Swiss, French and Italian Alps.  They would be by our side for the entire 10 days, guiding us, supporting us, educating us, and celebrating with us.  Between them they had experienced this adventure multiple times – but I think their time with us may possibly have been unlike any other.



The following day was a wee introduction to the landscape, the terrain, and enabled us to understand and grasp the various features and factors we’d face in the coming days.  We left the hotel early as a group, our guides leading us, with our backpacks full of the supplies we’d carry daily for the duration of the trek – allowing our bodies to adjust to their new physical obligations.


OMG.  Boy did that shock a few of us into the reality of what maybe lay before us!  This was a mere five hour adventure of ups and downs, unstable surfaces, altitudinal considerations, and jaw-dropping scenery.  This little ‘snack’ of adventure enabled us to become familiarised with the many things we could expect over the coming days, and how many extra things we should perhaps prepare for.  And we learnt very quickly that this entire experience was going to deliver us with so much more than any of us had perhaps anticipated – in every way possible.


The first official day of trekking dawned clear and crisp.  There was a peculiar quiet in the breakfast room as we all contemplated the substantial task in front of us – most of which was still just a self-created interpretation in our heads, for we actually had no clear concept of the adventure we were about to embark on.  It was almost quite eery, and perhaps even a little bit tense, as we all dealt with our own varying levels of nerves, anxiety and apprehension.


We were split into two separate groups for both safety and logistics – Alex and I piloting the first group which set off half an hour earlier, with Bruno and Sam chasing up the rear with the second group.  Onto a bus we stepped that delivered us at Les Houches, up a mighty steep cable car to Belle Vue, toilets visited, packs secured onto our backs, trekking poles affirmed at the right length, a quick briefing of what we could expect for the first half of the day, and then we made our first steps into this thrilling yet somewhat mysterious adventure.



Little did we know that it would be ten hours before we arrived at that nights accommodation where we could finally remove our packs, take our shoes off, and find refuge in a three course meal before dropping heavily onto a comfy bed!  Ten hours!  Ten real, exhilarating, demanding, challenging, and momentous hours.  But what a ten hours it was!  We felt as though we’d quite possibly completed the full circumnavigation in one day – and as weary as we were, we were chomping at the bit to know that we still had another 7 or 8 days in front of us that would be as thrilling as day one!



Our feet hurt, our backs ached, our knees niggled, our stomachs panged, and our brains had gone a little bit mushy and even a bit zany.  Physically day one was a real wake-up for most of us.  As prepared as we were, it still came as such a shock to our systems – for sometimes no matter how much you train and prepare, there is still nothing like being in the direct environment itself.  I tell you what though, that physical exhaustion, fatigue and weariness we all felt was quickly absorbed by the utter magnificence of what we saw that day.  The majestical landscapes, the vast countryside, the absolute wholesomeness and refreshingness of untouched nature scenes, and just the pure and all-encompassing mesmerisation that we all experienced as a result of being this small, insignificant yet equally inquisitive group of human beings immersed amongst it all.  Like I said, I can’t possibly do justice to the feeling and emotion of being encapsulated in that territory for eight days.  It was pretty darn incredible.


And the following seven days were kind of the same, but different.  Every day was long and testing.  Every day brought new elements and factors to consider.  Every day brought a whole new portfolio of mental photographs of the ever-changing terrain and mountain-scape.  Every day brought new challenges and new discoveries.  Every day meant we had to dig deeper into what we had previously known as our limits or boundaries.  And despite a slight accumulation of physical fatigue with each new the day, we grew stronger psychologically, and we grew stronger collectively.  Every day brought a new level of wow and multiple wow factors.  And those wow factors boosted us exponentially.



And then day three came – and it was a full day booked into a day spa!!  And boy was that a treat!  We were able to immerse ourselves in special treatments like massage or mud facials, tepid pools, and various hydro-sensory experiences – each of them unique and quite fascinating.  We could take our time, lounging in sun recliners, dozing under the sun’s glorious rays, or chilling under a tree with a book or recently acquired mag.  The beautiful old white building that housed the spa was adorned with baskets and baskets of bright pink flowers.  It really was a scene fit for a queen – and some kings too!  And was the perfect opportunity to refuel, replenish, and restore our bodies for the trekking days that still lay before us.


Day four sprung, and back to the trekking it was!  We became accustomed to the special lingo used by the guides to describe what each new day’s trekking would be like.  We quickly learnt that kilometres and distance were completely irrelevant in the environment we were in.  We now understood what to expect the following day by the number of ‘ups’, ‘alongs’, ‘traverses’ and ‘downs’ that were strung together side by side in a sentence.  We knew that when more than three ‘ups’ were teamed together that we were in for a tough climb and another gruelling day.



