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Matterhorn Ultraks: Coming in Hot

Mark Brightwell
Guided by Mark Brightwell
We had a fun crew of seven runners, including five members of a 2021 Tour du Mont-Blanc trip who decided to have a reunion tour! This group came together to run in Leukerbad and Zermatt, Switzerland with the option to race in the Matterhorn Ultraks.

Day one ‘got big.’ We ran on the high plateau above Leukerbad and also summited Gällihore and Wyssi Flue. We ended up having to really motor to make it for the last lift down. This took a real effort of teamwork and gave us an accelerated bonding process. Though not planned this way, it was the perfect way to get to know each other and reconnect. The following day, we ran up the notorious Gemmi Trail.

Those first days of the trip, we battled the heat and it took it out of us. Then we transferred to Zermatt which was a little cooler. We did a great loop taking the train to reach Täsch and then climbing to Europaweg, eating lunch at Täschalpe and running down to town just as thunder began to rumble and clouds rolled up the valley. While in Zermatt, we also supported Kevin and Katie in the Active Race of the Matterhorn Ultraks series, incorporating this into a trail running day. We cheered them on in the rain at Riffelalp and then continued running to Zmutt for lunch.


Highlight on the trails
The descent in the rain from Europaweg was a blast. I set a rapid pace with Scott hot on my heels and chuckling maniacally from time to time in sheer, playful joy. We’d stop and wait frequently, keeping tabs on each other with a call and respond “Ka-kaaaa! Ka-kaaaa!” into the saturated forest. Just above town, our play time moved onto a playground see-saw!


Memorable moment
It was special to have five members of a 2021 Tour du Mont-Blanc trip back together for a second outing. One evening we were joined by Diane and Dan, who also ran the 2021 trip (making it seven out of eight TMB-ers back together). Although they are hiking these days, they changed plans to join us for a merry dinner. Those in the know kept it as a surprise from the others, and it was fun seeing faces light up as they recognized old trail friends.


Best meal
For our final meal, Scott chose the venue – an Italian restaurant at the top edge of Zermatt called Nostra Madre. The food, service, and ambience were all five star, but what outshone all of that was our gratitude for this final meal in each other’s company. Everyone spoke about what the tour had meant for them and were listened to and appreciated in a way that was simply beautiful.

Running above Leukerbad. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Off to a great start. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Our first big day. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

We got plenty of up. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Taking the Gemmi Trail for even more up! (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Smooth trails above Zermatt. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Checking out the view. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Singletrack heaven. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Soon we’re down in Zermatt. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

We have no fun at all… (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Race day – Allez, allez! (Photo: Mark Brightwell)