Stage 4 Donnas to Gressoney 53km 4107m D+ (19 hours 18 minutes)
The life base in Donnas was regretfully the worst among all during the race. I was otherwise amazed how helpful and friendly all volunteers during the race at both life bases and Rifugios were and I will remember the extreme commitment and devotion of the organizers together with the unprecedented beauty of the scenery along the track as two of the foremost highlights of this amazing race. Donnas was the exception, however, with poor food, unfriendly staff and, worst of all, really poor sleeping facilities as I was shown a bed in the same light room where people were eating and getting their drop-bags. I was however so tired so I decided to try to sleep anyway and I got perhaps a half hour of disturbed sleep in the early Tuesday morning. Looking back at the time I spent at the life base in Donnas I cannot understand how I could stay 2 hours and 31 minutes, but probably the tiredness and sleep deprivation had started to make me slow. I probably spent considerable time to put on tape on my feet – until now I had only used plenty of Sportslick, but I know noticed the first signs of blisters in particular on my right foot. I also noticed that I regretfully despite my preventive measures had started to develop chaffing between my legs. I also spent some time going to a real toilet for the first time during the race. I was chocked when I learned that the toilet was only a hole in the ground, at first I thought someone had stolen it and went to another just to find a similar hole, and that you had to use your legs to support yourself – a really painful experience this far in the race as the quads were quite sore. I even considered to instead find a stone in the woods where I could go instead, but in the end I managed using the hole. Before I left Donnas I met Arthur who had gotten a much better sleep at the Rifugio Sogno di Berdzé.
It was again a beautiful and sunny morning when I at 7.19 am set out on the long and supposedly hard stage to Gressoney. The stage profile looks quite fine with only three cols below 2500 meters and no major climbing, but the trail was indeed not the best and you quickly realize that all small bumps that are hardly visible in the elevation profile each correspond to fairly big ascents and descents on this quite poor trail. By poor I mean again dominated by uneven and increasingly large rocks/boulders in quite endless talus fields really hurting my feet and legs. The climb up to Rifugio Coda from the small town of Perloz was also not only incredibly steep from time to time, but also very long and you really felt that Donnas was the lowest point during the race and that you now should come back up on the Alte Vie again (the climb was actually over 1600 meter in less than 10 kilometers). It was however somehow encouraging that the track now had changed from Alte Vie 2 to Alte Vie 1. The day had started of very warm, but as I gained altitude it got increasingly cold and cloudy and when I reached the Rifugio Coda in the early afternoon in was really foggy and quite cold. I saw a sign that this was the half-way point during the race, which I then must have reached slightly after 50 hours. I had heard that there was supposed to be the most amazing views of the whole Aosta Valley on one side and the plains on the other from the Rifugio, but regretfully the fog prevented me from seeing this.
|Navigating the way through Perloz|
|Fog on the way up to Rifugio Coda|
|Crena du Ley (The Wolf Pass)|
|Sunset from Col della Vecchia|
After yet another meal consisting of pasta and cheese I set out for the night. The climb up to Col Lasoney had a pleasant gradient and was through the forest up until 2000 meters when the green grassy treeless pastures begun. I noticed that the tree borderline tended to be around 2000 to 2100 meters on most of the mountains. At this point in the race I had started to run more on the altimeter in my Suunto Ambit watch than on time and distance. To motivate myself I told myself that a normal training run in the ski slope back home in Uppsala, which lasted slightly more than 30 minutes, involved 300 meters of ascent and descent and that 300 meter of ascent therefore should take no more than 30 minutes. Dividing the climbs into pieces like that really helped and made the quite monstrously long climbs more bearable. The climb to Col Lasoney was however in no way a difficult one and I quite quickly reached the highest point. The descent proved to be a real test, however, as I was met by a very strong and cold north wind right when I passed the Col. I quickly put on the Marmot Essence pants I had in my bag and an extra T-shirt I had with me, but it was still freezing cold. The wind was so strong that some of the yellow reflective TDG signs had blown away and from time to time it was therefore difficult to follow the track. Otherwise it was normally easier to follow the track during nights due to the reflexes on the signs that really lit up right back at you really strongly, but not this night with winds and even some snow. For some reason I started to think about my childhood again during this night and became quite sentimental. I felt alone for the first time during the race and I almost hoped to encounter another runner, but surprisingly I ran alone all night. Not even putting on music on my Sony Walkman mp3 player helped and I was very happy to come to the warmth at the Ober Loo aid station and some Tea Caldo with plenty of sugar. The rest of the descent to Gressoney went reasonable quick and I came to the Gressoney life base at 2.37 on Wednesday morning after having been out on the track for 64 hours and 20 minutes.