Eiger Ultra Trail – E101
stag party

Eiger Ultra Trail – E101

The Eiger extremely path. One which has been on my ‘checklist’ for a while. The E101 is a 100km route circling Grindelwald with a not too delicate >6,000m of elevation acquire.

It’s 3:30am and Paul and I’ve met Matt at the beginning line within the shadows of the majestic mountains surrounding Grindelwald. Regardless of the early hour and darkness it’s already extremely popular. We’re upbeat and excited because the race will get underway and we move by means of the beginning arch with lots of of different runners.

Reunited a 12 months after the VDA

For the primary few kms we start working up the Essential Road and again handed our resort. We made many guarantees about not working this gently inclining street part however, after all, we get fully sucked in and are shifting together with the move of the runners. Fortunately although we quickly hit a bottleneck as we come throughout the path head and the one observe path to start our first climb. Right here we chatted to Bert, a neighborhood runner with quite a few finishes on the E101. He shared his experiences with us and gave us an perception into what adventures lay forward.

The climb was a collection of switchbacks by means of some forests at what was a really civilised tempo. Nobody was attempting to jostle for positions or overtake and everybody was snug simply shifting alongside collectively. It was quiet and all we might hear within the night time was one another as we chatted away. We met Matt in the course of the Val D Aran final 12 months and this was the primary time we’d met since and actually the primary actual time we’d gotten to know one another correctly. Trying again at Val D’Aran all we actually did was moan at one another.

Runners within the night time

As we climbed, we began to depart the bushes behind and the mountain began to open up and we might look again and see the solar rising over the Eiger and the tail of runners climbing each forward and behind us. It was a surreal view. We then quickly arrived on the first assist station which had a really slender setup and led to the runners being funnelled, but it surely had all the pieces we would have liked. A fast high up of water and we continued on.

Now, on the ‘second part’ of the course we had our first likelihood to run and transfer at a cushty tempo as the paths opened up on the mountain. We rolled alongside having fun with the unbelievable panoramic over Grindelwald with the majestic Eiger standing distinguished behind the city. The solar was now up and the moon was fading.

The paths took us up in direction of ‘First’, however not fairly all the way in which. Simply earlier than the ultimate climb to the summit, the route diverted us away and we started the primary descent. Bert was with us as soon as extra and instructed us this was the ‘straightforward’ downhill and to save lots of our legs. I’m undecided there was a lot we might do to save lots of our legs because the steepness of the sealed observe meant gravity was in management right here.

The downhill was lengthy and sweeping as we looped backwards and forwards on switchbacks used for the mountain carts. Our legs thumped on the floor and our ft heated up with the fixed slapping. As we stumbled on the Firstbahn station we had a short relaxation chunk on the aidstation, as soon as extra making certain we had sufficient water consumed and packed as we’d now start the climb again to the summit of First. At round 10am the day was actually heating up now and the solar might be felt on our uncovered pores and skin.

We had a primary plan for the warmth administration. It was so simple as making certain we drank sufficient and smothered ourselves in loads of suncream! Thus far all was good and I used to be assured my morning lathering would see me by means of to round noon, so at First we deliberate slightly longer relaxation and to use the following layer.

This climb as soon as extra began with an extended forest part. The smells have been recent and clear. Segments of the route have been an extended collection of steps made out of lengthy longs. The legs have been undoubtedly ’feeling it’ after the earlier quad-buster of a downhill. As we left the forest we have been hit with the complete pressure of the solar as we climbed an uncovered observe on the facet of the mountain. There was no escaping it now till the ultimate ascent to First not within the distance you possibly can see the clear line of shadow the place the angle of the mountain would block the solar’s rays.

The Solar burning brightly within the early morning

It was a stunning climb. The incline was gradual and delicate terrain nonetheless very forgiving and never too rocky. Into the shade we went into single line as we climbed the previous couple of hundred metres to the summit. Right here the route weaved you across the mountain facet and beneath the vacationer attraction of the summit viewing platform. A collection of metallic walkways have been constructed and the views have been unbelievable. Maarten, whom I met at MIUT and Cappadocia, was readily available to offer the help and loudly cheered us in. There was a small gathering of vacationers and supporters over trying us from the platform as we made away alongside and beneath them. I whooped and cheered as me and Matt handed by means of however I had a really muted reply!

