My trip in White, I would say in a nutshell: INTENSE! I was going with two friends’ runners but one of them withdrew in relation to the risk of severe thunderstorms that threatened the area during our run. He has already been caught in this situation and at altitude, things can quickly get complicated and become dangerous because in case of lightning, on the ridges of a mountain, we serve as a lightning rod! I left with Guillaume Audette, an excellent rider and a hell of a good guy! This quality is essential when you aim to go with someone several hours in the mountains, far from everything.
Departure from the Laurentians at 1am on the night of Thursday to Friday. We are feverish, euphoric and tired at the same time (2hrs of sleep each ... Dads' lives!). We prepare our strategy because we go autonomously to do this race of 48km and 3200 meters of positive gradient through 6 intimidating peaks. The best known of these is Mount Lafayette, 1600 meters high. We also climbed the Flume, Liberty, Garfield, Twins and finally Mount Bond in the same vein. This trail is called the Pemi Loop and is usually taken by hikers who complete it in 3 or 4 days. Our goal is to run it independently in one run. Why, the customs officer questioned us, finding us either shady or crazy. To go and have fun, to see breathtaking points of view, to measure yourself, to spend good time with friends (with the same strange interests), to get out of his comfort zone by putting yourself in a little danger, in fact there is a bit of it.
Arriving at the Lincoln Trailhead of White Mountain National Park, we are already getting into action in the dark. Last preparations, we have our headlamps, our food, energy gels, 2 liters of water each, we lace up our shoes for several hours in the mountains. It is 5:20am for the first km, we hope to have the chance to be quickly high enough to see the sunrise. A few minutes after the start it starts to rain hard enough to soak us completely in a short time. It doesn't matter, but what's less joyous is that the trails will be much less wet in this way. They are very technical and even that several sections do not run downright even in dry weather. Our hope of doing this in 8-9hrs becomes a little less achievable because of the water making the rocks slippery.
The first 15 km is going well. It's going up a lot! You catch the sunrise between two mountains, it's beautiful, the morale is great, the legs are perfect. We cross Flume and Liberty and then go to the summit of Lafayette. He's a monster! Not a tree wants to grow there given the altitude, there is only tundra a hundred years old (the area is protected). Otherwise, only gigantic boulders of rock. This is where the point of view is the most impressive. Not for us because we are shrouded in a thick fog. We explore anyway, we let ourselves be impressed by the site, playing more tourists than the runner (we forgot our time!). We're on the roof of the Whites, it's not nothing! Until a huge dark grey cloud is coming at us at full speed. Our friend Martin who did not follow was right to be afraid of the weather. We are now two lightning rods. Nowhere to take shelter because it is literally a plateau of rocks, we have no choice to run fast to go down as fast as possible. A few minutes later, this cloud is gone leaving a very lenient sky for the rest of the day... We got hot! The sun is up and the mist is dissipated; I can now put my RENEGADE JULBO! I did try them to Guillaume who finds the concept of photochromic lenses super interesting! He will go to my clinic when I return from vacation to choose a pair (or two!).
Halfway through, we're dry. This was because at the 25th kilometer is the only source of water until the end. We fill our gourds by adding tablet pristine. This substance could make the mud fit for consumption (or almost!). For the rest, both Garfield and the Twins and Bond are slow. We still have fresh legs and the taste to run fast, but the wet terrain, very/too rough and especially the countless rocks make the conditions slow. We run what we can, we walk quickly sections too dangerous, we have a morale of concrete (we spent the day in a delirium of guys having 2 hours sleep, we remember!). Even though it's difficult and not as fast as we thought, we're happy with the day's progress. Everyone we meet is smiling, we have good sensations in our legs, everything is perfect except for Guillaume who forgot his food in the car! I share obviously, but it will be limit at the end!
My highlight is our arrival at Mount Bond, the last summit of the 6. This is a ridge much like Lafayette offered, but without the mist! The ecstasy of climbing it to the top, reaching the top and having a 360-degree visual! Like a postcard (it's cliché but so true). From there you could see every summit we had climbed in the last few hours. Again, we made our tourists, taking the time to enjoy the view and take some pictures. The last descent by the Bondcliff was epic and painful. It descends very steeply, requiring the joints a lot under the force of repeated impacts on the rocks. Also, with mental and muscle fatigue, errors of judgment became frequent, increasing the risk of injury by running some somewhat dubious sections! Subsequently, the last 5 or 6 km were without history, almost flat. We took the opportunity to get a look back at what we had just experienced.
In total, 11 hours, 48km, 3200mD, 6 peaks, 8 liters of water and 6000 stories later, we reach the bridge over the Pemigewasset River that we had crossed with our frontals in the wee hours of the morning. Of course, it is directly dived into it; the water is so inviting even if it is super cold! It flows directly from the mountains where there is a marked difference in temperature. It couldn't have ended our adventure better!
André Pouliot ODD for Visique group, St-Jerome
Picture credit: Guillaume Audette
Fallow Andre in Instagram: Trailrunnerpouliot