Tour stories

2017 Tour du Mont-Blanc #1: Big views, Beers in a Trough, Hurdy-Gurdy at Les Mottets, and More!

Simon Conroy

July 16-25, 2017

Guided by Simon Conroy

The Run the Alps Tour du Mont-Blanc trip is the classic way to experience the trail running scene in the Chamonix valley and the Alps, generally — three countries worth, in fact! We had a winning crew this time around the massif, too. So, how did it go? Well...

To start, I was joined by a great bunch of men and women from both the United States and Canada: “Iceman” Rick, “Sicilian Gary,” “Is it lunch yet?” Susan, “Crash Test” Tara, “More fries with that?” Shannon, “Cocktail Waitress” Linda and “Go faster, Amber!” who were all up for a fantastic time both on and off the trail.

A few highlights that have to be memorialized here in this Trip Story:

*Arriving at Gai Soleil in Les Contamines. David, the trail-running owner, served us beers in the water trough — so we could simultaneously chill our quads and our brains, too.

*The hurdy-gurdy-playing caretaker at Les Mottets, getting us all to sing along to The Beatles. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard 100 people in a rustic mountain inn singing along to “Yellow Submarine.” You just had to be there.

*Shannon somehow manages to find French fries in La Fouly, Switzerland — one of the smallest towns in all the Alps. Remarkably, the fries showed for the next 10 kilometers. Who knew that trail running vests had a French fry pocket?

And, while the entire crew managed to stand upright very nicely on this trip, we can’t complete this trip report without noting what I’m calling our…

Fall of the Week: Congratulations, Tara! You tackled the most technical terrain the Tour du Mont-Blanc could throw at you. Unfortunately, you fell over on one of the flattest parts of the entire 160-km route! To recall one of our catch phrases from the trip… “Suck it up, Buttercup!” (Phrase on loan from Susan and Tara, who apparently have been using it on trips together for years.) This little wipeout led to my new nickname for Tara, “Crash Test.”

The weather was super kind to us, except the last day when it rained just a bit — what would a Tour du Mont Blanc be without a touch of mountain weather, right?

The views just kept coming and coming! Rick expressed how he felt like a kid again, and some of the others jumped with joy from one country to the next on our border crossings with bemused onlookers.

Thanks goes to everyone for making this one of my more memorable and remarkable trips. This is why I guide.

“Simon, how many people did you say this bridge can hold?” The group on the move, headed towards Col Tricot on our first day.

The first day ends at the Hotel Gai Soleil in Les Contamines, with owner and trail runner David bringing us beers as we cool our legs in the trough. Recovery, Alps style!

File this under “Moments We Won’t Soon Forget”: Hearing The Beatle’s “Yellow Submarine” played on a Hurdy Gurdy at the backcountry inn, Les Mottets. All together now! “We all live in a yellow submarine…”

Taking it all in, not far from the Swiss-Italian border, en route to Champex for the night.

Technical trail running, Alps-style.

Taking a time-out to warm up, high on the Swiss-French border at the Refuge du Col de Balme.

Shannon finishes the tour in style, getting airborne at the official end of the tour, the Église Saint-Michel, in Chamonix Center.

Fearless leader Simon calls for a toast on the last dinner.

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