Mont Blanc from Chamonix
2012 sees the 10th edition of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, a 168km trail non stop trail run involving 9600m of ascent and descent which circumnavigates the highest mountain in Western Europe and visits France, Italy and Switzerland.
Although there are slight variations in the route each year the fastest winning time of 20:05 was set by Dachhiri Dawa Sherpa in the inaugural race in 2003. Coming from a background of cross country skiing he'd previously represented Nepal in two winter Olympics.
In 2003 there were just 700 racers. By 2012 there are now four different events with a limit of 2300 competitors attempting the original UTMB. The huge operation which takes over Chamonix is supported by an army of 2000 volunteers.
In the last few years the event has been dominated by Kilian Jornet Burgada who has won the three of the four races he has started (2008, 2009 & 2011). The 2010 was cancelled due to horrendous weather conditions but then restarted from Courmayeur a few hours later. The North Face athlete Jez Bragg would seize this opportunity to take a significant victory.
Trail running and ultras are going from strength to strength and the UTMB organisers now feel that there are around 200 competitors who could challenge for a top twenty position.