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.

The elevation profile of the 2012 TNF UTMB.

2012 TNF UTMB Course Map (pdf)

Points Distance Positiv altitude change First runner Last runner Time barriers
Départ 0.00 Km 0 m 31-19:00 31-19:00
Le Delevret 13.60 Km 1015 m 31-20:10 31-21:53
Saint Gervais 20.88 Km 1123 m 31-20:37 31-22:59
Les Contamines 30.69 Km 1793 m 31-21:34 01-01:21 S-01:20
La Balme 38.82 Km 2372 m 31-22:28 01-03:36 S-03:40
Les Contamines Retour 54.10 Km 2915 m 31-23:52 01-07:05 S-07:05
Bellevue 66.87 Km 4142 m 01-01:38 01-11:27
Les Houches 71.72 Km 4144 m 01-01:59 01-12:19 S-12:20
Les Tines 85.65 Km 5037 m 01-03:37 01-16:22
Argentiere 93.38 Km 5684 m 01-04:38 01-18:52 S-19:00
Chamonix Arrivee 103.42 Km 5862 m 01-05:30 01-21:01

Ongoing List of Runners Who Have Withdrawn from the 2012 TNF UTMB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

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

CCC
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].

UTMB
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.

Bryon Powell: is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com. Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.

View Comments (67)

  • You might want to check your French translation. I read that as 'less than' 100km and start between 6.30pm and 8pm....

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  • Less than 100km? No Switzerland or Italy? I'm so disappointed by this news.

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  • @Liz, Bryon is correct, "au moins 100km" means "at least 100km"

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    • Yes, just realised! Sorry!

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  • 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.

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    • 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 ?

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    • I totally agree!

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    • 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...

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      • I've been in white outs in July too! There is no guarantee with weather.

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        • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Maybe time to change dates?

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  • 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"

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  • 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.

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  • So what all elites are still running!?!??!?!?! Ah this is no good~!

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  • Byron,
    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.

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    • Mary, is your spouse going ahead with the race? If so, good luck! Even at 100KM it's still a dream race.

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      • 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!!

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  • 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+ ...

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  • Byron, this must wreck havoc on your coverge plans. Good luck and thanks.

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    • Tom,
      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! :-)

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      • As always. Thanks for being there for those of us who can't be.

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  • 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

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    • You already reposted it on your FB, my bad! As always iRunFar one step ahead! :)

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      • :-D

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  • 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.

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    • 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.

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      • Thank you for clarifying. Sad to hear that fear of legal repraisal plays such a strong part.

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  • Byron,
    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?

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    • 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.

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    • Mary, if my French is passable, no drop bags - "Pas de sac d'allègement/No spare bag."

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      • 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!!

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  • 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.

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    • 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...

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      • 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.

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        • 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!

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          • Not to mention the cost and vacation time from work and so forth and so on.

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          • ze bloody french eh?

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  • @Pete - I am not aware of Hardrock ever being canceled due to snow. It was canceled once due to fires (2003 I believe).

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    • 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

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  • 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.

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    • 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!

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  • 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.

    AJW

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    • Also agree with you AJW.

      That plan B should have been developed after the 2010 cancellation.

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      • 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.

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    • 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?!

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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  • This is what a great Frenchman once called "la chienlit" -

    for the third year in succession!

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    • There is something rotten in the state of UTMB.

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