Solomango Travel Feature: The Route of Giants by Stefano Torrione

On the 11th September, one of Europe’s greatest endurance races starts in Courmayeur, in Italy’s Val d’Aosta.

At 330 km (205 miles) long, The Tor des Géants has rapidly become one of the most coveted and respected races in the world of trail-running. Despite initial scepticism about the length of the race, it’s seen an extraordinarily high number of finishers, due to the runners’ training and commitment and a well tried, tested and efficient race organisation. The organisation does not impose any compulsory stages or stops, and the winner is the runner who completes the race in the shortest time, making his or her own decisions on when and how long to stop for rest and refreshment. Runners must complete the route by 4 pm on Saturday 15 September, and prizes will be awarded on Sunday 16 September. The maximum time allotted for completion of the race is 150 hours.

The highest point of the route is the Loson Pass at 3,299 metres, the lowest is Donnas, about 322 metres above sea level. The Tor climbs and dips throughout, winding along paths and mule tracks, through pastures and woodland and over stony ground. Passing from one valley to another, around the contours of the region the route is made particularly tough by the altitude difference: ascents total 24,000 metres and the descents can be gruelling when muscles, knees and tendons have already been stretched to the limit.

The race embraces the whole region at the feet of the Alpine Giants: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Gran Paradiso and the Matterhorn; “A route of Giants for Giants” says Alessandra Nicoletti, president of Valle d’Aosta Trailers, the amateur sports association that devised and set the race that is the Tor des Géants in motion. She points out that whatever the spirit they tackle it with, anyone intending to enter this contest requires more than just training: it’s an adventure that takes great inner strength and staying power, hence the name, Tor des Géants: not French or Italian, but patois, symbolising the strong local flavour of the organisation. The Tor des Géants is a race unlike any other, not just because it’s a round-trip trail at altitude amid the most beautiful peaks in Europe but because of the spirit that pervades it: Trailers run, walk, stop to talk to others or admire the view, perhaps even accept an invitation to join one of the locals for a hot meal at their dinner table. The Tor is above all a journey, during which trailers encounter unparalleled landscapes, a warm sense of solidarity and affection from the race organisers and other runners, a warm local welcome and not least, at the limits of their endurance, their inner selves.

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His book about this race is available from Sime Books.

Stefano Torrione is a photographer from Aosta Valley. He has published several books and has travelled the world. He’s followed the Tor des Géants since its inauguration, fascinated by the race and its exceptional scenery.

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