As I was cruising up yet another stunning crack splitting a 300m granite face up high off the Aiguille du Midi, I felt truly in my element. Recent life events have really knocked my mental strength and the first thing to suffer is my ability to climb, or at least feel comfortable climbing.
Do I write about the awesome cookies we tasted in a small Amish bakery in the middle of nowhere in Idaho? Or the perfect breakfast in Missoula, Montana? Maybe the long open roads that gave us both time to relax, reflect, and rebuild?
The States is really a stunning country and one I’ve wanted to explore further for many years. Here are some highlights from our road trip.
They don’t call this place Big Sky country for no reason – photos just can’t do it justice and we have completely lucked out with the weather and the time of year. It is quieter than just a few weeks earlier and the wide open roads are ours alone. Well, and the monster trucks cruising around..
35 people stare at me expectantly. I’m standing in The North Face Store in Chamonix with their professional athletes by my side. I’m about to go running with them and a group of runners from seasoned ultra veterans to newbies like me in the lead up to the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, one of the most famous and toughest ultra races in the world. How did I get here?
I’ll be fine. I don’t need to eat at the moment. I’ll eat in a bit. It’s ok. Then.. it is suddenly not. I crash. I start to slow down first, then my concentration starts to waiver, then I just fall into a crabby and irritable mood. If only I had had eaten when I needed to!
What better way to start your day than with a proper espresso and two scoops of real Italian gelato? As we fled the poor weather in Chamonix, driving through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to Courmayeur, it never fails to amaze me how different this side of the mountain can be.
As Mike left the first aid station, to say I was worried, is an understatement. Here he was, 33km into the 119km of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and he was suffering from food poisoning – I was unable to even get off the sofa when I had something similar yet here he was, with 86km to go – more than two marathons to run.
This is the story of me supporting Mike Foote at the 2016 Lavaredo Ultra Trail. Part 1 of this awesome event can be read here.
We’re 103km into the enormous 119km of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and Mike Foote crosses the brow of a hill with Rory Bosio and they jog their way into the last aid station. They both smile. It is clear they are still suffering but somehow they are both still smiling, both still cracking jokes, and both still positive. Mike and Rory are champion ultra runners, tipped to win this incredible race but food poisoning has knocked racing on the head, now they are just fighting to finish at all.
My last long run is done and the race is just around the corner. My legs feel strong and my mind is psyched to get started now. I’ve wanted to return to Cortina since discovering this beautiful alpine town last year while climbing the classic Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Now I’m heading back on Wednesday to race in a stunning and difficult trail race.
David Göttler is an IFMGA mountain guide and professional athlete who splits his time between Spain and Chamonix, France. He has been on a massive 31 expeditions and is currently camped out at the South Face of Shisha Pangma with Ueli Steck, waiting for a weather window to attempt a bold new route. He kindly took a little time to answer my questions.
Yep, after going on about feeling stronger and the benefits to being stronger in the mountains, I headed out and got firmly put back in my place. And it’s not a bad thing at all.
I headed up to climb a stunning but very challenging route here in Chamonix, the Supercouloir, with Graeme – mentally, physically and technically this route pushed me, harder than any other route before.
“I can’t work out if this was a good idea or a bad one..” said Matt. Tomorrow the Cabane des Dix, high in the mountains above Arolla would have a full staff, prepared food, and be a hive of activity as a key stop on the Haute Route, a classic alpine ski tour. Tonight, however, we were tucked away in the winter room, burning wood to stay warm, heating boil in the bag meals, and we are completely alone.
What are you training for right now? What is on your wish list that, maybe, you’ve not started training for yet? I’ve been ticking along recently, which has been a much needed gear to be running in but I’ve recently been feeling the need for something more. For picking an objective and committing to the work that will be required to get from where I am now, to where I need to be then.
I have dreams to climb big mountains, via big routes, over big days in the hill, and that means I need to get in shape.
I’m grinning ear to ear and I can hear Steve laughing out loud ahead of me. We’re skiing the Vallee Blanche, it’s my first time, and I’m loving it. The winter is just getting better and better with everything building up to this moment where I am making fresh tracks in knee deep powder, weaving between bottomless crevasses, and not another soul in sight.
Ski touring in Chamonix is mandatory and not having a touring set up limits not just where you can go but who wants to ski with you. It might sound strange but I now fully appreciate where this comes from. The phrase ski touring was completely unknown to me just a few years ago. I remember watching from ski lifts, people slogging their way up mountains, completely unable to grasp why they wouldn’t just get on the lift and save themselves some trouble. Now, however, I am a total convert, with my eyes opened to not just the health benefits but the scope that getting yourself up a mountain provides.