When people enter for the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, the ultra trail race around the massif of Monte Rosa, we ask them to tell us why they entered, with this question.
Of all the races in the world, why did you choose to race the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa?
And here are the answers!
Because i think that this race is a real tough race and not just a commercial one.
I ran Tor last year and have been having a hard time finding another race that might live up to my experience there. A number of people recommended this race to me; it looks rugged and wild and incredibly challenging, and not as crowded as UTMB.
Love the Alps (especially under sunny conditions). UTMB too busy, expect UTMR to be more intimate and to my liking.
Because of it being in unique surroundings and not too big in terms of runners.
The scenery, organisation and the course.
The course looks brutal and beautiful, while still having the charm of not having huge crowds and commercial popularity. The perfect recipe for personal growth.
Route description. mountain terrain. cheap flight ticket to Geneva.
Simply because it is very tough while the scenery is splendid!
No crowds on the trail and for the surroundings!
Beautiful scenery, tough but rewarding trails, and glowing reports from everyone I know who’s been before.
Because the view and the challenge.
I love the Alps and having done the CCC twice this seems like the next step up. Aiming to one day do the full UTMR & UTMB. I’m typing this sat on a bench (having a coffee) before heading up on Stafal-Gabiet ski lift!
Looks like a beautiful part of the world, and a challenge. What could be better!
“What is a good alternative to UTMB – Ultra Trail Mont Blanc?”
The internet is a great place to prefix a great product’s name with “Alternative to” to find a way to either find something cheaper, simpler, as yet ‘undiscovered’ and quieter etc. Especially the case when the product in question is sold out!
With ultra trail races, no different. UTMB, the classic European 100 mile bucketlist foot race, is always sold out and with a lottery for places, plenty of capable runners are looking for an alternative race each year. As Roman Evarts advises below, don’t cancel your 100 mile plans, switch to a similar race and “just keep on working towards a big 170 km event.”
“In January I was disappointed after not to be drawn in the UTMB lottery, but now I know it was the right and even better decision to participate the UTMR. I found joy with fantastic people in non commercial environment where all is about passion for ultra mountain running. This 4 days in Grächen with my first 100miler were very special for me and I will thank Lizzy, Richard and all runners, all volunteers, all spectators for this. Please keep the race at it is❤.” link
To help those looking for an alternative to the UTMB, here are some opinions from runners who know both UTMB and UTMR courses, which might help. Don’t agree? Give your opinion below in the comments box!
I’ve been fortunate to finish some really amazing races in many parts of the world. This includes finishing the Hardrock Hundred five times, Tor des Géants, Ronda dels Cims, UTMB, Zugspitz and many more. I can honestly say that the UTMR is one of my absolute favorite mountain running races of all time. It offers up such a diverse mixture of terrain and topography, not to mention postcard-worthy views of some of the most famous and recognizable mountains in all of Europe. The race is very well organized and offers just enough support, yet not so much that you can’t let your guard down while out on the course. Coming from Colorado in the USA, I was very impressed with everything the UTMR offered. I highly recommend this race as a great alternative to larger, more extravagant races. You won’t be disappointed!
UTMR 2017, 2nd Veteran Male 39:00:33, 13th overall
You could say that UTMR is an alternative to UTMB, however it is so much harder mentally and physically. The climbs, the technical parts…. it is so different. However, it is 170 km and not too far away so if you fail a UTMB entry it is certainly alternative.
You do get a rude awakening though, not far from the start… ⛰
[i.e. there is a big climb beginning 2 km after the start, which leads right into technical mountain trail…]
UTMR 2017, 2nd woman 38:47:55
UTMB is a very famous and nice, popular race. It is well organised and marked, and the course is very nice. UTMR is a smaller race and it is very familiar [friendly]. The organisation is good. The aid stations are a little bit small for the big distance. The course is great and for me it was nicer then the UTMB course, but much more technical and so much harder then UTMB. I took much longer then UTMB [to finish]. (UTMR 38:47 vs UTMB 31:00)
For me both races were great!
