Tour stories

On the Tour du Mont Blanc, with Trail Racers Cruising Past

Simon Conroy

August 28 - September 6, 2017

Guided by Simon Conroy

The Run the Alps Tour du Mont-Blanc trip takes in the trails joining together the alps of France, Italy and Switzerland. Over 7 days of running we cover over 90 miles and climb 7,000 meters. Our trip was in Courmayeur, Italy, as the famous UTMB trail race passed through town.

This Run the Alps Tour du Mont Blanc trail run coincided with the fun frenzy of the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc week taking place in Chamonix, France. That turned our trip into a fantastically energized affair. Both the streets and trails were filled with trail runners from all over the world who had descended into the Chamonix valley and the region as a whole to be part of the unfolding extravaganza.

My four clients where also from all around the world. They included Danielle from the United States, who was recovering from just finishing another Run the Alps trip, Matterhorn Ultraks, where she completed the 46k Skyrace. There was Rob, also from United States, accompanied by Jules and Kristen, both from Australia.

The first shake out day in the Chamonix included a tour along the “Balcon Sud,” running through the woods of Chamonix valley to the village of Argentière, not far from the French border with Switzerland.

The following day the crew set out from Chamonix to start the official Tour du Mont-Blanc around the range. We cruised out of Chamonix following the race route. Crossing the Bionnassay “passerelle” bridge, we headed up and over the Col de Tricot at 2,120 meters, to enjoy a delightful lunch at Auberge du Truc, before descending down through the forest into the village of Les Contamines. There, we watched the runners taking part in the the TDS trail race, part of the UTMB series.  We even got to cheer on fellow Run the Alps Senior Guide Alister Bignell, who finished in an amazing 12th position.

Next came a challenge for us all— tackling the cold, wind and rain during our run over the Col du Bonhomme. We all enjoyed the respite provided by the Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, where they provided us with a warm fire, hot soup and drinks before we headed down to Les Mottets and the delights of a hot shower, great food and live music from a hurdy-gurdy– an old style musical instrument played by one of the refuge staff.

The week’s trail running proved to be very interesting and fun. We had the mountain challenge of coping with changing weather. As scheduled, we arrived in Courmayeur, Italy to enjoy a rest day watching UTMB racers passing through the old village. We all gave our support to the thousands of runners, including Run the Alps friend and Nike runner, David Laney, who finished 14th. Also running was Run the Alps’ Doug Mayer, who completed the race after spending two epic nights out on the mountains. Sterling efforts by both Mr. Laney and Mr. Mayer!

We enjoyed chilly fall-like weather, running into Switzerland over the snow and ice-capped Grand Col Ferret. Thankfully, we were warmed by the sunshine pouring down on us as we dropped towards La Fouly, Switzerland and along the La Drance de Ferret river, up into our ending spot for the day, at the quiet Swiss village of Champex-Lac.

The rest of the trip continued to be an absolute stunner, with some great running conditions and recently-worn-over trails thanks to the trail race, which led to the group steaming into Chamonix after a superb morning of Strava-beating speeds.

All in all, this trip has been the highlight of my guiding season, having such great companions joining Run the Alps on the trails, and coinciding with the spectacular scene of what is arguably one the world’s great trail race.

A massive thank you from yours truly to the great participants on this journey and for Run the Alps, for making this such a great trip!

 

Thanks to our trip participants and guide Simon Conroy for the great photos!

Chamonix comes alive during race week, with five international events over the course of as many days.

Ready for a little air? Crossing the Bionnassay bridge en route to Col Tricot.

While snow came and went from the high cols around Mont Blanc, summer kept a firm hold on the valleys below.

Danielle takes a break after descending into Val Veny from Col de Seigne on the French-Italian border.

Ever casual, Guide Simon Conroy relaxes in the face of tumbling off the Tour du Mont Blanc.

Descending from Col de Seigne, on the border between France and Italy, we found some sun. And cows. And a rare, flat section of trail.

Julie prepares for take-off above Courmayeur, Italy, with Mont Chétif in the background.

The food and drink at La Maison Vieille never fails to bring a smile to our faces.

Trail runners take an average of 40 hours to run around the entire Mont Blanc range, starting and finishing in Chamonix, France.

We found winter! It was hiding out on the Swiss-Italian border, at 2,490-meter high Grand Col Ferret.

Once over the col and into Switzerland, views of the Swiss Val Ferret open up towards the famous Saint Bernard Pass.

Rob takes a break during the valley run towards Champex, Switzerland.

Why hello there! Julie gets a very Swiss greeting from a local resident.

Anyone missing a boot? We found it. With some flowers to, uh, boot.

Somebody’s looking for more attention. Oh, okay, sure– you got it!

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