The Pierra Menta: The french would say that this event is when hundreds of people come to the Areche Beaufort region to put skins on their skiis and endure 4 hard days of endurance racing. Others would call this event the “Tour de France” of ski mountaineering. This year marked the 24th year of the Pierra Menta. The event normally attracts many teams from other nations, but this year was particular as it was the first year as a World Cup ski mountaineering team event. The race was exceptionally well organized with over 200 volunteers.

The days began at dawn- dawn comes early in the Areche Beaufort region-known for some of the best cheese in France but also the birth place of some of the best ski alpinisme. Usually about 5 am: up, breakfast, gear on and head out to the start for an easy warmup of about 45 minutes (the warm up always included the trusty “femme funnel” pit stop in the woods. ( For those of you ladies out there who are still stuggling with peeing with your harness or race suit on- this has to be the best invention out there. (It is also great for moms who have little girls who need to pee in a pinch)

The starts always went off with a very fast bang. We tried to just hold our own amounst the 160 other teams without breaking a pole or loosing a ski. Each day got progressively harder and longer. To check out each stage of the race look at:
Day 1: 2508m climbing over 20km Long
Day 2: 2785 m climbing over 32km LONG DAY
Day 3: 2550 m climbing over 21km long and technical day
Day 4: 1731 m climbing over 14 km not as long
Many teams apply to race in the Pierra Menta; this year there was about 170 mens teams accepted and only 13 womens teams, opposed to 21 teams last year. All 13 womens teams were strong.
Check out the link for the results of each stage and the total results.

The weather was superb! Sunshine each day, my kind of skiing. ( When it is super windy and cold I am reminded why I don’t go on long high altitude expeditions anymore.) The one challenge of this race was the heat! It was our job to stay hydrated and fueled for each day. The stages lasted between 3 and 5 hrs each days so it was important to eat every 30 minutes to stay fueled for the maximum time. I found it hard to force down gels by the end. But for sure my fuel of choice is Power Gels. (Thanks to Michael , a power bar sponsored athlete) They seem to go down a bit easier than the others. And also thanks to Michael who came saturday and was a real force to have on course. Great to see him- he seemed to be everywhere.

And also thanks to Yuki, Manu and Daniel of our newly formed Club de Ski Alpinisme de Chamonix. our new site! And Vincent-great vid coverage on you tube.

What is most impressive about this race is the spectators that come out to cheer. Each day when the racers wake up to start, spectators also wake at dawn to skin up to higher parts of the course.

One of our favorite fans was a man who worked for the Pierra Menta organization who played his harmonica when we went by. He always played, “When the Saints came marching in” or other American Patriotic tunes. That surely gave us a smile each time we passed.
Speaking of smiles, lyndsay and I were crowned Miss Pierra Menta, an award selected by a commitee of journalists and a jury for the woman’s team who embodied the spirit of the Pierra Menta, with good sportswomanship and smiles throughout the four days. Hopefully more womens teams will compete next year!

It was great to have the USA Ski Mountaineering team racing at the Pierra Menta this year and fun getting to know the athletes who are helping the sport grow in the US. There were 3 mens teams: Pete Swenson, head of United States Ski Mountaineering Association and father of the COSMIC ski series in Colorado with his team mate Cary Smith from Jackson (Cary has an impressive comeback story). Jared Inouye and Brandon French, Jason McGowin and Brad LaRochelle and the other US women’s team Monique Merrill and Sari Anderson Mona and Sari are two exceptional endurance athletes who compete for team NIKE. We look forward to more races together in the future.

Last year after completing this race, I said I would not do it again, but some how when the time came to sign up, I forgot how hard and long the days were and only remembered the amazing things that this race gave me and my family. One of the best moments this year was coming into the finishing stadium on the last day and seeing my three boys and giving them all a big hug: Michael, Birken and Anders.

So, I better not say now, if I will be back for the Pierra Menta next year.

For more photos check out the slide show below: