Week's activity from Strava

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Still Alp - obsessed

This blog post is certainly out of sequence...

Today, December 15th 2016, I entered a race in the Alps.

Typical of my "blogging career" to date, I left off blogging months ago, whilst not even half way through posting about the Tour du Mont Blanc. Maybe it's because this is meant to be a blog about running (mainly) and I'd already blogged about all the proper running that took place on the trip. I may return to it, especially as I have some great photos to share, but then again, I may not.

I knew setting off on the TDMB that I would be leaving some gaps and that Lisa, in particular would have at least 60 km of the total "unwalked".

Lisa and I parted the ways on the last Saturday, which was spent entirely in Switzerland, and was mainly downhill walking in the Swiss Val Ferret, dodging numerous showers. Perhaps prophetically we decided to walk right down the valley (leaving the TDMB route) to the railway junction town of Orsieres.

Lisa ceremonially binned her cheap poles and got her connection to Martigny and the around Lac Leman to Geneva and home while I "cheated" and got the bus up to Champex Lac for my last day of walking on the Sunday.

Since coming home in early July, the running has continued to go pretty well. It's been relatively easy to get into a routine of running virtually every day. Cocoa needs exercise and so obviously loves tearing around up on the moor, and I am finding it easy both to the find the time and the incentive to get out. But somehow or other I had convinced myself that I no longer needed to be competitive in my running, despite the fact that it should be obvious that goal setting had always dominated my periods of regular running. Gradually as the year has passed, I've seen some goals appear out of the mists that I frequently encounter on my moorland runs (that was a bit of a laboured metaphor, sorry). I've been steadily accumulating miles, and perhaps more significantly, elevation gain and loss, in my running stats. Today I'm looking at 3300 km of running and 100,000 m of elevation for 2016 in my Strava profile. I've dared to imagine myself as a budding mountain runner due to a combination of relatively untroubled hiking with a 7 kg pack on the TDMB and daily uphill and downhill running every day on Dartmoor.

It was in October 2012 that I ran the one and only Ultramarathon of my running life, a 48km low key event in Nottinghamshire, without a great deal of "vert". Two and a half weeks ago, I ran another one, but this time it was 54km and with over 2400m of vertical gain and loss. I'm 4 years older, but now I have the hills well and truly in my legs, so finishing had to be a realistic goal, didn't it? (I will blog on this in separate post.) Finishing would mean 1 magical "UTMB Qualification Point".

And that's what I now have, so I have entered the OCC, the shortest of the 5 races in UTMB week. The odds of getting in are about 2.5 to 1 against, but if I fail these odds are double in my favour for 2018.

OCC stands for Orsieres - Champex - Chamonix, 55km mostly on the TDMB route and appropriately, at least 2/3 of it is on sectors that I missed last summer.

I have a goal - if I get in - and if not I will just have to find another one....

Evolved to run. Born to run. Older, greyer, still running.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tour du Mont Blanc 2016 - a 9 day adventure - partly nostalgic - in the Alps. Part 1


So I've done the obligatory kit review in the last blog post and now comes the "report of the trip".

It's not going to be a day by day account - far from it - nor a diary. Those interested in times, distances, stats etc, can find me on Strava - Charlie Massey - or on Suunto Movescount - charliecoffee - and see the entries for June 25th to July 3rd inclusive. It's all there, including the extra bits that Lisa and I did, and showing the "gaps".

I / We (Lisa was there 2 days less than I) never completed the Tour du Mont Blanc, and we knew we had to make some compromises due to time constraints and the desire to spend at least 3 days walking with rest of our group.

Principally I left 3 gaps:

1. The Italian section from Courmayeur to the head of Val Ferret (Arp Nouva) below Grand Col Ferret. We took a morning off in Courmayeur and got a bus to the bottom of the Col.

2. From Col de la Forclaz in Switzerland across to Vallorcine in France (missing Col de Balme & Aiguillette des Posettes). I decided finally on the last day to walk down to Martigny rather than end up on the "wrong side". Frankly I just wanted to take the train around Lac Leman for sentimental reasons.

3. A small gap being the final part of the climb up to Champex Lac after walking the Swiss Val Ferret. We walked down to Orsieres together so I could say good bye to Lisa at the station there. I then got the bus up to Champex Lac before climbing the mile or so up the path alongside a torrent to my overnight stay at Relais d'Arpette.

