I have wanted to run The Monte Rosa as a 170km 12000m D+ race for three years now. Lizzy Hawker the Multiple UTMB winner was Race director and eventually put a route together as an event. It began at 4 pm on Thursday 7th September.
Starting in Grachen (Switzerland) – There was a steep climb up over some big monster mountains and over the new 494m suspension bridge which opened recently….it mentioned not to run over it, but was still very bouncy…. then to Europahutte, then an easy long trail path into Zermatt. From there it all changed and became very difficult. I struggled up over the glacier then round to Lago Cime Bianchi surrounded by a moonscape in Italy. From there it was a magical descent through grassy valleys and steep drops to Refugio Ferraro. I ran most of the way with a couple of well-known trail runners Jason Poole and Denise Zimmermann. We picked up another runner and followed instructions up and over the Col Bettaforca; unfortunately the route had been changed. We contacted Lizzy on the mountainside and she agreed we had gone further and higher and were not advantaged, so we carried on. We had lost probably an hour and were getting a little cold by this time. We arrived in Gressony about 20 minutes ahead of a fellow British runner – Nicky Spinks. We climbed through the night to a beautiful Café at the top of Passo Dei Salati at 2900m. It began to snow so I was pleased to have some soup before getting frozen on the descent to Alagna. There I sat with a very ill Nicky who needed a cup of tea and a bed to warm up. She dropped which was the sensible thing to do. Her friend Jean Brown turned up just as we were leaving. With the continual change of gear to cope with the weather Jean joined myself and Jason for the huge 3 hour climb up to Col du Torlo 2701m. We then descended well to Macugnaga. Fortunately, there was an excellent aid station that served fresh pasta and coffee. It did the trick and we left to do the last big climb over Monte Moro 2853m. We visited the Madonna statue then a beautiful descent over slabs of rock, fortunately dry, to run alongside the dam above Saas Fee. We then ran on to start the brilliant last section from Saas Fee to Grachen…21 km. Completely unbelievable balcony path with scary drops. I ran well for the final 50km and nearly caught second lady. I missed out on 1st V50 by a little way. I was a little disappointed, but overall I have to be pleased, as it was really tough race. People were dropping all the way round. I finished 11th man and 13th overall.
It is a completely different experience to the Mt Blanc series of races. It is in its infancy, but should, with Lizzy’s drive, end up as a world class event. It is a much more personal journey than I was expecting, but overall I was pleased to have entered and finished.