Written by Guy Mawson - https://guymawson.wordpress.com

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I’d decided to head off to Chamonix for a week after finding some last-minute flights to Geneva, a bit of Googling sorted me out with a week in the Alps – including transfers and a self-catering apartment in the middle of Chamonix for around £300. All I needed to add was food and drink…

A couple of weeks earlier there’s a little race called the UTMB based in Chamonix which includes another 4 races, the PTL, TDS, OCC and CCC – all of which roam around the Mont Blanc massif in various distances from 50k to around 300k or 200 miles. I’ve got lots of friends who’ve raved about the area and races. One of my pals had hiked the TMB – the 166km trail the UTMB is generally based on earlier in the year, I’d met-up with Haydn and chatted about options and the trails a couple of weeks before. I’d also talked to friends who’d done the shorter 100k CCC route from Courmayeur to Chamonix.

So – I arrived in a cold, wet and windy Chamonix on Saturday evening, the weather didn’t look good. After a quick orientation on Sunday and check of the weather forecast I decided to have a go at the CCC route, starting on Monday morning at around 09:30 so got up early, caught the bus from Chamonix through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur and headed off into the Alps on my adventure.

I’m not going to do a trip report – there’s thousands of those out there from the CCC, UTMB and TMB – but I did learn a few things during the 27.5 hours, 120km and nearly 7,000m of ascent that it took me to get back to Chamonix – so here they are…

Source: Garmin Connect

  • Pain is not French bread – the TMB trail is rocky and tough underfoot… The final few miles downhill into Chamonix were some of the most painful miles I have ever endured and my feet were in agony
  • Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints – I don’t think a saw a single bit of litter on the whole route, inspiring. 
  • Water Water Everywhere– there were places to fill-up with water every 5-10k which I used and was very appreciative of. I didn’t filter it and was OK short-term but suffered from some bad GI issues 24 hours later so next time, I’d filter it!
  • Food – there’s lots of water but precious few shops. I took enough to last me for the entire journey. There’s refuges on the way but if you’re heading through places in the middle of the night don’t expect 24-hour Tescos or garages. Take lots of food
  • Weather – living in Wales I’m used to random weather changes, the Alps take it to a new level. Within 30 minutes it was hot, cold, rain, hail, wind…
  • Take the Opportunity – as soon as I saw the window I went for it and it was just as well, after I got back to Cham the weather turned and got wetter and colder. By the end of the week I couldn’t have done the route with the clothing and equipment I’d bought with me.
  • Step out of your comfort zone – So it wasn’t as big or scary as some of the races I’ve done, but it was easily the longest, toughest self-supported event I’ve done. At times I was very much on my own and out of my comfort zone.
  • Eat more food – I didn’t take enough food and was expecting to be able to resupply
  • UTMB – I won’t be entering any of the UTMB series, the trails are too small for that volume of runners, 200-300 might be a good number, not 2,000. Would love to come for the week of build-up and excitement
  • Travel – it’s quick, cheap and easy to Chamonix / Mont Blanc
  • Selfies – You can never have enough selfies with a mountain in the background
  • Poco Loco – Burger + Beer = Satisfaction

And finally -Mont Blanc is incredible… the TMB trail is sublime but really I’d love to be higher up and on the 4,000m+ peaks. I’ll be back!

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