9 Days in Chamonix – Part Quatre

Hills, Hills, Hills!

You’re in a hilly place, so it’s only right you get given a hill session by the coach. A favourite session of mine and finally, I didn’t have to worry about topping out too soon or the fact the hill may not be steep enough.

No photos. A tarmac road, nice houses, shade, dry riverbed and a lot of sweating. Podcast on, grind it out, job done. Tea and medals. But, why stop there? A simple strength session in the evening – single leg pistol squats, press ups, russian twists and some other core work to keep the body active and supported, especially on steep terrain.

I’m sure my body will thank me on the next days long run.


Climb every mountain! I’m starting to get used to this lifestyle, some 6 days into ‘living the dream’.

I wake up when I want, train when I want, relax a lot, stress is at an all time low. Inspired by the mountains, flora and fauna. The trails are littered in colourful butterflies, scurrying lizards, a multitude of insects making a racket and the occasional bird of prey. I’ve seen my first marmot (see Part Trois – sorry no picture of it) but the Ibex remains elusive.

Now it was time to explore the Brevent side of the valley. I ran the VK course in 2015, but I’m a hell of a lot fitter now… oh and not nursing a rolled ankle.

Setting off from Les Houches, I crossed the river and entered the forest once again. The trails were loamy, cooler and pretty long, before the inevitable switchback corner kicked in. Lots of young families excitedly walked the trails, headed towards the nature reserve. However, I was only focused on going one way. Up.38738321_10160694623915608_2201655241575759872_oRefuge de Bellachat was the target and it had all the flags and signs associated with it, so it must be good. The trail, once it met the car park and nature reserve started to climb harder and on approaching gorges/corners, fixed hand rails, chains and even metal stairs set into the rock appeared.38853647_10160694624850608_3865673945986367488_o38720852_10160694623930608_3359598353225613312_o38709884_10160694623965608_415102829607256064_oPoles away, it was more technical and my full attention was on the trail, something which at times I can be bad at. Day dreaming while running only heightens the sense of speed.

Trees now all but gone, the heat intensified as false summits and endless switchbacks littered the trail ahead. On reaching the refuge, I had a quick look down at the valley, before heading on the small ridgeline set above. I expected something gnarly, I got something mundane. Oh well.38754989_10160694624355608_2172154008867700736_o38778023_10160694623900608_5165052190414340096_oLe Brevent loomed overhead, with cable cars ferrying site seekers to crepes and merlot. The trail to Le Brevet was more exciting, narrower, more technical, rocky and it stared to rain. Not much, nature tried, bless her, but she soon quit. Unlike the other days, it was cool on top, with a whipping breeze. I’d packed the inov-8 shell just in case, but thankfully, it didn’t get bad enough to pull it out the bag.

Climbers were on the walls leading up the lift station and neighbouring small walls. The irony of seeing people being top roped at 2000 meters hasn’t lost me. In the UK, you’ll see them beside the road or a short walk up from the car park, not at over 1 1/2 times the height of our tallest mountain. But, goes to show how cool and forward thinking the valley is. It’s a dream.

38747554_10160694624475608_6180264583811301376_oDescending down to the mid lift station/top of the VK course, I took the fire road for convenience and the sky was full of colour, as a number of paragliders took off as I got closer. When I was shooting UTMB I booked my girlfriend to have a tandem flight, from this very take off zone. She loved it, I’ve yet to, but I’d still thoroughly recommend it, based on her reaction after…… she was petrified before hand.

Anyway, I reached the mid station and took a trail to the side, avoiding the VK (Vertical Kilometre) Course, which would lead me to the valley floor. It flows pretty well, the going was fun, small technical features appeared every so often, but on the whole it was pretty mellow. I entered the woods and then found myself popping out onto the VK course. It wasnt too far to the bottom, so I jumped on. The VK course, is a 1000 meter vertical ascent in 5km (starting from church in the town centre). Made up on a seemingly endless  number of switchbacks, it tops out with some scrambling and fixed aids.

Relaxed, I was twisting and turning my way down the hill, only to find myself airborne with a few more turns to make before exiting onto the bottom fire road. I catch my feet a fair bit. I’m short, have very short legs and clipping rocks and roots is part and parcel of a day out on technical trails. Well, I have no idea what I caught. I found myself off balance and instinctively threw my weight forward, going for a second step to regain my control. This time, however, all I seemed to achieve was an air step and started to level out horizontally. I was carrying my poles, which I quickly threw to the side and prepared to land like a cat avoiding a bath tub of water. As I landed I rolled onto my side to avoid any serious injury.

I got up quickly. With the cable cars over head, I was bloody embarrassed. Right, body check. Everything was ok, a tiny graze on one knee and my hands had been protected by the mitts Leki use for their poles.38738298_10160694624655608_9162264565017214976_oMy pride was dented, my body in one piece. Ice cream.

I stopped off in town at one of Chamonix’s ever popular ice cream stands for a single cone of Menthe or Mint to the english speakers. From here, it was a run back along low level trails to home.38727997_10160694624625608_8656246610717573120_oA good day out. 1600+ meters gain and 16 miles in the legs.

Once home, I had a little rub down with Premax’s Arnica Massage cream for some self lead soft tissue massage, helping loosen some knots in my quad heads. (I’ll be doing features on self massage and tlc soon).

Now. I leave in two days.

What more can I got in?

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