Location: Zermatt / Switzerland
Description: 48 KM (30 M) Ascents/Descents 3600 meters (12,000 ft)
For an ultrarunner, the 30 miles distance doesn’t sound terribly challenging. For this race it is not the distance that counts but the relentless climbs on a relatively “short” course.
Right from the start, the course goes uphill, first on the village road but soon enough it is a steep, single track, climb to the “Sunnegga” aid station. The pleasant downhill on a broad dirt road after this “Sunnegga” is immediately followed by a steep ascent to the Cornergrat, located at 3120 m (10,300 ft)! Because I’m a slow runner, I was at the tail end of the pack with the aid station staff there having little enthusiasm for runners arriving just when the wind and rain picked up :-(.
The long, and very runnable, downhill to the next aid station, eventually lead to the Glacier Garden with many slippery rocks on a steep downhill trail. While the impressive crossing of the narrow “Khumbu valley’ style hanging bridge was an interesting change of scenery, the seemingly long and endless climb to “Schwarzsee” was a real challenge to me. Fortunately, it was cloudy. On a sunny, hot, day, this course would be twice as hard.
The run down to the valley was easy and regenerated my batteries for what I hoped would be the final climb up to the long traverse to the “Trift” aid station, a place well known to me from previous hikes. Not having studied the course profile thoroughly enough, I expected to be running down from the “Trift” to Zermatt. Game over. This not what the race director had in mind though. The aid station staff directed me to go up again – not down! This short but steep hike briefly killed my good spirits until I could see Zermatt at the bottom of the valley. Meanwhile, the time barrier in Zermatt of 11 hours kept creeping up on me.
A final hard downhill run ended with an enthusiastic welcome and finish in Zermatt after 10h46min. Just made it before the final time barrier and received this shiny medal.
This race, at the end of a week of running on the many scenic trails surrounding this picturesque village located at the foot of the Matterhorn and many 4,000 meter peaks, was the perfect ending.
With “Airbnb” accommodations now available, the costs became reasonable. Eating out in Zermatt is expensive and cooking at “home” makes this entire week more affordable for any trail running enthusiast.
Most aid stations are easily accessible by cable cars and train and, therefore, this race can also be enjoyed by the runner’s supporters.