Munich to Venice - the 'Dream Way' - a Review

Known as the Traumpfad (Dream Way), the Munich to Venice trek enjoys a huge reputation  in Germany.  Does it deserve it? Having done it and despite walking 550 km and climbing 22,000m, during the worst Alpine summer in living memory, I can emphatically say that it does. I've crossed the Alps on foot many other times but this was the best.
The start
As a route it succeeds at many different levels. Great scenery is almost a given in the Alps but on the Dream Way it is exceptional, day after day. Climbing over the Karwendel, Tuxer and Zillertal Alps and passing through the Dolomites means you walk through the most spectacular mountain landscapes in Europe.  There is some flat walking at each end but, with Venice as the destination, who cares?
The Marmolada, queen of the Dolomites
What surprised me was just how 'exciting' the trail is.  I  class myself as a walker rather than a climber and there are passes and peaks that present a true challenge. If you have a head for heights (essential) and are up for a bit of adventure (although options are always available), there are stretches that will stretch and satisfy even the fittest and most experienced walker. 
Descending from the Schlauchkarsattel

Descending from the Friesenbergscharte
The route is also well resourced.  Accommodation is plentiful and it's possible to put together a range of different itineraries to match the amount of time you have and your walking speed. We planned on the basis of the 28 day itinerary followed by those using the German trail guides but once we got going we found the time allowed almost too generous. The walking is challenging but isn't necessarily tough.
Manfred and Petra (and another one!)
Erik & Jörg (and one other!)
Having met people doing the Munich-Venice walk on previous Alpine treks I wasn't expecting to be alone, but I was still surprised by how many people were doing the route. Some of the huttes / rifugios (mountain accommodation) were full of Munich-Venice walkers and, given the number of stages, there must be many scores if not hundreds hiking the route at any one time. Most of the walkers were German and very friendly. They nearly all spoke English and were always willing to help and have a conversation.  People were on similar schedules and although some got left behind and new people joined, a  small 'group' formed that met most nights from the first hut all the way to the end. Compared to other long distance hikes I've done it was a very sociable trip.
Crossing the Sella
The route is 'informal' and has not been put together by either tourist bodies or walking and climbing associations. It is the work of one individual - Ludwig Grassler, an Alpinist who planned and walked it 40 years ago. It has evolved since then and continues to develop and include additional variants to get around obstacles or take advantage of new paths.  Rather than follow a set trail meter by meter, the aim is to cross the Alps and get from Munich to Venice.

The Dream Way is a great walk an epic modern day adventure and well deserves its reputation in Germany (similar to something like the coast-to-coast in the UK). Although best walked all in one go (allow 30 days including contingency and rest days) many people break it down into stages. You can also reduce the time needed by skipping the flat bits at the beginning and end (taking a bus or train here reduces the schedule by 6 days) and/ or making use of chair lifts. There are lots of options.

If you love great scenery, have a reasonable level of fitness (day walks up to 8hrs), and ideally have a head for heights (although the 'exciting' bits can be avoided) then you should definitely think about doing it. There are however a few things you need to think about before planning a trip.

Firstly, unless you're super experienced, the alpine walking season is short and the mountain huts, essential for this trip, are only open from late June until the third week or so of September. Depending on how much snow has fallen in the previous winter, some of the passes will have snow on them well into July.
The Schlüterhütte
Secondly to walk the whole route you will have to stay in mountain huts. These huts, equivalent to youth hostels and usually run by the German, Austrian or Italian Alpine clubs, are improving all the time but are not to everyone's taste. They are invariably located in amazing locations, always high up and sometimes right on top of mountains.  They are very sociable with walkers enjoying a drink at the end of the day. They can however be crowded, particularly on a route like this, and a crowded dormitory isn't to everyone's taste. If you want a smaller room, usually with 4 to 6 beds, you need to book ahead.
The end

Thirdly you are walking in the Alps, high in the mountains and can't expect good weather all the time.  There is a world of difference between walking on a sunny day and walking in the cloud and the rain. Essentially it's safe if you stick to the paths, paths which have been designed with enormous care. But even with excellent way marking it's easy to lose the paths in poor visibility.

Over the next few months I'll be working on the first English language guide (for Cicerone) on the Dream Way and next summer I'll re-walk the stretches where I need additional information. I'll be put ting more information on the blog and update entries where needed.  If you want any more information or want to get involved in any way (good quality photographs are particularly welcome), then please get in touch.  In the meantime,  please have a look at my blog entries for what was a thoroughly enjoyable 2014 aventure.

