Lindsay and I have enjoyed a great winter here in the Alps, meeting new faces and catching up with the regular ones too. We've visited some of favorite locations and have been exploring new areas too. And next season will have a few more regions to visit either on snowshoes or skis.
The Alps are blossoming as we speak, there's still snow high on the mountains, but the valleys & middle mountains are enjoying the sun and warm temperatures taking shape ready for summer. Everything looks lush & green ready for walking, biking, hiking and relaxing!
So it's our 'inter-season' at the moment. Time to play & enjoy a little bit of Tracks and Trails staff training be it on our bikes, running you name it! Lindsay's just back from a rock climbing trip to Provence and is desperate for a new road bike. I on the otherhand enjoyed a weeks ski mountaineering last week, exploring and getting height to acclimitise for a challenge i've had in mind for sometime. To ski Mont Blanc!
I spent 5 days skinning to high places and enjoying, the spring snow ski touring in preperation for a 2 day hit on Mt. B. I've always been weary of the ski descent due to it's threat of serac falls and large crevasses. We had however heard that the conditions were good and what with a great forecast and good snow covering it was time to give it a go! So last week I went up to the Grand Mulet refuge with my husband Olly which is at 3,000m for the night. It's situation above the glacier is amazing, the views/sunset alone are worth it! We woke for a 1.30 breakfast and by 2am were back on our skis skinning in zig zags gaining height. The skies were clear and all you could see were the lights of headtorches of others on the same mission. Our summit of 4810m seemed along way off at this point! After a couple of hours we switched to crampons and axes and strapped our skis to our backs to ascend the ice pitch the 'Arête Royale'. This section is a little bit of front pointing & walking but steeply rises along a knife edge (probably a good thing it was still dark!). But the track was good and the ice very 'grippy'! This section is a good 700m or more of the climb and as it's pretty much vertical you gain altitude very quickly.
This finally eased to enable us to switch back to our skis and skin the flatter section to the Col du Dôme. Here we were back on crampons passing the Vallot Hut which sits 4362m for the final climb to the summit. The sun was now up and the views of the 3 Monts and panorama around us was opening up to view many great peaks like the Gran Paradiso, Grand Combin, Matterhorn - you name it. The ridge to the summit was cold to say the least! We took our pictures and felt the warmth immediately as we left the top to return to our skis and sarnies. Now for the ski down - the Glacier des Bossons, from the Col at 4280m back to the Plan d'Aiguille at 2310m. I've skied many glaciers but this one is huge. I've looked at this glacier so many times and wondered what it's like up there. But I felt so small in this massive ice field. What with creeking noises as the ice shifts, the serac debris to slalom ski around, ice pillars to ski under, crevasse holes to negotiate & jump over(!) you almost feel the glacier is moving whilst your on it! But the snow was good, some cold & soft and then spring snow towards the end. The ski was fun but felt very commiting, a great memory to share with your other half. It reminded me of how the mountains are still on the move and we are there to both enjoy but respect them!
I just can't wait for my next adventure. Julia
Most of us like achieving a challenge, be it big or small. As a runner much of the time the goal is centred around a time, pace or distance. However for a mountain marathon there is a lot more to consider. In 2009 I wanted to run the Everest Marathon, and the main goals for this event is to reach Everest Basecamp healthy and acclimitised.
Read my top tips on trail running at altitude some of which are featured in this months 'Trail Running Magazine' attached.
Everest Marathon Race Tips
- Leave home healthy & well rested. Being run down or overtrained before you leave home will mean you are more likely to pick up a bug in the plane or in country.
- Sleeping at altitude is not always easy especially with the change in diet, water, medication you might be taking and being under canvas. Another reason to stock up on the Zzz's before leaving home.
- Time on your feet, hill walking & running off road, especially downhill is more important for this race than fast road training or intervals.
- Know the route profile. Be aware that the course route may change slightly from year to year. The Everest Marathon normally starts at over 5000m dropping to 3440m for the finish line, again practice descending however don't go off too fast you still have 26 miles to cover. If you over cook it not only will you hit the wall but you you will feel the altitude all the way. Acclimitisation is key to enjoyment and performance.
- Gain some understanding on high altitude illnesses and respect the basic protocols. Regardless of how fit/fast you may be in races ascend slowly, take on plenty of fluid and don't get the urge to race your way to the start line.
- Know what food/drink is provided already during the race, where the refreshment points come (i.e. distances) and decide whether you need to carry anything extra. Stock up on your favourite race snacks and training foods from home. The morning of a race - aim to finish breakfast 2 hours before the race start to allow yourself to digest it. Eat what you know works well for you - eg, porridge, bread and honey etc. Aim to finish taking on fluids about 45mins prior to the start. Learning to run on what feels like ‚empty’ puts a spring into your step!
