Unfortunately, the Graian Alps (home of Mont Blanc) are forecast to get a significant weather event coinciding with the start of The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc… just like last year. The forecast calls for thunderstorms with possible hail from 5 pm through the original start time of 6:30 through midnight. More rain the later part of the night. Probably more important, the freezing mark will drop to 2,300 meters (7,500′) meaning snow on the course… with snow likely to mix in well below 7,500′. Winds at 2,000 meters (6,500′) to be steady at 25 mph with gusts to 50 mph and even higher in thunderstorms. There will be fog through the night… especially in the cols (passes).
That said, the weather will clear on day 2 with cool temps and fog likely again the cols. With the improved weather and the first major high pass not until the Col du Bonhomme at 30 miles (48k) about 4 hours and 45 minutes into the race for the leaders, delaying the start will allow passage over the high passages that normally occur in the night for the leaders and that the course cannot otherwise be reasonably routed around – Bonhomme and Col de la Seigne (37 miles/60k).
The current course will be run through Vallorcine at mile 92 (148k) from which it will be rerouted onto the original course’s finish for the final miles over the Col Montets and down the valley to Chamonix. The avoids the final climb of Tete aux Vents and Le Flegere. According to Topher Gaylord, with his encyclopedic UTMB knowledge, this change “will make for an ‘easier’/faster finish and slightly shorter course and more running at the end.”
Here are some others’ thoughts on the delay:
- Geoff Roes (full post) – “Personally I have a feeling that this is going to be one of the most satisfying runs of my life so I don’t really care so much when we start… just as long as we get to actually finish this time around.”
- Joe Grant (full post) – “As I sit this year, on the day of the race, getting reports of more bad weather, delayed starts and course re-routes, I can’t help but think about the wait. Anticipation and expectations of what is to come are truly what plague the wait. If I wait patiently you see, enjoying the extra time spent with family and friends, the good food on the table, the stunning views from my balcony, I am in fact not really waiting at all. Rather, I am engaged in the every moment the day has to offer and worry free of what has not yet come. I will run tonight in a similar head space – unconcerned by the next climb or the storm looming ahead as they will come and go like the clouds in the sky. It’s not that hard to wait if you just be.”