Tag Archive: Albergo Edelweiss

  1. Day 3: Les Chapieux to Courmayer

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    While training for TMB, about the best I could do to replicate the elevation we would experience in the Alps was to run up Pyramid trail over and over again. It was the steepest, highest hill in South Mountain Park that was accessible quickly. Even then, Pyramid gains only about 680 feet of elevation over a mile, and I knew we would have segments along TMB where we were steadily gaining over 1000 feet each mile for almost three miles.

    Day 3 on the TMB would be long (over 19 miles) with lots of climbing (almost 5500 feet) but it wasn’t the day I feared most: that would be Day 4, or Sunday, the day for which some folks in Phoenix had organized a “Prayer Circle” after they saw the elevation chart.

    Day 3? Easy in comparison. I wasn’t so nervous about it, and I was still feeling great. Not sore, but tired.

    We woke after another restless night. I think I was averaging six hours, when I do best on nine. That was putting me squarely into grumpster territory.

    Was it the sleep deprivation that made me kind of angry at what we called our “prison breakfast”? It was again a buffet, but it featured, realistically, only bread and butter. We took trays (what for?) and loaded them up with bread, and, well, butter.

    After we “ate,” we started our run with a steady uphill on a paved road. In fact, there was a shuttle taking hikers and dropping them off at the top of the road, and they waved through the windows as they passed us. I wondered for a moment if I should have hopped on the bus to cut out three miles of our trek. Would I have what I needed to finish such a tough day, after two tough ones prior and three tough ones to come? I wasn’t sure. But I was proud of myself and determined to do every bit of the trail on foot.

    Once the road ended we started up a delightful, smooth, steady uphill that afforded ridiculous views of the valley, the cows, and the aguilles that towered into the clear blue sky before us.

    Our first big up on Day 3 was the Col de la Seigne, and this is where something funny happened–a French woman stopped me and asked (in French) if we were runners. When I said oui she told me we were going the wrong way. At first I thought I was not understanding her French. After a long conversation, with its classic sitcom pratfalls, we learned that there was a trail race up ahead and the woman thought we were participants in the race. I assured her we were not with the race, that we were runners, but that we were running with a private guide, and we laughed and moved along.

    Up to this point in my recounting of our TMB time I have failed to mention the HamandCheese Situation. The Situation existed thusly: every morning before we hit the trail we were given a sack lunch that included exactly three items: a bar, a piece of fruit, and a HamandCheese Sandwich. (Since three of our seven runners were vegan, I guess you could say we were given four HamandCheese sandwiches and three ????? sandwiches each morning.) We had begun to remember each day as much for the scenery as for the exact shape and variety of HamandCheese.

    Day three was by far my favorite HamandCheese. It was the size of my head, first of all, and it was essentially a whole big baguette with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. Almost as much fun as crunching into the crusty thing was holding it up to see whether my little bites had made any dent in its size. It was at the top of the Col de la Seigne, wind blowing, our jackets on, that I sat and did as much damage as I could to that glorious, life-affirming HamandCheese.

    After snacking, we started our first descent and this is where we met the real runners. The race was being staged out of Courmayer Italy and the runners were super fast and super fit. Even though we did not have numbers, people mistook us for racers and hopped easily out of our way and also cheered us on and even took our pictures. It made me think of getting a race number to wear for the last three days of the trip!

    We rounded a curve and were greeted by an unbelievable view of Mont Blanc. Again, the weather could not have been more perfect. We told our Lead Runner Emily that now we were ruined, since we would never even be able to imagine the Alps without a massive blue sky.

    We started a steady descent with a view so gorgeous it was nearly painful (painful in that way when you experience a moment you hope will never end, knowing full well that it will soon be ending) until we got to a mountain refuge where a man was being evacuated by helicopter. We had all purchased our own helicopter evacuation insurance, and oh how we hoped we would not have to use it. At the refuge there was an aid station set up for the trail runners and we enjoyed watching them swing in to get snacks and water.

    From the refuge it was a super, super steep drop on a dusty and root-covered path down to the Italian town of Courmayer. By this time several of us were overheated–it was a hot day and we perhaps didn’t hydrate as we should have. So it was a relief to arrive at our inn for the night, Hotel Edelweiss. It featured hotel-style accommodations with great storage and a bathroom in each of our rooms. We checked in, showered, then hit the town for some snacking and shopping.

    Dinner at the hotel was delicious in the most Italian way. Can you say pasta? Pasta! We enjoyed a delicious meal and headed to bed to pass out.

