The Silitch Family

Adventures in the Alps and Beyond

Monday, August 31, 2009

North Face Ultra Trail- Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie [TDS]

Last year I ran 1/2 way around Mont Blanc -competing in the North Face Ultra Trail:

CCC® (Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix): passing through 3 countries - France, Italy and Switzerland, and approximately 98 km and 5600 m of +altitude change - semi-autonomous. Maximum time limit was 25 hours. I completed it in just over 18hrs and placed 10th for women overall, 8th for Sr Women.

This summer I made a reconnaissance of the 100 mile, Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc, in a running tour of Mt Blanc - approximately 166 km and 9400 m of altitude change - semi-autonomous. We covered 102 miles and over 30, 000 feet of climbing in 5 days.

Instead of running the new course, Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie [TDS]: approximately 105km and +/- 6700m - semi-autonomous, I happily crewed for my American friend Kim Gaylord. She is an experienced ultra-runner, recently transplanted from the Italian Alps back to L.A. She managed to train amongst the movie stars and pulled off an amazing 3rd place in this tough race. Crewing for Kim was a nice change for me.. The course passed through amazing, tough and rugged countryside of the Alps. I passed through Col des Saisies, Col Cormet de Roseland and Col Petit St Bernard. Believe me throughout the day it made me want to take up road cycling. It was beautiful, true alps.

Next adventure....Trail des Aiguilles Rouge- hosted by our own Chamonix Mt Blanc Running Club.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Running around the Matterhorn-

Musing on the Matterhorn:
I always dreamed of visiting the Matterhorn when I was a child. My father went on business trip in Europe and brought back a special bar of Toblerone chocolate and there was this great magical mountain which the chocolate was in the form of. When I was a young girl I grew up eventing and my oldest best friend named her dark bay horse "Toblerone" in honor of our love of the great chocolate. Now you can find Toblerone almost anywhere but you can only go to Zermatt (or Cervinia on the other side) to see the Matterhorn. my first time skiing in the Alps was at Crans Montana. I remember on a really clear day we could see this pointy peak. My husband of has climbed the Matterhorn many times. The first time I saw this magical peak up close was while visiting him when he was guiding in Zermatt. Someday we will climb it together. My dearest friend was recently engaged on the Matterhorn! What a place to be engaged! It is also a great place to run around as you are surrounded by this magnificent view of this magical peak. We adventured there on the train from Chamonix to Zermatt as a family. We wanted to share with the two boys the magic or the Matterhorn while Mommy got a little exercise running up the mountain.

The Matterhornlauf was a perfect run to do on a sunday morning: 12.6 km and 900 meters in elevation gain. The course started in town and winded its way up to the top of Glacier Paradise with the Matterhorn in full view.

Our team of Brava Bellas of Lyndsays website Lizzy Hawker of GB, (2nd place), Mara Larson of US (13 place), Lyndsay Meyer (US, 3rd for age group) and Me.

Our team did not actually count as we were "mixed nations" but if it had we would have done really well.

My great supporters, Michael and the boys! Along the Way! Thank you M and the boys for sharing this experience!

Stay tuned for what is coming up!- The 2009 Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc! It should be very exciting this year! 4 Great Races and thousands of participants!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Running around Mt Blanc

One often hears about hiking the Tour du Mt Blanc in 10-12 days, a beautiful tour that passes through France, Italy and Switzerland, circumnavigating the Mt. Blanc Massif. I partnered with Sierra Mountain Guides for their first ever Tour du Mt Blanc Running Trip.

We took 6 days to complete this tour-and covered 102 miles and 32,560 feet of elevation gain and loss (yeah that is a lot of downhill.) We averaged about 18-10 miles a day. Our route followed the general route of the Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc with a few variations.

Day 1:
Travelled from Chamonix to Les Contemine, France. 20 miles, 5000 feet gain. This day we ran along the L'Arve river down the Chamonix Valley to the small town of Les Houches. From here we took a lift (just one!) to the Col de Voza and descended down to the city of St. Gervais and then went up the valley to the small village of Les Contamines where we had a lovely stay at the Hotel Chemenaz.

Day 2: Our biggest elevation day. 18 miles and 8, 323 feet in elevation gain. A 2 col day. 2 cols a day keeps the doctor away! We left Les Contamines and climbed up from the lovely church of Notre Dame de la Gorge to the Col de Bonnehomme and the crete de Bonnehomme. We reached our highpoint of the 2,665 meters and crossed a small patch of snow! We headed down and up to our next col, Col de la Seine or (pain!) and then descended into the Italian Valley of Val Veny to our refugio for the night Elizabetta. At the Elizabetta hut our night was far from restful as we were sandwiched like sardines in an upper bunkroom with an orchestra of snorers....c'est la vie in a mountain refuge. One thing the high alpine hut had going for it was the glacial stream which was a great spot for a recovery leg soak!. We managed to find a cold stream to soak our legs in each day. 10 minutes of cold soaking really helps with recovery!

Day 3: Our shortest day. 9 miles to Courmeyer and just 1540 feet in climbing. We had a restfull day here exploring Courmeyer and soaking in the famous Pre St Didier natural hot springs.

Day 4: La Fouly: 20 miles and 7, 020 feet of climbing. We left in the misty rain and climbed a steep and steady climb from town to the Bertone refugio and then traversed the Val Ferret to the beautiful Bonnatti hut for a very thick italian style mocha (basically chocolate pudding and expresso) This gave us a jump start up to the Col de Ferrett and brought us in for the final descent into Switzerland into the town of La Fouly. One really notices a change from country to country. Once we arrived in La Swiss, cows were grazing there to greet us. The villages were swept clean and there were even Gnomes to welcome us.

Day 5: Col de la Forclaz. 18 miles and 4,579 feet. We headed down the valley and made a short climb up to the beautiful village of Champex, a classic village that the haute route passes through. From Champex, we climbed up the famous, steep and technical climb up the Bovine pass. From the high mountain pasture we overlooked into the Swiss Valais and out to Lac Leman. We stopped for a drink and cake at the Refuge de Bovine- (fyi. they don't take Visa). From here we headed down to the Col de Forclaz, a pass we cross many times in the car heading over to Switzerland.

Day 6: Big last day. Another 2 pass day! 18 miles and 7, 635 feet in elevation! We headed down to the small village of Trient. We discovered the water was not drinkable at that moment but managed to fill up at a little store before our first big climb. We crossed the border from Switzerland back to France (there is no border patrol) We only realized that the Swiss are very acurate in their descriptions for how long it will take to get somewhere and France is a little more laissez-faire. We fueled up in Vallorcine before our last big climb from the Col de Montets into the Aiguilles Rouge nature reserve. Here we had some clouds as a backdrop but still managed to get a great view of the Mer de Glace glacier and the Chamonix Aiguilles. We even saw some wildlife other than cows, a young bouquetin (ibex). Just when we arrived at the Flegere the rain started to come down and kept us cool for our final descent into Chamonix.

It was great to get back home, see my boys and husband and slip those feet into an ol' pair of flip flops! And perhaps get a well needed pedicure!

To see our trip in video format click here!