The first 2 of these are in a way 'unfinished business' and I would love to go back one long weekend to complete these two sections, along with taking the high variant route over Fenetre d'Arpette at 2665m which was probably my only big regret of the trip.

On my first day (alone) in Les Houches, I decided on a start point for my TMB at the far end of the valley, and thought I would just try to cover as much of the northern sector as I could, retaining the option to take a cable car / ski lift down to the valley when I decided that I'd had enough. So I took the train up to Vallorcine and started. It was drizzling a bit and clouds were fairly threatening on the high peaks, but the sun came out as I began jogging from Vallorcine to col des Montets, so I decided to tackle the steep variant that goes directly up to La Flegere with an option to take in Lac Blanc as well. This also avoids the infamous ladder section on the main path up from Tre le Champ on the other side of Col des Montets. In my enthusiasm to get started, it turned out I was beginning to take some pretty stupid decisions. The path was very steep, and above about 1800m I pretty quickly became enveloped in thick fog, which then turned to steady rain. Snow patches began soon after as I continued to climb and it became less and less obvious where the main path went. Luckily I donned full waterproofs just in time as the rain got heavier (the first of several good decisions). I did contemplate turning back, but with my altimeter showing 2150m by now, and knowing the condition of the path I had just climbed, I decided to press on. I was buoyed by the fact that a walker in shorts and a light windproof top passed me just as I was procrastinating. He turned out to be Scottish and his "we're up here now, so we may as well get on with it" encouraged me also to get on with it. This showed blind faith in someone that I'd never met, but despite the fact that he was obviously ill-equipped, for some reason I deferred to his judgement.

So I followed him along what was now a much more obvious track up onto a ridge that disappeared into the fog. "Lac Blanc" was also clearly signposted. It was then that I heard a rumble of thunder, and then a few minutes later another one much closer. It was not until one followed with sparks flying on the rocks around me that I came latterly to my senses and assessed my predicament: on a high exposed ridge, in poor visibility, in an electric storm, carrying metal poles. What an idiot! Scottish man pressed on into the gloom. I threw my poles down as if they were red hot and re-assessed quickly. A repeat thunder - lightning - St. Elmos fire etc incident made my mind up. It's time to get down off this ridge and wait this out or change route! So I jogged back down to some relative shelter and headed back towards the junction of paths lower down.

After that I made better decisions. I met two Russians (older than me, heavier, huge packs and capes) who were heading the same way as the suicidal Scot. I convinced them to follow me back down and take a lower more sheltered route to La Flegere. After a bit of downhill scrambling through some heather, we were quickly on a more established path. About 15 minutes after this I could see the sky beginning to turn blue down the valley whereas to my left, in the direction of Lac Blanc, it was black and thunder continued to rumble. I pressed on, hoping to intersect the path taken in the Mont Blanc Half Marathon with runners suffering as they pressed onto the finish at 2000m up. Strangely there was no sign of them, just a drinks station being packed away as I reached the La Flegere lift station and cafe. After my pit stop I felt pretty good so my day ended at Planpraz after a mixed hike through forests and across some ski pistes, in great weather with the summits starting to clear across the valley.





In the midst of this I had my first encounters with the serious quantities of snow that remained above about 1900m, and thankfully I was able to deal with it easily. I had the right kit after all!




Later I read on the Mont Blanc Marathon website that they had re-routed the half marathon to finish in Chamonix town. The weather forecast had made it unsafe to be above 2000m that morning......



So that was why the finishing stretch was so deserted!

We had initially wanted to do quite a bit of running on the trip, but ultimately only really got to run 3 times. Frankly, with full pack, the joy was a bit lost and I personally did not feel so safe running down rocky paths with about 8 kg on board. However this took nothing away from the enjoyment, allowing us to look up frequently on the downhills, and enjoy the view, rather than being constantly in that zone of looking at the ground 2 footplants ahead. Travelling uphill it made little difference. Neither of us are in the category of runner that can get into a running rhythm on rocky paths or snow at 20% gradient above 2000 metres altitude.



We went on one run that we both absolutely loved, and memories of that will stay for a long while. We once again took the train up the valley to the last stop at Vallorcine. We then followed the TMB path back to Le Buet before branching off up the valley north of the Aiguilles Rouges, along the Berard torrent and past the spectacular waterfall of the same name.





