2012 TNF UTMB Course Changed, Start Possibly Delayed

The 2012 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc course will be changed due to wintry conditions. It will be at least 100k and will start at [Updated and finalized:] 7 pm local (CEDT) time on Friday. The route will only pass through France. The Grand Col Ferret is impractical. Instead, the course will go through Val Montjoie and Valle de Chamonix.

For those curious, Val Montjoie is the north-south-trending valley containing Notre Dame de la Gorge near its southern head, Les Contamines, and Saint Gervais near its northern mouth. And, Valle de Chamonix is the northeast-southwest valley containing Argentiere on its northeastern head, Chamonix, and Les Houches near is southwestern mouth.

We will continue to update you as we learn more details.

2:30 PM Update From the Official Press Conference

The start time is confirmed for 7 pm local time (CEDT) Friday night with the winner expected to finish around 5:30 am Saturday morning and a 9 pm Saturday cutoff. The course will be approximately 100k (62 miles) with 6,000 meters (20,000′) of climbing. Update: There will be no drop bags.

The aid stations will be, in order:

  • Les Houche
  • Saint Gervais
  • Les Contamines
  • La Balme
  • Les Contamines
  • Les Houches
  • Argentiere
  • Finish

Here’s the elevation profile for the 2012 UTMB alternate course.

2012 TNF UTMB Elevation Profile

The elevation profile of the 2012 TNF UTMB.

2012 TNF UTMB Course Map (pdf)

PointsDistancePositiv altitude changeFirst runnerLast runnerTime barriers
Départ0.00 Km0 m31-19:0031-19:00
Le Delevret13.60 Km1015 m31-20:1031-21:53
Saint Gervais20.88 Km1123 m31-20:3731-22:59
Les Contamines30.69 Km1793 m31-21:3401-01:21S-01:20
La Balme38.82 Km2372 m31-22:2801-03:36S-03:40
Les Contamines Retour54.10 Km2915 m31-23:5201-07:05S-07:05
Bellevue66.87 Km4142 m01-01:3801-11:27
Les Houches71.72 Km4144 m01-01:5901-12:19S-12:20
Les Tines85.65 Km5037 m01-03:3701-16:22
Argentiere93.38 Km5684 m01-04:3801-18:52S-19:00
Chamonix Arrivee103.42 Km5862 m01-05:3001-21:01

Ongoing List of Runners Who Have Withdrawn from the 2012 TNF UTMB

  • Iker Karrera
  • Julien Chorier

11:45 AM Update

It appears as though some major competitors will choose not to start the race after learning of the announced course changes.

Per Miguel Heras, “He decidido tomar la salida, aunque el trazado no me favorece. Mis compañeros de equipo no correrán, ha sido decisión personal de cada uno.”

English translation by Roger Soto, “I’ve decided to start even if the route doesn’t suit (favour) me. My teammates aren’t running, each one of us has taken his personal decision.”

11:30 AM Update

Weather conditions too difficult on Col du Bonhomme, Col de la Seigne, and the Grand Col Ferret.

The UTMB departs around 19:00 on an alternate course in France.

The first part of the UTMB route remains unchanged, then returns to La Balme, Les Contamines, and Les Houches and by a different route. It will then run along the valley of Chamonix to just before the Col des Montets to join the CCC route to return to Chamonix by way of Argentiere.

100km, 6,000 meters of climb.
Maps of new routes and time barriers available soon.

9 AM Update

Here is this morning’s press release (in French with full English translation below):

2012 TNF UTMB course change and delay

Course Modifications
Chamonix, August 31st, 2012 at 9 am

Departing 10 am at Courmayeur.
Winter conditions above 2,000 meters, cold, snow, wind.
The course without Tete de la Tronche [the first pass of the regular CCC course] and without Tete aux Vents [the last pass of the regular CCC course].

Due to winter conditions on the passes, an alternate course in France only. Col Ferret [a 2,500 meter pass in Italy at the 99k mark of the regular UTMB course] impractical.
Val Montjoie [the valley containing Notre Dame de la Gorge, Les Contamines, and Saint Gervais], Chamonix Valley [the valley containing Argentiere, Chamonix, and Les Houches], at least 100 kilometers.
Departing between 18:30 and 20:00.

