At the end of last season a team from es competed in the worlds most prestigious ski mountaineering race: the Patrouille des Glaciers.
Video by Lucy Croft words by Graeme Gibson
I signed up for the pdg team at the start of last winter, joining Jonas Lundstedt and Tim Stephens who had already competed in the two previous race. As a snowboarder and only occasional skier I was very much the rookie of the team. And looking back, I was also blissfully unaware of what I was getting myself into.
I knew the stats involved: Zermatt to Verbier, 110km, 4000 vertical meetings and about 12-14 hours but it wasn’t until our first trying session that I started to appreciate exactly what these numbers meant! Ever struggle with motivation for getting in shape? Just sign up for something which genuinely terrifies you! Fast forward a couple of months, and I was starting to feel like this was actually do-able. I had a good 30,000 vertical meters logged, a whole load of new light-weight kit and a new tight fitting, technical wardrobe, which I previously wouldn’t have been seen dead in!
As spring started to arrive we began doing longer tours around the Rosa Blanche area, getting up to around 2000m vertical, which is about half the climbing of the actual race. Knowing you can do half distance and still have a bit more left in the tank is great confidence boaster. But its still hard to know how you are going to hold up both physically and mentally when you do the whole thing, and that is kind of the whole point of endurance events – finding out how you react when you are so cold/tired/hungry that you want to cry!
Before the start of the race in Zermatt all the competitors attend a service in the church where various speakers get up and explain (in four different languages) a little bit about the race, its history and the epic highs and inevitable lows we can expect to experience along the way. Here are mine.
- The atmosphere at the start in Zermatt
- The view going past the matterhorn with a full moon
- Bacon Sandwich in Arolla
- Water and Jelly Babies at the top on Rosa Blanche
- Skiing down to Verbier
- The Atmosphere coming into the finish in Verbier
- The steak I had after finishing
- The false summits on the way up Tête Blanche
- Struggling up the first icy slope out of Arolla
- The whole team running out of water half way up the Rosa Blanche climb
- Nearly falling off the rope on the rappel down from Col de Bertol
- The 40min skate around Lac des Dix
- Trying to run in ski boots to the finish line
- Having to wear a lycra one-piece
Even though it was an incredibly tough undertaking the ‘highs’ in this list came much more easily to mind than the ‘lows’ and I’m already looking forward to entering again in 2018