Day 1 Munich to Venice Wolfratshausen
Day 2 Munich to Venice - Bad Tolz
Day 3 Tutzinger Hutte
Day 4 Munich to Venice Hinterriss
Day 5 Munich to Venice - Karwendelhaus
Day 6 Munich to Venice Hallerangerhaus
Day 7 Munich to Venice - Wattens
Day 8 Munich to Venice - Lizumer Hutte
Day 9 Munich to Venice - Tuxer Joch Haus
Day 10 Munich to Venice - Pfitserjoch 
Day 11 - Munich to Venice - Pfunders
Day 12 Munich to Venice - Kreuzwiesen Alm
Day 13 Munich to Venice  - Würzjoch
Day 14 Munich to Venice - Passo Gardena
Day 15 Munich to Venice - Passo Pordoi
Day 16 Munich to Venice - Alleghe
Days 17 - 18 Munich to Venice - Passo Duran
Days 19 - 20 Munich to Venice - Belluno
Days 21-22 Munich to Venice - Tarzo
Day 23 Munich to Venice - Ponte Della Priula
Days 24-25 Munich to Venice  - Jesolo
Day 26 Munich to Venice - Venice

55 comments:

  1. Hi John!
    I hiked the GR5 at roughly the same time that you hiked this trail. I loved the GR5, especially since I was able to sleep in my tent most nights. From what you saw during your Munich-Venice hike this year, how plausible do you think it would it be to sleep in a tent along the way rather than using the huts? I understand that wild camping is frowned upon in those parts. Nevertheless, did you perhaps meet any people carrying tents and using them regularly along the trail? In the French alps, for example, one was often allowed to pitch one's tent next to a hut/refuge. Did you witness anything similar to this on the Munich-Venice trail? Thanks in advance!

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    1. Hi Helja

      I'm afraid I didn't see anyone camping near the huts, on the route itself. I met some people wild camping on the 4th day, (see blog) but no one else. Sorry I can't help more.

      Best wishes

      John

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    2. Hi Heljä, Hi John,
      Many thanks to John for releasing this amazing guide so full of inforlation tips and very clear.
      I plan on starting this way end august. Still I was wondering if things had changed in beteen and if it wouldn't be possible at all to pitch a tent.
      Also to set my budget, would you please tell me how much is approximately the cost of accomodation/dinner at huts?
      Thank you for your help
      Majdah

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    3. Hi Majdah

      I don't think things will have changed. I have never seen tents pitched near the huts and it's not encouraged in Germany or Austria. The cheapest option in the hut is the half board option, sleeping in the lager which I think will cost about 30 euros a night.

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  2. If you need help writing, my husband and I will be doing this hike summer 2015 and not only have I lived in Munich for two years, but my husband is a local and would love to assist in translation if needed. I myself am a Marketer and would love to help with anything you may need, graphics, information, etc. Let me know if we can be of service!

    Sincerely,
    Niccolette.matsche@hotmail.de

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  3. Hello Mr. Hayes, just wanted to know where I can buy you hiking guide "The Trekking Munich to Venice: The Traumpfad - 'Dreamway', a Classic Trek Across the Eastern Alps"?
    Thanks for a short info and best from Cologne,
    S. Dammjakob

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    1. Hi there, thanks for your interest, the guide is currently in production and should be out in September.

      Best wishes

      John Hayes

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. john i am planning to do the 'dream' in the spring of 2017 - can you suggest times most appropriate - i understand you are not a meteorologist - just better times that may avoid great drops in temps and snow etc - with great appreciation - plan on soloing from usa - so, timing as to meet others would be awesome - best of luck for you guidebook - is it available yet? debra

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    1. Hi Debra

      Nice to hear from you.

      Yes I'm still doing the Munich Venice guidebook, it's with the publishers now (Cicerone) and should be on Amazon by November.

      You can only really walk the route from the 2nd week of July until the 3rd week of September. There is snow on the passes until June and serious snow starts to arrive in October.

      It's a brilliant walk, very friendly, and walking alone as a woman will not be a problem.

      Best of luck

      John

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  5. Hi John,
    Am planning to do the trek 2016 September 1 - 30th or thereabouts depending on weather etc.
    Would be happy to pay big bucks and help promote for an early copy of the book! Possible? THANKS! I'm beyond excited to do this trip much in part to your excellent detailed notes here. Jeanne from San Francisco

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    1. Actual publication is not until November I'm afraid but send you email address to me at amithefirst@gmail.com and I'll see what I can do.