There are 67 comments

  1. Dan

    How can there be any continuity about records and even legitimacy of being “the race in the ultra world’ if the race can’t go on as scheduled. While I understand that this is the nature of trail running and especially ultra running it seems there are some serious questions that the UTMB organizers are faced with after a third consecutive year of route alterations. I currently live and spend a lot of time in and around the Alps so to me it is a simple solution. Change the dates to late July or at least earlier in August when the risks of this happening are greatly reduced. I fully intend to enter the lottery next year but just thought it might be worth posing the question.

    1. Pierre

      Yeah, i lost the lottery this year, so i'm automatically in for 2013. That would be a disappointment if it was shorten. So yes, why not a full moon in late july ?

    2. Jeff Faulkner

      I'm in agreement. This is obviously a bad time of year for favorable race conditions in that area of the world. Time for the race organizers to make some changes.

      So disappointing…

        1. Jeff Faulkner

          So there really is no sure-fire solution to the problem of inclement weather then. I guess I should have known with the foul weather that can hit the mountainous regions here in the USA at any time.

  2. Pierre

    Wow that's too bad if its shorten again this yearling like 2010. Can i say one thing about the web tv: c'est super ! Feels like you are there.

  3. Roger Soto

    Here's Heras comment translation:

    He decidido tomar la salida, aunque el trazado no me favorece. Mis compañeros de equipo no correrán, ha sido decisión personal de cada uno.”

    2I've decided to start even if the route doesn't suite me (favours me). My teammates aren't running, each one of us has taken his personal decision"

  4. Morgan Williams

    Not hugely impressed with the news, but then it's not my race, my reputation or my insurance policy that is at stake.

    I'm sat next to someone who completed the TDS finishing around 9.00 am this morning. Conditions were difficult but not awful.

    However, the forecast has become more detailed with every bulletin and the conditions for Friday night and Saturday now look to be worsening. 5/10 cms of snow possible almost anywhere over 1,800 metres, air temp of -3 C at 2,500 metres and strenghtening northerly winds. Wind chill well below -10 C.

    When you send 4,100 people (CCC and UTMB fields combined) out into the high Alps and are reponsible for what then happens, that forecast will get your attention.

    The organisers have to judge what to do taking into account the least experienced competitors and how they might fare in the conditions. Glad it's not my shout.

  5. Mary

    Thanks for your updates. As the wife of a UTMB runner it is nice to get information/conversation as this year's race details get sorted out and runners adjust strategy, packs and expectations.

      1. Anonymous

        Yes, he is of course very disappointed as he was fully prepared physically and gear-wise to deal with the conditions, but since he can't change their decision he wants to at least see some of the course and get in some level of run after all the training…he also wanted the completion for his WS100 pre-qual!!

  6. Luis Leite

    Two years after the 2010 edition weather problems and still no decent alternate route avoiding the highest parts but with similar length and climbing…

    Not this smaller and lower version of 100km 6000m D+ …

    1. Bryon Powell

      While Meghan and I had worked out coverage plans for the full course last evening, it'll be easy enough to whip up an alternate plan. We've got you (and the TNF UTMB) covered! :-)

  7. Roger Soto

    In Salomon's Running facebook page there's a list of the reasons each runner has given to run or not to run. Running: Miguel Heras, Nerea Martinez and Francois d'Haene. Not running Iker Carrera and Julien Chorier.

    I imagine the TNF runners only have the option to run…. hehehehe

  8. Darthrunner

    Perhaps an alternative to changing the course or date at which the UTMB is run in the future, would be to expect conditions to be similar to what they have been for the past few years. Runners could sign a waiver (as is common in many U.S. races) in which they agree to be responsible for their own well being and not hold race organizers liable for whatever may happen.

    Anyone heading into alpine areas should be well prepared, physically, mentally and with proper gear. I would think that most if not all of these athletes are aware of what they are getting into and, with a waiver and UTMB's extensive gear requirements, should be able to decide for themselves if they are capable and willing to run in adverse conditions.

    1. emmanuel

      Unfortunately, as it stands, the french law doesn't recognize the value of a waiver. One organizer would still be deemed responsible. And it happened in the past, and most organizers still keep in mind the three people who died during the Grand Raid du Mercantour a few years ago and all the debate and trial which had followed… That's why organizers are very cautious, keep asking medical certificate written by a doctor, and costs for security are more and more expensive, and as a result many organizers give up… Most french runners would prefer to assume their responsability, but law is hard to change.

