In everything described below, we were in regular communication with the participants about their condition, kept a particularly close eye on everyone's health and well-being, and were open at all times within the team to making significant adjustments to the course if the conditions combined with the participants' personal limits would have made this necessary. At the request of one participant, we enabled her to spend the coldest of the nights in a heated room and still take the tour as a whole.
Almost 10 years have passed since the first time people met here in the LWA framework, the first ever Hunsrück-Tour. It has grown into a multiday packrafting course with an expedition feel, has changed, has been and continues to be a source of exciting campfire stories, and has ignited a passion for the outdoors and packrafting in many people. Sven from Anfibio Packrafting once called it, the Hunsrück tour, legendary, and our participants have already described this course in the most colorful colors. However you describe it, it still has the potential to surprise us, as will become apparent.
One evening and one night later, while I put on my cold, stiff neoprene shoes in the morning, I am no longer sure myself whether we are still within the bounds of what such a course is supposed to and is allowed to do.
About the author:
Sebastian, founder and owner of Land Water Adventures, and basically content as long as there is water on the stream, enough chocolate and nice people around him. There is also more about Sebastian here.
A few minutes ago, before opening the vestibule, I shook the snow cover from the inside of the tent. As I look out, I see a black and yellow shadow scurrying by: A participant on the path that everyone has to walk at some point, and who probably didn't even take off her drysuit last night after getting out of the river. And I roll the question of whether we should continue.
But let's start one day before, on the green field.
As always on Thursday at the start of the course and as always in the late morning they come to the meadow on the banks of the Nahe to experience four days together the adventure of self-sufficient packrafting. There are a few familiar faces among them, whom we and they hug each other right away, and there are new faces among them, whom we will once again say goodbye to with melancholy after only four days. And already a few hours later, at the campfire of the first evening, it is in the air for all of us that something extraordinary is waiting for us here.
In any case, the mood is good on the first evening, still at the Campsite Nahemühle, despite coolness, despite rain and despite the announcement of lower temperatures for the next days. So we start on Friday morning regular, with the early transfer, in the middle of the Hunsrück, and there is something like a concentrated anticipation.
Despite all the preparation and experience, a weather forecast remains something abstract, even for me. But at the latest, when in the middle of the most remote part of the Hahnenbach valley the already low temperature drops by another 2 degrees within a short time, and dense snow flurries begin, it is fully there: The reality of what was previously called "winter low" in the newspapers.
But it is only the image of ice-covered tents from the night before, along with the blanket of snow in front of me this morning - under which the boats disappear as white shapes - garnished with personal experiences under such conditions, that makes me, sitting in my vestibule, wonder if we should continue.
Because in such conditions nothing and no one really stays warm and it is a test for the head, even more than for the body, to go on motivated nevertheless. Is each of the people in this group for which we are responsible ready for this?
When I then step out of my tent myself, on this Saturday morning, it surprisingly only takes a few minutes until I feel a clear decision, and only a little longer until I make it. In the end, it was not important whether each and every one of us individually would have been ready to continue this adventure - but whether the group as a community was ready. And how it was! A campfire was already burning in the snow that morning, people were laughing and taking photos of the white camp, and in the course of the morning even those who had not slept well were taken away by the mood of this group. The question of whether to go further never came up.
It is one of the most beautiful privileges as a guide to be allowed to be there when strangers become a team. And this time this feeling is particularly strong: No matter how often on the next stretch of river the boats with luggage have to be lifted up or down an embankment, no matter how many tree trunks we overcome and no matter how often someone needs help - she is always there. And even after more than 20 kilometers on land and water, in snow flurries and standing in the river, a hand is quickly there to lend a hand. And when there's nothing to tackle at the moment, someone offers chocolate and hands out kind words. That, more than anything else, impressed us a lot during this tour and left us proud of every single person in this group.
There will be sunshine after snow
From then on, from this morning of the third day of the course at Schmidtburg, biting through becomes joy and we continue with more and more laughter and a certain lightness. The snow flurries will become less in the course of the morning, sometimes behind still thick clouds the sun already hints, we have the river and an evening at the campfire before us - what should stop us there?
There were a few moments in this particular tour that exemplifies the surreal of these days packed into images that will remain with us for a long time: Wilfried, in the snow, just before re-entering the Hahnenbach, saying he was about to sweat. And that's exactly what he means.
The moment the day before, a few hundred meters before the Schmidtburg, when the snow flurry is so thick that my actually black BowBag is completely covered in white for a few minutes.
I will especially remember the relaxed laughter, together with the stories and conversations around the warm last campfire of the course next to the castle walls, only 24 hours after the laboriously lit, wet fire in the snowfall. The feeling of being able to be part of this very special moment one more time, when people rise above themselves, is something I will certainly think about often.
At the end, back in Monzingen, we all have a little sunburn and can actually hardly believe that all this has fit into so few days. With boats drying in the sun, the question arises, what will we take with us from these four days? In the words of one participant: "That there is much more to each of us than we can imagine at first glance". We all know what he means.
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