Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Tour du Mont Blanc

It's been a dream of my father-in-law's to run the Mont Blanc Tour. His friends (who are awesome) operate a running guide company out of Minnesota, so when they put the UTMB on their roaster, we were in.

Adventure Running Co organized the trail itinerary, lodging and food, we just RAN. Or power walked A LOT because it was about 33,000ft of climbing and then about the same in descent. My husband and father-in-law are ultrarunners, so the 100-mile distance over a couple of days, wasn't too worrisome for them. I, however, was quaking in my trainers.

Each day was a half marathon or so. I have notoriously bad knees, so I locked those things into ace braces for the whole ride.

The trail moves up and down passes through France, Italy, Switzerland, and back to France. We were sick when we learned that the record for this whole mother-loving thing is around 19 hours.(Held by a Frenchman, dieu merci)

The trail actually circumnavigates the section of the Alps that contains Mont Blanc. So you see the range from all directions. This is the back side; across the range is the Chamonix valley where we started. Mmmm.. climbable rock.

We were blessed with good weather until half way through the penultimate day when the heavens opened up the flood gates.

We planned this running gear rainbow after frantically dashing through a thunderstorm on top of a col.
We made it to the summit of Brevant (our starting point) and the official end of the 110+ mile run. After a full day of wet running, soaked to the bone, it took a while to warm up. But we were stoked and ready to eat a crap load of cheese and baguettes.

Summer Climbing in Alps

I finished Barry Blanchard's book just in time to set foot (ice axe, crampon, and death-gripping hands) on the Alps. Here's a slice of life from our incredible intro into the dramatic peaks around Chamonix.

We met some friends from the UK who drove down through all of France with camping gear, ropes and most of the climbing gear that we needed, which was awesome! Saved us from toting at least an entire extra bag of gear. We were able to catch the World Cup climbing competition in downtown Chamonix where we saw legendary climber Adam Ondra take another win. The place was packed.  I've never seen so many climbers/mountaineers in one place. Walking down the sidewalk, there were multiple people with packs and ice axes just strolling through town at all times.  To say nothing of the climbing gear stores. One on every block. Welcome to Valhalla.

Glaciers reaching down into the valley between every formation. Fresh glacial water just running out of spigots at every corner. 

Our best day was climbing the Aiguille du Peigne. Across the canyon the Aiguille du Midi was shedding cornices, sending chunks of ice and rock thundering down the couloirs. It was a sort of ominous echo in the background all day.

P leading a traverse with the beautiful valley below.

Grand Perron ridgeline between Switzerland and France. With a daunting view of the Alps we would be running around next week.

Lunch on top of the world. When in France... you climb like the French. We lugged baguettes, Camembert, and pâté up there. Pourquoi pas.