UTMR 2017, 4th woman 41:33:23, La Sportiva Australia
I think UTMR is a fantastic course! It has more appeal to me than UTMB, because for me the mountains are more spectacular, the terrain more challenging and the trails more technical.
It is a great alternative, but it depends on the person. I think they need to be a confident and strong runner/walker. UTMB can cater for a wider range of participants.
I also really like the size of the event, and am happy being in the mountains by myself, and don’t need to have spectators snd fanfare, but if a runner wants this, maybe this is not a good alternative.
It is the extra challenge of UTMR that makes it more attractive. I loved UTMR and I hope to be back.
In my opinion Ultra Tour Monte Rosa is the best possible alternative to the UTMB for somebody if the person had a working long term plan towards 100 miles and failed in the UTMB entry lottery. Both events are only one week apart and there is not much needed to reschedule the season’s goal. I would recommend to all those who are saying due to failure in the UTMB lottery: don’t say “well, maybe next year”, but just keep on working towards a big 170 km event and give it a try on Monte Rosa’s trails. It will be the best option for you to test your mental and physical abilities in a big race. You will gain a lot of experience and will learn new things about your body and mind. With all this you will take a huge boost of confidence and conclusions with you to your next training block towards UTMB.
UTMR doesn’t have as much hype as UTMB does, but if you don’t care about being into the Brazilian Festival-style mood then go for Ultra Tour Monte Rosa without any doubts and regrets. The trails and views around Monte Rosa are awesome!
Remember another alternative to UTMB or UTMR is to race 100 miles / 170 km in 4-stages. Before the UTMB the course was run in stages apparently. The advantages are many: run in daylight hours, stay in mountain villages in comfortable hotels where you can eat well and socialise with other competitors, and you still cover the distance getting to run each stage harder or more fluidly that you would as an ultra.
JASON POOLE : COLORADO, USA
We’re delighted that Jason has offered to share his experience of the 2017 Ultra Tour Monte Rosa with anybody interested in learning more about the course from an American trail perspective. Here’s a little info about Jason and contact details.
Jason became involved in endurance sports in 1987, primarily competing in long-distance mountain bike races. In 1996, Jason started adventure racing, long-distance orienteering and ultrarunning. For the past 16 years, his primary focus has been 50 and 100-mile mountain trail ultrarunning events. He has competed in world-class ultra events across North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia, including the Tor des Géants, Hardrock, Barkley, Ronda dels Cims and the Eco Challenge. One of his all-time favorite events is the 170-kilometer Ultra Tour Monte Rosa (UTMR) in the Swiss & Italian Alps, which he completed in 2017. For more information on the spectacular UTMR, please contact Jason at: email@example.com or follow him on Instagram at @jasonmpoole, Twitter at @jasonmpoole or Facebook, Jason Poole.
So exciting! It’s a tough race, very difficult. Very difficult.
It’s not a normal ultra race.
If you finish this race [you’re] very tough, the very long climbs up and do – so big – also the altitude,
and also the technical… it’s so technical my god! Unbelievable. It’s not just one or two sections. Maybe just one or two sections are runable, other sections are so technical. You need to focus the whole way, and your feet are suffering, so those things make this race so tough.
If people can finish this race, they are really a champion!
The good thing is the weather – so good – otherwise more difficult.
I really slowed down on the last section. I really wanted to take it easy a little bit. So tough, I’m so tired.
Very beautiful race course. I think the stage race is fun.
[Lizzy Hawker, at the finish line:] You’re the first person (ever) to complete the race course.
While feedback is sometimes critical (and constructive) there is a lot of happy feedback from many race competitors. Here is a selection from 2017….
“The UTMR was awesome. Putting together a race on this terrain is impressive. I loved it. I have never run a stage race before. Standing in an Alpine village waiting for the clock to strike 6 and running until it strikes 6 again in another village is a great experience. The camaraderie and banter with other runners was better than my expectations.”
“I loved the event. I found that because for the stage races you are staying in hotels overnight, you are able to spend a lot more time with your fellow runners than you would if you were doing the ultra. Course is beautiful and I thought organisation was as good as I’ve seen it for an ultra. Volunteers and staff were brilliant. One of the friendliest races I’ve been at (in terms of people). And one of the most brutal (in terms of terrain)!”
