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.
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.
Fighting to fill my lungs, the magnitude of what I had let myself in for started to hit home. We were barely 2.5km into the 20km of the Cortina Skyrace and we were only just reaching the first climb.
How was I suffering so much already?
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.
It’s only 10 minutes until my first kettlebell class in Chamonix and there are already over 10 people here – not bad for a debut! Fine, the class is free and the weather is glorious but, hey, I’m thinking this is a win!
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.
When asked why he wanted to climb Everest, George Mallory famously replied “Because it is there.” There is something undeniably attractive about scaling both massive peaks in the Greater Ranges and more humble hills in the British Isles. Sadly, the question now seems to be, “But for how much longer?”
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.
As I sit on a lift going back up for another ski run, tie onto the rope for another lap, or catch my breath before running up another hill I can’t help feeling like I’m cheating, that I’ve given myself an advantage over myself in previous years. Strength has given me a capacity to do just one more route, one more lap, and these extra efforts are what are allowing me to improve. Step by step. Is it cheating?
“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.
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.
In June 2015 I officially launched The Mountain Foundry, my new business that is working with everyday athletes to elites by training them in strength and conditioning for the mountains. Training both face-to-face in Chamonix and remotely via the magic of the internet, my goal is to make people stronger, more confident, and safer in the mountains by providing their bodies with a suit of armour.
Climbing the Frendo Spur is high up on many alpinists dreams when they arrive in Chamonix. A striking line that towers over town, rising right underneath the Aiguille du Midi telepherique in full view of all the camera happy tourists. Described as a mid-grade classic, I’ve had my eye on this route for several years and finally had my chance.
The weather in Chamonix is typical early summer weather – amazing sunny mornings then, between 1pm and 2pm, the clouds come in and shortly after a storm kicks off. It is pretty much like clockwork. Jesse and I set off on a rock climb up high that would easily get us back to safety in time. Until it didn’t.