      John

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  6. Will the book be available in the US Amazon store? (I see that it can be pre-ordered on the UK store but not the US store) Thank you Kris

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    1. Thanks for your interest, it's something I'll need to check with my publisher I'm afraid and then let you know

      John Hayes

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    2. Hi Kris

      Cicerone tell me

      It will be available in the US but due to shipping issues it will not be available from US warehouses until next March. You will still be able to order it before then but the delivery date will reflect shipping from the UK. In the early days of publication it is quicker to order from us directly, even though there will still be a three-four week shipping time.

      Hope that helps

      John

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  7. Hi John,

    Do many walkers complete this route from Venice to Munich?

    Regards,

    Simon

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    1. Hi Simon

      No Simon I don't think they do. Because most of the Walkers are German they follow the German itinerary which starts in Munich.

      John

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  8. This hiking trail looks amazing! We are four girls from the netherlands and we would like to go hiking for a week. Could you recommend a section of this hiking trail that we could do? Also we would like to avoid the most dangerous parts...

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    1. Clara

      It is amazing and I sure you'll enjoy it.

      Two options - you can start at Munich walk for a week by which time you'll get to the Inn Valley. You can then come back next year and do another week. I think about a third of all the walkers are doing it like this, bit by bit all the way to Venice.

      Secondly, if you don't think you'll come back than go from Pfunders to Alleghe and walk through the Dolomites the world's most beautiful mountains.

      Providing the weather is OK it's not dangerous but you do need a head for hieghts. Have a great trip and send me some pictures!

      John

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    2. Hi Clara

      Best to book ahead for the huts in August, particularly the huts in the Dolomites, but otherwise it's OK.

      John

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  9. Hi John,

    Wondering if you could give me some advice. Am currently walking from Uk to Istanbul and would love to cross alps along the Dream Way. However I will be in Munich beginning of June so am aware some passes will still have snow. Would it be possible to find alternative routes in these sections if they are impassable (at least to me) or will thst be tricky? Also with a 20kg pack some of the photos with chains etc look a bit dodgy. Are there places where balance is at a premium?


    Thanks,

    Jan

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    1. Hi Jan

      I afraid I can't help on this one. The Munich Venice route opens up when the mountain huts open. In the mountains it's a hut to hut walk. The huts don't open until enough 'ordinary' walkers start walking it and they don't arrive in numbers until the passes open. A bit circular I'm afraid but that's how it works.

      Best wishes, sounds like a brilliant trip.

      John

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  10. Hi John,

    Considering the season for this route is so short, can you comment on how busy it gets in July? I understand bookings should be made at the huts but I am overall wondering about the congestion on the trails themselves.

    Thanks!
    Melissa

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    1. Hi Melissa

      Nice to hear from you.

      The trails will not be congested. For me busy means that you will probably see someone hundreds of metres ahead or behind. When I walk in the Spain I often don't see anyone for days at a time. By the way if you're on your own you would probably get away with not booking in July, certainly outside the Dolomites. Have a great trip.

      John

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  11. Hi John,

    Your book mentions contacting the Alpine Club website (www.alpine-club.org.uk) in regard to getting the latest advice on booking huts. I have looked at the website but couldn't find anything relating this issue. Can you be more specific? I am starting the walk in a week.

    Regards

    Rob

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    1. Hi Rob

      Things have moved forward on the booking front but the connection hasn't yet been made to the UK website. So instead go to the German website,https://www.alpenverein.de/ and follow the links to the Hutten section. From there you will be able to find the link to an app which you can download. This gives you latest contact details for the huts and with some of the huts you can definitely use the app to book a place. This is all new. When I did the walk I had to contact the hut in advance and book.

      A couple of things - if you're happy to sleep in the dorm (the lager) you might be better off booking just one or two nights in advance, particularly if it's just one or two of you.

      Secondly, even a hut is full (I've only had this happen a couple of times) it's usually possible to mix the schedule a little bit, walk a bit further or not so far, and miss the busiest nuts.

      Hope that helps and have a great trip.

      John

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  12. Hi John,

    Good day sir! Jeff Freiheit from Brandon, Manitoba, Canada contacting you today! There's a great chance this won't be the only time I contact you in the foreseeable future. So to make you laugh, I have one initial question: Given I'm a fast walker and in quite good shape, is it possible to do this in 24 days? There are reasons for this 'cut down,' but I'll save those for another day. Much obliged! Jeff

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    1. Hi Jeff

      You can definitely do it in less than the 30 days I talked about in the guide and providing the weather is good 28 days is easy. Beyond that it's as much a question of how long you want to walk in a day as to how fast a walker you are. Personally if I only had 24 days I would chop off the walk across the Venetian plain rather than rush what is a lovely walk. Also remember that you'll be lucky to get perfect weather all the way through and bad weather could slow you down.

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  13. Hi John,
    I'm planning to do the hike in July-August this summer and are wondering about the accommodation. As I'm hiking solo and used to the rustic mountain hut conditions, do you think I should book accommodation in advance? Or could I get away with just showing up or calling a day advance or something? My worst nightmare is places being packed and then at the end of the day having to walk for hours to get a bed, but booking for 4 weeks is also a pain...

    Many thanks and greetings from Finland!

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    1. Hi there, on your own you should be OK. The biggest pressure is the first two or three days in the Dolomites. Ring ahead, check, if they say they are full plan to go to the next hut but turn up anyway, you should get in.

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    2. Hi Eva

      You should be Ok on your own. The busiest huts are the ones in the Dolomites (although it could also be busy at the weekends if the weather is good). Ring ahead on the day, if they say they full plan an alternative (there are lots in the Dolomites and you will be flying by then) but turn up anyway. Chances are they will squeeze you in.

      Have a great trip

      John

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    3. Hi John,

      Many thanks for your reply! I'll do that!

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    4. Hi again John,

      My hike is getting closer so I was hoping you could help me with a couple more questions:
      How are the laundry facilities on the trail? I'm imagining at least some of the huts have washing machines, but am I mistaken?

      Also, have you (or have you heard of anyone else who might) encountered bedbugs on the trail? I realize this is probably a neurotic question, but the bugs are such a pain...

      Thanks again,
      Eva

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    5. Hi Eva

      Nice to hear from you again.

      Interesting questions. I'm sure some of them do have washing machines but I've never noticed guests using them. What I do, and most people do I think, is wash their essentials in the sink (travel wash is a good item to take) and dry them in the drying room or outside.

      The huts are very clean and I've never suffered from or heard of anyone suffering from bed bugs. If they were there they would definitely go for me, I get bitten by everything.

      Have a great trip and don't forget to send me some pictures.

      John

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  14. Hi there,

    Im planing to start the way In july 13/14th.

    It would be lovley to start it with a company.

    If so,
    please contact.

    adimarks@gmail.com

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    1. Munich to Venice is a very sociable walk. Chances are you'll pal up with someone once you get into the mountains. I certainly did on my last trip and it was great fun.

      Have a good trip

      John

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  15. Hello John,
    Firstly, many thanks for putting together the fantastic Cicerone guide. I cannot wait to complete the route (which is planned for July this year!).
    A quick question from one of my companions: would you advise packing a sleeping mat or is a bed/floor mattress always guaranteed in huts?
    Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer on this
    Best Wishes
    Karolina

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    1. Hi Karolina

      Great to hear from you and thanks for your kind comments about the guide. You don't need a mat but you will need a sheet sleeping bag. Bedding is provided but not sheets. You can buy these in UK, get silk ones if you're a bit flash, or make them yourself. I think they are called Hütte Sacs in German

      Hope you have a great time and send me some pics

      John

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    2. Hi John,
      I'm only writing to say THANK YOU FOR THE GUIDE! I completed the trek from Wolfratshausen to Venice and have absolutely loved it! I would have never been brave enough to attempt it without your guide so I really can't thank you enough. It was a remarkable and an unforgettable experience and made me want to walk (and do nothing else!) forever. The trek kick-started my much needed career break and I can't think of anything better I could have done to clear my head and leave the mental baggage behind.
      With best wishes
      Karolina
      PS. I have emailed updates@cicerone.co.uk to let them know the bridge leading into and out of Ponte della Priula is undergoing major constructions works and it's virtually impossible to cross it without taking huge risks. The only way to cross it is to take a cab or hitch a ride (which is what I did).

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    3. Hi Karolina

      Congratulations on getting to the end of the walk. Thank you so much for your kind comments, it's always great to hear from people who have enjoyed the walk and found the the guide useful. If you managed the MV there are lots of other challenges to have a go at. The Karnischer Hohenweg is another one, not so long, that is getting great feedback.

      If you have any MV pictures I would love to see them

      John

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    4. I'd be happy to send you some pictures. How/where would you like them sent?

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    5. Hi Karolina

      If you have a Google account, you can set up an album in Google Pics and then share that album with me. I'd like to do an update blog - all the news from this year - so some original photographs would be great. You could do the same sort of thing with DropBox.

