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Lizzy Hawker test running the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa; Photograph by Alex Ekins

New Trail Race Ultra Tour Monte Rosa Dishes Up a Humbling Challenge

“The mountains are where I turn to when I need to be challenged, to be humbled, to be comforted or to find solace,” says Lizzy Hawker,  the diminutive Brit who has dominated high-altitude races around the world and one of our Adventurers of the Year.

That’s why she founded the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, a 93-mile mountain ultramarathon encircling Switzerland’s stunning Monte Rosa massif. The region is home to 38 peaks that soar above 13,000 feet in elevation and is criss-crossed by wild, rugged trails that challenge even the most sure-footed trail runner.

Hawker’s race is an invitation to runners from around the world to experience the region that had inspired her when she visited Zermatt as an impressionable six-year-old girl.  “I fell in love with the mountains and realised that was where I felt most at home,” she says.

In conceptualizing the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, Hawker drew from her experience of winning The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, Europe’s most popular mountain ultramarathon, five times, and breaking the speed record for covering the 200 miles from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu.

The 93-mile Ultra Tour Monte Rosa starts in the Swiss village of Grächen and follows rugged trails that contour above the Matter Vispa, a tributary of the Rhone, to Zermatt, situated at the foot of the Matterhorn. From there, the route loops through several Italian villages and before crossing back over the Swiss border.

While the terrain is difficult, the setting, which includes wildflower-laced meadows and unobstructed views of the iconic Matterhorn, couldn’t be more inspiring.

“This is a tough race on alpine terrain,” says Hawker. “The route’s average altitude is over 6,500 feet and there is over 32,000 feet of total ascent and descent. The trails are technical and exposed in places, so participants need mountain experience and to be confident in their ability to look after themselves in tough weather conditions.”

However, as much as Hawker wants to challenge you, she also wants you to succeed.

“I hope to share my passion for running and to encourage people to challenge themselves, not only within the context of the race, but in their journey through life,” she says.

For this reason, training camps to be held in early summer 2015 prepare runners for the challenges specific to this event.

And the inaugural August 2015 edition of the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa (called the “Zero Edition”), will be staged over four days, covering about 21 miles per day, giving runners maximum daylight during which they can soak up the views and safely cover the distance.

The 2015 Zero Edition race is capped at just 150 participants, while the official First Edition of the race, to be held in 2016, will be a non-stop timed ultramarathon open to 1,000 runners who meet the qualifying criteria.