The trail varied between steep rocky sections and gentler rolling parts where we could get a rhythm going. It was a beautiful day and despite climbing over 650 metres in 6 km or so, we just got warmer and warmer, as the valley rose towards the Col de Salenton at its head.

This run has a "reward" at the half way / turn around point, with the Refuge de Pierre a Berard nestling under a large boulder just before the trail heads up into the snow below the Col. So we just had to spoil ourselves with their take on Gateaux aux Myrtilles, watched over by a flock of young Bouquetins. A throughly recommended 13 km outing to get you inspired to do more mountain running.






Before our "easy day" running, Lisa and I had completed the section Planpraz to Les Houches - but in the reverse direction, turning a "mainly downhill" section into a "almost totally uphill" section.

The weather again started foggy as we wound our way up through the woods, climbing the 1200m or so to Bel Lachat. It was during this that the realisation started to dawn on me that any fears I had over Lisa's physical preparation and aptitude were unfounded. She was well able to cope with anything I could. Later on I would discover that she could have left me for dead at any point!




We found serious amounts of snow as we headed up towards Le Brevent above 2400m and onwards to Col de Brevent. Also the main path markings lost their meaning here, and whatever tracks existed on the snow became the de facto route. This is a big warning to anyone following a GPX track in these conditions. It could in fact lead you into trouble. The route on the ground and orientation by map, altimeter and compass might be far better. At one point, slightly confused by the snow tracks towards Col de Brevent, we asked a rock climber who was perched on one of the crags where the TMB main route was. He professed to have no idea. Either he didn't and was a particularly tunnel visioned sort, or he wasn't interested in offering help. Unusual.





We finished our day at the same point I had finished the day before, but this time we did get to see finishers of the Mont Blanc Marathon (at around 7 hours in) at Planpraz. Strangely it didn't put me off the idea, although one guy repeatedly drinking water and vomiting against a wall by the lift station didn't seem to having too great a time.




Evolved to run. Born to run. Older, greyer, still running.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tour du Mont Blanc 2016 - Mainly a kit review



As alluded to in previous posts, the Alps has an almost hypnotic effect on me.
I have spent enough time there, though little in the past 20 years or so, to begin to understand the rhythm of the seasons, the type of weather to be expected, the beauty of the natural environment and the unique human environment. I am fluent in one of the alpine languages. This helps.

But it was not until this trip of 9 days that I actually seriously got to grips with the Alps "physically. Ski-ing, which I did a great deal of until around the mid '90's, doesn't really count. Critically most forms of ski-ing mean you are mechanically transported up the mountains by one means or another, before sliding down on a pre-prepared, modified part of the landscape. Walking and running in the alps is entirely different - every metre of altitude gained is by muscle and sweat. Every view is "earned", not simply paid for in a lift pass. The paths sneak about, around and across landscape features, whilst fully respecting them. Rocks, tree roots and loose materials are not cleared for you. Critically what you are carrying in terms of personal weight and pack size matters - you look at others labouring under vast towering packs and feel smug, whilst others who made even more lightweight choices than yourself become objects of envy.

I was proud of my Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 and my honed down contents (see last post), and was very sceptical of my daughter Lisa's decision to go about 30% less in volume and possibly 3kgs lighter. When early in the trip, she pulled a sun dress out of the pack to change into on a warm evening, I realised that I had, not for the first time, been upstaged by my wiser offspring.

So that would be the first of many recommendations to anyone coming across this blog and planning a similar trip. Take less. Take no duplicates. If you look at it twice, and wonder, don't take it! Buy the lightest, most effective kit in every category.

Reviewing what I took critically now, and to get the 'kit' issue out of the way, I would leave behind a fair bit and change some for lighter options.

Clothes:

Base layers / t shirts: 1 long sleeve (that is genuinely "tec", warm and light); 2 very light short sleeve that wash easily and dry quickly. Travel in 1 of course.

Underwear: 2 as per t shirts above. You are wearing 1 to travel.

Socks: my Merino blend trekking socks were excellent but took an age to dry. 1 other short pair, quick drying - wear these to travel.

Warmth: My thermal long johns were unused: ditch. Merino top layer: ditch. At all times when cold, put on micro down jacket. If legs are cold, don waterproofs. Keep warm running gloves and hat. My observation would be that your legs won't get cold in shorts unless they get wet!



