The Tour del Gran Paradiso is one of the biggest ski traverses in the Alps. Normally done in five days it tackles 60 k’s and 5500 vertical meters in ascent and descent, starting from Valnontey and finishing in Villaz, and it climbs up to the summit of Gran Paradiso (4061m) and follows exposed ridges and slopes.
In 2015 we had our first try on Gran Paradiso, in ordert o complete the Tour in less than 24 hours, and with this experience we knew what we had to change in terms of physical preparation and equipment. In 2017, we made it in 19h and 6 minutes, signing the fastest known time.
Regarding the physical aspect you have to be naturally very trained in ski-mountaineering and perfectly acclimatised. (read how Matthias trained fort he Tour)
The big challenge in equipment is to stay as light as possible without sacrificing safety. Furthermore you have to take care of sufficient insulation as well as an elaborate nutrition system. Since long stretches covers glaciated-terrain a complete crevasse-rescue kit including rope, harness, tilblocs and micro traxions is obligatory. Steeper exposed passages and fast descents make the wearing of a helmet a smart choice.
We started exactly at midnight. The most technical passages of the tour were therefore encountered in complete darkness. To ensure safety only the most excellent headlamps were eligible.
The choice of the right clothing system was one of the most crucial parts in terms of preparation: On one side we had to be prepared for the cold of night at over 3500 m and on the other side we had to be prepared for the heat in the afternoon. Therefore, the clothing system had to be modular. Our base layer was trim fitting with excellent breathability and moisture management. The Syborg Racing Vests were the next layer. In the integrated hydration pocket we carried bladders with energy drinks, the only way to prevent them from freezing during the night.
On the legs we had the Solid Pant, an athletic fitting soft-shell pant that moves very well and combines protection with breathability.
The Task Hybrid Jacket was a perfect choice. Only insulated on the front with Primaloft, it’s a great layering piece. Due to its super lightweight, we barely noticed it.
In order to have enough protection against wind and cold on the exposed traverse from the Gran Serra to the Gran Paradiso we used additionally the Shakkar Primaloft Shorts and the Roseg Primaloft Jackets.
We added an Command Down Parka (Frequency for Tanja and Heike)on top for the last meters to the summit of Gran Paradiso at dawn, where we encountered strong winds and temperatures below -20°C. We kept those Parkas also on the downhill to the Emanuele hut. A very warm Parka like the Command Down Jacket together with a bivouac sac are an absolut must on a high mountain ski traverse like the Tour. In case of an emergency-situation those items will be your life safer!
Keeping your hands warm and blister free (60k’s non stop will work on your skin…) is no easy task: the combination of the thin and trim fitting Syborg Gloves with the Race Overgloves worked perfectly in the cold and in the heat.
Concerning feet the SkiMo Race socks did a great job and none of us had blisters or was in need to change socks (each of us carried one pair of extra socks).
Since a full day non-stop in the high mountains is also working hard on the eyes we wore yellow glasses during the night and sun glasses during the day without interruption.
INFO: La Sportiva