Inspirational Trails 13: Tour De Mont Blanc
Written By: SportsShoes
I was starting to think about ultra-running and going on a running adventure but had no idea where to start or what to do. I had read Lizzy Hawker’s book about her experience of Ultra Trail Mont Blanc and it sparked some interest inside me. After reading a bit more about it the 170km circular route that encases Mont Blanc and goes through France, Italy and Switzerland climbing 10,000m along the way, seemed a little out of my capabilities at the time, but I wondered if I could break the distance down and instead do it over a few days.
Photo Credit to Unsplash.com
I brought myself a Cicerone Guide Book, booked a week off work and headed out to Chamonix. To be honest I had no real idea what I was doing. I divided 170km by 4 and decided to run about a marathon each day. This was pretty much the extent of my planning. Luckily the guide book had the route in it and a list of all the refuges to stay in along the way.
I was going to be fast-packing the trip so I packed a backpack with a change of clothes, sleeping bag, a tooth brush and some snacks and started my adventure. Thousands of people undertake the TMB each year, most walking it in roughly 10 days. The route is well-trodden and extremely well-marked, so much so you could get away without the guide book if you were really brave! Following the red and white markers, or yellow TMB triangle, almost becomes like a fun treasure hunt and every time you see one you have a feel of relief flow through you as it confirms you are not lost!
The trail goes up and down a series of cols at it circles Mont Blanc and whilst every climb up is a hard slog getting to the top, seeing the amazing views span out in front of you make the sweat dripping into your eyes and the burning in your quads totally worth it! Along the way there are a series of refuges that you stay in. These are buildings bustling with activity, where you get crammed into a dorm next to a complete stranger and often having to sleep far too close to them, but it feels like you have all been on a similar journey to get there making the closeness seem OK. The refuges serve up tasty 3 course dinners and you get to share your days stories with the new friends you have made. I met a German guy on my first night called Frank. Frank then decided that he was going to try and race me for the next 3 days and so obviously I took the bait. We spent the next 3 days leapfrogging past each other and staying at the same refuge each night as we raced to be the first one to arrive. It was quite fun to know that someone else was taking on the same challenge as me and it definitely made the experience seem less scary.
Getting back to Chamonix 4 days later with battered legs having run around a whole mountain on my own (well apart from Frank following me), drinking fresh mountain water from natural springs, jumping in lakes for a refreshing dip and eating sandwiches on top of mountain passes was a truly incredible experience.
This is my favourite running adventure and I can’t wait to go back and do it again – who else wants to come with me?
Photos: Credit to Unsplash.com and Carla Molinaro