Shorts / trousers: My Karrimor zip outs and 2 pairs of running shorts, one cycle type and one lightweight could be replaced by 2 pairs of lightweight hybrid trail running shorts.

Waterproofs: absolutely the single most important kit items. My jacket was perhaps 150g "too heavy" and I bought new lightweight breathable waterproofs in Decathlon. I never got wet even in torrential rain. Every other item of kit fails if it gets wet under inadequate waterproofs. I will replace my 'heavy' breathable rain jacket with a well-reviewed lightweight (250g max) with storm hood for the next expedition. Hopefully these will be carried most of the time in outside pockets on pack, so they need to be low volume also. The jacket needs to be big enough to cover 3 other layers if necessary.

Refuge / sleep / evening wear: ditch everything and make do with items from above. There is no 'dress code'.

Hat / Cap" I wore my 4.99 euro Decathlon peaked cap nearly all the time. It acted as swetband and sun visor in one

Equipment:

Poles: essential, but with a big but.... We had 14 euro a pair telescopic poles from Decathlon that weighed 420g a pair. They were totally fine and got ditched (to solve hand baggage issue - Easyjet would have charged us 3 x their value to take as hold baggage) at the end. Expensive poles are totally unnecessary IMO. It's weight that's the issue.


Shoes: when we walked in a group of 8, 6 of them were in high, heavy duty walking boots. We had Salomon hybrid running / fast hiking Goretex lined shoes. They were absolutely superb. Gave us a light, agile feeling that made all the scrambling much easier. Even in the large quantities of neve snow that we crossed, they were grippy and adequate.

Gaiters and extra grip for snow: we had Decathlon trail running gaiters and some Yak Trax type grips. These kept snow and grit out and added a bit of extra grip on long stretches of snow. On short patches we didn't bother with the extra grip. Neither of us fell over or slipped.



First aid / wash kit etc: I took too much. A toothbrush and some paste and a small bar of soap, plus a tiny first aid kit (including a Compeed pack)and some Rocktape would have been enough. Footcare is essential though and I used Compeed blister prevention stick every morning. I never got a blister. My lightweight microtowel was great.

Sawyer water filter: used frequently and saved at least 500g from carrying extra water. The stream water up high tastes delicious! Essential.

Dry bags: used for everything from food to clothing, maps etc. Great for compressing clothing. 6 would be a good number. I also had 3 of Decathlon's super-cheap, superlight waist and back pack products. Used frequently to supplement and avoiding having full pack all the time.



Maps and Tech: a had no transparent waterproof map cover. This was a 'miss'. The most used feature on my Suunto Ambit was altimeter - essential IMO. Having all the Kindle versions of the guides and my evening reading on an Ipad mini was also a weight saver. My Iphone 4s was my only camera. I never followed a GPS track, rarely had to consult the map en route (though once on the top of Brevent should have done) and generally knew where we were going. The markings on the TDMB, though variable, particularly in Italy, are generally very good. Learn the route first and it's easier on the ground.





Pack: My Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 was very comfortable, expandable and worked well when overloaded. Lisa's Raidlight Lady 14 litre Ultra running pack was sensational.

Evolved to run. Born to run. Older, greyer, still running.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tour du Mont Blanc - Kit!

I have to admit that I have spent way too much time these last few month's fretting about what to take (and what not to take) on the Tour du Mont Blanc. With my flight to Geneva now less than 72 hours away I had to get closure on this issue sooner or later.

I have read way too many accounts of what is, and what isn't essential - but all say that, if you are carrying the whole way, which 2 of us are, less is best. The main problem has been that, although it is now in theory mid summer according to the calendar, the alps around Chamonix don't seem to have noticed this. There was significant late snow fall in the alps this spring and even 30-50 cm of fresh snow above 1800m as late as May 23rd. Cool and wet weather since then means that there are significant patches of snow everywhere above 2000m, and the main high passes have deep wet snow all the way up. In theory prudent advice is to carry crampons and even an ice axe, just in case.

This was definitely not part of the plan. In fact as a "hand-baggage only" traveller there is no chance of getting anything bladed or pointed on the plane anyway. I am even going to have to leave behind my "wizard sticks", the articulated z-poles that I have finally grown to love on long hikes. They will be replaced with some cheap ones from a Decathlon store once I arrive in France on Friday.