- Know whether the race has any obligatory equipment and be happy with what you will need to use - practice with it.
- Don't drop any litter along the way, respect the delicate surrounding of the Khumbu Valley.
MOST OF ALL - Have the confidence that you will go the distance and most importantly enjoy this fabulous event ..... after all isn’t that is why you are running?
A fantastic week with the AAC team. Have a look at the film and maybe think about joining us next year? Lindsay
Thank goodness, the snow has returned! On the first morning of our six day journey on snowshoes across the Chablais mountains we woke up to a Christmas Card village covered in the 'white stuff' ! We had a great day in about 30 - 40 cm of fresh powder making our way from Megevette to Bellevaux with blue skies to end the day. A great team this week of Ros, Jennifer, Jonathan, George and Margaret. Will keep you posted about conditions. Lindsay
The Alps have decided it's Spring ....in February! 5 weeks of high pressure has brought us blue sky and sunshine for weeks on end (yawn, yawn!). So the past few weeks we've been able to enjoy 'spring skiing' with light weight gear whilst enjoying some rays. Not all bad really. Due to these warm conditions the low lying Jura cross country ski trails have been effected so our Grand Traverse of the Jura has been adapted to a Jura 'Highlights' where we make a traverse of the Jura reaching all the high points where the snow is still in good condition, 6 different nordic areas are open across the region. We are due some snow this week though so we shall see how much it brings....Julia
An absolutely great trip with three lovely women! They had great spirit, and determination and there were a whole lot of laughs! We had a week based in Champex, in Switzerland adventuring out every day to climb Cols and peaks in the area. Have a look at the movie and you will see what I mean. Lindsay
For the last 10 days I've been lucky enough to be in Italy. First off the lovely the Ferret & Cogne valleys with our Italian Ski Weekend (ISW) who were learning/freshing their cross country skiing skills. We enjoyed great food, excellent snow, tried both classic and skating styles and ended with great apres ski in Courmayeur.
Next stop the Dolomites! Two of the ISW team combined their trips and came with me. We base our Dolomites Track Explorer in the lovely family run Hotel Zanon - more amazing food! Good thing we are skiing everyday to keep up with the 4 courses in the evening. Our week 'explored' different ski areas, different ski styles & ski types, developing technique, visiting local villages and day ski tours. The icing on the cake for many though was entering the 22k Classic Ski Race the 'Lavazeloppet'. The Tracks and Trails team entered the event the day before once having skied the course and felt confident that they could do it. So a nervous 24hrs followed whilst they planned what to wear, to eat & to carry and whether it was now such a good idea! On the race morning of the race they were joined by some 150 other skiers at the start line at Passo Lavaze. As the sun rose to another blue sky day I stood on the hill side and enjoyed great views of the skiers leaving the starting pen and making their way around the very hilly/challenging course. I proudly watching all of the T&T's ski team complete the event all in good time - they were given 3h30 to complete. So well done to them all as their results were: Nick:1h40 - Caroline:2h00 - Gill:2h20 - Sue:2h58.
My final day in the Dolomites took me to the start line of the Italian 70k classic race known 'Marcialonga'! This amazing event is like the London Marathon on skis. Joined by 7500 other skiers from all over the world the course takes you up the Val di Fiemme and Fassa valleys. The views and ambience are incredible. This race i've wanted to take part in for many years and is seen as the 'classic of all classic events'. And it was for me too. Although a little fatigued in the legs I was happy to complete the course in 6h23 minutes.
A great week exploring the Vercors in France with the excellent company of Jo, Margaret and George and a very large hip flash !!!
Great times to be had in Val Ferret near Courmayeur. This is our base for Italian Cross Country Ski Weekends where you can enjoy some action, plus the best coffee and chocolate cake you are likely to taste!
Following a warm spring like feeling across many parts of the Alps I am pleased to report excellent snow conditions in Italy. We currently have our Italian Ski weekend running based in Val Ferret, in the the Aosta Valley. The depth of the pressed ski tracks is over a metre and the very COLD temperatures of -23 at night are making sure it stays around. During the morning it was still -16 so we enjoyed immaculate, cold, soft snow to slide and glide across. Prepped with enough layers, warm coffee stops, good gloves(!), blue skies & sunshine we enjoyed another great day beneath the breath taking peaks of the Mont Blanc massif. Tomorrow we'll be in Cogne in the Gran Paradiso National Park for more of the same.