Saturday, March 7, 2015

pointe des arbennes (2460m)

Starting from le Reposoir, today we made 1450m of climb to reach Pointe des Arbennes (2460m). We began up the wooded trail, reached the stream crossing, and up another wooded trail before breaking above the trees by the chalets de Méry where we stopped for lunch with a view.

We made the remainder of the exposed ascent on hard packed, icy snow, which was challenging at times, especially in the wind.

After a struggle against the wind-damaged ice-pack, we arrived at the summit, noticeably calmer than facing the gusts on the traverse. What an amazing panoramic and a surprise view on Mt. Blanc. We enjoyed our time alone, balanced on the small summit, impressed by the steep ridges and deep valleys.

View of Pointe Percée...another one for the list.

We transitioned for the downhill, and retraced our route. Carefully over the ice at first, then onto a lightly crusted layer that refused to move beneath the skis, next into a heavy sand-like texture, and Spring-like slush that continued through the narrow forest trails. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

another vattay day

Another beautiful day with the girls at Vattay. Today was warm and sunny with a great view out to the Alps where we stopped for a picnic.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

wet run

I took a little detour on my run home today to visit a few trails. It didn't take long to reach snow and spend some time plodding through before heading back down through the flowing thaw. Yesterday was my birthday, and a rest day after racing, so today I was happy to be back on the trails before going home for more cupcakes.   

Sunday, March 1, 2015

suly ski trail

Race report: Suly Ski Trail

Distance: & Elevation: 28km & 2000m D+
Route: Start and finish: Le Torchon in 3 stages
     Stage 1 = Sulens, ski mountaineering course, the longest and most technical (950m D+)
     Stage 2 = Cernets, running, snow trail (5km / 200m D+)
     Stage 3 = Rochevielle (800m D+) ski mountaineering
Conditions: Wet. Snow, wind, rain with low visibility. Mild temperature. 44 solo/55 teams.
Suly Ski Trail

Today we participated in the first edition of the Suly Ski Trail. This unique event combined ski mountaineering  and trail running over three courses: Sulens, Cernets, Rochevieille (28km & 2000m D+). I had no intention of any type of ski racing this season, but this looked interesting, especially with a run in the middle, so why not? The 3 courses could also be completed as a relay team, but none of us wanted to miss a minute of the fun.  

Derek and I met Xavi for a 5am departure in light rain and darkness. As we followed the curving roads into the mountains, rain became snow, and the road conditions quickly turned difficult. We stopped to consider our options, and ultimately decided to continue trying to reach the starting line. We approached the starting line after a short walk, a pasture with a few tents, dry toilets, and burning logs. We didn't really know what was ahead of us, but the atmosphere was exciting. 

We left our trail shoes and a spare set of dry gloves in the transition zone, adjusted our equipment, lined to have our arvas checked, laid out our skis, and lined up to start. Visibility was low, and we would face alternating rain and snow plus some wind for our first skimo race. A quick dash to our skis after the gun, and we were skinning up the first and longest section of ascent before strapping crampons on our boots and skis on our backs to continue the climb. A little more skinning before the first ski. My legs were already tired on the first down hill, but then more skinning, skiing, skinning and skiing down to transition to the run.    

I thought this would be the easy part, but foot holes in the packed snow made the run a little tougher and clumsier than anticipated. As I finished the running loop, reentered my boots, and prepared for the next ski course, I found myself chatting with a few others running the relay and the race's director and announcer. From then forward, Derek and I were cheered on as the Chicago friends. How did we crazy flat-landers come to race all three sections solo in this mountain community in the Aravis? We certainly weren't the fastest, but we did it. After another skin, portage with crampons, ski, skin, and final long ski down, we crossed the finish line just under 5 hours. Vin chaud waited for our arrival, with plenty of conversation and music.   

Happy, soaked, finishers.

I've always had great trail racing experiences, but somehow the ambiance of the Suly Ski Trail stands out among those amazing events. Maybe it was the excitement of facing my first ski challenge, but I really believe it came from the spirit of organizers, volunteers, and community. While we moved for hours in the difficult conditions, they were out there in the elements ensuring safety, offering support and encouragement, and happy to celebrate until the very end. 

Thank you Suly Ski Trail and we hope to meet again!    

(Photos by David Nicod and a video below from the Suly Ski Trail.)