“I really enjoyed the race beautiful and brutal in equal measure. I loved your personal touch & prayer flags on the summits – it really added a special feel to the race.”
“Loved having hotels to sleep in, real food for breakfast & dinner and bags carried for us! Altogether a fantastic event.”
“This is my third year at the UTMR and I have really enjoyed being part of the race, it has given me focus, a goal and helped my running enormously. The course is challenging and beautiful and the volunteers friendly and helpful, the whole event has a informal almost family feel to it – which is great.”
“Fantastic route, really enjoyed the stage race concept. Overall a fantastic event and extremely well organised given the logistical difficulties. I will definitely be recommending the race!”
“Great event, really well organised, incredibly well marked and lovely helpful volunteers at all times.”
“The trail is very beautiful. It deserves being run in daylight, so I really loved the staged format.”
“Still small enough to run in the wild and to make (and find) friends and a good spirit amongst participants and volunteers.”
“Volunteers were always excellent. Always friendly, helpful and encouraging. A real asset to the race.”
“This was one of the best and most breathtaking adventures I have experienced.”
“J’ai adoré cette course, le concept de 4 jours est vraiment génial, les paysages étaient magnifique et l’organisation était top, un tout grand merci!”
“The course was everything you promised and much more. I’ve finished many races of different kinds but few of them have felt like such a major accomplishment. it was a wonderful experience – spectacular, adventurous and fun.”
“A great, unforgettable, very hard race. Please keep the personal atmosphere. I’m glad to pay a higher entrance fee to run in such a friendly atmosphere – no need for another overcommercialized mass event.”
“I absolutely love this race!”
“I had one of the best, if not toughest runs of my life and loved it all. Thanks and see you all again.”
“This route was outstandingly beautiful and extremely tough (which I expected).”
“A week on and I am still blown away by the amazing experience I had running the 170 km race.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed this challenging race and thought the organisation was very good. All queries prior to the race were answered very promptly. This is a very beautiful and challenging race and I feel privileged to have taken part. I felt very well looked after.”
“I felt that you really love what you are doing and that is what I am looking for on these races. Thank you for the experience.”
“It’s one of the most memorable and rewarding races I have done.”
“Great race in absolutely astounding mountains. Excellent and challenging race course. Although a major large race, the race organizers and volunteers made it a very personal experience.”
“Thanks very much for staging such a tremendous event. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The route and scenery would be hard to beat anywhere in the world and I met many lovely people over the four days.”
On 29th July 2016, Lizzy Hawker completed a full tour of Monte Rosa solo, to “test the course”. Here is what she wrote back then in answer to five questions about the route.
You started at the same time as the race will start next year, so passed around the route as a mid pack runner would. What should they look out for – what are the major challenges the Monte Rosa course will present to them?
A mid-pack runner will reach the top of the first climb out of Grächen and be onto the high balcony path of the Europaweg as dawn breaks. On this FKT I was alternately under and within a bank of cloud. But if it is clear then the alpenglow on the Weisshorn before sunrise will be something special to see. This balcony path runs across spectacular wild terrain high above the valley floor.
The major challenges of the route are just the relentless ascents and descents, the exposure to alpine conditions (the weather at 3300m might not be the same as low in the valley) and the isolation of some stretches of the route.
What difference does it make to do this distance and elevation change alone without the support of race infrastructure?
The full tour is pretty tough, whether racing or making an FKT. But there are a few differences. Firstly, when doing an FKT there is no support if something goes wrong or if you make a misjudgement. You have to be confident that you can rely on your own ability and experience. The Alps are not a true wilderness area, of course, but you still have to be confident with your level of risk. Then, food and drink can be a challenge. I made a foot trip around the race route the week before my FKT because I had some meetings with the mountain guides and some other logistics to fix. I took the opportunity to hide a couple of things under rocks and leave a few bags with friends along the way. I think I deposited three pairs of socks and a miscellaneous variety of food in plastic bags. It wasn’t very thought through, just a last ditch attempt to prepare in case I did try the FKT. In the event, I didn’t pick up some of the stuff, thinking I’d be quicker just using the local shop/coop, and much of the food I’d deposited wasn’t really what I felt like eating after X tough hours on foot.
