Sunday, September 28, 2014

haute cime (3257m)


The alarm sounded too early this morning, so we waited a bit before rolling downstairs for coffee and cereal. We planned to take a hike near Chamonix, but as we ate and watched the light fill the sky, we decided that today was our chance for a long anticipated trip to Dents du Midi. We hurriedly stuffed our packs, checked the route map, and planned to travel light and quick. We were on the trail a little after 10, later than we'd like, but we were there. After parking in Champéry, we started on foot along the road to the trail head, noticing posts for the Trail des Dents du Midi held last weekend. As we began our hike, the trail invited us to jog, so we started moving a bit faster, hiking some, but mostly running or easy scrambling. 


After two hours we reached Refuge Susanfe. Derek couldn't resist the offer of raclette, so we took a short break to sit in the sun beside a sleeping mountain dog and enjoy the view.


We couldn't stop for long if we wanted to complete the trail before dark. We left the hut and continued the jog up to Col de Susanfe, where we pulled on another layer of clothing and began the slow climb up loose gray scree. 


There were several hikers making their way down, and we found ways to maneuver around each other carefully on the sloping scree. I didn't take the camera out for this last section, as we worked our way over an unmarked trail, well worn in places, but easy to diverge into rock slides. For the entirety of the hike, we couldn't see our final goal until we were nearly upon it. After three false summits and a challenging final 800 meters of gain, we spotted the thin metal cross perched on a narrow tooth. What a view! We admired the snowy peaks across the Alps, and vertiginous drops between the rocks. Finally, we achieved a summit over 3000 meters this season!


The descent over the loose scree went better than I anticipated. Actually, I was fearful of the trip back down while we were on our way up, but it was easier to see a worn path and we didn't slip as much as I expected. We were the last ones to reach the summit for the day, and we knew if we jogged, we'd have plenty of time to reach town before dark. We couldn't resist a few photos with a backdrop of Mt. Blanc and crazy rock formations.


A few hikers, also making the descent, cheered as we raced down, down, down the rocky trail, finishing the 26 kilometer outing in about 8 hours including a lunch break and some photo stops. What a memorable day in the mountains!  


Saturday, September 27, 2014

make it a double: les km de chando


Race report: LES KM DE CHADO (Double KM)

Distance: 7.7 km
Elevation: +2000 m
Route: Vissoie - Chandolin - Illhorn (2716m)
Conditions: Summer-like temperature for the end of September. Clear sky and amazing panoramic from the summit.  An intimate group of only 89 runners, including some of the best in the world.

When Derek and our friend, Xavi, started discussing this vertical kilometer race last week I thought they were crazy. They decided to run, no second thoughts, but it took me a few hours to comprehend what we might be getting ourselves into before I agreed. It was just two days away and none of us had run a vertical kilometer race before. As long as we were going to make the trip to Valais, we might as well make it a double. Knowing that some of our mountain running heroes would be competing was a big incentive to participate. When else would we have the opportunity to follow Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg up a mountain in a group of under a hundred runners? Ready or not, 2KM vertical, here we come! 

Saturday morning, we woke, ate, and made most of the drive to Vissoie in the dark. It was crisp and clear, and eventually the sun began to rise and light the layers of mountains. After retrieving our bibs and a short shuttle, we waited for the start, exchanging encouragements for a good race.  

When the gun signaled the start, we raced toward the first turn, a sharp left to begin the switchbacks up a forest trail. I looked up and saw Kilian Jornet leading the pack up the first hairpin, and then he was gone. Much of the first section was single track, but it didn't seem clogged like some steep race starts. It wasn't long before we reached the starting point of the vertical kilometer race, then their finish line in Chandolin, and soon only five hundred more meters to climb. 

The trail got steeper as we scrambled across scree underneath a ski lift. Meter by meter, we were getting closer to the finish. The view was spectacular when I could glance out over the Alps, but I mostly had to keep my head down to choose my footing. Soon the winners were starting to make their way back down along the course and offered cheers of allez, allez! Suddenly I can see the goal and cross the finish in 1:53,30. I'm not disappointed since I had no expectations. (Wish I had my camera to capture the stunning panoramic). Xavi is waiting for me at the summit and we watch Derek cross next. We catch our breath, admire the view from this narrow precipice, and jog down ten minutes to the ski lift to be carried back to Chandolin for refreshments. Our legs have earned the reward of a downhill frolic after such a climb, and we enjoy it while gathering a few more runners for the fun.

I'll have to learn to push the intensity for a short race like this. It seemed strange to stop abruptly at a summit without the treat of running down (and then probably up another climb), but it was great to finish a race still feeling fresh and strong with a desire to continue. 
   
Podium photos credit: KM de Chando
The podium: Double KM men:  Kilian Jornet (1)  Billy Burns (2)  Martin Anthamatten (3)
Double KM women:  Victoria Kreuzer (1)  Emelie Forsberg (2)  Séverine Pont-Combe (3)


Besides ogling the world champions, we also met some great runners and mountain lovers who were quick to share info on other races and tips to improve form and technique. I am constantly surprised by the strong people we meet at trail events and their enthusiasm for mountain sports. As we return home, slightly sunburned and salty, I am grateful for this day in the mountains and inspired to keep on pushing.    


I've never been so starstruck (but wow!), here are some amazingly talented runners. It's quite a thrill just to see my name on the same list of results.


Friday, September 26, 2014

vineyard stroll


Spontaneously registered for a race this weekend, so I'm taking a lazy day with a stroll through the vineyard, enjoying the sunshine and lingering summer weather.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

mountain morning


This morning, six of us mountain women made a trip up to le Reculet (squeezed in between morning school drop-off and lunch pick-up) so we had to move  quickly. It was a beautiful morning, crisp blue sky, the very beginning of fall colors, and a crazy wind wind up at the top.


A nice view out to the Alps above the haze, too, but barely a moment to pause before we run back down, past the cows and chamois. The best way to start a day! 

Thanks Jess for these four photos!