The shadow-y climb to the platform at First

This assist station was barely bigger than the 2 earlier than and we took just a few further minutes to eat, acknowledging we have been all hungry, and to use extra sunscreen. We chatted to a different Irish Paul, loved the view after which set off in direction of Faulhorn. Simply as we set off as soon as extra Maarten supplied the power and gave us a mid-morning increase. From right here we had clear views of the paths we’d run and will see Faulhorn off up within the distance. Faulhorn could be the very best level on the race at round 2,644m. The tracks have been as soon as extra very forgiving and have been lengthy light gravel tracks. As soon as extra, as I used to be certain it might all day, the Eiger stood proud and distinguished watching our progress.

What a view!

Very quickly we have been at a collection of lakes which have been amazingly tranquil and supplied a view looming again down onto First. We’d hardly seen how excessive we’d climbed already. After weaving by means of the lakes, for the primary time the paths turned slightly extra technical and have become rocky and slender for a brief descent. As we started, the primary of the 50km runners started to move us and zipped by. The lead runner was flying up and down with ease (he went on to win with an unbelievable time!).

Lakes under Faulhorn

Earlier than finishing the climb to Faulhorn we had one other assist station after descending just a few hundred metres. This was the primary time we have been a bit confused. None of us might bear in mind this on the route profile. Nonetheless, it was a reasonably straightforward part with a really brief out and again to to the water cease the place I crammed a 3rd bottle of water prepared for the climb. I’ve no thought how sizzling it was now but it surely felt above 30 levels, though often we’d catch a cooling breeze.

So after accepting that we hadn’t already began climbing to Faulhorn, we now started the climb. It was the hardest to this point. While it did really feel marginally steeper than the sooner climbs, I believe it was the warmth which, was power sapping, that made this harder. Matt drifted slightly behind us and Paul powered on forward. I used to be plodding someplace between the 2. Like Matt, I felt it slightly more durable to breathe with a daily rhythm because the progressive climb took all my power. I put it to at least one facet and centered on maintaining with Paul who was passing individuals steadily and getting additional away. I noticed him disappear over the summit as I lagged behind.

Up into Faulhorn there was an enormous Eiger Extremely Path arch erected on the summit marking our arrival to Faulhorn which we handed by means of. The views have been spectacular and runners stopped on the platform to take selfies. I noticed Paul just a few metered under on the water station and I went after him.

Initially this assist station was to be restricted for water refills, nonetheless, the day earlier than the race the organisers had added extra water right here, in addition to extra water stops within the subsequent part and later someplace afterward within the second half of the route. It was drastically appreciated and there was even coke out there at Faulhorn. I broke my very own ‘no coke earlier than midway’ rule and knocked some again. It was nicely earnt on this warmth I believed.

The rapid descent from the help station was rocky and as soon as once more slightly extra technical at first. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than we left the rocks behind and began descending right into a valley. After passing a refuge/mountain cafe there was one other rocky part as we continued downhill. We then looped again round with wonderful views over the Brienzersee lake and throughout to the Hardergrat ridge (which Paul ran alongside just a few weeks earlier). Test it out. It appears spectacular and terrifying in equal measures!

By way of this part there have been growing variety of hikers marking the trek in the wrong way from Scheidegg to Faulhorn. We exchanged pleasantries with everybody as we handed. The paths then left the valley behind and levelled out to some pretty undulating trails with dearer views off into the space and the paths we’d run earlier within the day. Paul was checking up on Matt and so they agreed we’d meet and wait on the midway mark. It was only a very lengthy descent over about 10 miles to go earlier than we reached there.

First we hit up ‘Egg’, the additional water cease, after which ultimately some switchbacks to a different mountain lodge the place there have been loads of supporters. As we left there was a household with small children providing excessive fives which I, and all of the runners round us, drastically indulged in. It’s such a lift to work together with individuals when working an extremely. Shortly after there was a person with a hose pipe spraying runners and me and Paul danced within the rain. It was so cooling and refreshing.

Paul and I each began to really feel the necessity for extra water, regardless of the additional cease and carrying an additional bottle we’d been consuming masses (the warmth administration plan was being completely executed to this point). It felt like the following cease wasn’t coming anytime quickly fortunately we then spied a faucet / trough on the facet of a constructing and took benefit, Paul submerging his entire head. As we walked on, happy with our discover, we might see the following assist station was just some hundred metres additional forward. Typical.

