Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Greetings from Monte Bianco

A package arrived for me last week, filled with memories from racing in last year's Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Inside the envelope was a letter, written in Italian and addressed to "Gentile Margaretha," and 6 black and white photos, developed from film. In an instant I was transported back to the rugged peaks of the Alps, the happy countryside I encountered while passing through Italy, and the generous support and encouragement the volunteers gave to the competitors.

The letter and photos was from a man called Arnaldo, who had volunteered at the aid station located at the Bonatti refuge (hut), about 90km from Chamonix. Passing through this station was a blur, but I remember getting a honey sandwich from him. He took my photo (I suspect because I was an Australian woman), and said that if I gave him my address he would send it to me. I didn't give it much further thought, left the checkpoint and kept racing. 

Now, almost a year later, his package has arrived and with it a reminder of the extended community of people I have met all over the world through trail running. People who love the mountains, people who love supporting the pursuit of a challenge, and people who just want to give. I am also reminded of how important the volunteers are in any event, and how their enthusiasm and kindness can create a unique atmosphere that will stay with a runner long beyond the finish line. 

Rifugio Bonatti (Bonatti Refuge):

Runners entering the checkpoint. Arnaldo has labelled the peaks, including Monte Bianco/Mont Blanc:


The checkpoint:

The leader's of the race passing through the checkpoint, including Killian Jornet in the centre:


  1. Hi Margharetha, I happened on your blog through Ultra Runner Podcast. I live in Italy and also did the UTMB last year. I am also a mountaineer. I have to tell you that the guy in the photo who you identify as Arnaldo is actually the great Walter Bonatti himself (you can google his image to compare). Unfortunately he died shortly after the UTMB at the beginning of September. I guess someone has found these photos and your address and sent then on to you. Now you have an even more amazing memory I guess.

  2. Hi Martin,

    WOW, thank you so much for getting in contact with me and passing on this information. The letter that I received was sent to me in Italian, and I made the assumption that the person in the photo was the person who wrote the letter. What an incredible memory, and I will make sure to try and get everything translated.
    On another note, you live in a pretty amazing country and have some beautiful terrain to run and climb in. I am really looking forward to returning to Italy at the end of June to run the Ultra Trail Lavaredo in the Dolomites. See you there?
    Thanks again, Gretel