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.”
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.
With entries closing in two weeks I thought I would remind everyone what a fantastic race this is and to say that I’m so looking forward to returning to Grächen in September and completing the full 170 km race. Last year I was upset to have to DNF at 100 km after 20 hours with a chest infection that took me until October to recover from.
I have only dropped out of two races in my life; Tankies Trog when I had a haemorrhaged cyst and the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, I was gutted both times. And this year I am determined to come back to UTMR and enjoy the first half as much as I did last year … and then revel in completing the second half and running down to the finish to meet Lizzy Hawker as she greets runners in on the finish line!
Training is going well with the Ultra Tour Snowdonia 50 completed in 9th position, 1st Lady in 13.50 hours. This was a good training race as 50 miles but with a huge 6070m ascent. My next race is the Lakeland Trails Ultimate 55k on July 8th which is “flatter” with 2133m of ascent but in 34 miles.
I’ve ordered a UTMR map and keep looking back at the photos of last year. I was blown away by the scenery on the route and hope the weather is just the same as in 2017 so I can enjoy it to the maximum. The race organisation is very low key but efficient and appeals to my sense of fell running spirit. I just love the serenity of being part of the mountains and not in huge crowds.
To enter just chose your course; either full 170 km, full 100 km or stage 170 km. Then fill out a pre-registration form and Lizzy will respond with your invitation and hey presto – you’re in and can start planning the adventure!!
Contact @Nicky Spinks via Twitter.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 route of the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa is challenging! Bold, beautiful and brutal …. There are two reasons why we ask for the experience we ask for – we want you to be safe and we want you to enjoy your race experience.
It is a tough trail – high, wild and technical in places. The terrain is demanding and the weather conditions can be too. You may be exposed to snow, rain, wind, intense sunshine, heat. The weather can change quickly and you need to be prepared for everything.
Imagine you fall and twist an ankle and you are waiting for help to arrive. You are sitting on cold rocks just below a 3000m pass in the pouring rain with the wind howling. Can you look after yourself until help arrives? There is also a reasoning behind the obligatory equipment that we ask you to carry!
We are offering four different race options so that you can choose the challenge that suits your experience and aspirations.
The stage races are a wonderful way to experience the UTMR. You can race as hard as you like during the day and then enjoy the companionship of your fellow runners as you relax and recover in delightful alpine villages. With no night-time running you are able to enjoy each section of the route in daylight. The 4-day stage race covering the full tour is 40% harder than the 3-day stage race starting in Cervinia. Bear this in mind when deciding which race to enter!
We suggest prior experience of multi-stage racing on mountain terrain or completion of a mountain marathon with up to 2000m ascent within a time of 8 hours. More important than speed is the ability to look after yourself in the mountains in potentially severe weather conditions – this is why we ask if you have any previous mountain experience – this might include climbing or mountaineering, multi-day trekking, ski alpinism (not downhill piste skiing) etc.
Running one of the UTMR ultras means you are going to be running during the hours of darkness, possibly for all of one or even two nights. It is essential that you are sufficiently comfortable on alpine trails to be able to cope when you are tired, your eyes are strained from trying to see in the dark and your legs are exhausted. You need to be in good physical shape and you need to be mentally prepared.
The 116km Ultra from Cervinia to Grächen is a real challenge. We ask you to have experience of a race of at least 100km on mountain trails and requiring you to run over 6 hours during darkness on rocky mountain trails (not smooth single track).
The 170km Ultra Tour making the full loop around Monte Rosa from Grächen to Grächen is a serious challenge. This is the race that I wanted to run and this is why we created the UTMR! For 2017 the number of participants is limited to 100. We ask that you have already completed one of 5 races of comparable difficulty. Note that in my opinion the UTMR is at least 30% harder than the UTMB.
“The full UTMR course is going to destroy runners that think it’s just another long run in the mountains,” said Fergus Edwards from UK who recced the new course over four days last summer. “This is not a race that you turn up at and hope to hike the ups, jog the downs, and make it back tired but inside the cutoffs. Two key reasons: firstly, the ascents and descents are longer and steeper than other races; secondly, the terrain is very technical with boulder fields and narrow paths clinging to steep mountain slopes.”
Please choose the event that gives you a challenge appropriate to your experience. If you have any questions then please do get in touch and we hope to welcome you in September!
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 email@example.com 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.