Testing the equipment and the runner for ultra trail crossing Mercantour in 5 days.
Testing the equipment and the runner
Before facing the 8 marathons trails in China, there are some important points you better be confident with. To gain this confidence, there is nothing better than real life testing. That is one of the reasons why I am about to cross the Mercantour National Park (185km, +13,000m) in 5 days.
Part of the points to be tested or set-up:
- Bag packing, weight, caring of any scrubbing, hard spots…
- Food and energy: I will carry part of my food for the five days, relying solely on it for the two longest days in a row.
- Practicality of the equipments on long distance, choice of the tips for the poles, accessibility of orientation tools, photo shooting…
- Testing of new robust snow chains from LifeSports with the Keen A86TR.
- Several hours of running in the snow (cold, humidity…)
- The runner ( me ): behaviour on endurance management by foot only and hydration are two focus point.
- Setting-up all the safety measures and equipments.
A trail crossing Mercantour National Park
The trail crossing Mercantour has been chosen to cover the National Park in its largest portion from North-West to South-East, passing by most of the best view points, lakes and 8 summits. The map sample above shows an overview of the trace (in bright red).
The planned trail crossing, from Allos to Sospel, is 185km long and over 13,000m of positive height difference, run in 5 days.
The days are scheduled as below:
- Allos-Refuge de la Cantonnière : 33km, +2250m
- Refuge de la Cantonnière-Refuge de Longon : 41km, +2600m
- Refuge de Longon-Isola 2000 : 27km, +2750m
- Isola 2000-Refuge de Nice :43km, +3300m
- Refuge de Nice – Sospel : 41km, +2300m
The magic of nature
The Mercantour National Park offer a quantity of trails with magic sceneries, accessible to hikers, fast hikers and trailers. Although this trail crossing Mercantour is a test, it shall reveal to be an extraordinary moment in Nature. The following locations among others should fulfil this expectation:
- Trou de l’aigle
- Mt Pella (3051m)
- Cime de Pal (2818m)
- Mt Mounier (2817m)
- Mt Gravières (2231m)
- Mt St-Sauveur (2711m)
- Cime de Sistron (2603m)
- Mt Malinvern (2938m)
- Mt du Grand Capelet (2935m)
Other location I passed by during previous hikes and runs in the Mercantour:
The late snow
This year the snow is rather persistent high up in the mountains. Some places may remain covered with snow all summer until the next falls.
A friend of mine went recently on a trail close to the planned trace and found many névé (snow heaps) covering the path. Picture below.
This is not to make the trail crossing Mercantour easy. Some section may reveal to be run slowly, tricky or not negotiable at all.
To cope with the late snow, an alternative route, for the critical points of each day, is already planned. This is to avoid ether the highest points accessed from north faces and trails with very steep paths that may be covered with snow.
On the snow covered section that will not present hard snow, ice or another visible risk, I will use new solid snow chains for hiking and trail shoes. This is an extra weight added to the equipment but a significant comfort and safety feature.
Safety and directions
Going alone, for a long trip, with little people in the surrounding and snow here and there, you better know what you are doing, have the experience, the training and plane your safety. Here are some of the measures I am setting-up for safety and directions:
- Planned route GPS traced and provided to 2 persons knowing very well the area and my condition.
- Personal Localisation Beacon 406MHz ; Satellite localisation and alert device in case of strict emergency.
- Survival blanket.
- Waterproof GPS with embedded trace and POI + batteries.
- Detailed maps (IGN Top25).
- Potential difficulties identified and alternative routes planned.
- Contacted local people (refuge keeper and mountaineers) to get latest notice on snow conditions.
- Food for several days, warm clothes and very powerful head light.
- Mobile phone.
To remain consistent with some of my principles, I will get to the beginning of the trail crossing Mercantour by public transport (Train des Pignes and bus shuttle) to Allos and get back from the arrival point Sospel by train as well (Train des Merveilles).
I will carry the food for half of my journey and will bring all the litter down from the mountains.