It all started an evening after a wet SkiMo session in Vasilitsa, Greece. Iraklis Moisidis, Lazaros Botelis and I were having dinner and chatting in the caravan while the weather outside was getting worst. One of the main subjects of our conversation was about ski mountaineering races and the famous La Grande Course competitions. Iraklis and Lazaros had already taken part in various races on the series; therefore their next goal was to take part in Adamello Ski Raid this year. Lazaros already teamed up with Giannis Stathopoulos and they registered for the race but, Iraklis was still looking for a partner. Instantly both of them looked at me and told me that I have to join them, they reassured me that I am more than competent for the race. Finally, they managed to convince me and we sign up for the race.
Adamello Ski Raid is a spectacular race over Adamello Glaciers with 4000 meters of elevation gain, over a distance of 42km. The race is hard, technical and demanding so I had my doubts about my first decision, would I be able to finish the race or I would let Iraklis and the rest down? It was time to prepare for it but I realized some things:
- I never took place in a Skimo race.
- I never used lightweight Skimo racing equipment.
- I never trained for such a race.
- Most importantly I had no idea how hard is to cover 42km with 4000m of elevation gain in a day.
1st April 2017 – One day before the race
After spending over two days of travelling from Cyprus by a plane, a bus, a car, a boat and a car again we woke up in a cozy hotel in Pointe de Legno, Italy. We load all the gear in the car and headed of for some pre-race training, it was the first time that I put on the racing equipment but with a good winter full of ski touring, alpinism and trail running I felt really strong. After a steep icy ascend, a descend and lots of mentoring from Iraklis, Lazaros and Giannis in between it was time to head over to the sports hall for the registration and the technical briefing. In the sports hall among other flags they put up the flag of Cyprus for the first time on a La Grande Course race. After the briefing and some last minute repairs on Giannis’ skis we headed back to the hotel to have dinner and prepare our equipment for the next morning race.
2nd April 2017 – Race Day
03:00 Wake up and breakfast.
03:40 Suit up and final equipment check.
04:00 Head over to the lift with the car.
04:30 Arrival at the Tonalina where the race starts.
05:00 Transceiver check and getting in line for the race start.
06:00 The race started and over 300 teams of two started their journey on Adamello Ski Raid.
06:30 We were going really fast and I was finding it hard to keep up with Iraklis. Thoughts: I am not going to make it with that pace… I probably bite more off than what I can chew… But, I was still fighting…
07:00 We slow down a bit but I am still struggling and Iraklis had to tow me in order to keep up.
07:42 Arrival at the Passo Presena where was the first time barrier and the first change. Fortunately, time to descend.
07:45 Thoughts: DO NOT FALL… AVOID THE ROCK… DO NOT FALL… WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?… BREATHE… DO NOT FALL…
08:00 At the bottom of the first descend. That was hard and not really enjoyable. Definitely, not the descend I was hoping for. Rocky, icy and technical exactly how they described it on the briefing.
10:00 At Canalino Adamello Ski Raid. After, 800m we arrived at the Canalino just before another steep ski descend.
10:30 Skins back on and we had to be fast in order to make it for the second time barrier. I already felt really weak and my doubts raised again.
10:45 On the ascend towards the feed zone and the second time barrier. We could see the amazing refugio on the rocks to the left and the place that we were aiming for on a small settle. Iraklis asked me the time and we calculated that we still have 30 minutes to catch the time limit. He assured me that if we continue with the same pace we could make it.
11:08 Arrival at Rifugio ai Caduti in time for the second time barrier.
12:00 Canon on Cresta Croce. The highlight of the whole race a huge canon on top of the mountain that has been left there from the First World War. When I saw the canon I remembered the wise words of an old man on the briefing ‘when you see the canon think about the people that fight on those mountains for their ideal of freedom back in the days; now think about yourselves that you would be fighting for similar ideals on the race.’
12:12 On the technical pass following wooden bridges and via ferrata steps on the rocky granite ridge. I am used to move over that kind of terrain so I managed to rest a bit and got ready for what was coming next.
12:30 Descending a steep icy gully with crampons and a fixed rope. 5 minutes after we got down from the gully someone fall there and a helicopter came for the rescue.
13:00 Crossing a fairly flat part on the glacier heading towards the third and last time barrier. Meanwhile, Lazaros and Giannis catch up with us and all together headed to the Bivacco Montura.
13:30 Arriving at Bivacco Montura just in time for the last time barrier. When we managed to pass the last time barrier, I felt more relaxed and it was time to enjoy the views.
15:10 At the bottom of the last ascend. I felt really weak and the 150m of elevation gain seemed like ages away.
15:30 On top of the last ascend. It was time to enjoy the last long descend towards Pointe di Legno. 1300m of descend on a varied slope.
16:00 At the bottom of the lovely ski descend and it was time to put the skis on the back and follow the trail towards Pointe di Legno and the finish line.
17:13 Crossed the finish line of my first SkiMo race with good friends that took the role of my mentors the last couple of days.
Adamello Ski Raid was definitively my hardest race so far but I am glad I did it. For sure it was the definition of a type two fun for me but it opened the doors towards new experiences. If you ask me now if I would do it again, my answer would be definitely yes but after a lot of training on lightweight SkiMo equipment.