Or more accurately for me, a lot of trail hiking. 55km. 4500m. Four days. One incredible tart at 2207m above sea-level.
Last week, I headed to the commune of Chamonix, located in the Auvergne-Rhône Alpes region in south-eastern France, for my first time running in the mountains. Location of the first Winter Olympics, known for its skiing – visit Chamonix during the warmer months and it comes alive with the sound of trail runners, even more so during the famous UTMB.
This was my first experience of mountain trails, with the South Downs National Park providing little comparison to the mountain paths and trails I faced. There are very few easy runs in Chamonix. If there are we certainly didn’t discover them this time around. Although the elevation is challenging it takes you to some breathtaking panoramic views of the town below. We explored some of the most popular and recommended routes, all starting and ending near the centre.
The Vertical KM
An “easy” first day began at the foot of the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Working out way up and through parts of the forest, we explored a 7k route taking in over 700km of elevation. A great way to shake out the legs after an early start, and a little taster of what was in store for the longer days.
This was hard. Harder the second time. A 3.8km uphill route that takes you from the town centre part way up Le Brévent. Oh and you climb 1000m along the way. The path sees you zig-zagging your way up the slopes, beneath the cable car. The only glimpse of the top you see if with around 0.8km to, before it disappears again as you branch off for a more technical section. Rocks, ropes, scrambling, and metal ladders await. Once you’ve conquered all that, catch your breath as you look across to see the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc opposite, Chamonix resting peacefully in the shadow of the mountains.
Refuge du plan de l’Aiguille
A must visit. A challenging climb brings you up to the refuge, with terrain suitable for running/hiking/and a little bit of scrambling. You’re greeted with the refuge appear from behind the rocks, amazing views across the whole of the town, and a selection of tarts to enjoy with a close up view of the mountains.
From the Refuge you can run along the ridge and take in the sights of the Mer de Glace – a glacier located on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif. A train can take you back down to the centre or you can take the trails back down into the centre, creating a beautiful half marathon route with plenty of elevation to test the legs.
I can’t recommend Chamonix enough. It was a challenging and rewarding week. I’ll definitely be heading out there again for some mountain air, trails, and another slice of raspberry tart.