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Chamonix and UTMB

Results first: Mollycule (my amazing daughter) was 16th of 111 women and 108th of over 1500 total runners that finished in this year's Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc. She covered the official 172.1 km and over 10,000 meters of elevation in about 30.5 hours, arriving back in Chamonix at 11:30 PM on Saturday night, a little over 8 hours behind winner Courtney Dauwalter.

My wife Nancy, son in law Audun, and I were her support crew, following her around the course to provide her with food, sock changes, and some much-needed encouragement. She went in super confident but that wore off pretty quick and she needed support and a little push now and then to keep going.

We had four days of gorgeous weather in and around Chamonix. Nancy and I hiked up to Montenvers above the Mer de Glace (much diminished compared to when we hiked the TMB as a family 15 years ago), then across a section of the Grand Balcon Nord and back down to Chamonix, without taking the train or telepherique to help us along.

The 2021 Mer de Glace, minus ogives


Les Drus
A steep and narrow glacier on the aiguilles

On Friday, Molly was due to start at 5PM, so I went for a solo power hike up to La Jonction, were a big icefall splits in two on either side of a ridge, one side becomeing the Glacier des Bossons. I rode a chair lift on that one to get a head start and make sure I got back in time.

The icefall above La Jonction, Mt. Blanc just above the black pyramid on the R

We took UTMB buses to follow Molly to the aid station at St. Gervais, where we watched the lead runners come through. (We had a rental car but the traffic was pretty bad.) Then on to the aid station at Les Contamines just as it was getting dark.

Courtney Dauwalter in St. Gervais
Molly in St. Gervais, before the darkness

On Saturday morning I took a two hour bus ride to La Fouly in Switzerland to run Molly in after her long night out (Audun slept in the car at Les Courmayeur in Italy to meet her in the wee hours). Various combinations of us rendezvoused with her at other points along the course, the last in the evening at Col des Montets before the final 16 km including one last big climb.GRS07381.jpg

Audun accompanies Molly into Champex Lacs

To honor Molly's effort, Nancy and I returned to Col des Montets on Sunday morning and hiked the race course up to the Grand Balcon Sud, as some of the last runners were coming through. We left the course to detour to Lac Blanc for coffee and crepes. As we came down in late afternoon, we met part of the "clean up crew", a jolly couple in our age range who were taking down the course markers.

Joie de vivre

We all stayed in a little apartment close to downtown, and had a few meals out.

Evening in Chamonix

Chamonix is crowded and crazy and surrounded by crazy beautiful mountains and glaciers. There were hordes of people not only in town but at Montenvers, where a cog railway takes people up to the Mer de Glace viewpoint, and at Lac Blanc. I think of it as a kind of anti-national park, what Yosemite might be like if it were wide open to development. It's an "anything goes" thrill center, with parapentes circling above the valley all day long, at least on these nice days.

Parapente in front of the Grandes Jorasses

I know some TSers think of the Alps as a place to stay away from because of the crowds, and my friend Christophe left it all behind to live in Norway. But it is what it is, and I surely don't mind spending an intense long weekend there, especially if it's to help my daughter achieve a life goal.

Mt. Blanc, with Glacier des Bossons spilling down toward the valley


Thats just wunderful I am so glade she did so well. I know you and your wife are proud and should be...Glad she did a life goal . Thats what its all about...Congratulations MOlly.....

Molly is an inspiration to her generation, and ours...Congrats Molly and to you and your wife too BigRed!

Molly is amazing!

I'm glad you were able to share in her experience too.

I've only been to Chamonix once, two years ago, and while it wasn't as busy as during UTMB there was still plenty happening. I didn't mind it though. It was what it was...and I always appreciate places where you can get up into the mountains so quickly. I'd like to go back for a longer visit.

Thanks for sharing pictures and a report from the race!

Congratulations to your daughter! To finish is a win and to finish that high is awesome! I got to see the finish the day after I finished my first TMB. Did not really know about the UT but heard the commotion from my hotel and had to go see what was up. Chamonix is a special place...I'd live there if I had the money and the French would allow it. Did you get to Poco Loco's by chance? They used to serve an amazing garlic burger! I'm jealous...I want go back as soon as it's safe. 

Thanks everyone. I'll pass on the congrats to Molly. We did not try Poco Loco -- had fancy pizza with some of Molly's runner friends on the first night, and raclette on our last night, but otherwise cooked and ate in our little apartment, with daily early morning croissant runs. Yeah Chamonix is really special, and it's also cool to visit some of the towns along the course. After La Fouly I hitched a ride the distance to the charming little hamlet of Praz de Fort to catch Molly coming through there, then hitched up to Champex Lacs to join Nancy and Audun with the rental. If you've done the TMB you might remember some of those places.

I do remember them! 

May 22, 2022
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