Nirvana in the Mountains

Continuing the idea of getting more people involved in this, it would be great to hear about a moment you feel you have achieved something great. It can be in anything finishing a race, winning a match, maybe giving a speech. The greater the variety the better.  

Day 2 was the day for a lie in, so we woke at 8am, I didn’t consider myself a fan of the freeze dried breakfasts so instead opted for a morning curry. What better way to start the day. I was a bit behind in the morning somehow and as we jumped into the car to head to the start point I was still pulling on socks, brushing my teeth and trying to put sun cream on all at the same time. Amazingly I didn’t end up spreading toothpaste over myself by mistake.


The plan for the day was to make our way up from near the centre of Chamonix up into the mountains and the ski area of Brévent-Flégère before traversing the mountainside and up to a lake called Lac Blanc. Before running back and down to camp as fast as we could. There wasn’t as much ascent as the previous day but certainly a longer distance to run and we reckoned it would probably take about the same amount of time as the previous day.


After a slightly stiff start the first section was followed a mixture of road and single track paths up the mountainside continually switching backwards and forwards. On parts of the way up you could make out all of the switch backs to come. Not the most enjoyable view knowing that each switchback gained hardly any height. Luckily the majority of this 1st uphill section was in the shade of pine trees with glimpses through to the surrounding mountains. Of all the days to climb Mont Blanc that day would definitely be one of them. The sun was gleaming off the top of it, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and we guessed most teams would have set off long by now. As we made our way up I was noticing that my chest was getting quite wet, it turned out my water bottles were not particularly great and had a habit of leaking everywhere not great news when it was already getting hot in the morning sun.


We rounded a corner and came across a sign diverting us in another direction, but it was clear people had been ignoring it. Just as we were deciding an old French runner came over glanced at the sign before telling us it was fine and skipped under the tape blocking the way. The path was alright except for a section where there had been a large land slide taking out the path along with destroying anything that was in its way. We had to carefully balance across the debris and over the boulders, including over some random plastic pipes.


The first stop came at a restaurant next to where a telecabin finished. We basked in the sun briefly, tried to dry our already sweat soaked tops out on the grass and munched down food and water. It is amazing how good food tastes when you work up an appetite. We noticed there was a constant stream of paragliders gracefully gliding up and down the valley on the thermals that surround the area. Something to come back to Chamonix for! At this point I realised my camera was broken and after several failed attempts at getting it work I gave up.


Continuing our way up the mountain further we came across the launch site for the paragliders. It was fascinating watching as they constantly lined up across this take off area in singles and tandems, preparing themselves before launching themselves down the mountainside. We quickly left this new distraction to hit the trails we had come here for and finally a flat section that we ran down and across dancing between walkers and over stones that littered the trail floor. We ran through gaps in towering rock avalanche defences protecting the villages and towns below, across rock strewn slopes and through the grasses now covering the once snowy slopes. It was strange seeing these areas I had skied over on numerous occasions now bare in the sun. One of the sights of the day was coming round a corner and seeing the track ahead cut out of the mountainside.


We reached the next mountain restaurant/bar. There was no water. A bit disheartening with the distance still to cover and not knowing how much further it was to the next watering hole. Luckily Si and Kov had enough to share some out. The next section was going to involve a bit more of a traverse before starting to ascend up to the lake our final destination. On our first and only glance it looked like there was about 300m ascent, not too much really given what we had already done. We passed a steady stream of people from every walk of life. Everyone was on the mountain; guided tours, families, the keen hiker and mountaineer to couples on a retreat. I think we tended to get the same look of slight bewilderment as we ran past them or as it got steeper marching past.


The climb up was a bit of a challenge, it became evident fairly quickly that this guess of 300m of ascent was slightly off and as my water and energy levels began to dwindle a mental battle ensued to keep me going at a good pace. Parched mouth and with the sun reflecting off the rocky surfaces around, the muddy puddles and trickling streams became ever more inviting. One of the biggest challenges was our pace becoming more and more dictated by the steady train of people up to Lac Blanc and with few passing places our group soon became dispersed along the mountain trail. At points I did wonder why we were running, I am often asked this too about my various runs. As I came round the corner I knew why. We had arrived at the lake finally.


I dropped my bag by Kov and Si. I approached the crystal clear water, firstly washing my face, then a quick drink before dunking my head in it. Incredibly refreshing.


It was a moment of elation, all be it a small one when I considered we were only half way but still we had reached our goal for the day. The lake was crystal clear and nestled amongst the peaks with views out across the valley. It was picture perfect. Speaking to the guys it turned out that there had been about 800m of ascent.


We filled our bottles at the mountain hut that was beside the lake and munched on yet more food, we could finally appreciate the views that surrounded us. Noticing a guided group were about to move down the same path that we were to go down we decided to go for it and begin the traverse and descent back towards Chamonix.


This started with climbing down a ladder than was bolted to the rock face that looked like it was about 50 years old before flying down the mountain and enjoying the change to a descent. The only thing that slowed our pace down was huddles of tourists enjoying a trek in the mountains who were being briefly interrupted by 3 sweaty, lycra clad guys. We came to a stop after coming round a corner to a view that included a new animal and one that we later found out was an Alpine Ibex. These are awesome animals which made Kov, who had gained the nickname of mountain goat, look incredibly tame in comparison as they galloped off down the mountainside as he scrambled to get his camera out in time.


The final section was spent sliding down scrabbly slopes which I distinctly remembered after the numerous chunks the route had taken out on the bottom of my skis. The car park suddenly popped into view and with a mixture of sadness, relief and pleasure the days running was over after spending 6 hours on the mountains. A quick change and we nipped into town where we gorged on pizza and bee, surrounded by a buzz of tourists, mountain bikers, climbers and loads of other outdoor enthusiasts. The day finished with wine cheese and another boil in the bag curry.

A perfect end to the day.