Sunday, July 4, 2010

Marathon du Mont Blanc

Friday we lazed and reconnoitered, re-acqainting ourselves with the lay of the land, the city, our old campground, the TI, wifi, the bus routes, the trails, etc. Saturday we made our usual visit to the marche, purchasing cheeses, olives, raspberries, potatoes, and the wonderful poulet roti with lots of jus, for our traditional Chamonix repast. After the repast, naps, then more shopping ventures into town. It is touristy, yes, but it is the oldest of all mountain resort towns, still going strong (four seasons), and, well, French touristy is a good thing.

Chamonix is on the north side of the Mont Blanc massif, in a glacial slit trench between Mont Blanc and the lesser but still rugged Aiguille Rouge to the north. It is from the Aiguille Rouge that one gets the best French views of Mont Blanc, and it is from the Aiguille Rouge that most parasail launchings occur. Anyhow, we decided to walk the Balcon Sud, the trail that goes along the Aiguille Rouge from La Flegere to Praz Plan, east to west, three thousand feet above the valley. We knew that we would be sharing the trail with the Marathon du Mont Blanc, its final kilometers before ending at Praz Plan, but we figured that, with a late start, we would not have many runners, certainly not the competitive ones, to contend with. Besides, it would be exciting to watch, and, yes! mountain bicylistes had been banned from the trail for the day. We rode the La Flegere telepherique up the mountain and hit the trail a little after noon. We saw runners throughout our walk, always yielding the right of way to them, offering such encouragement as we could; what an ordeal they had undertaken!
But the nice thing about running a marathon in the French
Alps is that you can always stop at a cafe, have a glass of
wine, maybe an expresso and croissant; but in this terrain,
you also have to carry your hiking poles

And use them; the terrain can be demanding, even the level

But the scenery is good

Very good (the Chamonix Aiguilles)

It is all part of the 110 mile Tour du Mont Blanc, which we
walked back in 2005

Chamonix and Mont Blanc from the Aiguille

Another kilometer and a couple hundred meters' climb to
the finish line (we were tired, too, by this time)

Le home stretch, agonizingly up-hill; but supporters lining
the way

The finish line, nicely framing the Mountain; we took the
Praz Plan telepherique back down to town and spent the
rest of the day recovering

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