  9. Mary

    Again, your update is most helpful. Any chance you could explain further how points on the new elevation profile vs aid stations listed match up?……Also, any information on drop bags?

    1. Bryon Powell

      Mary, I'm afraid we don't have time to match up the aid stations/elevation profile for folks. Should be easy enough to follow along in order. No info on drop bags has come our way yet.

      1. Mary

        Got your chart moments after I posted – man, you are fast – a link to your blog should be on the utmb official website…an honest plug for your efficiency – we will gladly support your site in the future. For now let's get what's left of this race underway!!

  10. Pete

    It is pretty simple. Have a 100 mile route that is an option. Clearly this is a problem almost every year. This is horrible organization on UTMB to not be better prepared for this situation. So many people have come great distances to get there and trained all year for this moment. And they can only offer a 100km race. That is pathetic.

    1. Matthieu Lefort

      Have to agree with you on that. It's pretty insane regarding past editions (especially the '10 issue) and the amount of people travelling from all around the world not to have a "ready to go" alternative route, staying bellow 2,000m of altitude to avoid snow storm conditions but respecting the original distance.

      It's like you guys in the U.S. going to run either Hardrock or WS and ending up running a 50 miler…

      1. Pete

        Exactly Matthieu. I would say the only thing that should reasonably cancel a race is fires. All though Hard rock has been cancelled do to snow depth I believe. However it was a ton of snow. UTMB clearly needs a new RD who is better prepared to handle adversity ahead of time.

        1. Matthieu Lefort

          Indeed Pete. I'm might be naive but I'd expect these guys to have at least a plan B! If UTMB wants to remain a world class event, they need to raise up the bar on that topic.

          I fully agree with the idea to put safety first, especially w/ 4,000+ runners out on UTMB and CCC races. But man, it's a year of sacrifices for most of them, and for some also on hell of a trip to get there! Give them a true mountain 100 miler!

    1. Pete

      it was cancelled in 1995. They still had over 200 inches of snow on the course. Keep in mind that is a lot more then 10 cm that UTMB is getting

  11. phil jeremy

    All the French runners I know are more than capable of looking after themselves but French law and rules are notoriously detailed and liability is taken very seriously. I got lost last year in an ultra in the low Alps, when I finally got through to the organisers, they wanted to come out and get me and bring me back to the finish. In the end I met up with my wife 25k's away from the finish on a road through a pass. She had to then ring and confirm she'd got me….and then somebody else rang us 2 hours later to re-confirm it.Imagine doing that with 1000's of runners stuck in the snow at -10 on top of mountain at night…..People die in the Alps, in the summer, every year….Maybe I am an old wuss but it can get pretty hairy up there.

    1. Luis Leite

      Agree with you phil.

      Cancellation of the race according to the weather forecast is a very wise decision from the organizers. Live video from the CCC race at Col du Ferret a couple hours ago shows the bad conditions the runners faced in the middle of the day. Now just imagine how it will be during the night with the temperature droping and the wind speed increasing!

  12. AJW

    If Craig Thornley was the RD at UTMB I can assure you there would be a well-developed Plan B (and probably Plan C and D, too) Just look how he routed Waldo around a forest fire a couple weeks ago. When you sign up for a 100 miler you should run 100 miles. Period.


      1. Pete

        Dead on AJW. This is a shame. I would be outraged demanding a full refund of the race entry, my flight and my hotels. Probably wouldn't get that but I would be seriously upset.

    1. Matthieu Lefort

      Yup. And it's not even trying to re-route at the last minute as Thornley successfully did at Waldo 100K.

      It's having at least one alternative route with any of its points lower than 2,000m of altitude to avoid critical climate change. Prepared way earlier, without any stress and/or pressure. We've lots of mountain races here in Europe and it's a no brainer to do so for RD's.

      Especially w/ all the logistics / volunteers involved. And w/ so many trails available up there.

      Still amazed by that situation on such a top event. Where are the lessons learned from '10?!

