With excellent snowfall and weather in the Alps and Pyrenees recently seven of us were able to take advantage of conditions in the recent Ski Mountaineering World Championships, held in Andorra in the first week in March (Canillo2010)
The British team were: Gabby Lees, Ben Bardsley, Es Tresidder, Ivor Ligertwood, Nick Wallis, Gary Devine and myself, Jon Morgan.
Es, Ben and myself went on to compete in the classic and spectacular four-day race, La Pierra Menta, in the Beaufortain, along with fellow Brits Jon Bracey, Carron Scrimgeour and Rik Marchant seen by many as the Tour de France of ski mountaineering racing and held a week after the World Champs in Andorra
25 countries were represented in the Ski Mountaineering World Championships, each eligible to enter 4 individuals or pairs in a series of races held throughout the week. This is the 5th time the biannual competition has occurred, and we have had a team in all but the first one. Unsurprisingly it is dominated by Alpine countries, especially France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain, but one of the biggest factors in how well countries do overall is the depth of strength across all ages and both sexes. We had Gabby Lees competing in the womens junior race, but no women in the open category. There were five men competing in the individual races, and we drafted in a sixth, Gary Devine, with no previous ski race experience, to make up 3 teams. He is however ex-British Fell Running Champion and a ski instructor, living in the Pyrenees.
The first race was an acquired taste- uphill only, on a piste, which was distressingly flat. It was partly green and partly a blue run angle with a vertical height gain of about 800m. This definitely favoured those with a depth of cross country ski training, hence the ability to get significant uphill glide on every stride. The winner, aged only 22, Kilian Jornet from Spain, just held off Denis Brunod from Italy and the 2008 World Champion, Florent Perrier, from France, who had a clean sweep of gold medals last time. Kilian is also World Sky Running Champion, and has shattered numerous course records in recent years, such as the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc and the Corsican GR20 record. For us Ben put in a great performance- he is ex Saab Salomon Race Captain, and has thighs so big he struggles to buy trousers. As a percentage time of the winner this was our best individual result of the Championships. Gabby did well in her race too.
The equipment used bears a passing resemblance to standard ski mountaineering kit (i.e., skis of at least 160cm with full length edges, at least 65mm underfoot, pin-system bindings and full sized touring boots) but with significant differences.
The lightest skis weigh 650g each, the bindings 125g each and, possibly most amazingly, the boots, increasingly made of carbon fibre, weigh 650g each in a size 9!
Compare that to the typical weights of standard “lightweight touring kit”- skis 1,200g each, bindings 350g each, boots 1,500g each. An extra 1.5kg on your foot every stride. As a result it isn't that hard to do some very rapid ascents. Good job, because if you are averaging less than 800 metres per hour vertical ascent rate you will be last, and the top guys can do double that!
Gabby put in a strong performance in the tough Womens junior race on Thursday, beating, amongst others, three Spanish women. The final race for us was the team event on Friday. The French pair of Didier Blanc and Florent Troillet convincingly held off Italian and Swiss teams, and for us Ben and Es were the first of our teams, followed by Nick and Ivor. Gary did amazingly well for his first race, paired with me. He always beats me in fell races, so it was good to extend his comfort zone- and he did look good in that pink lycra skinsuit one of the Americans so kindly lent us! On his behalf I declined the grey skinsuit she had also offered.
SKI MOUNTAINEERING ARTICLES AT UKCLIMBING.COM
An introductory article describing what ski mountaineering is and the gear you need.
Lists the ten reasons why why Ski-Mountaineering should be on everyone's holiday timetable and skis should be on everyone's feet. Like Doug Evans' article it also describes the kit that you need.
A great narrative describing doing the famous Haute Route in the Alps
Click here to read Ski Mountaineering topics in the UKC forums at UKClimbing.com.
1st Kilian Jornet Spain 39min 50
42nd Ben Bardsley GB 46min 55
54th Jon Morgan GB 49min 31
66th Ivor Ligertwood GB 53min 06
70th Nick Wallis GB 57min 35
1st Jennifer Feichter Switzerland 27min 40
13th Gabby Lees GB 34min 05
1st Florent Troillet Switzerland 1h 30min 50
56th Jon Morgan GB 1h 58min 13
59th Ben Bardsley GB 2h 00min 45
61st Es Tresidder GB 2h 01min 40
66th Ivor Ligertwood GB 2hrs 07min 43
1st Jennifer Feichter Switzerland 1h 49min 32
13th Gabby Lees GB 2h 14min 47
1st Didier Blanc/Florent Perrier France 2h 14min 55
31st Ben Bardsley/Es Tresidder GB 3h 04min 50
38th Ivor Ligertwood/Nick Wallis GB 3h 37min 39
41st Gary Devine/Jon Morgan GB 3h 59min 45
16th Great Britain
Do you want to be in the British Ski Mountaineering Team?
This is sport that will never appeal to many folk in Britain; it is time consuming, very hard work, expensive (read minimal funding as it isn't an Olympic sport...yet) and potentially dangerous (trees/cliffs/other competitors/avalanches). But it is totally thrilling and addictive, despite our never being a threat to Kilian et al. We are always on the look out for more GB competitors: we had 2 spaces in the mens team event, numerous junior spaces and 8 womens team places available. Anyone interested should email email@example.com as we will do better as a country the more folk we enter. It is in the Dolomites next year in Feb/March.
BUYING SKI MOUNTAINEERING GEAR
Facewest.co.uk are by far one of the best stockists of Ski Mountaineering gear in the UK, they supply ski's from Black Diamond, Movement and K2, bindings from Dynafit, Diamir and Back Country Access; avalanche safety equipment, poles, skins, touring packs, dry bags, altimeters and crevasse rescue kits.
SKI TRAB AVAILABLE IN THE UK
STOP PRESS: The Mountain Boot Company are to distribute SKI TRAB in the UK. Named after founder, Giacomo Trabucchi, SKI TRAB are leading firm in the ski-touring and cross-country field, based in Bormio, Italy, a renowned skiing resort. SKI TRAB make touring and Nordic skis, skiing clothing, backpacks, poles and gloves. They join a portfolio of great Italian companies to be associated with the Mountain Boot Company, that include Scarpa and Grivel.
Steve Roberts, CEO of the Mountain Boot Company told UKClimbing.com that SKI TRAB will be available from Back Country UK, Braemar Mountain Sports, Mountain Spirit and other leading back country specialists.
SKI MOUNTAINEERING GEAR REVIEWS AT UKCLIMBING.COM
In other ski mountaineering news:
At the stroke of midnight Monday April 5th, three members of the French Ecole Miliaire de Haute Montagne Yann Gachet, Laurent Fabre and Anthony Frassard began their attempt to be the fastest men on skis to complete the famed Haute Route. This would be the trio's second attempt at breaking the twenty-one hour and eleven minute record with the first attempt being thwarted by bad weather one year ago.
The classic Haute Route ascends some 27,500 feet of elevation and descent crossing eight cols and numerous glaciers over 111 miles. For the average person the Haute Route is a classic eight day ski tour, for these men it would take less than 24 hours.
After a tiresome 7500 feet descent skirting the base of the Matterhorn they reached the town of Zermatt. Caporal-chef Gachet and l'ajundant-chef Fabre ran the last kilometer to the Zermatt Chapel in twenty hours, twenty-eight minutes and five seconds, breaking the previous record by 43 minutes. Bravo for a job well done.
Report at www.examiner.com
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