Tour stories

Glaciers, Skyraces, and The Matterhorn

Simon Conroy

August 21-27, 2017

Guided by Simon Conroy

This year’s Matterhorn Ultraks trip had a larger-than-life quality to it-- both the trail running and the guests! We ran across glaciers, travelled to Zermatt to run under the Matterhorn— and then ticked off a famous Alps trail race series. Here's how it went.

The week started in the natural thermal spa village of Leukerbad, perched just above the Rhône valley town of Sierre in Switzerland’s Valais canton. This location gave us access to the famous Gemmi pass and a fantastic first day’s run above the pass. After availing ourselves of the lift in town, we then ran up to the Lämmerenhütte at 2,500 meters above sea level. From here, we headed still further up to gain the Wildstrubel Glacier, where we pranced like Ibex over the ice while grabbing some great photo opportunities.

The gondola back down to the village gave respite to Danielle and Meghan, while Run the Alps client Dave and I galloped down the route of the Gemmi Challenge to meet Meghan and Danielle back in the village. The onset of DOMS– that’s “Delayed Onset Muscle Stiffness,” for you lucky uninitiated– came later!

The next day we travelled across the Rhône valley and up the Mattertal, or Matter Valley, to the village of Zermatt. After lunch we took a small trot up towards the Trift hut to gain a vantage point on the race routes on the Gornergrat side of the mountain. Whimpers of “We’re not running up there are we?!” were heard… with a confirmation from yours truly of, “Indeed we are!”

The iconic backdrop of the Matterhorn provided us with the inspiration to run the trails in and around the Swiss alpine village of Zermatt. The next two days leading up to Ultraks race day were spent on reconnaissance runs, taking in the fantastic vistas and photo opportunities offered by the region.

The 2017 Matterhorn Ultraks trail series was a spectacular event in which to run and also to observe. Race day arrived and the weather changed from rain to sunshine and back to rain, again offering up varied options for clothing changes and application of sunscreen. However, this did not deter our runners, who set off with vigor to achieve fantastic results in their desired distances.

My congratulations, along with the rest of the Run the Alps crew, must go to Danielle for her outstanding effort on the 46k. (In fact, the race was more like 49k.) Danielle snuck past the cut offs at tantalyzingly close, Swiss-engineered times. Congrats to Meghan for maintaining a smile all the way around the 30k— well, nearly all the way. And, a tip of our Run the Alps caps to Dave for smashing along the 30k route and into Zermatt in an amazing time. Fun fact: Dave proved able to eat his own body weight in food once the race had concluded.

I had the pleasure to run, guide, laugh, eat and drink with this gang for a week and now consider them to be my friends both on and off the trails. Well done to you all and safe trail running in the future. I hope to see you back with Run the Alps next season.

 

Thanks to Danielle, David and Meghan for the photos!

At Lämmerenhütte. Which way would you like to go? Our crew headed towards the Wildstrubelgletscher.

Look mom: No crevasses! You can run on Wildstrubelgletscher– at least this part.

Yours truly, striking a pose that is designed to instill total confidence in my abilities. (How did I do?)

During recon of her 46 km Skyrace-sanctioned course, Danielle tries to distract us from a certain famous peak in the background.

Mission accomplished for David on the 30 km race– and it’s now beer-thirty!

Still smiling: Meghan wraps up the 30 km. Nicely done!

Last but certainly not least, Danielle ticks off the 46 km course… which was more like 49 km. Part of the International Skyrunning Federation series, the Ultraks 46km is a tough course with 3,600 meters of climbing.

Mountains can have moods, too. The Matterhorn in one of its moodier moments.

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