Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Eiger Trail

Last weekend Daniel ran the Eiger Ultra Trail race, 101km of trails and 6700m of climbing through the Bernese Oberland. This is an extraordinary trail through the Alps and a good one for runners and supporters. In trail races, I usually drive to each checkpoint to meet Daniel along the route, but this time I got a special pass to travel up into the mountains on the trains, gondolas and cableways! The race start was early at 4:30 in Grindelwald and Daniel was feeling confident from the get-go. As soon as the runners set off, I caught a series of gondolas up to First where I saw the sun rise over the Alps.

First is a minor summit on the Schwarzhorn and is famous for its cable car station with a walkway along the side of the mountain, including a suspension bridge and 'skywalk' view point. The runners passed close to First 13km into the race and then came into the official checkpoint at 22km so I got to see Daniel twice up there. While I waited I enjoyed the views of the sunrise, the mountains, glaciers and waterfalls.

Looking strong after 13km

A very steep ascent up to First!

The suspension bridge was part of the race route

Daniel running along the 'skywalk' into First

The 'skywalk' overlooking the Alps (See the glacier across the valley!)

Daniel ran up a few more ascents after First - such as Faulhorn at 2,680m and Schynige Platte at 2,076m - and then descended into Burglauenen, which was my next stop along the route, 53km into the race. This is a small village just down the valley from Grindelwald and is the starting point for various hikes up either side of the valley.

Arriving at Burglauenen

The next big peak after Burglauenen was Männlichen at 67km and 2,343m high. It took Daniel a steady 2 hours 40 to reach the top, but I was able to take the Grindelwald-Männlichen gondola, the third longest passenger-carrying gondola cableway in the world. It took me 30 minutes to complete the 6km trip from Grindelwald and it was breath-taking. I was surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains, green valleys, Alpine flowers and the sound of cow bells!

The Eiger from Männlichen

A view over Lauterbrunnen and Wengen (You can see the Staubbach Falls!)

Daniel looking good as he negotiates the avalanche barriers

The last big climb on the race is from Kleine Scheidegg up to the Eiger Gletscher. I met Daniel at the start of the climb, 78km into the race. I caught a train up from Wengen to the Kleine Scheidegg, which is the centre of skiing in the area. It is also the lower terminus of the Jungfrau railway which climbs steeply through tunnels inside the Eiger and Mönch mountains up to Jungfrau, the highest point reachable by rail in Europe.

The Eiger, looming over Kleine Scheidegg

The race ended in Grindelwald and Daniel came across the finish line in 14:05 - a super time for 101km!

No comments: