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When the Eiger meets Swiss engineering you get the perfect ultra race

by kirsty
Tuesday 21st July 2015

Race report: Run247 columnist Kirsty Reade travels to the 3rd Eiger Ultra Trail and finds a race that 'deserves a place alongside Toblerone, luxury watches and fondue in examples of awesome Swissness' - July 18 & 19, 2015

3rd Eiger Ultra Trail - July 18 & 19, 2015

We like our alpine races at Run247. There’s something about the sound of a cowbell, the breathtaking scenery (and lung-busting ascents) and of course the Swiss chocolate that draws us to them. So when the opportunity came up to cover the Eiger Ultra Trail we were there.

The Eiger forms a pretty imposing backdrop to this race. It’s well-known and well-feared amongst climbers for its treacherous north face and who knows, in years to come this race might be just as renowned among ultra runners. For a race that’s so young - this was only the third year for the race - it already has a fantastic reputation, having just been voted number 1 in the 50 best races in the world in Runnersworld (UK). It certainly attracts some high caliber runners. The first event was won by Iker Karrera in a time which was one and a half hours faster than the organiser’s most optimistic predictions, which apparently led to some aid station panic around the course. This year Francesca Canepa and Caroline Chaverot ran in the women’s race and Jason Schlarb took part in the men’s. This is an event which is definitely establishing itself as one of the major European trail races.

There’s a 101k, 51k and a 16k ‘pleasure trail’ (with 960m of altitude!) so there’s something for everybody. All the races started and finished in the incredibly beautiful village of Grindelwald and lots of points on the races were accessible by cable car or the train which runs up and down the valley so it’s a supporter’s dream race, if you happen to have a non-running partner who you need to sell this to. There are loads of fantastic activities for the non-runner in your life, such as the scooters which you can get to ride all the way down the mountain trail from First to Grindelwald (a 1000m descent) and the First Flyer, which is a zip wire taking you at frightening speed from First down to Shreckfeld. I am definitely going back to have a go at both of those.

3rd Eiger Ultra Trail - July 18 & 19, 2015

Typically, after 14 days of unbroken sunshine, the weather broke on race day. After a nice morning (as nice as a morning can be at 4.30am, when we started) it deteriorated in the afternoon but they had a plan. The organisers are incredibly proud of their Swissness and, as a Brit, one of the ways that I noticed this manifesting itself was in the precision of everything. It would be hard to find a race anywhere that is better organised. The press conference started on time, the race briefing started on time, the race started on the dot. And they’d thought of everything. The information was in three languages, the briefing covered everything (including what to do if you’re caught on the side of a mountain in thunder and lightning: you should put your pack on the floor and crouch down with your feet on it, just in case you’re ever in the unfortunate position of needing to know this). I started the race feeling very well informed and extremely confident that if the weather did turn, we were in good hands.

Somebody said to me that the difference between the Eiger Trail and the UTMB is that the trails are steeper on the former. I found this a bit hard to believe, having struggled round the UTMB thinking than nothing in the world could be steeper, but it was true. It was so beautiful though. Watching the sun rise when you’re climbing up an Alp has to be one of the greatest privileges in life. I met a 69 year old Swiss man on the way round (though he would have passed for 40) and, as he kept looking around and taking it all in he said ‘the trouble with you runners is that you’re not old enough to appreciate this’. He had a point and I did a lot more looking and appreciating after meeting him. I especially appreciated being classed as young.

As well as being incredible organisers it turned out that the Eiger Trail team also had a really good sense of humour as they took us up a 1000m climb to the cable car station at First (the first checkpoint, by coincidence), then they took us down a few km, then all the way back up to First again to claim our well-earned water, nice Swiss apple cinnamon cake and other assorted goodies. How we laughed at their cruelty.

3rd Eiger Ultra Trail - July 18 & 19, 2015

The route was varied, with some technical, rocky trails, some little bits of road, lakes, glaciers, loose rock (also not funny), foresty bits, and of course a massive imposing lump of rock called the Eiger. The highlight of the race for me was completing the ascent to Faulhorn (2681m) then coming down under the shadow of the Eiger. That was partly because there were crisps and coke at Faulhorn but mostly because the Eiger is such a spectacular and scary backdrop.

As predicted the weather did turn in the evening but of course the alternative plan ran like (Swiss) clockwork. Runners were held at aid stations for two hours while the storm passed, then it was restarted with a revised, shorter route. Safety was ensured and runners were able to complete the race. It definitely pays to have a good plan B in a situation like that.

I could not recommend this race more highly. It ticks every single box if you like trail races. The fields weren’t too big (600 runners for the 101km, compared to 2300 for the UTMB) and there’s no ballot so you can get a place if you get in there early. Every race sold out this year however, so my advice would be to get in there really early next year. The route was incredible and it was certainly a very testing run, similar to something like the CCC or TDS. The place was beautiful and very compact (any hotel would be within five minutes walk to the start). E101 runners received a Mammut head torch at registration and finishers got a technical t-shirt, a medal made of Eiger rock and a free beer!

This race deserves a place alongside Toblerone, luxury watches and fondue in examples of awesome Swissness. See you there next year.

3rd Eiger Ultra Trail - July 18 & 19, 2015

Men's E101km results

1 Urs Jenzer  11:44:30
2 Jason Schlarb (Altra) 11:50:58
3 David Quelhas  12:27:36
4 Sangé Sherpa  12:34:21
5 Csaba Nemeth (Mammut) 12:35:38
6 Shunsuke Okunomiya  12:50:54
7 Christophe Le Saux (WAA) 12:54:03
8 David Jeker  13:03:01
9 Ramon Casanovas  13:16:48
10 Robin Houghton  13:20:10


Women's E101km results

1 Caroline Chaverot (Hoka One One) 12:45:41
2 Andrea Huser  12:52:43
3 Francesca Canepa  13:13:47
4 Uxue Fraile (Vibram) 13:37:41
5 Denise Zimmermann  14:14:21
6 Helene Ogi  14:31:31
7 Emilie Lecomte  14:33:23
8 Sylvie Quittot (Renault) 15:45:32
9 Kristin Berglund  16:10:46
10 Marion Braun  16:46:03


Click here for full results


Harder than the North Face Solo

Race ambassador Ueli Steck introduces the event:

The 4. Eiger Ultra Trail 2016 will take place on the 16th & 17th of July.

Registration will open the 23rd of October 2015! Be ready for it!


To find out more visit www.eigerultratrail.ch/en/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/EigerUltraTrail
Twitter: @EigerUltraTrail


About The Author

Kirsty Reade

I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. I'm passionate about helping runners of all levels to improve through running communities I'm involved in, such as Underground Ultra and Free Range Runners. 


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