From right here we entered the forest, and the descent started to steepen. The paths have been slender and the bottom was affected by lumpy tree roots. It wasn’t straightforward underfoot and we accepted that is how it might be for fairly a while. After what felt like just a few km of constant rooty downhill working, out of nowhere we began to climb once more. I used to be livid. It couldn’t visualise it on the elevation profile. It hit me onerous. I referred to as out to Paul that I wanted a break. Like hours earlier on the climb to Faulhorn, my respiration was erratic once more. Each race profile is like this and has these sections the place you’re going downhill however have a ‘hidden’ uphill included (or vice versa). The gap and elevation by no means simply transfers to a small visible elevation profile. It actually messes together with your thoughts typically and, in the present day, it was messing with me. It took my power and my power and I wanted just a few minutes sitting on a rock to regain composure and keep on. Fucking tree routes!

We have been quickly again within the rhythm after which, for the primary time ever in a race, I hit the deck. I went down like I’d been tasered. Mid-flow I received cramp in my proper calf and my decrease physique simply seized up. I did 1 / 4 of a flip and simply fell, inflexible and straight, down bouncing off what I believed was my left arm and shoulder. On the ground I then immediately received cramp in my different calf too and couldn’t rise up. I used to be like a bug on its again flailing my. A runner coming behind referred to as out and I’ve no thought what I mumbled again as I slowly relaxed and clambered again to my ft. It appeared like my left arm had come out and damaged the autumn and I had just a few little indents on my palm from small stones. Someway regardless of all of the roots I’d fallen on a reasonably clear and smooth space. Frustratingly although, lined in sweat it was like I’d been dipped in breadcrumbs. My arms and arms have been lined in soil and I used to be now irritable. I’m amazed I’ve lasted this lengthy with out falling earlier than. With no points or considerations we simply received again on with it.

I don’t know the way for much longer the downhill carried on for, however there was one final steep part by means of a area as we approached the midway mark.

I set concerning the full works. Pasta. Potatoe. Extra coke. Full moist wipe wash. Tshirt change. Sock and shoe change. Recent hat. Recent buff and extra meals and tailwind added to the bag. Not lengthy after as we have been on the brink of depart, Matt confirmed up. I made a giant mistake right here and led the choice to crack on with out him. We stated we’d wait, and he was bang on schedule for a 22:45hr end. I stated me and Paul needed to attempt to end in beneath 22 which was the qualifier time for western states. So we left with out him. It was a mistake as, regardless of working the following 50km with out him, he completed solely 10 minutes behind us, bang on that 22:45hr end. Sorry Matt!

From the half method we had a collection of two huge climbs to beat. The primary climb was earlier than the city of venkat. It began with a collection of roads climbing on switchbacks. Right here we Met one other Swiss runner in Nicole who was doing her first extremely and chasing that solar 22hr end additionally. We chatted as we climbed earlier than the roads become forest tracks once more. They have been rooty, however not as unhealthy as earlier than. Some sections the place steep and it was very humid with little wind or breeze reaching us. Often we’d get a burst of solar and see the mountain alongside us. Slowly we tracked across the facet of it.

There was additionally a short cease the place there was one other water faucet. From right here we have been again into the forests and making our method down hill to Wegen. One factor that was noticeable right here was that we began seeing a whole lot of volunteers and mountain rescue dotted alongside the course. We have been being very nicely Sorted! On the downhill I continued to cramp. I used to be cramping in my ankles and shins which was an entire new bizarre expertise which I don’t know learn how to describe. Fortunately nothing too unhealthy although.

The city of Wengen was pleasant and I made a observe to return and go to in the future, it was very picturesque. We weaved by means of the help station after gathering extra water and coke and started the massive climb to Mannlichen which was roughly 1,000m acquire in round 5km. Just about a vertical Kilometer (VK).

After climbing by means of some slender again streets of the city, we have been but once more again within the forest. Each time there was a gap I attempted to see the place the hell we have been going, however I couldn’t. I might see the tip aim of Mannlichen on high of the mountain, however I might hardly ever see any runners on the mountain facet climbing. I used to be so confused. Paul and I agreed to interrupt the climb up. There was the additional assist station someplace alongside right here so we agreed to cease once more earlier than and after it. Paul was the time keeper and I used to be keen to check him and push the restrict of how lengthy I might keep sitting down for!

