Just back from my winter hols in the French Alps which apart from a great mix of fresh snow and sun also included the ski alpinism race ‘The Pierra Menta‘. The Pierra Menta is a 4 stage ski alpinism race. There is a 3-5 hour race each day for 4 days and your times for each stage are added together to get your finish time. There are 180 teams (2 people in a team) in the race and the total climbing for the race is about 10,000 metres. Ski Alpinism is basically your standard ski touring stripped down to it’s bare essentials and done as fast as possible. As well as the standard climbing on skis with skins and skiing down there is also some ‘portage’ or climbing on foot which is generally done on rocky ridges and possibly some sections which require fixed ropes or crampons. The race is a good test of general fitness, skiing ability and ski specific alpine skiils. My partner for the race was Jon Morgan, a UK based UIAGM Mountain Guide and top vet fell runner. Jon is more experienced and stronger than me so generally dragged me round the course as fast as I could manage. We finished 107 out of 155 male teams, with a total race time of 15 hours 43 minutes. Although quite a lowly finish position, it’s still one I’m pleased with as the standard of the competition was quite incredible. You really do have to see how fast the top guys go and then try and climb the same slope to get a handle on it. The length of the race, my limited experience and the fact that my partner was stronger than me meant that it was the hardest event I have done for quite some time. It was also the most paracetamol that I have eaten in any one week! My goal for next year is to get a sub 100 finish position and to try not to lose my big toe nails! There is one bonus of ski rando racing which is improve your general touring skills and muscles so that general ski touring seems literally no effort at all.
Ridge Portage in the Pierra Menta
Day 1 course profile
Finish on the final day.