Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tor des Geants, An Italian Adventure: Part 4

Our second morning on the trail, was a bit of a blur. In our haste to hit the trail, I didn't have a coffee - and my day started a little hazy. You know you're tired when you FORGET to drink coffee. When does that happen? What I do recall is that the trail started climbing immediately and I was O.K with that. It meant that I didn't have to run just yet and I could just power-hike along in the dark with the help of my poles. I perked up significantly when the sun came up and I found myself in the most heavenly place on earth.

My photos don't quite do it justice, but the sun unveiled a glorious high alpine world, bathed in Alpenglow. We found ourselves surrounded by massive white and grey mountains, in a wildly beautiful place.

I was in mountain heaven. This is a Happy Leslie picture and at that moment, I was so happy to be in that place.

We had gained elevation quickly, when we reached our first aid station at the Rifigio Chalet de L'Epee. Michael Cartright caught up to us and together, we rolled into the welcome warth of the Rifigio.

There were Espresso's all round, and Michael's friend Tigger tossed back a Tigger sized coffee. It was all too warm and all too inviting, so we headed back out into the cold morning before we were lulled into staying all day.

Michael's a warm-blooded guy and he kept his layers on for a long time. In the early morning, on the shady side of the pass, it stubborly refused to warm up. Higher and higher we climbed and as the landscape and the sky changed around us, we knew the sun would be waiting for us on the other side of the pass.

Ang isn't cold, she's hot!

Finally, as we began our last climb to the pass we were energized by what we might find on the other side. Since starting our day in Valgrisenche, we had climbed 1,240 metres.

Running to Col de Fenetre

Just like we had hoped for, it was a glorious and sunny day on the other side of the pass. The valley on the other side was green and alive, a contrast to the grey and cold world we had just past through.

The views were fantastic in all directions, but what immediately caught our attention was the trail down the other side. Hmmm.

That's Ang and I, descending. We dropped 1,120 metres down the other side, all the way to the village of Rhemes Notre Dame in a very short period of time.

Looking back at Col de Fenetre

By the time we reached the bottom, the clouds had disappeared and the day was heating up in the valley. After a quick stop for aid at Rhemes Notre Dames, we made our way through the village and back to the trail. This time, we entered the Grand Paradiso National Park and began climbing up the other side of the valley. This time our destination was Col Entrelor, a pass located at 3,007 metres.


Climbing, climbing

Climbing, climbing, climbing...

Yup, still Climbing.....

Col Entrelor 3,002m

At Col Entrelor they had an Emergency Bivy set up and staffed, high up on the mountain. There was minimal food and drink available, but for some reason they had a large quantity of beer and sparkling water. I found it quite funny that somehow they had dropped this emergency aid station on top of a mountain and it all it had for offerings, was a whole lot of beer.

Angela Pierrotti

The 1,340m descent down the other side was very runnable and very fun. We settled in to a slow, easy pace to preserve the legs and quads. Along the way, we ran into a lot of the friends. We had just missed Doone at the emergency shelter, but shortly after we picked up Tanya, Glen, Abhi and Craig.

Tanya Meeth

Abhi, Craig and Angela

At the Eaux Roux aid station, we had a regular little tea party. We ate, we lollygagged and we visited with everyone. It was the hottest time of the day, as we headed out of town and started climbing, again.

Eaux Rousses

It was 2:45 when we hit the trail to begin our climb to Col de Loson. We were a little scared when the sign at the trailhead read: Col de Loson 5h30min.
We hit a hot and exposed slope immediately and I was cursing myself for not soaking my head. There wasn't a stream to be found as we climbed up and above the tree line. Fortunately, the temperature got more comfortable, as we gained elevation. We caught up with our old friend Max along the way and we spent the next 4+ hours walking with him up the pass.

One of the items that was "recommended gear" was a cup. Our first thought was "What the heck are we going to use a cup for?" It turns out that one of my favorite things about running in the Alps, is the Joy of the Cup. At practically every high alpine farm and refugio, we found a fresh running water trough. Simply dip and drink. Mmmmm. Delicious!

Ang shows her technique

We're going up there, somewhere...

Looking back down

As we climbed, we saw a huge herd of Chamois and caught glimpses of large Ibex. The Chamois were incredible, I saw a large herd moving across the rocks at an incredible rate of speed. I've never seen anything move that fast and efficiently across a boulder field. Awesome.

Ang and Max climbing

Finally, after over 4 and a half hours of climbing, we reached the top of Col de Loson at 3,296 metres. This time, we had gained 1,630m in elevation. I sat my ass down for a little while and enjoyed the view. Soon after Ang and Max joined and there were high-5's all around. It was the second day in a row that Angela and I found ourselves on top of a high pass for sunset. Giddy, tired and smiling yet again I commented that "That was the most ridiculous day, EVER!!" Day 2 had surpassed Day 1 for level of challenge, scenery, ridiculousness and off-the-scale elevation gain and descent. The consensus was that it was shaping up to be the hardest day we had EVER spent in the mountains and we weren't done yet. It didn't take long to get cold, and I pulled on my layers before disappearing off the precarious trail.

Trail to the Unknown

Fresh Snow

That's where we are going....

