Ultra Swimrun Alps
Everything started almost a year ago when I was thinking of crossing the Northern Alps in swimrun mode. The route was all planned out: Lac d’Aiguebelette and Lac du Bourget in Savoie, Lake Annecy in Haute-Savoie and 2 mountains among their magnificent natural water reserve.
After some reflection, I contact Patrick, the President of the Ultra Sports Science Foundation and head of the event rescue company ‘Dokever’.
We have a short discussion where passion takes over as well as the desire to do the best to offer this opportunity to a group of new "adventurers". We’re not the first to start speaking about an ‘ultra-swimrun’: our friends from the South-East cross the Maritime Alps by the coastline and in Sweden, Niklas organizes the SAUC, an ultra-swimrun that takes several days in the archipelago of Stockholm.
Our ultra-swimrun is characterised by being a non-stop event, climbing several mountains and swimming in 3 big alpine lakes. A grandiose, dream setting for all nature lovers.
At the beginning the group is made up of 9 men and 4 women from 4 countries ready for the challenge but above all ready to enjoy this wonderful playground. Ultimate fun, the weather is with us, a radiant sun, 15° water, no wind at the start of our adventure and promote this sport and its values.
It is 9.30am...we’re up and around Lac d’Aiguebellette with our first swim and an asphalt transition before enjoying a 2000m crossing of the lake at the base of Sougey on a body of still water with a slight breeze. 30-40 minutes later the adventure continues whilst evaluating the different levels. This vision of the group will optimize the use of elastics in the next open water section. A 12km return to the lake house to leave our paddles and goggles while keeping our sweaters securely attached to our thighs.
The team progressively scales the first part of L’Epine and then Chat with certainty, it is going to be very hot. A last refuel before being isolated for the next 10km to reach the 1550m signal cross then over the mountain ridges towards the viewpoint of the Chat and the long descent on the Bourget Lake. Some small pleasures are to be found among the last snow of the ridges...
4 hours and a 1200m climb later we reach Bourget for a much-needed recharge and relax.
5pm, we head to Viviers-du-Lac via a long bike path for a first dip, then a second, but the water seems cold, the wind rises and only kite surfers remain on the lake .. a brief pause to regain energy and a third swim between the Petit Port and the Grand Port freezes our bodies. After this the bad weather conditions seem to calm down, but the group decides not to do the longer section of 1200m and starts to get closer to Mouxy, a little stop before the terrible ‘Bauges crossing’.
It's been 12 hours since the group left and they can leave their swimrun gear except for the wetsuit, take a bag with safety gear for the night, eat and drink. Everyone prepares their own things, the fatigue and apprehension for the long Bauges crossing can be seen on people’s faces.
8.30pm, the procession moves ahead at a steady pace through the night, heading towards Le Revard, 1100m higher. The night is long, cold but starry, and the full moon illuminates the technical trails and the forest roads. We pass Le Revard with good speed, then to La Féclaz and the descent on the snowy slopes. The pace is slow but the kilometres pass. A fast passage to St Francois de Salle in the direction of Lescheraines and Le Chatelard. We decide not to try the mini swim sections en route.
At Chatelard, several members take micro-naps but 3 decide to stop the adventure here, killed by fatigue and blisters. I remind them that the goal is to be safe, enjoying and sharing the swimrun experience!
The group sets off again and attacks a final climb towards Bellecombe en Bauges which will be the last refuelling stop.
In order not to miss out on the pleasure of swimming in Lake Annecy, we decide to neutralize the 10km link between Bellecombe and Doussard and take the group by vehicle. Everyone is tired but no one is injured. The decision is made to go to Doussard, 22h have passed since the beginning of this incredible adventure.
Here we are at Doussard and we will restart on the east shore of the lake to go back to the final beach of Talloires. We warm up our worn bodies and jump into the lake for 1300m swim towards Balmette. It’s pure happiness returning to the water, making a last transition to the finish!
11am we enter Talloires, taking a city tour in the flowery streets, and we go down to the bay under the amazed eyes of the tourists present this Sunday. The beach is in sight and the welcoming committee offers us a last challenge of taking one last dive into the water from the diving board. Each person climbs the ladder and it’s done. Here we are, we did it, the course has ended after 26 hours of effort. We spend 10 long minutes hugging with large smiles and barely hidden tears.
What an adventure, what a team, what a group !!!
This group has definitely passed a milestone in the swimrun adventure. Thank you to all members of the group, accompanying persons and partners who helped created a family for more than 24 hours, 120km and 4500m +.
Feedback from the athletes:
1000 thanks for a unique ultra swimrun event and a world-class initiative. Great praise for: Jean-Christophe Bastiani and the whole team. It was 26 amazing and challenging hours I will never forget. You are all super fantastic people who in your own way made this swimrun experience and togetherness unique. I look forward to seeing you again out there!
It was something else!
Performa Training - Swim Coach
I would like to thank Jean-Christophe Bastiani for the great organisation. When will the next one be? Well done to all the athletes!
Christophe Testu (France)
Great organisation, the medical follow-up was really pro, a big big challenge, but in the swimrun adventure spirit I love. Jean-Christophe Bastiani provided some stellar organisation. See you next year!
A huge well-done and thanks to Jean-Christophe Bastiani and the SwimrunEvents team and sponsors for this unique event! You helped us discover and love your beautiful region; you are the "Gary Laz Cantrell" of Swimrun!
Amazing weekend with crazy friends on the ultra swimrun in the Alps ... Great training ! Lucky with the weather, proud to be an ultra swimrunner!