Climbing out of Wengen

We weren’t alone and there have been loads of runners we handed and who handed us. At every cease we received speaking to Jason, one more Irishman, as we leapfrogged one another alongside this part. The route took us throughout the mountain face and thru a collection of snow limitations constructed to guard the city which was method down under us now. The breaks, and the water cease, have been drastically appreciated. As we ultimately summited a pleasant voice referred to as out and cheered our arrival. Like earlier within the day at First, Maarten was above us supporting and crewing runners reaching the help station. He adopted us into the help station and tended to our wants like a hero. I used to be very hungry once more and slowly ate a Chia Cost flap jack and bear in mind Paul bringing me lumps of chocolate. It was superb chocolate!

A mid-climb view again right down to Wengen

Up high it was chilly. Very chilly. We mentioned layering up and I acknowledged my stupidity in not bringing my arm sleeves or light-weight wind proof from my midway drop bag. I all the time run with them however for some cause I purposely didn’t this time. While I knew we’d run into the night time, I suppose I used to be so centered on the warmth of the day that I didn’t assume they’d be wanted. It wasn’t an issue although as I had an extended sleeve high and a water-proof jacket in my bag, so I definitely wouldn’t be getting too chilly. We cracked on, figuring out that we’d heat up after we started working once more. And boy did we run…

We acknowledged that we’d ‘damaged the again of the beast’ now. There have been no extra aggressive climbs to return our method and we have been in all probability 3/4 of our method by means of the space by now. It was an enormous increase. What made it higher was that the paths have been very large, clean and it was a really light downhill. It felt like we have been working so quick for just a few km as we have been working straight towards the Eiger’s north face which was lined in cloud. What a sight it was.

All good issues come to an finish although, and so did the simple downhill as we then turned away from Grindelwald and headed off-track for one more (comparatively) little climb. It was slightly punchy and I bear in mind passing a great deal of cows right here. I used to be always seeking to my left and throughout to the Eiger the place I might see there have been so many trails, however I couldn’t see a single runner on any of them. As soon as once more I used to be disoriented and I had no thought the place we have been going. I knew we’d come again alongside the Eiger in direction of Grindelwald someplace, however I simply couldn’t see the place. The tracks saved twisting and turning and my sense of path was getting slightly tousled. Finally we dropped down and joined a large gravel path once more, crossed a prepare observe and walked up a delicate hill in direction of the following assist station.

Paul and the cows

There was a runner right here squatting down taking an image of the Eiger reflecting in a small pond. As painful because it was, we stopped and indulged for a similar image. It was price it.

Definitely worth the discomfort of a mid race squat

We have been quickly on the subsequent assist station. This was fairly presumably the very best location of any assist station I’ve ever been too. It was inside a prepare depot. It was getting darkish and colder outdoors however inside it was so heat and smelt of oil. I beloved it. Right here we discovered some heat broth which was precisely the salty delight I wanted. Sitting, consuming, I regarded round and seen it was slightly like a medical centre with quite a lot of runners sleeping or receiving medical consideration.

Prepare depot assist station!

After an excellent quarter-hour or so, we left and headed again out for a brief little downhill earlier than climbing once more to the Eiger Glacier. We handed a runner who was being sick however whom signalled he was okay. Then, moments later as we began to climb he sprinted handed us and continued to run the uphill. I couldn’t perceive his miraculous restoration! It was round 9:30 now and our head torches have been on because the final of the sunshine began to depart us.

The climb as much as Eiger Glacier was powerful going. It was a combination of dry path (with extra cows lining the observe!) and little rocky sections. In elements it was steep with some slender switchback trails earlier than an extended climb on a small ridge. It was one other gradual climb and one which slowly chipped away at our depleting power ranges. We took one other second on the high earlier than starting the descent in direction of the end. It was a really lengthy descent of round 1,200m over 10km kilometres again in direction of Grindelwald.

It was now apparent why, hours earlier, I couldn’t see any runners on any of the paths. We have been tucked proper up shut on the mountain face. To our left the mountain dropped away on lengthy scree slopes. Manner off to our left headlights of runners descending type Mannlichen might be seen.

