Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc: advice needed!

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it's off to Cham I go!

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s off to Cham I go!

I thought I’d try my luck and reach out to the running community on the interweb! Any advice, help, guidance or assistance you can offer would be greatly appreciated so please comment, send me a tweet or shoot me an e-mail 🙂

Next year I will be travelling to Chamonix and the surrounding area from August 20th to September 3rd. My ultimate goal is to run the inaugral Orsières – Champex – Chamonix (OCC) 53km race which will take place on Thursday 28th August with a secondary goal of volunteering at aid stations along the PTL/TDS/CCC/UTMB routes.

I am in a bit of a quandry in that I don’t really know where to base myself and that is where I would like some advice from more experiences ultrarunners! My options, as I see them so far, are thus:

    1. Stay at the start line in Orsières or nearby at Champex. This would save me the hassle of travelling across an international border the evening before I’m due to race. However it could provide a potential post-race buzz kill of having to travel out of what will undoubtedly be a lively and jumping Chamonix! Also, I keep asking myself, will I be missing out on the UTMB action in the week leading up to the race – will I be missing out on the chance to run with like minded people every day for 2 weeks?! But that said, if I don’t stay in Orsières will the buzz around Chamonix be too much for me – I do like peace, quiet and to a large extent, solitude.
    2. Stay in Chamonix and soak up the atmosphere for the entire two weeks. I’ve never been to Chamonix before but I imagine if I want some of the mountain village solitude I would likely experience over the border in Switzerland it wouldn’t take too much of a walk, run or bus journey to find it. As I mentioned above the only real problem I could see would be travel to the start line in Orsières – I don’t think that a 55km journey by car, bus or rail would be ideal for getting into the racing frame of mind and if any kind of delay happened it could mean missing the start! Plus points to this option include a better range of accommodation. I’ll be renting a studio or apartment for the two weeks, so far it’ll be me and only me but I’d like to rent somewhere big enough for a friend or two to jump on board later down the line if they wanted to.
    3. Camping. Not ideal for 2 weeks but it might be interesting to try and power hike/fast pack from Chamonix to Orsières in time for the start of the race. This would mean carrying all of the gear that came along with me back to Chamonix during the OCC race itself and then I guess I have to take into account potential bad weather scenarios…okay, yeah, that doesn’t sound ideal at all come to think of it. Scratch this one!
    4. The final option is to get some accommodation in Orsières from August 20th to August 28th and then have some accommodation booked down in Chamonix for when I finish the OCC. Problems with this idea include the cost of accommodation across two sites, in two countries and transporting my belongings from Orsières to Chamonix without having to carry them on my back during the race. Furthermore, I would probably want to change my itinerary so that I’d arrive in Orsières on August 24th and then leave Chamonix on September 7th. Much like option C, after reading this I thought about striking it through but I’m going to leave out there for consideration!

So, ultrarunners and endurance athletes of the interweb, with your combined experience I hope that you’ll be able to at least add some points for me to think on or may even just help me to make an outright choice that will be best for my first ultra experience! At the end of the day, whichever option I go with I’m sure it’ll be amazing – I can’t wait to get out to the Alps and begin acclimating to running at altitude and racing in whatever conditions Mother Nature decides to throw at the Mont Blanc massif in August 2014!

Thanks in advance for your input, much obliged!

Peace & Blessings


3 thoughts on “Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc: advice needed!

  1. Laura Ruxton

    I’m also running the OCC and after much the same thought process as you I’ve decided to stay the night before at the race start and register there. We will be in Annecy the week leading up to the race and I have been in Cham during the UTMB before and have decided that I want to stay away from the hustle and bustle. We will stay in Cham a couple of days after the race to soak up the atmosphere when I can relax and enjoy it.

  2. Peter

    Hi Ally,
    My wife and I did the TMB in July (hiking, not running), but there are some bits that I can give you about the region, in no particular order. You don’t have to worry about crossing borders, especially in the mountains – nobody checks anything. The TMB didn’t go through Orsieres, but it looks like you’re going to have a bit of a climb to get to Champex. From Champex we went by the Fenetre route, but your race will probably go via the Bovine route to Trient, eventually to Cham. There is no mountain village experience to get in Cham, for that either go south to Les Houches or north to Vallorcine or Buet. Busses run between all these villages in the valley. Better to take the bus than the train since the bus drivers never ask for money and therefore the busses are basically free. There are nice campgrounds in Cham just south of the Midi station. If you’ve never been to Cham, battle with the tourists and take the Midi gondola up and continue to Italy (if it’s now open). Maybe stay in a mountain hut – try either the top of the Flegere or (better) try the Lac Blanc. Great views of the MB range. Your race may go past these spots, but they can be reached easily from Cham. I don’t know of the race organization, but usually with a point-to-point race, they will arrange to transport your luggage to the finish line. Check on it.

    1. Ally Flowers Post author

      Hi Peter

      Thank you so much for all of the information you gave! I am now broadening my search for an apartment/studio to Les Houches, Vallorcine and Buet after deciding to utilise my B option. I figured I’ve been to Switzerland before, experienced their mountain culture and stayed in a hut there so it’s time for me to experience Chamonix and the surrounding area. I’ve heard so much about it, both good and bad, but I’ll reserve judgement for when I return! I’m also going to look into staying in a hut for an evening up at Lac Blanc thanks to your recommendation.

      Thanks again for the input Peter, I really appreciate it! Thank you too for taking time to read my blog 🙂


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