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Patrouille des Glaciers Race

Dave Thompson is wondering what he has let himself in for!

Hiking up Col Rati in November powder

Hiking up Col Rati in November powder

One evening last winter, whilst driving too fast down the windy road to Thonon, I received a phone call from a friend.

“Dave, would you like to do the Patrouille des Glaciers race next year?” she said

“Uh, yeah, ok” I replied.

And that was that. I had heard of this race, anyone who does the odd ski rando race has. But I had little idea of what it really entailed and anyway was late and wasn’t in a position to ask questions. Yes was the easy reply.

Having subsequently thought little of it, in September I was contacted again by my friend saying that it was time to register. “We’ll put our names down”, she said, “ but there’s little chance of actually getting a place, it’s massively oversubscribed and they pull names out of a hat”. This was reassuring. We, along with a third team member, registered. Again I thought little of it and as the weeks rolled by and we heard nothing I assumed that we were not among the ‘lucky’ few to be given a place.

Last Friday I was looking through my emails over breakfast and very nearly regurgitated my cereal onto my computer. There it was in black and white – vous vous êtes inscrits pour la PDG 2016. April 19th now looms in my internal diary in bold, indelible ink. 4000m climb, 52km. The equivalent, the website says, of running 110km. Racing between the iconic resorts of Zermatt and Verbier. We’re anticipating a twelve hour race, at least.

So the best way to conquer the demons this week has been to get out in the snow and remind myself that I love ski touring and I like having something on the horizon to aim for. Fortunately the pre season snow in the Portes du Soleil has offered plenty of opportunity to get training underway early. I’ve never skiied so much before mid December.

Yesterday we climbed from Ardent up to the peak of Mossettes, a climb of a thousand metres, a quarter of the way. We stuck to the piste on the lower slopes but managed to find tracks off piste after the Lindarets bowl which took us near to the top. Having the Portes du Soleil to yourself, save for half a dozen other randonneurs dotted around the landscape, is a rare treat especially on a crisp sunny morning.

Come April 19th I think the scene and mood will be very different.

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