Reaching the sky

Posted on January 29, 2014

Panorama_matterhornI’ve had a few run ins with trails and mountains in the last twelve months… last year, on several occasions, they beat me down and showed me who’s boss. First up, I never made it to a race in Nepal last March due to Maoist road-blocks causing havoc on the road to Pokhara aka Annapurna territory. The following month, I headed to lovely Lyon for a girly trip with the intention of running the Beaujolais Village Trail, a gorgeous 65k through the rambling wine estates of the Beaujolais. The race turned out to be wonderful but a scary car accident en route to the race could have created a very different ending. Next up, end May, I flew to Geneva with the intention of running the 80k Maxi Race in the mountains above Annecy, one of France’s most beautiful towns. On the eve before the race, even after registration, the entire event was cancelled due to snow and unsafe conditions. (Needless to say, my dear friend Gary, who I met running Val D’Isere’s Ice Trail and I, along with two other friends of his, aka The Fabulous Four, drank fine wine till we dropped in a bijou bar and then attempted to hit the race route ourselves the following day. Think knee-deep in snow and some pretty slippery trails!). Finally, in November, the now iconic Skyrun in South Africa was abandoned mid-race after severe weather and a truly unforgettable and humbling experience. As AJ Calitz, one of SA’s top ultra runners so aptly put, “Humbled by the weather, mountains and our maker.”

So perhaps I was due to get a break and be reminded of just how marvellous the mountains are when they behave… when obstacles don’t rudely interrupt our plans and the weather does not cause havoc!

Enter this week, where I write from gorgeous Italy in the midst of an incredible week on the piste. So far, the mountains have been nothing but truly majestic and so so completely breathtaking…

Today, we skied from Cervinia in Italy to Zermatt in Switzerland, the entire route in the shadows of the mighty Matterhorn. The skies could not have been more blue, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the snow was as soft and fluffy as it gets. Total bliss! Even the beyond freezing -22c up top, at over 12,000 ft high, wasn’t enough to dampen my spirits.  Despite having been fortunate enough to have skied in all four corners for 30 or so years, days like this with their 360-degree panoramic views, brilliant sunshine, snow-capped peaks and tree-lined pistes, just leave me speechless… even me speechless!

We stopped for lunch at a chocolate-box chalet restaurant, all wood and chintz, for an Italian feast, washed down with warming bottles of red. Within moments of sitting down, I spotted my charming guide, Max, pouring me a glass of Prosecco into a crystal clear flute and I thought, ‘Champers Max? At lunchtime? Mid skiing?!?’ But before I voiced my thoughts, I realised that what better way to celebrate such a picture perfect day, one of those you wish would never end and certainly one of those that has completely restored my faith in the magic of the mountains.

My day ended on such a high that no sooner had I returned to the hotel, did I swap my skis for my yak traks and head back out, this time to run on the snow, to feel the wind in my hair and capture the remains of the day. It’s moments like this that you feel so incredibly alive…treading where many do not and discovering pastures new, far away, up high and today, what felt like nearly reaching the sky.

Over & out.


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