Friday, March 29, 2019

Patrouille des Aiguilles Rouges: a nice change of pace

After pounding the pavement for several months, pretty much since November, working on my speed as the Annecy marathon approaches (and with some success it would seem), I teamed up with my good friend Cyril for a ski touring race, something I haven't done since the Patrouille des Glaciers (PdG) in 2002.

My skis and bindings haven't changed either. But while they were the ski equivalent of showing up at a rally with a vintage Mini Cooper, they held up nicely, even on the tough downhill on the high altitude crusty snow. Much better than the PdG was the fact that this was low-key, 3rd edition, with about a quarter of the number of participants.

Tough race, though, with a 11km pretty much all uphill (a few up and downs just to get us to take our skins off and put on again), from Arolla at 2000m to the (Faux) Col de Darbonnaire at 3,300m, for an approximate total elevation gain of 1,600m - and with a climb so steep (with skis on the backpack) that I kept feeling like I was about to topple over backwards!

Since I'd only been ski touring once this season and about once in the five years preceding, it was slow going. I didn't really take a break in my marathon training, so I went into it with accumulated fatigue - but there was also the fact that it works on different muscles and of course the altitude, as well as the 8kg backpack with pickaxe, rope, shovel... Excuses, excuses!

We got turned back at Darbonnaire along with a half-dozen other stragglers, but we still had a 6-7km descent back to La Gouille in the valley, and totaled almost 5h on our feet, so I feel like we pretty much completed the race!

Either way, it was a great way to replace the longest long run three weeks out from the marathon - and the weather was absolutely perfect and of course the Valais mountains superb...

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