In Alagna I was lucky a friend waited until 11pm to meet me. And in Macugngaga a hard night meant I passed through at breakfast time instead of during the dead hours of 3-4am. However you put it, when you make a ‘more-or-less’ unsupported FKT you have to be running well enough within your comfort zone that you can make choices and decisions. You have to be able to look after yourself and push yourself onwards, otherwise everything falls apart. Conversely when you make the same journey within a race situation, yes the route is just as difficult, but there is infrastructure in place to support you.
What was the hardest part of the 37 hours for you and why?
The hardest part of the 37 hours for me was the night. Training since Lavaredo has been all or nothing and sleep has been insufficient. So whereas in the past I have comfortably gone through two nights and then had a tough time with the third nightfall, this time the first (only) night was difficult. That and getting myself out of the door to begin with to start the journey with no witness and no reason why other than curiosity.
What is your prediction for the fastest elite men and women’s times for 2017?
30-32 hours for the women, 26-30 hours for the men
What one piece of advice would you give to someone consider entering for the 2017 ultra?
Don’t arrive short on sleep! This does of course depend on family and work commitments but starting with a sleep deficit will make the night hours extra tough. You need to be well trained but well rested. Beyond that the only thing I would say is enjoy it. It is a wild and beautiful mountain journey and it will push you further than you think is possible, physically, mentally, emotionally.
The Great Himalaya Trail is a vague concept, really a network of trails through the Himalayas. When you set foot on the trails, it’s anything but vague: it’s tough, wild, enormous, humbling. Lizzy Hawker, as you may know, has a passion for making long solo journeys across tough terrain. In 2011, a attempt to cross Nepal failed, losing the way in a terrifyingly dense forest on a steep hillside, and losing satellite phone, money, permits too. It took four days to escape from the forest. This 2016 attempt is looking much better, with 5 years more experience gained. In between she’s run from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu, 319km in 60 hours, and recently the Tour of Monte Rosa, a brutal 170km with 11km D+ in 37 hours.
Lizzy is, the time of writing, this far across:
And at the time you read this, she is this far across.
The Great Himalaya Trail is some 1600km east to west climbing more than 2km of height per day, maybe 100,000m in total. Moving across Nepal crosses all of the major rivers that cut deep into the Himalayas. Anyone who’s walked in Nepal’s hills will know the scale of the ups and downs.
At the point she is at now around two-thirds is done, and now it gets tougher than ever. The high altitude passes of Dolpa: traveling in thin air over 5000m high passes 6 or 7 times, then into an area of no habitation for nearly a week, crossing difficult terrain like this on the faintest of trails.
And so, as written on her fundraiser page: It’s hard to stay fit and healthy on a journey like this. Hundreds of thousands of footsteps from dawn til dusk in wet shoes, climbing more than twice the height of Everest every week, falls (pic), cuts & scratches, the leeches (pic), snowblindness, losing the way, sleeping under the stars (or rain clouds) and (almost) all solo. How do you keep up the mental strength to keep going?
Lizzy wants to raise money to give opportunities to Nepali runners, particularly girls. She’s seen the impact Mira Rai‘s success has had on Nepal, inspiring girls across the country. That started by a chance meeting and a subsequent donation of $360 from a woman to pay for Mira’s food and lodging while she learned about trail running.
Not everybody can be Mira Rai. But girls should get a chance to be the best they can be. Opportunities like these can change lives, give new perspectives, and especially in countries like Nepal, can maybe help to change the view of women’s place in society and prove women can be champions too – amazing, inspiring ones. This is why we need your help.
And of course it can be fun, challenging and exciting too.
With every donation, we’ll send a message to Lizzy’s tracking device. This will keep her going forward on this enormous, bleak terrain and finish this 1600 km and 100,000m of climb (1000 miles, 328,000 feet) on the world’s biggest mountain range.
