Monday, August 27, 2012

Chamonix

The town center is crowded and the backdrop is jaw-dropping — but there's a surreal tint to Chamonix that I haven't experienced in the similarly set national parks of North America. Maybe it's hints of old-world culture, European richness, or the simple fact that, crowds notwithstanding, the Alps have to be one of the most ruggedly beautiful mountain ranges in the world. The Himalayas, no contest; the Andes and Cordillera Blanca, of course; the Canadian Rockies and the Alaska Range, my personal favorites— but the Alps, the Alps have this way of extracting tears of joy amid cries of pain; a haven of pinnacles both inaccessible and endlessly inviting. I can't wait to attempt to hike and jog for a hundred miles in the shadow of Mont Blanc.

I'm writing a quick blog post while Beat packs up for La Petite Trotte a Leon, which starts today (Monday) at 10 p.m. Chamonix time (1 p.m. PDT.) PTL is 290 kilometers of trail with some 22,000 meters of elevation gain. Some of the steep ascents and descents are on class-four and even low class-five terrain assisted by fixed ropes and cables — essentially climbing routes without the harness, called via ferrata. UTMB is likely going to be the toughest single-effort physical challenge I've ever taken on, but PTL is at least three times as difficult. Beat told me he will be carrying a tracker and I am hoping to follow him on the PTL map page. There is also a "Live Page" that may have updates.

Meanwhile, I have the fear firmly planted in my heart, and so I am going to make every effort to approach Friday as well-rested and healthy as possible. I plan to get out for a few short hikes in the next three days, but it's honestly going to be a mental battle to refrain from binging heavily on these beautiful mountains before my race begins Friday evening. I keep telling myself I'll have plenty of exposure to the Alps this weekend, but the Chamonix backdrop makes it hard to sit still. The rest of the plan includes lots of sleeping, eating pasta and bread, and watching Beat's updates as he makes his way through these amazing mountains.

Edit: The tracking site is located here, showing a Google Earth image of the course and the racers' locations. Beat and Daniel's team is "Too Dumb To Quit." Our friends Steve and Harry also are racing PTL, and their team is "Quit Is A Four-Letter Word."