Chamonix is about to be invaded by a peculiar type of species… the ultra runner. Yes, it’s that time of year again – UTMB week. The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc attracts more than 7000 people to take part in the biggest trail running event of the year.
7500 runners from over 80 different countries will push themselves to the limits of their endurance as they take part in 6 races, covering a distance of 758 kilometres (470 miles) and a positive height gain of 53650 metres (176000 feet) – phew!
The races that make up the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc are:
PTL, Petite Trot a Leon
The Petite Trotte à Léon is misleadingly named, being anything but “petite” at a distance of 300km with a massive 26000m of positive altitude change! This event is a team challenge in which runners must stay with their team mates for the entirety of the course to be classed as finishers and the extreme nature of the course makes this one of the toughest trail events around. The PTL is the first event of the week, starting at 17:30 on Monday 22nd August in the centre of Chamonix and can take up to 6 days to complete.
TDS, Sur Les Traces des Ducs de Savoie
Runners in the TDS will find themselves treading historical paths in provinces on the French/Italian border that once made up the Savoie State. We’re guessing though that with 120km of distance and over 7250m of ascent to contend with, the runners will have more to focus on than political history! The race starts in Courmayeur at 6am on 24th August and climbs many mountain passes to finish between 14 and 33 hours later in Chamonix.
OCC, Orsieres Champex Chamonix
The shortest of the races, the Orsières – Champex – Chamonix may only be 55km long but it manages to squeeze in 3500m of positive height gain, making it a pretty steep and technical course. Starting in Switzerland at 08:15 on 25th August the route has three challenging climbs and takes in hanging glaciers, roaring torrents and alpine forests along the way. The first runners are expected back in Chamonix around 5-6 hours later with the maximum time barrier being set at 14 hours.
CCC, Courmayeur Champex Chamonix
Often seen as the “little sister” of the UTMB, the Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix follows a similar route through France, Italy and Switzerland but over a shorter course of 100km with around 6000m of positive altitude change – still a massive distance by most people’s standards! The race starts in Courmayeur, Italy at 9am on 26th August and finishes in Chamonix centre with an average finishing time of around 20 hours.
UTMB, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
The legendary Ultra Trail du Mont is the highlight of the week. Crowds of people will be lining the streets at 6pm on Friday 26th August in the centre of Chamonix to cheer for the 2300 runners as they set off on the run of their lives. Now in it’s 14th year, the UTMB is an iconic trail race that draws people from all over the world to circumnavigate Mont Blanc; running 170km through three countries, much of it during the night, and climbing 10000m to return to Chamonix as heroes. The winner often finishes in about 20 hours with the cut-off being 46 hours, meaning that finishers are coming in all weekend. The atmosphere is incredible; runners and spectators alike get swept up in the strong emotions as exhausted legs stumble over the finish line!
YCC, Youth Chamonix Courmayeur
The newest race of the lot, the YCC is a 15km challenge with 1100m of ascent for young trail runners aged from 16 to 19 years old. All participants will also have the chance to take part in a video competition, with all entries to be shared on social networks. The YCC takes place on Wednesday 24th August at 10am in Courmayeur, Italy.
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is a fantastic spectator event and there are lots of things going on throughout the week; you can access some of the race routes using the Chamonix lift system but don’t rely on buying your lift pass on the day as the desks are bound to be busy.
Order your lift pass in advance through Mountain Lifestyle and we’ll have it ready and waiting for you on your arrival, at no extra charge for the service. Order it more than 3 days in advance and you’ll also benefit from a special offer of 6 days for the price of 5.
The Mont Blanc Multipass gives you access to a multitude of exciting activities in the valley, visit our website to discover all summer activities in Chamonix.
You can find further details of all the races on the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc website.