The countdown is on, and UTMB® is just around the corner!
Preparation and planning are key, and that includes knowing where to run in the days before the race. Professional trail runner and coach Paul Giblin shares his local tips.
Paul’s training trails around Chamonix
1. Le Tour to Refuge Albert 1er (2-3 hours)
For some spectacular glacier views and some fantastic single-track, take a bus from Chamonix to Le Tour (usually free and only takes about 20 mins). Start and finish under the ski lift. It’s a steady climb of around 1,300m to the refuge. The last 300m of the trail gets a little more technical, but there’s no snow or ice in the summertime. You can buy refreshments at the top, or take something with you - you’ll want to stop to take in the views for while! The descent back to Le Tour is equally spectacular with views across the Aiguilles Rouges.
“I live and breathe running. From the moment I awake to the second my tired, twitchy legs let me fall asleep again.” Paul Giblin | 3 x Top 10 Western States 100
2. Les Bois to Chamonix via Caillet (1 - 1.5 hours)
Head towards the river and cross the bridge after the PGHM helicopter pad. Turn left, and after you’ve passed the farm (on your left) and you’ll see a trail to the right that goes uphill, marked Montenvers / Mer de Glace (another great run when you have more time). You’ll cross over the Vallée Blanche and in another 15 mins you’ll be at the Buvette Caillet. They do cold drinks and cake, if that’s your thing! To get back down follow the trail down towards Chamonix town, and you’ll come out at Les Planards - near the Montenvers train station. Head past the ice rink and join up with the river path which will take you back to Les Bois.
3. Les Praz to Chamonix via Planpraz (1-2 hours)
I like to start at the Petit Social in Les Praz (you can get tea / coffee if it’s early!). Head up the trail at the bend in the road (near the river crossing). After about 100m of ascent you’ll cross over the Petit Balcon (which you run along to finish the UTMB and CCC etc), but keep going up, following the signs for Charlanon (not La Floria). It’s a fun climb, and you’ll come out of the woods near a ski lift where you can join the TMB trail towards Planpraz (go left - towards Chamonix). Once you get there you have some options to get back down to Chamonix. The VK descent is tricky - especially the first 150m. I prefer the descent that’s above the lift station - at the field used for paraglide launches. It’s a fun descent into town and you’ll come out at the main Planpraz / Brevent lift station. Run through Chamonix then follow the river path back to Les Praz.
Chamonix is BUSY in Summer, let alone during UTMB week!!
Head out early to avoid tourists and fellow runners
There are also a lot of trails around Les Houches and Argentière which may not be so busy.
If you are staying further afield, use the buses or trains (free with the Guest Card) which run up and down the valley, and avoid the parking headache