The first few kilometers were a joy. With the fading sunlight, the scenery was just incredible. At first the trail was a big boulder field, but eventually it mellowed out and we got some nice, runnable trail. Also with the fading light, we got to see more animals. I was thrilled to see so much wildlife. I got a much closer glimpse of the Ibex, a huge dark beast, with a massive set of horns. Chamois also dotted the slope at a distance and occasionally, we'd get to see them run. We made it to the Rifigio, just before it got dark and interrupted the guests at dinner time. It was kind of awkward, until I shouted "Nous sommes Les Canadiennes!" We are the Canadians! Which broke the silence and got us a cheer. Here's me, caressing a beer. Note the vat of prunes and the tray of meat.

After we replenished at the Rifigio, it got dark quick. Up until this point, we had been cruising downhill and enjoying a nice runnable trail. But our pleasure cruise rapidly ended and our descent took a turn for the worse. What followed was one of the most heinous descents that I have every done day or night. It was slow going with the headlamp. And it just kept going, and going, and going. I was finding walking on the rocky, rooty, boulder strewn slope really awkward. I started to develop an angry IT band on my left leg and a new, sharp pain in my right shin. In the end, we descended 1,764metres from Col de Losson.

By the time we got back to level ground, both Angela and I were a little hobbled and nursing some tired and beat up legs. When we finally hit the runnable rolling flats at the bottom, we were too trashed to run. So we walked. We finally made it in to the town of Cogne around 10:45 at night. We'd been in motion since 5:00 in the morning.

The Life Base in Cogne, was in a hockey arena. All of the beds were full when we arrived, a massive sprawl of cots full of sleeping, smelly, snoring athletes. The eating area was right beside the sleeping area, so there was constant activity between the two. While we were having dinner, Ahvi snagged us a few beds. We bedded down by midnight and I think I slept for a few hours, before getting woken by the random noise of athletes prepping, talking and eating in the middle of the night. Again, I think I slept for maybe a couple of hours and tossed and turned for a few more. There was a cut-off in place, that forced us to be out of there by 6:00 AM. I ended up getting up again at around 4:15 AM, and Ang and I managed to get out by about 5:00AM. We were pretty tired, but still excited, heading out into the morning of Day 3.


Ewa said...

You have no idea how envious I am. I don't know if it's the views, your fitness level, mountain spring water or beer in the Alps. I guess it is the whole package. Totally wonderful.

Would you mind sharing what gear you had? Shoes, poles, bpack, clothing?

Helen said...

And you end by saying "we were still feeling a little tired as we set off on day 3" What an understatement!!! I am stunned by your running, (all participants) the magnificent challenging scenery, the length of each day, your photography and your ability to share it in these posts. The pain and the elation!!!

Leslie said...

Your right Ewa, it was totally wonderful. But HARD,really,really, HARD. Typically, I was caring pretty much exactly what I carry on each of my long runs here in the rockies. I had 2L of water, ultralight pants, 3/4 tights, and vest. In the bottom of the pack, ultralight synthetic puffy coat, and a waterproof coat with a hood. Wool base layer and arm-warmers. Toque, Buff, gloves and small first-aid/blister kit. Wearing shorts and t-shirt. In my front pockets, camera, bandana and enough food to feed a small army. Because I was travelling, I went with bars and gels for food. Packed Ziplocks so I could make myself sandwiches at the aid stations. And the CUP, easily accessible for a quick drink! It all fits in a XA 20L pack and is surprisingly compact. I've been using exclusively Salomon Hydration Packs and Shoes since I've been racing, that's 10 years worth of smelly shoes and packs. Currently, my XA pack is falling apart. I seem to go through one a year, which is annoying. But they are so light and fit me so well I don't even know it's on when it's fully loaded. That's the sign of a good pack.

Meghan said...

Crap. Reedunculous.

Leslie said...

Meghan - is that like, redonculous, but different?!?

JeffO said...

Holy shmoly, those are some awesome Alpy-looking mountains!
When Leslie gets tired, then its some serious hardships!

Carolyn said...

You are quite possibly the coolest person I have ever known! Awesome pics and great story...can't wait for more!

Deanna Stoppler said...

Girl, it is so cool that you can go on all of these trips. I will live vicariously through you, since at this point in my life funds prevent such endeavors!

slowrunner said...

i can not believe you FORGOT to have a coffee . . .

SAVIO Max said...

Bravo Leslie , pour le récit et les photos de ce merveilleux TOR DES GEANTS!!!

DOnne moi ton E. MAIL.

Amitiés . Max Savio.

Leslie said...

JeffO, no hardships just pure bliss.

Thanks, Carolyn!! :)

Aaaah, Deanna. One of these days YOU and I are going to get together for one of these adventures. I just know it. Until then, live vicariously!

Why hello bestest partner in the world! You are SO funny Kendra!!

...and MAX!! YOU FOUND ME!!!
Congratulations on your finish, my mountain friend. I am seriously impressed. You can find me at:

Robychao said...

Hi Leslie,
Here Roberta...
maybe you don t remember me but I was the Italian one who is in your picture inside "rifugio sogno" when you say "a grey landscape".
Anyway we saw several times during tor des geants and from close' till the end I talked a lot with Angela.
It was a beautiful adventure around ours small world.
Just yesterday I went to a french house friend to wacht a very funny video about me and my frieds during our stops at the baselife.
Incredible how nature can change us,I love that.
So, if you want, you can watch my picture of tordesgeants.
Have a nice trail...ever ...
and say hallo to Angela.
ps: I also enjoed good beers at the top..hihihi
bye bye
Roberta Peron

Benzel said...

Holy shmoly, those are some awesome Alpy-looking mountains! When Leslie gets tired, then its some serious hardships!

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