The Pierra Menta marked its 25th Anniversary this year. It is one of the oldest ski mountaineering events in history and by far the hardest thing I have endured apart from child labor.
The race takes place in the heart of the ski alpinisme region of France- the Areches- Beaufort region, home of the famous Beaufort cheese. If you have never tried it, I have plenty as I won a huge chunk for our 9th place finish! It is good stuff and the cows are really beautiful!
Stage 1: 7am start . rise and shine early: 5:15am. 2847 meters climbing (they said only 2600!) 20 km, 7 climbs, 4 bootpacks, temp: -12…snow: boiler plate. I felt super strong on day 1, but Lynds did not. We all have good and bad days out there.
Stage 2. 7:30 Start. This was a killer day. I felt lousy. Stomach bug or something. The altimeter topped out over 2910 and the GPS was 37km’s (7 more than they said) Literally, this stage felt like we went to the end of the world and back! It was so long and very hard mentally. We hung in there though and finished. I seriously felt like I could sleep like a bear in hibernation for a year.
One cool thing about the PM is the camaraderie of athletes throughout the 4 days. Another cool thing is the massage therapists who volunteer their time in exchange for lodging and lift tickets. Each athlete receives a 30 min massage after each stage- and this really does help with the recovery. Recovery is so important. I try to have a recovery drink within the first 15minutes of finishing a stage and then it is an ice bath, shower, followed by a good lunch and good stretch/ yoga session. There are 3 posses which are great for the legs. Shoulder Stand or legs on the wall, kneeling and leaning back to stretch the quads and of course resting pose!
Stage 3: This is the best day out there! No matter how tired you are from the day before your energy comes back because there are so many people out there cheering for you. Thousands of spectators wait in line to ride the lift at 5:30 am and then skin another couple hrs to the top of the Grand Mont. They bring pots of fondue and vin chaud, flags and harmonicas, cow bells and accordions. Let me tell you it is a site to see for sure. When we pass through the crowd of thousands of people cheering it is quite a feeling! This day’s stats were: 3 pierra menta stats: 2762 meters climbing over 4 climbs, 4 boot packs(skis on sac) sun, wind, cold, Another long one…
Stage 4: Last day and the shortest stage. Lynds and I started out easy with the first climb of over 1000 meters. Stats: 1740 meters, 14km. 3 climbs. This one we had fun on the descents and skied fast, doing what we do best and finished in good style with an overall place of 9th for women. We were thrilled to be done.
Total Stats: 4 days of racing over 16 hrs, 10,359 meters climbing, + 95 kms. (33,987 feet!)
The first year, we were thrilled to finish the event. We said once is enough but entered again last year because it was a world cup event. This year we entered again and are once again so glad to finish and even prouder to be in the top 10. A Swiss coach once said, “To merely finish the Pierra Menta is a feat, and to be a woman and finish the Pierra Menta is really something!” So, hats off to my partner Lynds for getting through it together!
And thanks to all of you who were supporting us along the way! Thanks to all those who were there from our Chamonix Alpinisme Club, Julie, Daniel and especially our coach, Yann Gachet, cheering us on on day 1 and 2. It was great to have such a strong presence at the Pierra Menta with our young Chamonix Ski Alpinisme club with 3 teams this year! Next year, I just might be one of those spectators at the top of the Grand Mont cheering the rest on with a glass of vin chaud and a cow bell! Vive ski alpinisme!
Below is a small video of photos of the race:
Coming up! The season is not yet over! 3 World Cups still to come in April including the famous Patrouille des Glaciers. In the meantime a much needed rest at home with my family!