Experienced local hikers prepare to sail around the Mont Blanc – Monterey Herald

Their first date was for a walk. Attorney Frank Hesby was being treated by physical therapist Amy Altshuler when he noticed, in addition to her expertise, that she had an innate ability to recognize her patients’ level of tolerance and how to divert them from their discomfort. Also aware of her outdoor sports energy, he realized that if he had any chance of spending more time with her, he would have to invite her for a walk.

“Amy is in very good shape, and I was a skinny little lawyer,” Hesby said. “I was afraid she’d kick my ass in that mountain, so I asked her her questions all the way through, so she was talking, and I could keep up.”

She says he is just humble. In fact, she says, she could never outgrow this “mountain goat.”

Amy Alchuler and Frank Hesby. (photo courtesy)

Hesby suggested to Altshuler, atop Garland Ranch, a hike, after they paused on a bench they had passed several times but never ceased to enjoy.

“When I saw Frank standing at the bench, I thought, ‘We’ll never stop,'” she said. Either he’s about to die, or he’s giving me a ring.”

Fortunately, he had the ring.

Ten years and exponentially more hikes after that, the pair are now preparing to raise their “bucket list,” as they train to sail around Mont Blanc, which will take them to France, Italy and Switzerland. They will travel more than 120 miles in two weeks, climbing a total of 30,000 feet. This trek replaces their best laid plan to hike Mount Annapurna in Nepal, which has been canceled by COVID. Annapurna, located in north-central Nepal, at 26,545 feet above sea level, is the tenth highest mountain in the world, notorious for its difficult and dangerous ascent.

Altshuler admits: “I was worried about the challenge, but we were also disappointed that we didn’t try it. A few years ago, we took a one-year vacation and made our way across Europe. We absolutely loved hiking the Alps, so after we read about” Tour du Mont Blanc, ‘We knew we had to do it.’

When Altshuler read about hikers coming into a mountain town, strapping a wheel of cheese to their backs and continuing on, I thought, “I’m all in.”

“They also described the tertiflet, a creamy baked casserole of potatoes, cream, cheese, bacon and onions, served with fresh bread, as a true French mountain food. They featured pictures of cows with bells and charming neck decoration and you just know they supply all that wonderful cheese with milk,” she said. I thought, ‘We’re going to eat great food on this trip.

Each day hikers would end their arduous journey by arriving at a small country inn, where they would be provided their evening meal and a place to sleep–sometimes in a room in the inn, at other times, inside a hut. In the morning they will have a hearty country breakfast, as well as food to pack for their lunch, which they will most likely enjoy on an alpine meadow.

“This is the kind of hiking we love so much,” Altshuler said. “We meet people from all over the world, strangers to us so we share a common meal and talk about how we all just climbed up the same mountain to get there. Mostly in their forties, fifties and sixties, everyone is healthy and active and has come all the way to do this thing. Brilliant and crazy.”

Heading there

Although the “Tour du Mont Blanc” won’t take place until the first two weeks of August, for Amy Altshuler and Frank Hesby, both 61, the training, positioned atop active outdoor lifestyles, has already begun. .

Three or four days a week, Altshuler, a former triathlete, slips into the pool at Carmel Valley Athletic Club for a rigorous workout. She also lifts weights at the club or at home, where she also meditates and focuses on breathing with a “lung expansion” device. Used by Navy SEALS, it is designed to improve endurance by improving respiratory and lung function.

Hespe climbs onto the treadmill every morning, puts it on the highest incline, and walks it as fast as he can. In the evening, the couple practices yoga together to stay mobile and flexible and work on balance and agility. On busy days, when they are pressed for time, they simply head outside for a long distance.

On weekends, the couple would pack an increasing number of 3-pound sandbags into their daily packs, before heading off on a challenging local excursion.

“All we do is hiking training in Mont Blanc,” Altshuler said. “If we want to build strength, we rise with the load. Hiking is about cardio capacity. But you have to have a lot of strength to control your descent. Mostly, our goal is to hike and hike vigorously!”

The couple also invest in mental training for focus, endurance, logistics, and the ability to anticipate and deal with whatever lies ahead.

“It’s a process that looks at all the different contingencies that might happen as we’re on the road, both good and bad,” Altshuler said. “Frank is our big planner, so he often thinks several steps ahead about what may or may not happen during the day or the entire trip. I’m the head of gear, so I usually work through my kinks when it comes to shoes, clothes, bags, and a first aid kit.”

Local hikers Amy Altshuler and Frank Hesby found romance on their hiking trails.  (photo courtesy)
Local hikers Amy Altshuler and Frank Hesby found romance on their hiking trails. (photo courtesy)

The Altshuler doesn’t like much exposure in the terrain, such as when the trail is cut 6 inches into an open or snow-covered hill slope. Hesby is fine, fearless, she says. Realizing her discomfort, he walked in front, blocking her view of what might be frightening. Otherwise, it progresses, just to make sure it’s safe.

She said, “I actually don’t like heights, but I do deal with them a lot, so I just have to go hard.”

“You are brave and brave,” said her husband.

“Tell me that every time.”

“And every time, we went up the mountain and went down.”

Their personalities seem to compliment each other while walking, too. Hesby sees the world from a 30,000-foot level, Altshuler says, while having a fine vision marked by zeroes in fine detail. This means that he experiences the journey from his vast indoor map, while you remember where the little blue flowers are.

“Traveling well together is a great skill set,” Hesby said. “We’re doing amazingly well, perhaps because only one of us is allowed to melt at a time.”

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