A Trail Running Team Alpine Adventure Part Two:
If yesterday gave us a taster of running on the flat (1700m of ascent), today was going to be all about the hills… As we left the Gite, not quite as early as yesterday, we had a simple plan… up and over four little hills to find our mountain refuge and bed for the night. We had everything on our backs that we would need for the next two days, packed in to our new Mammut running packs.
The climbing started instantly, straight up and out of Les Houches. With no time to warm lungs, we were soon gasping for breath. But again, with views to die for, we took the opportunity to drink in our surroundings, catch our breath and try and sneak a wee rest from our guide when we could.
We are joined today by Claire, the editor of Trail Running Magazine, she scribbles as we run, up the mountains. Asking us what the best bit about being here is… I’m lost for words, it’s not a question I can answer… I’m running through Never Never land..!
We twist and turn, climbing up the mountain side. At times its hands and feet, scrambling over rocks in the trail, with drops to our left or right of hundreds of feet. Below, lakes shimmer in the morning heat, helicopters buzz in the sky, ferrying supplies to and from mountain huts, dew dries from the trees, as we climb and climb…
Eventually the summit is reached, to be welcomed with stunning views of Mont Blanc, micro houses and villages below… Time for a quick TORQ Gel and glug of water and we are off again, skipping rocks, along the narrow singletrack path… As we round a corner we are greeted by Roy, hard at work behind his lens. We run and re-run a few small sections of trail so he and the video team can get the footage they need, before beating a rapid retreat back down the mountain, a true descent we can open up the legs, stretch out and let go.
The mountain bottom is reached, and as expected the legs are order back uphill, climbing through more alpine meadows, brimming with flowers, we pass under ski lifts, closed for the summer. I’m grateful for my poles, they help keep me upright as we climb, making breathing easier, keeping me in rhythm, keeping us climbing. Despite the blazing sun and balmy 27 degrees we manage to find snow in our path… it’s retreating rapidly, but only a few days ago the whole mountainside was covered.
We reached the col, and what goes up, must of course come back down… With the promise of tart and coffee at the bottom we all had a goal to race for… The path here was much looser than yesterday. Winter avalanche debris littered the way, and we had to be careful not to dislodge rocks on people below… In places the path had gone or was hidden under patches of remaining snow…
With water bottles refilled from the raging mountain stream, double espresso shot back and perhaps the best tart in the valley scoffed we set about our third mountain of the day…
We cross a bridge, which bounces as we take it in turns to run across… It has been here for three days, lifted back in place by a helicopter after a winter retreat. We drink and eat on the ups… but the water in my bladder is hot, so I keep my bottle topped up from streams and drink the mountain nectar.
The final climb of the day is long, seemingly never ending, but we can stop and look back at the way we have come… see the mountains we have crossed… Eventually we reach the Mountain Refuge de Tré la Tête sat perched on the mountainside at 1970 metres. We collapse in a heap, happy to be able to finally kick off our shoes, drop our packs to the floor. I mix a TORQ Recovery Shake and wash it down with the best pint I’ve ever tasted. We sit back and admire the views as we wait for dinner.
Unbeknown to us, as we settled down for an early night (10pm) and cursed the French School children who did not want to sleep, it was the celebration of the birth of St. John. The open window was suddenly turned red as flares were lit on every mountain top… The children stampeded for the door, as we watched in bewilderment from the window.