Thanks for your support!
We’ve set up a crowd-funding page linked to a newly started NGO in USA, Athletes for Athletes (ASA), set up by Molly Mikita in Breckenridge, Colorado. Molly runs the Vertical Runner store there. After visiting Nepal and following the stories of Nepali athletes she onboard with Trail Running Nepal to fundraise for athletes. This is great!
Please note the following. Generosity.com only charges the credit card provider fee, around 3%. However it offers you the chance to donate 15% of your fee to them too for the service, which you may or may not want to do. Click images below:
Paypal is also great, via firstname.lastname@example.org to the USD account of the US registered charity ASA.
Do you want to donate by bank transfer? Send an email and we’ll send you details.
Mark was standing below the Monte Moro pass on the Swiss side. While monitoring the runners down the slope, he kept his camera busy.
Mark wants to offer printed copies of his images to you for a reasonable price in order to collect money for Trail Running Nepal’s athlete fund. The athlete’s fund raises money for trail running athletes to travel, buy good shoes, gels etc. i.e. everything needed to get to the start line with the best chance to compete. See Bhim at Kima and Tirtha at Ultraks. Mark has lived and worked in Nepal and knows that this talent needs support.
Check the images below and if you want to buy one, you’ll get a great memory for a reasonable cost and be assisting runners from Nepal like Bhim and Tirtha to have more chances to race.
Runners, with one week to go we would like to highlight the importance of the obligatory equipment.
“There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”
I have just attended an event that was hit by severe wind and rain for the full 5 day duration of the event.
Most competitors managed their own safety well, but a few had poor equipment for the conditions or did not know how to manage their own safety in the mountains. This gave the organisers a huge problem in order to manage the race and avoid any injury to competitors. We therefore feel it appropriate to highlight the obligatory equipment requirements for the UTMR and help clarify requirements.
Clothing, and in particular waterproofs, are the difference between a successful race or a potentially dangerous situation for the racers and organisation. As the UTMR is in the high mountains it is important to make sure the clothing layers are suitable.
Your outer layer must be FULLY WATERPROOF AND BREATHABLE WITH TAPED SEAMS TO COVER THE FULL BODY.
This is obligatory for very good reason so please do not turn up to this race without these important items. These items are carried in case you or a fellow competitor injures themselves and cannot seek shelter. The safety team need to know you can stay safe while they attempt a rescue.
A good layering system allows competitors the best chance to manage their own safety on the mountains and reduce the risk of injury or death from hypothermia. A key skill of an ultra runner is to master their environment and an important part of this is to manage their clothing systems. If it rains then competitors and their clothing will get wet, a good waterproof will delay this far longer. Sweat that is not wicked away from the skin from climbing uphill can quickly cool and put the competitor in danger at higher altitudes, so cotton is not allowed as a layering material.
A good base layer that dries quickly and removes moisture away from the skin is the most important but least expensive item of clothing in the system.
An insulating layer that dries quickly and does not absorb moisture will extend the extreme level of conditions you can stay safe in. A fleece for good weather forecasts or a thicker insulating layer for bad weather would be ideal.
Finally the waterproof breathable layer allows it all to work. Without a good waterproofness rating the moisture will force its way in under rucksacks and zips, particularly in strong winds. Without a good breathability rating the moisture that manages to get into the jacket or your own sweat with stay there and increase the speed of hypothermia.
A plastic type jacket is waterproof but not breathable, and a windproof is breathable but not waterproof.
Both these forms of shell are dangerous in protecting the athlete in the high mountains. At equipment check we will be looking at the quality of your waterproof, and insuring they have fully taped seams. Without a tape on the seams they are not classed as waterproof.
Remember a windproof is not appropriate for this event even if it has passed other ultra equipment checks as we hear this excuse regularly. If you are unsure, please contact the manufacturer of your waterproofs, or send us an email.
Make sure you check this before arriving at registration for UTMR as we do not want you to have an additional unnecessary expense.
There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.
Good luck and may the sun shine on all of us (oh and don’t forget sun cream!)