      Best wishes

      John

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    6. Hi John, for the life of me I cannot figure out where to find your email address so here's a link to a google pics album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/YtkQQXHD64wqtjqE7
      Hope you like the photos!
      Karolina

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    7. Oh, and I've added the The Karnischer Hohenweg to my wish list! thank you for the recommendation

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  16. Good morning John,

    What is the earliest possible date to start walking in July and is it possible to get discounts on the huts if you are an alpine club member?

    Thanks,
    Tamsin

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    1. Hi Tamsin

      The constraint is the snow on the passes. The first big pass you have to cross is in the Karwendel which I think is about 6 days from Munich. It varies from year to year but you should be able to cross this by the 2nd week in July, but they will advise you at the Karwendelhaus, which is where you stay before going over. If they advise against you can go round. Alpine Club membership gives you discount on accommodation, not food, in Germany, Austria and Italy.

      Have a great time and send me some pictures.

      John

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  17. Hi John!

    Thanks for this wonderful blog and answering to the questions, which I find very useful when planning my trip.

    I will start on 15th of August. I am pondering about the packing; are the zero drop, light and comfy Altra shoes enough - or should I buy proper boots? And about clothes - how cold it might get? Sheets or sleeping bag...?

    Thanks a lot again - and greetings from Finland!

    Minna

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    1. Hi Minna

      Most people on the route wear boots but personally I prefer running shoes in the summer (I wear Inov8s similar I think to Altas) much lighter and better in the heat. You'll need a sheet sleeping bag in the huts but they provide a blanket. I would take a mid-weight fleece or a even a thin down jacket. You can get unseasonal snow even in August and early morning you might want to wear this under a waterproof.

      Have a great trip and send me some pictures.

      John

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  18. Thanks a lot John! I´ll send some pics to Google+, sure!

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  19. Hi John! Jeff Freiheit from Canada contacting you again. I'm super, SUPER stoked about starting the journey on July 31st .... your book is awesome - my mom is still shocked and a little scared.
    I've actually downloaded all of your routes on the ViewRanger app. Obviously not being there yet, I can't actually "start them." However, I created my own route near where I live to see how it works - so now I got one final question for you.
    When I start the day 1 route on the viewranger app from the Marienplatz - and like my own route yesterday - is it literally me (being the red circle) just following the blue line all the way to Wolfratshausen? And thus - the same for every day?
    I understand some people might look at this as "taking the thrill" out of it - and I won't use it every day - but just to be sure.
    So is it that simple? Again, Downloaded the free "map and route" versions for all of the days.
    Thanks again for always replying John.
    Many thanks
    Jeff
    PS: your others routes on ViewRanger have definitely caught my eye for the future!

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    1. Hi Jeff

      To be honest Jeff I don't use it that way. What I do is display the route against the map and then press the + button and then take the first option which is record a track. You then get two lines on the map - the original route and the track your creating as you walk along. If you're on the right route the track will be superimposed on the route, if you're missing the route, the track will be to the left of right of it. I work this way because I like to generate my own metrics for the day.

      Once you get into the mountains the signs are very straightforward and you'll only be using the GPS occasionally anyway.

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    2. Hi John, The man you have communicated with above (Jeff) has gone missing one his route. He has not been heard from or found since Aug 2. If you might have any good search leads or way to spread this news within that community it would be very helpful. His wife Selene Anne (on FB) has been keeping everyone updated and has a go fund me for search and rescue. Our fingers are crossed. Does this sound normal to have potentially have something go terribly wrong day 3? I don't know the terrain..but from what I'm seeing and reading it doesn't seem that would be the cause. He's @freiheit3434 on instagram, and his wife is also now on his. They are all in Germany now working with the authorities . Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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    3. Hi Bianca

      I've been in touch with Selene and her friends and I'm trying to provide all the help and support I can. It's a very worrying situation for all concerned.

      It's definitely not a normal thing for things to go wrong on the Munich to Venice walk, it's very popular and hundreds of people successfully make the trip every year.

      Providing fit and confident walkers stick to the path, don't try to do too much, and take sensible precautions with the weather they should be fine. You are walking through mountainous countryside however and if for whatever reason you miss the path than it can be dangerous.

      Like everyone else I'm waiting for some good news.

      John

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    4. Just wanted to comment on the tragic loss of Canada teacher and hiker Jeff Freiheit, who fell to his death while hiking from Munich to Venice on Der Traumpfad (The Dream Way). Hiking / trekking and climbing are special activities for so many but can be dangerous at the same time. Condolences to Jeff's family.

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