This morning I laid out all the kit I have "selected" in a spare room and (yippee) it does all actually fit in my pack, which remains below cabin baggage limits.

Here it all is:



The weight of my hiking pack, fully loaded, but with no food or drink, and not counting the trekking poles is almost exactly 6 kilos. On a warm day, wearing no jacket this could creep up to 7kg in total including drink and food. Whereas climbing a high pass in low temperature, I may be wearing a kilo or more of clothing. However you look at it, you have to carry it!

For those who may in future be Google searching people in the same position here is the full list, with some comments:

Wearing to travel:

SHOES - Salomon XA Pro GTX "Fast pack" shoes - these are more solid than classic trail running shoes and have a less high profile sole, but as I have already run and hiked over 200km in them on Dartmoor, I am pretty confident that they are up to the job. They have a Goretex membrane, so should help keep feet dry through mud and slush.

CLOTHING - Karrimor lightweight convertible (zip on / off legs) hiking trousers; short sleeve technical tee; running slip; short running socks; Decathlon (Kalenji) waterproof 'Novadry' breathable jacket (hood detached).

WAIST PACK: Passport, money, phone, credit cards.

Pack:

Ultimate Direction "Fastpack 20" - I've both hiked and run in this fully and partially loaded. It is a hugely impressive and adaptable piece of kit that spreads weight very evenly. It weighs 535g empty.

Hydration:

UD Hydrates 500ml bottle that fits in the pack shoulder straps.
Sawyer Microfilter. Allows the use of stream water for drinking, passing through a filter system that gets rid of virtually all possible contaminants.

Clothes:

2 pairs of running shorts - one lycra cycling style, one ultralight conventional. I bought both in Lidl for £4.99 each and they are perfectly good.
2 base layers - one long sleeve, one short sleeve. Both aimed at runners, from Decathlon Kalenji range. Quick drying / wicking.
2 pairs of pants - both Decathlon, Kalenji, aimed at runners. Quick drying and wicking.
2 ultralight short sleeved t shirts. Decathlon Quechua hiking brand.
2 pairs of socks. Both are X socks, one high compression and one mid merino blend. I see foot hygiene and comfort as a major risk to success and enjoyment. Spending £45 on 2 pairs of socks is not normally my style!
Thermal long johns - will double up for sleepwear. Decathlon Quechua brand.
Thermal merino blend long sleeved top - will double up for sleeping too. Same brand.

Extra Outer layers / walking aids:

Microlight down hooded jacket - Decathlon Quechua brand. At £30 I may have the bargain of the whole lot or have a piece of kit "not fit for purpose". Time will tell.
Waterproof trousers - Helly Hansen "Hellytech". They are old, a bit big, a bit heavy. But they have proved themselves many a time. I agonised over what to take here more than on anything else, but finally decided a new set wasn't warranted and others I own might not cope with a heavy storm.
Hood - The Kalenji waterproof jacket has a zip-on hood. I have used it a few times - it works and doesn't blow off.
Gloves - Decathlon Kalenji warm running glove. Not waterproof - possibly a bit of a risk.
Hats - 1 Decathlon Kalenji lightweight running cap for the heat; 1 Colombia thermal beanie hat for the cold. Both well tried and tested.
Buffs - 2 of these. They will double up as headbands and / or sweatbands or scarves.
High viz jacket. A featherlight microshell by Decathlon. It doesn't stop much, but weighs next to nothing, and could make a group leader visible in fog or gloom. Why not?
Snow / Ice studs - an aid to grip that can be pulled on over shoes. Decathlon. (if they don't make the baggage check, I'll have to buy again.)
Gaiters - Trail running gaiters by Decathlon / Kalenji. Not waterproof but should stop the grit.
Trekking poles - leaving them behind. Will buy a basic pair at Decathlon on friday in France.

Tech / Navigation / Safety:

Whistle & compass. Attached to a lanyard on shoulder straps.
2 x IGN 1:25,000 maps for the route.
Suunto Ambit 3 Peak GPS / Stopwatch / HRM / Barometer / Altimeter.
Ipad Mini - guidebooks, all booking confirmations and some reading are loaded. Backup camera.
Iphone 4S - main camera.
A set of bluetooth cordless headphones.
Charging cables for all above.
Multipoint USB charging plug.
Olympus lightweight binoculars.
Survival bag. Karrimor. Bright Orange Heavy duty plastic. Hopefully never to be used.

