Video courtesy of Matt Hawthorne
The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system in Europe,running for 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) through Switzerland, France,Monaco, Italy, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia.
This dominant mountain range was formed millions of years ago when the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided and creating this spectacular mountainous landscape. The highest mountain in the Alps is Mont Blanc this dominant peak reaches 4,810 m (15,781 ft) with numerous other mountains reaching over 4,000 m (13,123 ft).
Expect to see the goat like Ibex wandering through these peaks and living at heights of up to 3,400 m (11,155 ft). This part of the world was a hub of cultural activity with evidence of humans living here over 5,000 years ago. The Celts are believed to have been a well established community here during the 6th Century BC.
It is believed that Hannibal made his way from Spain and crossed the Alps with a 30,000 strong army in 218 BC to take on the mighty Roman Empire in Italy. It is also believed that nearly forty elephants traveled with his army through the difficult mountain passes,the exact route he took is debatable but that has not stopped 4WD enthusiasts from guessing which track they took and exploring this incredible and challenging environment.
So with all of this history, incredible alpine scenery and a maze of winding tracks to explore with your 4WD we were keen to learn more. We spoke to Alpine Rovers who run guided tours through the French and Italian Alps.
Alpine Rovers is a small but dedicated group of Land Rover and overland enthusiasts with decades of experience amongst them. From gentle scenic green laning trips in the UK to a full blown Camel Trophy style expeditions through the vampire infested Transylvanian mountains these guys have done it all.
With over 20 years of experience exploring this region, the guys at Alpine Rovers have put together a selection of tracks and sites in this mountainous landscape to explore in your 4WD.The guided tour will take you to amazing heights where you will see historical buildings that include forgotten forts and World War II bunkers.
This 4WD adventure will also give you the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of visionary adventurers, brave mountaineers and the great Hannibal and Napoleon who crossed through these passes on foot and horseback.
Director Michael Glass explained that on the Alpine Rovers tours they strive to ensure that not only do you explore the off road remote mountain tracks but also on the tour most of the nights are spent around a fire in secluded locations on the mountains with spectacular views, sunsets and crystal clear starlit nights.
These guys also don’t like to stick to a fixed touring agenda, hence allowing you to informally embrace the sites you see along this route. The tracks that meander their way through the ALPS reach a staggering 10,000ft, expect plenty of hairpin bends and if you are afraid of heights you probably should not look down on some of the tight turns.
The tours have been designed so you can enjoy them in the most standard of 4×4 vehicles and is open to all levels of driver experience so no need to be concerned.
Tips on Preparing for an Alpine Overland Adventure
Michael highlighted that you do not have to spend large amounts of your hard earned cash on equipping your vehicle for an Alpine adventure.
These tours have been designed so your standard 4WD can tackle what lies ahead, this trip is not about breaking vehicles. As regards packing for this trip, well, less is more, so you can leave the kitchen sink at home.
If you do plan to take your own 4WD on this tour it will need to be in good running order and road legal.
A couple of mandatory checks include having plenty of tyre tread, check your wheel bearings are well greased, service your brakes and handbrake, check your suspension, lights etc.
Your vehicle must also be TAXED, MOT’d, and INSURED (check that it is covered for Europe).
Because you are driving in Europe you will need to have beam benders also know as headlamp converters,breakdown warning triangles and when on the French side of the Alps you are required to have a breathalyser test kits (two) on board.
You should also have a breakdown recovery service that covers you when driving in Europe. It’s worth noting that no fuel cans should be carried on the exterior of the vehicle, also check with your ferry operator if allowed to carry spare fuel.
If you have a classic 4WD, like a Willy’s Jeep, a Series Land Rover, a Toyota Land Cruiser or any other make or model that’s not exactly in its first flush of youth but you want to take your pride and joy on an Alpine overland trip well that’s not a problem. The guys at Alpine Rovers also cater for these older vehicles. Michael explained that just because your vehicle is old, that doesn’t mean it can’t do it! and that’s where the Classic Safari comes into its own, on this tour the pace is slower,and accommodates for the older vehicles abilities.
Additional Recommended Equipment to carry in your 4WD includes:
• First aid kit
• High visibility jacket or vest
• Fire extinguisher
• Spare bulbs set
• Tow rope/recovery equipment
• Jack & wheel brace
• Any special tools for your vehicle
• Spare wheel.
• Mobile telephone, switch to operate in Europe
• CB Radio (optional), check that it covers European Channels