Regardless of how buggered we were when we collapsed into bed each night, we all still managed to arise with gusto, ooph, and naked enthusiasm for what amazing things we would be privileged to witness and observe that next day.  Talk about emotional energy and unrivalled adrenalin surpassing physical weariness – the power of the human body is nothing short of incredible.  Despite our niggles, strapped joints, and tiring muscles we were able to trooper on day after day – our motivation to continue heightened with each new day as we anticipated the forthcoming intrepidation, despite the time on our feet and the challenging terrain we faced.  A feat truly applaudable.


Our daily trekking allowed us to visit jaw-dropping summits, be immersed in picturesque valleys, stand on snow (yes, on day three I stood on snow – at the very peak of our highest summit ,Col des Fours, 2685m), stay in cheery and cosy mountain huts, and say ‘bonjour’ or ‘bonjourno’ to other fellow trekkers on the same expedition we were.  And I must do a shout out to the amazing young kids we saw daily too, all equipped in the right trekking-wear and all very acclimatised to the mission expected of them.


The end of each day would see us arrive at a striking new city, a quaint wee village, or a remote mountain hut, where we were promptly assigned our rooms, and advised of details for dinner.  We typically had an hour or so to take our packs and shoes off, relieve our feet of their mammoth duties, shower, freshen up, reflect on the magnificence of the day, connect with our families and the world of social media, before hustling (or perhaps it was more like scuffling) down to dinner.  The buzz and hullabaloo at dinner never ceased to amaze me.  We shared our highs and our lows, funny moments and momentous moments, our wisdoms and our learnings.  Three course meals became the norm – and our bodies and stomachs were more than happy to accept this!  And bottles of wine made a welcome appearance each night too – toasting our finishing of yet another arduous day.  There was always the next days briefing to listen in on, and, of course, our ‘dick of the day’ award was announced with much contention and hilarity – the winner having to adorn a beautiful orange road cone hat on their head for the entire next day.  I’d be lying if I said I avoided it.  So would Sam.  So would Mavis – in fact, he won it on the very first day for making the most ridiculous error at breakfast, mistaking the pancake batter for custard and proceeding to add some ‘custard’ to his pancakes!


Speaking of which – our dear Mavis.  What a truly gifted fellow this man is.  The Dream It concept belongs to him, it’s his baby.  From a wee pipedream a few years ago, he has clearly worked his mighty butt off to get it to where it is today.  He’s got an evolving collection of amazing and successful adventure travel voyages to many different regions of the globe.  And the success and magnificence of our Trek the Alps mission is most surely testament to that.  Every detail was considered, every box was ticked, every opportunity was explored.  He lives and breathes this ‘job’ of his – and you can see it in his eyes.  He’s so genuinely keen to help normal, everyday people achieve extraordinary feats, and wants nothing more than for them to dare to try something that may once have been in their wildest dreams.  Throughout our entire trek, he was our tail-end Charlie, chasing up the rear, coaxing, coaching, and conversing with group members, encouraging them every step of the way.  And after the days trekking was over he’d scrutinise over the essential details for the following day, leaving no stone unturned.  He championed this dream, just as he championed our Trek.  And to top it off he’s a pretty great kiwi bloke too!


If you asked me to tell you my best part of the trip I would be hard pressed to isolate just one.  Our entire Trek the Alps adventure was brimming with highlights, overflowing with miraculous achievements of clients who had overcome various levels of adversity, chronic ailments, and sacrifice to be amongst those mountains, and emblazoned with infinite fulfilment.


But I guess the part I’ll never forget, the part which filled me with the most satisfaction and emotion, was the surprise ceremony we conducted at the peak of our final summit on our final day.  Mavis, Sam and I had inconspicuously darted ahead of the rest of the group about twenty minutes before the summit.  We reached our position, and pulled out our ceremony particulars.  With Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ booming on the Megaboom, Sam and I stood waiting for the group to round the final corner – we were as full of nerves and emotion as we were on our wedding days.  And then they came.  Looks of shock and surprise quickly surpassed, and we sprung hugs, handshakes, high fives and threw specially designed medals around each group members necks.


They came.  They climbed.  They conquered.  And now we celebrate.  Each and every one of them was a champion in our eyes.  Each and every one of them made us proud.  Each and every one of them grew exponentially in spirit and in physicality during that experience.  Each and every one of them made my experience in the Alps one that I will hold close to my heart forever more.


Wow.  Just wow.  I’d go back in a heartbeat.


(Check out to find your own adventure travel dream.  One things for sure, you will not forget it.  And we can’t wait for our next one either!).


– Corinne x