First British ski-mountaineering championships a great success

Posted by Es Tresidder on 16/04/2012
Carron Scrimgeour skiing to victory in the GB Championships
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Over the past few years a small but dedicated band of Brits have been taking part in the amazing sport of ski-mountaineering racing. While it bears some resemblance to normal ski-touring, racing requires a whole new host of skills, not to mention an extremely high level of race-specific fitness.

For most of us our first races were lessons in humility, but we’ve been improving steadily and have started to get some respectable results, so this year it seemed timely that we had a championship of our own.

Lacking suitable terrain and organisational capacity to organise a whole race for ourselves, we adopted the model used by the Belgian ski-mountaineers for their championship; pick a good-looking race in the Alps and contact the organisers to see if they would be keen to host for us.  With two of the best GB racers living in the Chamonix valley, and three others based there for much of the winter, the cols et cimes hautes race, based in the Aiguilles Rouges above Chamonix, was an obvious choice.  The organisers were very welcoming of our championship, which encouraged the Belgians and Dutch to also choose the race for their championships, and Belgian, Dutch and British racers made up a large proportion of the 120 participants.

The course comprised four big climbs and four big descents, totalling 1800m of ascent.  This started with a long climb up a steep piste before breaking out into off-piste terrain and an ascent of Aiguille Pourrie, the last section of which was completed on foot.  A steep descent of the north face of Pourrie followed, before a shorter climb to the Col des Lacs Noirs and a less steep but very long descent into Combe Lachenal.  From here the course made another big climb before dropping to the foot of Col Crochues, starting point of the popular Crochues-Bérarde ski-tour.  A quick boot up this steep couloir led to a traverse to the next col along and a steep, technical, long descent back into the Flégère ski area and a cruel sting in the tail of 170m of ascent to finish at the Refuge de la Flégère.

Conditions for the preceding weeks had been hot, sunny and snow-less, so the course, while well covered, was in very hard, icy condition.  Everyone struggled on the steeper sections of skinning, not helped at all by the fierce sun making it feel like racing in a cauldron!

The race started fast with former European Champion Yannick Buffet making an immediate impression, but with the British men forging on valiantly in the chasing group.  Ben Bardsley made his intentions clear from the start – push hard on the climbs in an attempt to get a big enough lead to stay clear of the faster descenders Jon Bracey and Carron Scrimgeour.  By the top of the first climb Ben had a lead, but the gap was soon made up in transitions and on the descent, and after the descent of Aiguille Pourrie Carron and Jon had got ahead.  Similar battles ensued on each subsequent climb, with Ben giving it all he’d got on the way up and Jon and Carron making up the difference on the descents.  At the top of the last climb, after nearly two hours of battling it out in the burning sun, Ben and Carron were still neck and neck.  A thousand metres of descent changed that; Carron had forged himself a lead just big enough to survive the uphill sprint to the finish and claim the first British title.  Ben came in 30 seconds later and Jon a further two minutes back.  Notably these three finished 3rd, 5th and 6th overall in the race, and a very respectable 15 minutes behind Yannick Buffet, one of the best racers in the world and on very good form this year.  Another two British racers (Es Tresidder and Jon Morgan) finished inside the first dozen.

In the women’s race Leanne Callaghan led from the start, underlining the big improvement she’s made since starting racing last year to take the title ahead of Gaby Lees and Di Gilbert.  Leanne had a close battle with two more experienced Belgian racers Caroline Goffin and Anouk Doore, staying ahead from the start but with Caroline making ground on the descents to finish a minute ahead.  Gaby  also took the espoir (under 24) women’s title for the overall race and Leanne gained second place in the veteran women’s overall category.  Catrin Thomas did well to finish 4th Brit and 3rd Vet after 5 months spent on a boat in Antarctica.

The turnout from British racers was very encouraging for a first championships, with a total of 15 British men and four women, hopefully we’ll get more in future years!  In addition to most of the “usual suspects” there were a good number of newcomers too.  Rob Adie from the BMC was on hand to present some very tasteful silver plates to the new champions.

Several of the racers benefitted from coaching advice from Graeme Woodward of the fell runners association.  This was particularly helpful for those struggling to get training hours on real snow!
Notes to Rob

GB only results:

Position

Surname

First name

Category

Year of birth

Time

1

SCRIMGEOUR

Carron

SEN-H

1977

2h04:08.00

2

BARDSLEY

Benjamin

VET-H

1971

2h04:37.25

3

BRACEY

Jon

SEN-H

1977

2h06:50.30

4

TRESIDDER

Esmond

SEN-H

1979

2h15:14.30

5

MORGAN

Jon

VET-H

1967

2h16:46.83

6

BARNES

Christopher

SEN-H

1973

2h34:57.87

7

ALUN

Powell

VET-H

1969

2h37:21.92

8

GAY

Daniel

SEN-H

1975

2h39:36.71

9

CALLAGHAN

Leanne

VET-F

1972

3h05:13.96

10

L'HERPINIERE

Tarka

SEN-H

1981

3h05:57.28

11

WILLETT

Guy

VET-H

1971

3h12:54.91

12

LEES

Gabriel

ESP-F

1990

3h29:15.12

13

JEFFERIES

Gareth

VET-H

1971

3h43:47.19

14

SMITH

Phil

VET-H

1972

3h53:43.60

15

GILBERT

Diahanne

SEN-F

1973

4h03:19.16

16

ROBERTS

Anthony

VET-F

1961

4h20:50.75

17

THOMAS

Catrin

VET-F

1964

4h53:27.13

18

WILSON YOUNG

Ian

SEN-H

1975

5h21:07.46

19

YEOMAN

Franck

VET-H

1946

5h40:23.28

 

Full results (including non-Brits) - click here.

Lots of pictures can be found by clicking here.

Below is a full round of the 2012 ski mountaineering season detailing the races and results of the GB team.

French individual championships:  Carron Scrimgeour 18th, Jon Bracey 21st, Ben Bardsley 11th vet.

Sybelles-Villarinche team race (France): Jon Bracey and Carron Scrimgeour 10th team

European championships
Team race: Jon Bracey and Carron Scrimgeour 14th, Es Tresidder and Ben Bardsley 17th.
Vertical race (uphill only): Ben 34th, Carron 38th, Es 48th.
Individual race: Carron 37th, Es 43rd, Ben 44th.

Verte a l’envers vertical race (Haute Savoie vertical race Championships): Jon Bracey 10th, Ben B 11th (and first vet, making him Haute Savoie champion!!!), Carron 15th, Es 16th, Jon Morgan 24th.

Trisrotundo long course (team race, Switzerland): Jon Morgan, Es Tresidder and Ben Bardsley 15th team.

Pierramenta (team race, France): Jon and Carron 38th, Es Tresidder and Thomas Brigaud (France) 50th, Jon Morgan and Ben Bardsley 60th.

Defi de Faverges (team race, Switzerland): Es, Jon Morgan and Ben 8th overall

Transvanoise (team race, France): Es and Ben 8th overall
 



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