In the evening / night & First Aid:

Lifeventures lightweight micro towel.
Ultralight sheet sleeping bag inner.
4 pairs of earplugs. I am a light sleeper and refuge dorms are notorious for grizzly snorers.
Rocktape. Several pre-cut strips in case the ankles or knee goes.
Compeed plasters. For blister repair.
Compeed stick. For blister avoidance!
Bar of soap.
Toothbrush.
Sun tan cream - Garnier small tube. To be supplemented.
(Buying, a mini knife toothpaste and plasters in France)

Dry bags, spare packs:

I am taking a total of 8 dry bags, Karrimor and Decathlon. All the gear is stowed in them as my pack is not watertight (nor would I trust it if it was!), and 2 of these are currently spares.
I have two spare packs, which are a second 2 litre waist pack and a 10 litre backpack. They are packed into a fist shaped mini bag each and weigh about 150 grams between them.

Of course in classic "blog your adventure" style I will review all this on return!


Evolved to run. Born to run. Older, greyer, still running.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tour du Mont Blanc - 2 weeks to go

It was an idea that was always there really.

Living in Geneva, Switzerland for 7 years in the late '80s and early '90s satisfied a great deal of my lifetime obsession with the alps that started with a grammar school ski trip to Sedrun in the Grisons region of Switzerland when I was 12. Once I had the cash as a commodity trader in the city, the ski holidays just multiplied and the career opportunity of moving to Switzerland with a young family in 1986 proved a logical next step.

Of course we skied whenever we could. Both my children pretty much loved ski-ing from the first tentative outings. Val d'Isere became the place for "holidays" and Megeve, St. Gervais and Les Contamines became the place for saturdays in winter.

But the alps in summer? I hadn't really thought about it much back then. By the time we "repatriated" in 1993-4, I knew that the "alpine playground" had far more to offer in the summer months than it ever could in winter. And it was cheaper, less constrained, somehow. The attraction of ski-ing is still there of course - not least to escape grey and wet U.K. for a chance for some thrills in a soaring and pristine white environment. But the cost! And the cold.

Summers were pretty warm in Geneva and I soon realised that the mountains provided good opportunities for somewhat cooler exercise. Cycling over a high pass was truly something to be proud of, and going for a swim with mountains all around became something we all enjoyed. Occasionally we would get a hike in, but the age of the kids meant this was not an obvious day out. Just the smell of the alps after a summer shower is something to be experienced.
Trail running, as it is known today, hardly existed in 1993. Hiking seemed to be for the oldies

So I left Switzerland with a slight feeling that I might have missed opportunities somewhere, and 2 weeks from today, and some 23 years later, I am about to set off to take up one of those opportunities. What makes it even better is that my eldest daughter, Lisa, and my best mate, Trev, are going to be part of that experience. Somewhere along the road we became oldies.....

Ten days from now,  Friday June 24th, I fly to Geneva and then travel on to Les Houches in the Chamonix Valley. Lisa, Trev and 5 others will be joining me over the next few days, and we intend on various schedules to walk all, or as much as we can of the famous 100 mile circuit of the Mont Blanc Massif, the Tour du Mont Blanc. The route is the classic anti-clockwise version starting in Les Houches, via Les Contamines, val des Glaciers, Val Veny, Courmayeur, Val Ferret (Italian and Swiss), Champex Lac, col de la Balme and back to Les Houches via the "southern balcony" of the Chamonix valley. Lisa and I will be trying to complete as much of the last 3 legs before the others arrive on June 27th as we have to come back earlier. We also want to do some trail running as well as hiking and each have packs to allow that and a pack weight of 5 kgs or less. We have foregone the traditional high sided heavy boots for Salomon Trail running shoes, and are even weighing our limited supply of underwear!

It promises to be a fairly exciting week, as right now the abundant late spring snow on the Mont Blanc Massif is refusing to melt at the normal rate. This means that most sections of the TMB above 2200 metres have sections of snow on them. The 5 passes above 2400 metres promise each several hours of trudging through "neve" or wet spring snow - an adventure in fine weather, an ordeal or danger in poor visibility or bad weather. We even have fall back plans in place for two sections where we may not be able to pass. Thank goodness for the Mont Blanc road tunnel. We may need it.


Evolved to run. Born to run. Older, greyer, still running.