    However, the entire Italian nation seemed to have different plans for us. At one AM, what sounded like EVERY ITALIAN PERSON EVER could be heard screeching, laughing, slamming doors, and running down the hallway in front of our room. John and I exchanged “oh my gods” and thought about calling the front desk but assumed it would end soon enough. It lasted for hours. We were so groggy when we got up we did not even have the energy to mimic the bad behavior down the hallway in front of all of the offending sleepers’ doorways. Too bad. I think we could have taught Italy a real lesson.

    Total distance: 31425 m
    Max elevation: 2508 m
    Min elevation: 1171 m
    Total climbing: 2054 m
    Total descent: -2384 m
    Total time: 07:10:26

    Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.58.12 AM
    Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.58.35 AM




  2. The Lodging, Europe 2015

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    Our trip to Europe last summer was remarkable for its “running around.” In 15 nights we stayed in five different countries in 10 different hotels.

    This summer we will literally be running: around Mont Blanc that is. But we’re also doing our share of country hopping. We will hit four countries and nine hotels in eleven nights. We chose three of the hotels and our outfitter chose the other six. I’m looking forward to our visits.

    Geneva Switzerland Hotel N’Vy.

    Chamonix France Les Aiglons.

    Les Contamines France  Hotel Gai Soleil.

    Les Chapieux France Auberge de la Nova.

    Courmayer, Italy Albergo Edelweiss.

    La Fouly Switzerland Auberge des Glaciers.

    Trient Switzerland Hotel La Grande Ourse.

    Paris France Hotel Fabric.

    London England The Ampersand Hotel.


  3. Tour du Mont Blanc Training: Three Weeks Out

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    It’s time to talk TMB.

    “Why?” Even my good friends ask. Don’t they know me by now?

    “How?” Says a cousin. Yes, the logistics are tricky but aren’t they always?

    “When?” Says a friend in a text message. And now the answer is: Only three weeks away.

    Let me back up. You already know that John and I have a promise to go to a new country every year.

    But a few years ago we added a spin to it. On our aughts and fives, we like to add a big adventure to our travels. For my 40th we hiked the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu. And for John’s 45th we climbed Kilimanjaro. So guess who is turning 45 this year? Deciding what to do was pretty easy.

    Last summer John and I had an epic trip to Europe, which culminated in the Sky Race in the Dolomites. When we returned home, I asked John what his favorite part of the trip was and he said, “I could spend the rest of my summers in the Alps.”

    We had been quietly looking at the Tour du Mont Blanc route for a few years, but for me his comment cemented our plans. I started researching the route, ways to complete it, and outfitters. We chose a British company called Run the Wild and asked if they could plan a six day run. Then we asked friends to join us, and voila! We got the ball rolling.

    Here are the specifics of the run itself. It totals 105 miles with 31,583 foot gain. We average 17 miles a day. The outfitters feed us and take our luggage from inn to inn. We just have to wake up, run, eat, repeat.

    Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday
    7/9/2015 7/10/2015 7/11/2015 7/12/2015 7/13/2015 7/14/2015 Total
    Start Chamonix Contamines Chapieux Courmayer La Fouly Trient
    Finish Contamines Chapieux Courmayer La Fouly Trient Chamonix
    Miles 19 12 17 19 19 19 105
    Gain 4,874 4,421 4,677 6,898 4,756 5,956 31,583
    Loss 4,487 2,152 5,855 5,569 4,090 8,476 30,629
    Sleeping 3,782 5,097 3,920 5,248 5,009 3,782

    Here is the profile of the run (in meters).

    Profile Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc

    We will be starting and ending our journey at Hotel Les Aiglons in Chamonix France. Along the way we will stay at five other mountain inns: Hotel Gai Soleil in Les Contamines France, Auberge de la Nova in Les Chapeaux France, Albergo Edelweiss in Courmayer Italy, Auberge des Glaciers in La Fouly Switzerland, and Hotel La Grand Ourse in Trient Switzerland. We finish back in Chamonix on Bastille Day.

    So as you might imagine, the training is ramping up. My training has taken place mostly at the west end of South Mountain Park on a set of trails including Pyramid, Busera, National, Bajada, and Alta. I’ve been increasing distance and elevation each week to try to match some of our days on the run itself. Here is my mileage for the last five weeks (I will run 60 miles total to finish out the current week).

    Weekly Mileage

    Weekly Mileage

    Weekly Elevation

    Weekly Elevation

    Training Route, Pyramid Loop

    Training Route, Pyramid Loop

    Long Route, Pyramid Loop with Alta

    Long Route, Pyramid Loop with Alta

    TMB Terrain Map

    TMB Terrain Map (With first 26 miles of splits)

    Here is a great Google Earth view of the route we will run.

    I’m hoping to be able to write along the route, but at the very least I’ll be posting pics of our trails, our meals, and our smiles.