Thursday, August 4, 2016

Courmayeur - Champex-Lac - Chamonix

At the end of August each year there is a mountain trail festival based in Chamonix in France. This year Daniel is competing in the 'CCC', a 101km race from Courmayeur (Italy) through Champex-Lac (Switzerland) to Chamonix (France). We spent part of our summer doing a recce of the route. Daniel learnt the trails and I renewed my impression of how hard his job is (those mountains are high!!).

Chamonix and Mont Blanc - where the trail ends

The race starts in Courmayeur, an Alpine town in Italy which is accessed through the Mont Blanc tunnel. We hiked up to Grande Col Ferret at 2537m which forms the international boundary between Italy and Switzerland. How cool to hike to another country!

The Aosta Valley in Italy where the race starts in Courmayeur

The international border in the Alps (from the Swiss side)

The route down into Switzerland is beautiful. The Alps were at their most majestic as we descended the fairly steep path. Fortunately there was a convenient and much-appreciated refuge en route where we stopped for a rest and lunch.

La Peule Refuge - great sandwiches here!

Green mountains and cascades

Lots of hiking options. We followed the TMB route.

Glacial rivers abound in this region

The halfway point of the race is at Champex-Lac in Switzerland. We've visited here before on a day trip, and it was good to return to an old haunt. We spent two nights in nearby Bourg-St-Pierre, including the Swiss National Day on 1 August, but the clouds rolled and the wind picked up at night so we didn't see any fireworks.


The race route continues to wend its way up and down the Alps, reaching a total of 6,100m of vertical gain. I joined Daniel for a hike between Vallorcine and Chamonix, the last 18km of the race. At the top of the pass at Tête au Vents we saw three chamois, including a baby! It was a sturdy little creature, true to its goat-antelope heritage. The views from the top were spectacular - a panorama of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and of course, the highest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc.

A chamois mother and kid

Glaciers overlooking the Chamonix Valley

The peak at Tête au Vents with Mont Blanc in the background

The race reaches its grand finale in Chamonix, where we've spent time before. This season, we've visited the Alpine resort a few times for Daniel's training. During some of his runs, I did a bit of sight-seeing around the region, including visits to Parc de Merlet, Gorges de la Diosaz and Gorges du Durnand.

Mont Blanc overlooking Chamonix
A rainbow in the clouds above Chamonix!

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