    2. GMack

      It would have been easier for UTMB to just pull the plug on the whole race, but I'm sure they wanted to again offer some consolation for all the runners. I've been out to run UTMB 4x and I don't want to make excuses for them, but the weather in the Alps, even for alpine weather, is fickle and severe. So, too, is European bureaucracy when it comes to flexibility of plans. For instance, it takes over 7 months on average to get a construction permit in France and Italy and longer for any dispute resolution. I don't know Craig Thornley, but if he were RD'ing UTMB, he'd probably put a gun to his head, but not before years of red tape acquiring a firearm under French regulations.

      1. Matthieu Lefort

        GMack, agree with you. Even if permits are hard to get to set up races in the U.S., at least people are pretty responsive and flexible in a critical situation (as seen at Waldo's). This is not something we can proudly say here in Europe.

        However, knowing that you organize a world class event for the 10th time in such high altitude mountains should force you to have a true back up plan. And to ANTICIPATE!

        Not just praying for a nice weather forecast. UTMB RD's took the right decision regarding the snow storm. We all agree with it. But their alternative is just lame. And IMO not respectful of the runners.

  13. Mole

    Would like to do UTMB one day but would be so pee'ed off if this happened. Might do a US ultra instead-as above if i've signed up for 100 miles i want my monies worth!

  14. Mole

    Entering UTLD tomorrow-can't see that ever being shortened. Any of you guys in the US looked at this? It's one hell of a route..

    1. KenZ

      I did the UTLD 50 mile option the second year (2010). Great race. VERY different than US races, and I'm not just referring to the large amount of carried kit. The course directions are written in British! "After going through the stile, cross the beck and take a left after the tarn." Stile? Beck? Tarn? WTF? Soooooo glad I carried a GPS and loaded the GPS track.

      But yes, THAT is a great race if someone wants a reasonably hard one overseas. The "unlimited massages" both before AND after the race were a nice touch. I'd do that race again anytime, but obviously hit up the 100 option.

  15. Martin

    Strange ways they have, significant last minute course changes yet again? I was making plans and getting excited for doing this next year but I'm definitely starting to change my mind.

    They seem to bother experienced people with excessive stuff requirements, yet they still won't let them run what it is supposed to be, world's hard ultra run. Priceless.

  16. Scott

    I was thinking the exact same thing. Why not just move the race up a couple of weeks ?

    Maybe they don't believe in global warming and are thinking that the weather will go back to how it was 10 years ago?

  17. Mark


    I entered the Swiss Irontrail 201km race and that was cancelled mid race (2am) due to bad weather and this week I had to sit out a hail and thunder storm on Bow Fell recceing the Great Lakes run in the UK. IMHO these races are attracting too many really fit runners who unfortunatly do not have enough experience of the mountains. If you watch the video you can appreciate that even a small mistake could be fatal using such light weight kit. At least the organisers shortened the race and whoever wins, wins. If all the elites drop out and a 60 year old in walking boots wins on that day then they were the best prepared on that day. It should not be about course records only.

    Mother nature does not care how much training an athlete has done or how much the flights cost. You have to learn to race with the weather conditions and if its too severe thats mountain sport. A lot of people get killed in the mountains not because they are not fit but that they chose to 'go out anyway'.

    At least the UTMB competitors have some sort of race to finish rather than an abandonment like we had with all the ensuing chaos.



    1. phil jeremy

      I agree, mountains are very unforgiving. Some have suggested they move it to July but that's tourist season ie no accommodation available……and besides I've been to Chamonix in July when about 10 people died in the space of two days. ok, they were climbers but they were experienced and the weather was generally good. I don't get all this bravado 'lets get it on' thing. We are just runners and nature doesn't give a damn.

  18. Aldo

    After missing out on last years ballot I was delighted to get an entry to this years "world cup" of Ultra Running. Arriving into Chamonix I was taken aback by the fanfare and organisation of the marketing around the UTMB.It really seemed like a well oiled machine. Maybe my expectations were too high. To receive a text msg the morning of the race saying the course is now changed to 100km and France only. Hours later a map of the check points and profile was put up. This wasn't a plan B. This was a rushed course pieced together. Posters have been placed in the info cabins stating that "the race organisation reserve the right to modify the course therefore entries will not be transferred to 2013 and no refund will be given". Can shortening a course by 68kms, a full day and two countries really be classed as a modification?

