Trail des Hauts Forts – Saturday 13th August 2016 – Review

Here’s our review of our first trail event, would we do it again, absolutely!

A trail of two halves

First Half Morzine to Lac Min d’Or 17km
Like a hard core cross country run although you’d be doing very well to run some sections either up or down! After a rousing send off we had a very brief run before the first steep slopes appeared.  Being new to trail running and even though we’d been told that we shouldn’t expect to run the whole route it was still a little bit of a surprise to see the whole pack break into a walk up the slope, out came all of the trekking poles and up everyone went. The scenery was varied and absolutely stunning, alongside the river of the Vallee de la Manche, shaded woods, delightful Alpine pastures and stunning vista’s across the valley. Underfoot was varied, from gravel and rocky paths to green grass, one section was down a very tight windy earth path through close trees, and at one point there was a “scramble” up and over a boulder strewn dry stream bed. It was really nice to be recognised at one of the water stops by a couple of guys who had been clearing the brush alongside the path the day before, obviously they don’t get many mad Brits wearing themselves out recce’ing the route the day before the event. Past the Refuge de Chardonnière where we had a lovely simple lunch the day before and on up through the trees for the last push to Lac de Min d’Or before the cut off at 11:30am. A steep ascent through the trees and we emerged at the lakeside checkpoint with 3 or 4 minutes to spare, a great relief. Everyone at the checkpoint was very friendly and we took on some well earnt food and water; well I did anyway and does anyone have the recipe for the slightly spicy cake that I enjoyed?

Second Half, Lac de Min d’Or to Avoriaz
After a lovely little break and a walk around the lake it was off up into the mountains and the Unknown, we literally had no idea what was to come, except the advice from the day before to “not underestimate” this section. All we really knew was that somehow we had to climb out of the valley via Col de Fornet before we could descend into Avoriaz.  I was startled out of my thoughts to hear my name being called and turned to see Andrew and Nancy our chalet hosts (The White Valley Company) standing at the side of the track where they’d walked up to have lunch at a mountain restaurant, such a lovely surprise that also presented a photo opportunity, thanks to Nancy we have a lovely memory for us both to treasure.
There was to be no running at all from there on as even putting one foot in front of the other became an effort. We followed a very narrow path which zigged and zagged out of the valley to another checkpoint. From here on in it got really interesting as the route turned into a ridge walk along what to us could only be described as a mountain goat path. Sharon (God bless her doesn’t like heights) was now subjected to stunning views with steep drops on one side and vertical drops on the other! In places the mountain goats hadn’t done a good job of maintaining the path or route selection as we scrambled up short rocky outcrops and slipped and slided over wet and gravelly sections where the path became very indistinct.  The absolutely stunning panoramic vistas over the Alps and mountains on both sides of the ridge were nothing short of beautiful, absolutley amazing sights that lifted the spirits!
Finally the seemingly endless ridge walk ended and we were greeted with a small section of snow to be crossed (which seemed very odd in sweaty shorts/t shirt and trainers). At last Avoriaz and the finish was in sight as we started down following a lovely broad ski piste. Well the organisers didn’t want us having a nice leisurely stroll down into town and soon directed us off onto a narrow winding track. 3km down and 1km up saw us enter the outskirts of Avoriaz which after lovely memories of our ski holiday earlier in the year now seemed like an eerie ghost town from some spaghetti western. The final 600m seemed to take forever as we wound around the empty streets until the finish was in sight and we both sprinted for the finish line in the now buzzing and busy centre of town.

For our first trail “event” never mind the fact that it was abroad, we had trained as much as we could in the gym, we didn’t really know what to expect and kit wise we could have done better, it was an amazing experience! We saw so much, we made new friends and we pushed ourselves physically and way out of our road running half marathon comfort zone!
Will we do more trail running? – Definitely!
Will we back to run the Alps? – Absolutely!

Admin
Registration at the Palais des Sports de Morzine  was surprisingly easy and well organised. The event technical t shirt is actually very nice.
The start was again very well organised, with atmospheric music and a good crowd of participants.
We did seem (and rightly so) to be a little under dressed compared to others, we had our normal running trainers and gear with our almost brand new Camelbaks and some seemed more prepared to do the Marathon Des Sables than a “little jog around Morzine”. I think we might need to upgrade our gear if we’re going to do more Trail events (apparently they’re not called runs), though thanks to the dry sunny conditions it all stood up quite well.
The cut off time for our Petit parcours 27km short route was 2hrs 45mins which turned out to be very tight for us and very disappointing for quite a number of unfortunates behind us but I’m sure the organisers had their reasons.
Accomodation at The White Valley Company (http://www.thewhitevalleycompany.com/) was excellent, a real touch of luxury and the event package with an excellent massage form Bev and a celebratory Bar B Q was a real treat, nothing was too much trouble for the Andrew and team and the location is spot on with only a short (by comparison) walk into Morzine.