Day 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux

The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of Europe’s most popular hiking routes, and there are outfitters all over the world who offer guided coverage of the trails. Just one example is REI, who offers a 13 day trek that features several forms of alternate transportation along the way such as cable cars, buses and trains, so that the trekkers don’t have to walk all 105 miles. Even the guidebooks break the whole trail into 11 parts, so for our group to complete the whole thing in six days we needed to cover two segments a day for all but one day of our journey.

Day Two happened to be the only day when we covered just one segment of the trail, which meant only one big ascent and a lot less mileage.

We woke in our Auberge, Hotel Gai du Soleil, at around 7:30 am so that we would have time to eat, pack up, and hit the road by 9. John and I did not sleep well. It seems we had a touch of jet lag–a lot of tossing and turning in the night. Still, come morning, our bodies felt surprisingly good after having covered so many miles on Day 1. I did not feel muscle-sore (though I did feel tired) so I was really looking forward to hitting the trail again. I felt so relieved that my training seemed to have paid off.

Honestly, I had wanted to do about 75% more training than I accomplished before we headed to Europe. My main excuses for not training more were, John and I moved away from South Mountain April 27 and no longer could run straight from our house to trails and hills. So a lot of my miles ended up being flat (and frankly, boring). Also, I got a really bad asthma flare when we moved (probably the dust!) so I was on Prednisone for a week in May and had a hard time getting my lungs back in running shape. I’m proud of the training I did do though, which involved as many miles and as much climbing as I could get in.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 10.26.10 AMOnly time would tell if it would be enough to get me all the way around Mont Blanc.

On Day 2, breakfast was a buffet of simple breads, pastries, cereals, and yogurt and some delicious local apricots. After some coffee and calories we were ready to head out.

Our outfitter Simon James and his girlfriend Karin were kind enough to bring the Canine Support team to see us off. Since everyone in our group has beloved dogs at home, we especially appreciated being able to get some snuggles and pats before starting off.

Today’s segment started fast and gentle uphill. It was beautiful scenery in the trees, passing a lovely historic church, a gorge and waterfall, then winding uphill and above the tree-line towards the day’s ultimate test, the Col du Bonhomme.

I’m not certain exactly how he did it, but our biking team member stayed with us all day, even through some ragged and tough patches of trail. We all regrouped for a picture at the top of the Col, then we met again at a refuge at the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, where we had some coffee (or beer) and snacks.

From there, as you can see from the map, it was a downhill journey to the Auberge de la Nova, our lodging place for night two of our adventure. We got in pretty early and had some snacks on the lawn while waiting for dinner. Our rooms at this small inn were very basic–a bed, a chair, and a sink. The shared shower and toilet were in the hallway, and were very tiny.

Once again John and I had some jet lag and didn’t sleep perfectly. I was worried about how that might affect us on Day 3, which based on the numbers would prove to be doubly challenging.

 

Total distance: 20555 m
Max elevation: 2472 m
Min elevation: 1153 m
Total climbing: 1737 m
Total descent: -1348 m
Total Time: 06:04:04

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The Lodging, Europe 2015

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.

 

Tour du Mont Blanc Training: Three Weeks Out

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.