In 2006, a group of WT adventurers set out to experience the great Alps on our Classic Haute Route journey. Each day, the group hiked fantastic trails, traversing the legendary route from Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, Switzerland. And each day, two members of the group also followed their hearts as they developed a friendship that would soon become their love story. We are always honored to be a part of these celebratory moments and wanted to share this wonderful tale of love—just in time for Valentine’s Day.
It’s hard to believe Jeff and I have been married for 10 years! It began when my friend Janette and I joined to Haute Route trip to celebrate her 50th birthday. Our main Trip Leader James Fuss excitedly told Janette and I about Jeff, a winemaker from California. He was a solo traveler on the trip, hoping to finally hike from Cabane Mont Fort to Prafleuri Refuge and then on to Val d’Arolla because bad weather had prevented him from doing this portion on his previous Haute Route trip back in 1994.
We liked wine (I mean, who doesn’t?) so I thought I would cozy up and talk to a real expert. But no! I soon found out that Jeff was a bit shy and gruff, so we didn’t talk to each other much. It wasn’t until the hike to Fenetre d’Arpette where I promptly found out what a great shot he was with a snowball! This set off a tone of fun and laughter throughout the rest of the hike. We started to sit together at dinners (and of course, we let Jeff order the wine). Unfortunately, the day we were scheduled to take off for Prafleuri Refuge, we woke up to six inches of snow and had to turn back. Although it was defeating, especially for Jeff who had attempted this portion twice, I found out just how sweet he was and was excited to keep in touch after our return to the states.
To make a long story short, after six months of phone calls and emails (and a trip to California), we both knew we wanted to marry. In 2007, we joined WT’s Tour du Mont Blanc journey along with Janette and asked James to lead us on Day 3—the hike from Cabane Mont Fort to Val d’ Arolla—in hopes that Jeff would finally have the opportunity to complete it. Lo and behold, the weather turned out to be perfect! At Cabane Mont Fort, Jeff had the ring in his pocket in hopes the right moment would present itself to propose. And indeed, it did!
—Text and photos by three-time WT adventurer Margie Runquist, Classic Haute Route.