    My view – Sadly the race seems to be less important than the marketing/sales and money the runners bring in. There is a clear lack of respect and consideration for the competitors and seems to be very little organisation. I wont be back.

  19. sharon

    I was, like many others, very disappointed when the UTMB course was shortened to 104 km. While I ran the race I was very irritated that I did not know the course well enough, how long it was until the next uphill/downhill/aid station etc. I had not had more than an hour to look at the map of the new course, and the race profile did not have km markings on it. I also had major problems with a headlamp that made me blind and nauseous in the fog and rain because I am reliant on glasses for extreme astigmatism. I did not think to put the headlamp around my waist until 06:19 am, which solved my sight and stomach problems at once. All in all I was a very unhappy camper while running the race.

    Through all this frustration and bitchiness I felt, I also believe that the UTMB directors made the best choices they could given the time they had. Up until Wednesday it looked as though while TDS would have lots of rain, it would be clear, but chilly for UTMB and CCC. The weather forecast became worse and worse as the race start grew closer. But the one thing that I saw as the biggest problem that I have not seen mentioned here was not the cold and rain/snow, but the unbelievable MUD that formed several places on the course. There was two different types of mud that I had never experienced before. One type was thin and fluid and ran down the hills like a chocolate glaze poured on a warm cake. This type of mud was common on paths that were also extremely rocky. The other type was very thick and collected on shoes. When someone slid down the hill in this type of mud they took the mud with them, leaving mud pits at the bottoms of hills that could be a half meter deep. Runners were falling all over, all the time. About 80% of the runners around me had mud stains on their clothes and head indicating major falls. I saw over 100 runners slip and fall, where two of them hit their head hard on a rock or bridge. A broken bone or sprain could have been fatal in the cold.

    I understand completely that the race directors did not want runners even more tired by a second night awake running through these types of mud. I believe that we were kept from running in Italy because the course from Refuge Bertone – Refuge Bonati – down to Arnuva – and Grand Col Ferret are VERY muddy areas when wet. It would have been VERY difficult running, not to mention having over 2000 runners running off the path in order to get better traction. It would have been terrible for the nature in that area. Bovine is also a special hell on earth when it is raining heavy. By sending the runners up the Chamonix valley we were running on paths that took the water better and were far less muddy.

    I have faith that the directors knew what they were doing, had good reasons for the decisions, and did their best for the nature of the area and the health of the runners.

      1. dave400

        Sharon – congratulations on completing the race – and it's great to hear your perspective to help balance out the discussion.

        I was in Morzine (1000ms) on the Wednesday before the race wearing just shorts and desperately trying to find shade it was so hot – and I was in Avoriaz (1800ms) on Saturday evening and it was bitterly cold in the snow and wind.

        I had to withdraw from the race this year due to injury, but in training I found some of the trails around Chamonix to be technically tricky in the dry and in daylight – I imagine they'd be very intimidating when cold, wet, tired and in the dark.

        Thst piece of video from the col de ferret looks horrendous… I know heaps of people die in the area every year (albeit, many of them climbers), and I've got a fair amount of sympathy with the race team.


  20. Henri

    After reading through the onslaught of "the RD's for UTMB are pathetic" type comments I wanted to spout that it is a "real" mountain race, in serious alpine terrain, at the whim of the mountains. But then I started to wonder, why doesn't Hardrock get cancelled or shortened all the time? Does it lack the topography in and around Chamonix? (STEEP!)

    If you put UTMB in July it would be no guarantee of good weather. I spent 10 years climbing in the alps and I always found the end of August to be quite settled.

    1. Jill Homer (@AlaskaJ

      July weather in the San Juans is fairly predictable in its unpredictability, if that makes any sense. Mornings are typically dry and sunny, and afternoons bring thunderstorms, nearly every day. Spectacular storms are almost a given, but they tend to be swift and don't typically dump that much precipitation. Hail and lightning are the biggest concerns. Accumulated snow and large amounts of rain are fairly unlikely. Hardrock gives runners 48 hours to complete to course, in part so they have time to wait out electrical storms. Plus, managing 140 runners in bad weather is a wholly different issue than 2,500. Commenters who try to compare to Hardrock organization and weather conditions to UTMB organization and weather conditions are comparing apples to oranges, in my opinion.

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