In 1986, Hillary Gerardi, a US native, earned the nickname “the world’s happiest skyracer,” as one of her sponsors described her. In 2012, she moved to the French Alps, the very place where her passion for skyrunning was born.
But let’s start from the beginning, what is skyrunning?
As the name suggests, it is the race towards the sky, or better said, towards the world’s rooftops. In fact, to be considered skyrunning, the race must reach an altitude of at least 2000 meters above sea level and include sections with a slope steeper than 30%. The goal of a skyrunner, as one can imagine, is to reach the highest point and return to the starting point in the shortest possible time.
But let’s get back to Hillary.
This is not the first spectacular feat she has achieved over the years; since 2016, she has won several trophies and international races, including the Trofeo Kima in Italy, the Tromso Skyrace in Norway, the Glencoe Skyline in Scotland, and the Mont Blanc Marathon in 2021.
Her passion for the mountains has always been a part of her, even when she lived in Vermont (USA).
However, it was only in 2012 that she fell in love with running, which eventually became a tremendous passion.
And how better to combine her love for the mountains and running than with skyrunning?
June 17, 2023: FKT (Fastest Known Time) on Mont Blanc
Now let’s talk about Hillary’s phenomenal achievement. She started at 2:00 AM from the small square in Chamonix, the French town where she currently resides, heading for the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.
The climb involved a vertical gain of 3,887 meters and a distance of 32.67 kilometers to secure this record. It was an endeavor that required careful preparation, focus, and technical skill.
The route was divided into two main segments: the first and last parts involved trail running, while the second part required alpine climbing towards the top of the Alps. The original route taken by the athlete who previously held the record was slightly altered for safety reasons, as it had numerous seracs along the way.
For the less familiar, seracs are deep crevasses found in the ice or snow on a glacier, formed due to glacial movements. These crevices can be extremely dangerous as they can collapse suddenly, resulting in serac avalanches. Crossing or avoiding such areas requires proper training and safety equipment, as well as awareness of the dangers of icy and rugged mountain terrain.
The Right Equipment for an Incredible Undertaking
Hillary mentioned dedicating a considerable amount of time to preparing the necessary equipment, even sharing a photo on social media of all the gear that accompanied her on her journey to achieve this goal. In fact, she had two sets of equipment: one suitable for the trail running part and the other, a complete mountaineering kit, for the alpine section.
This equipment was carefully chosen and organized based on a precise analysis of the weather conditions she would encounter along the route and her own personal needs and preferences.
Regarding footwear, Hillary wore the SCARPA Ribelle S model from the beginning, all the way to the summit, and until reaching the Jonction, where she switched to the SCARPA Spin 2.0 model for the final 1400 meters of descent. The Spin 2.0 is specifically designed for trail and skyrunning, particularly for vertical climbs and performance on both easy and technical trails.
Hillary’s impressive list of victories and her courage in facing challenging terrains and breathtaking challenges bear testimony to her exceptional sporting ability. Beyond her remarkable career, Hillary stands as an example of passion and love for the mountains, inspiring others to pursue their dreams and overcome limits. Her presence in the outdoor enthusiasts’ community and the positive impact she has had on skyrunning truly make her worthy of admiration and respect.
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