The paths have been runnable. Not as good because the preliminary descent from Mannlichen however the rocks have been nicely trodden and flattened to the observe for essentially the most half. As we ran, we have been in silence and all we might hear have been the numerous, many waterfalls falling from the Eiger which we’d cross one after the opposite. After what felt like an extended few kilometre of regular plodding the stress-free sound of water began growing and turning into extra ferocious. There was one enormous waterfall completely gushing from the mountain and the sound was thunderous. From right here we started descending at a steeper price on a collection of more and more extra rocky switchbacks. Surprisingly my ft have been holding up very nicely. I really feel the paths had been extremely straightforward going and forgiving on this route contemplating we have been working in such a mountainous space. The quads have been undoubtedly feeling it now although and the fatigue was kicking in!

For some time, Paul and I had been discussing what remained of the route. I recalled one huge climb as soon as we bottomed out from this descent. We’d heard blended experiences of the elevation starting from 200m to 600m. We didn’t know. What we did know was that we didn’t need a 600m climb! We quickly reached the following assist station, and I clocked the elevation profile on a board. My coronary heart sank slightly as I noticed we nonetheless had loads of descending to go in addition to one other small climb earlier than one other a lot larger one. Paul requested for particulars and once more a brand new quantity was thrown out about how huge the final climb was “perhaps 400m”. A bit deflated, we carried on with the remaining descent which was now on street (which didn’t make it any simpler at this stage!).

Lastly, we levelled out and started the final 10km or so of the route which might see us run parallel to Grindelwald, passing it earlier than looping again and down into the city. From right here we might see the end line within the city. It’s annoying seeing a end line throughout a race and heading in the wrong way, and this time was no totally different, particularly as we have been working ever so slowing now.

We started the little climb, though it went on and on and I clocked one other 200m. Right here the paths have been very technical forest trials, but once more (and unsurprisingly) affected by roots as soon as extra. Our temper was sinking however we knew we simply needed to hold shifting. After one other hour or so we reached a small little assist station. Paul questioned the space and vertical acquire right here too and we acquired a much more beneficial response of “280m”. This was good. I perked up and and cracked a whole lot of jokes to the volunteers. I felt like I used to be on stage and completely killing it. They have been in all probability simply wishing I’d depart already. Finally we did.

As we progressed alongside the 280m climb, just a few runners caught and handed us. We saved our heads down and moved alongside and we’re joined by one other runner whom we chatted to on the final cease. He was craving a little bit of firm within the night time. Just about bang on 280m we arrived at Feinsteing. I used to be impressed. If something, the foundation marking and distance markers have been distinctive all through. The paths had devoted Eiger Extremely Path flags, glow sticks, arrows on the bottom, reflective paint all through and even Eiger Extremely Path particular path indicators. At each 5km/10km marker my watch had been just about in sync too. I’ve by no means had that earlier than. Though Paul would argue otherwise together with his Suunto (similar mannequin) clocking barely longer. Anyway, from right here it was about 4km downhill on street to the city with a small uphill in direction of the tip to hitch the principle road the place all of it started.

We begrudgingly left the consolation of the ultimate assist station, acknowledging {that a} Western States qualifying time was past us now. There’s no method we have been clocking a 30min 5km tempo (even downhill) after working all day. We calculated that the 4km remaining would take extra like 40mins. The downhill and roads weren’t significantly gratifying. Now my ft have been hurting after that final technical part and I wasn’t having fun with the ft slapping sensation like we felt all the way in which again on the primary descent some 20 hours earlier.

We have been trudging alongside by means of a camp web site after we noticed the following path marker signal. It stated 100km. We couldn’t imagine it. That crept up on us out of nowhere. It labored us up and with slightly moaning we powered by means of the final little climb again to the Essential Road. Fortunately we merged additional down than our resort so didn’t should run handed it! We emerged onto the road to cheers from some supporters out late within the night time after which picked up the tempo as we completed the course. The final little shock being the very steep finishers bridge into the end line. The chance of falling with our drained legs giving method was in all probability fairly excessive! Fortunately we didn’t tumble for the digital camera. Seconds later we crossed the end line. We’d performed it. As Eiger E101 finishers we have been handed our little piece of the Eiger – a rock from the moutain as our medal. I adore it, however proper then i used to be sick of the rocks!

End line smiles

With out figuring out or realising, as we went into the sports activities centre to gather our baggage, Matt snuck handed and completed just some minutes after us. What a man. Such constant working all day!

The Eiger rock

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