Valsorey - Vélan
What mountain runners dream about when they dream about the Alps
This run is the 108th run we’ve added to our site, and it is one of the very best. An odyssey is the best term we thought of as we sat pulling sweat soaked socks from our tired feet.
Starting in Bourg-St-Pierre, a tiny Swiss village famous for having been forced to feed Napoleon and a guest list of 46,000 hungry soldiers as they crossed the Grand Saint Bernard Pass. The village sent the French government a bill for 150 million Swiss Francs in 1983, a bill that included late fees and currency adjustments. If ever there was a defining moment for what it is to be Swiss, this is it. So too the French response: 30,000 Francs were paid instead. But the village did receive a small monument as additional thanks. None of this back story has anything to do with the run.
It all starts with a somewhat forgettable 400 meter gain to what will be an anything but forgettable traverse. The trail continually climbs along the Tita de Bou, a crest that gains the Pointe de Penne (2781M) where you’ll surely sit, gaze out on the trail leading away, and think to yourself, “Holy shit, I haven’t gone anywhere yet.” There’s a whole lot of mountain terrain ahead of you, and your trail leads up, down, around all kinds of corners, and up again as it disappears into the distance along the flanks of the Grand Combin. You're simultaneously stoked and intimidated, the perfect combo for a very, very good day.
After mixing running with plenty of walking and talus hopping, you’ll finally reach the Valsorey Hut. There you can refuel as you give the legs a break and stare out at both the rapidly disappearing glaciers and how much work you still have to do. In the distance your next stop, the Vélan Hut, is barely visible. But first, a steep descent funnels into a utopian river plateau at Les Grands Plans before what appears to be a huge climb. Thankfully the climb along the moraine turns out to be not so big and you’re at the steps of the modern hut.
From the Vélan Hut, you’ll retrace your steps to a left turn and the start of a playful 7km downhill run that requires a good amount of focus to dodge rocks and cow pies all the way back to town.
While you are in the Grand Saint Bernard area, be sure to also hit the Lacs de Fenêtre Run, right on the pass.
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Start: 45.952029, 7.207910
Starting your day off right on the Tita de Bou that'll get you high and ready to traverse
The traversing is a little up, a little down, and a lot of views
Standard Alps uphill action, hiking
The final meters to the Valsorey Hut
What goes up to the hut, gets to bomb down from the hut, but with a belly full of pie
What was a technical descent turns into an alpine golf course
The second hut climb is about 220 meters on the ridge of a moraine, this is a run that just keeps on giving
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