The 2017 ultra will be a full tour of Monte Rosa, from Grächen to Grächen, with a 4-stage race along side. This nicely builds upon the experience from the stage race only zero edition, and 2016’s single stage ultra along side the stage race. 2017 thus adds the Europaweg from Grächen to Zermatt, and the crossing from Switzerland to Italy.
So how is the new section of trail that has not been run yet? Well, it’s wild! Here’s a Google Earth map.
From Grächen, after a flat warmup, it’s a kilometre climb over 5km to get on the Europaweg. From here the views are excellent, but the trails are challenging: narrow and rocky. You can see from the photos below, passing will be difficult in places, and runners will be challenged by crossing boulders on landslides.
There will be a checkpoint at around 15km, the Europahütte, and shortly after here, a bridge across a gorge is closed, which requires a 700m descent followed by a 700m climb again.
The trail has some wonderful runnable sections, but is always climbing or descending. Towards the end the trails towards Taschalp, and then onwards to Zermatt are beautiful, dream trails even if the weather allows a view to the Matterhorn.
Below are GPX and KML files for the route so you can inspect at your leisure.
After Zermatt there is another substantial climb before the route connects with the 2016 route. It will pass over the Theodul glacier and pass over into Italy near Furggsattel at around 3340m. The two checkpoints here will be:
Then the 2017 route continues as the 2016 route. A GPX / KML track will be released soon which will give distances and elevation changes.
Say celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain opened a restaurant; you’d want to go, right? The guy’s eaten at and written about seemingly every famous restaurant on the planet. He’s an expert on dining. What would be on the menu? What would the atmosphere be like?
If—didn’t happen, but if—guitar god Eric Clapton had put on a summer camp for budding musicians, can you imagine how sweet that would be? Hanging out, playing with other like-minded people, like a big recording session. Goodness, you can almost smell the creativity.
I’m trying to make an analogy, maybe poorly, to Ultra Tour Monte Rosa and The Lizzy Factor. Five-time winner of UTMB, former 100K world champion, crazy FKTs like Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu and Kathmandu valley circuit—it’s safe to say Lizzy is an expert when it comes to mountain trails. So, if she hosted a race that combined all the best from her world of trailrunning experiences—her favourite trails, the most inspiring views, support that’s effective but not obtrusive, the perfect balance between big race festivities and small race intimacy—man, you’d want to run that race, right?
Boom, done! UTMR is Lizzy’s brainchild, it’s got her DNA, her fingerprint. From the location—”I did long back-to-back days on the Monte Rosa route while training for UTMB, and thought, If I was to have a race…”—to the format—both single-stage ultra and three-day stage race—UTMR is all Lizzy, all the time. Running UTMR is like if a trail running legend called up and said, “Hey, I want to show you this nice path.” It’s not even like that: It is that.
Last year’s stage-race winner, Krissy Moehl, spoke to the event’s Lizzy Factor: “I love the idea that this is the course Lizzy trained on [for UTMB]. It shows what a tough competitor she is. As a single-stage ultra, particularly in 2017 when it makes the full circuit of Monte Rosa, this race appeals to runners who love to be challenged, definitely for those looking for adventure—that’s totally Lizzy. She’s always looking for something people will say she shouldn’t do.”
But as tough a competitor as Lizzy is, as much as she inhabits the top ranks of ultrarunning, she’s not elitist. She didn’t want to create a race that could only be experienced by a select bunch of badasses. That’s why UTMR might be the only event out there that offers both ultra and stage formats, so runners who’d rather savour the experience than push push push, who’d rather see all the views, and enjoy the camaraderie can do so. And badasses can be up to their kiesters in challenge at the same time. Wanting as many people as possible to be able to share in her love of mountains—that’s so Lizzy.
Maybe no race director has offered an ultra and a three-day stage format because it’s a logistical nightmare (partners in UTMR race directing, Richard and Jon, are nodding vigorously), but there again—the Lizzy Factor. Doing what people say shouldn’t be done.
Not only did Lizzy dream up the course and various ways to enjoy it, she and her small band of merry men and women implement and manage the whole UTMR ball of wax, from answering emails to marking the course to delivering luggage and giving out prizes. Pretty unusual, right? Most races, especially those as ambitious as UTMR, are handed over to a management company to actually implement. So, runners’ interactions are with an employee of a race management company. If you’ve got a question about UTMR, frequently asked or otherwise, you’ll probably get an email response from Lizzy. So that’s kind of nifty.
Nice to know the master chef eats at her own restaurant, and is right there to chitchat about the duck l’orange, or hiking poles.