If you watch track and field, you’ll find all sorts of running events: sprints, middle-distance, long-distance, marathons, and ultra-marathons.  But this summer I was introduced to something I’d never seen or heard of, a vertical kilometer.  My b-i-l was participating, so we all rolled out of bed early, heading for the mountains near Gérardmer, France.  As you can see from his photo below, it was cold and foggy when we arrived very early and no inviting place nearby to get a hot drink.  My s-i-l and I decided we’d leave after the race started to get some coffee or tea and a pastry.  🙂

© janet m. webb

By the time the race started, the fog was clearing.  The race started down a very steep slope at the bottom of the ski lift on the right.   The “runners” then came up between the people you can see, then up towards where we were standing, staying inside the white ropes.  I put running in quotes up above because on that slope no one was running!  Many people used poles, leaning forward most of the time. It was steep enough to even make walking quite an effort.

© janet m. webb

The man below,Stephane Brogniart, is famous for distance running.  He does challenging runs all over the world.  In this race, he seemed to be always in this pose, at least when going uphill, and at a pace that never appeared to change.  My understanding is that he didn’t even enter the race, just did it for fun, doing four ups and downs before the first place person finished three.  AND he “ran” all the way down as well, not taking the ski lift the way almost everyone else did!!  If interested, you can find him on Facebook or, mostly in French, on the internet.

© janet m. webb

The way the race works is that a participant’s time starts when s/he leaves the starting line.  Upon arrival at the top, time is stopped and s/he gets to rest while riding down on the lift.  Whenever s/he gets back to the start line, time begins again, with the total time being the sum of the three segments.

© janet m. webb

After my b-i-l finished his second time down the lift, I took the lift up, waited for him, then both of us took the lift down after his last lap.  The view was spectacular as you can see from these last two photos. In the last shot, you can see the steepness of the run under the lift.  You also get a great view of Gérardmer Lake on the left and the city on the right.  It turned out to be quite a day for all of us.

© janet m. webb

  1. claywatkins says:

    How beautiful and challenging. I find skiing very difficult as well as walking up hills all by by themselves, much less racing up them. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Cheers to you and your b i l!

    • My s-i-l and I didn’t go much but be chilly at first and enjoy ourselves. My b-i-l did all the work. What an experience! I’m so glad I was able to go.


  2. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Thanks for this post, Janet. It is the first time that I have heard about this event. The view on the way down is worth the effort it takes to get to the top.

    • I’m not sure how much the contestants enjoyed the view, but they probably did on the way down on the ski lift. 🙂 I know I certainly loved it.

  3. Applause to these athletes. Impressive. 🙂

    • There was one rather overweight woman who was barely moving, but made it up one time before she called it quits. I give her all sorts of props for that! To do this in race mode is really something!!


  4. Sue says:

    Wow, seriously hard work!

  5. Dan Antion says:

    I’m so glad there are people to keep sports like this alive. If it was depending on me, it would be a distant memory. Beautiful photos, but I like the way you got up and down.

  6. Janet, an interesting human endeavor…and the scenery was gorgeous.

  7. Always impressed by the mountain runners. Not even going to attempt that as poles may be a welcomed addition on future basic mountain hikes for me
    What beautiful views!

    • I’d not used poles before but when we all three went on a forest walk one day and used them, I found that they can be quite useful, for balance in some situations if nothing else. Yes, the views were spectacular and I have lots more mountain shots to come. 🙂


  8. Brave of you to embark into such a gloomy, foreboding scene! Looks like that effort paid off, based on the brilliant view you got at the end. Stunning!

  9. barrydjd says:

    We have something much the same in North Vancouver called the “Grouse Grind”. 🙂

  10. andy1076 says:

    I always have so much respect for people who run in these events just to join in, not entering and stuff. That’s passion! 🙂

  11. The last two photos showcase glorious view. Any type of sport is at the bottom of my list (clumsy – not athletic) but I do enjoy watching all types of sports. I guess it’s feeling their accomplishments that makes it exciting for me. I hope you b-i-l was happy with the way it went for him. : )
    On another note: can you tell me what the name of the poles he is using are called? I want to use them for hiking. I use two canes. I have bad knees. These look like they would be safer to use. can they be purchased in the states? Thanks, Janet.
    Isadora 😎

  12. joey says:

    Beautiful views! I’ll take the lift. I enjoy skiing, but not for sport, per se. I don’t much sport, but I admire those who are so dedicated and passionate 🙂

    • Although I haven’t skied for too many years, I loved downhill and enjoyed cross-country as well. I grew up playing sports and haven’t lost my love for them. 🙂


  13. Su Leslie says:

    Impressive!!! I agree with you about uphill being easier on the body than down. I’ve really noticed that lately since I’ve been diagnosed with arthritis in my knee.

    • I realized that in the mid-seventies when I spent a year in Europe. We stayed at a youth hostel in, I believe, Geneva, Switzerland that was quite a distance from the road. You had walk up many stairs and when we left in the morning, I could really feel it in my leg muscles. 🙂


  14. I join the others in this cheering section! Wow; such an interesting post! The cardiovascular workout must be a very intense one – those folks are going to live forever!

  15. This sounds like quite the endurance test. Great read!

  16. Gorgeous views! What was the total elevation gain at the end? I could go up once, but not twice back to back! Doing it three times is amazing! I haven’t ever tried hiking up the steep hill back to back. My excuse is not wanting to hike down. It’s steep!
    Taking the lift down is smart; saves the knees! When hiking up mountains I always wish there was a car to take me down to save my knees. I think going down is harder on the knees than going up. It feels that way to me anyway.

    • I don’t know what the elevation is, Deborah. Going downhill is certainly harder on the legs than going up. I could do three times, but it would take me some time and I’m also not used to that elevation, which is higher than that of Naperville. 🙂


  17. dexrunning says:

    I used to hate running hills but just recently started taking them on. Perhaps one day I’ll tackle something like this- sounds like an amazing experience!

    • It was certainly amazing to watch! 🙂 One good thing is that the competitors could go downhill on the lift. That’s the part that’s really hard on the legs, even though going up is difficult. Enjoy your hills and thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  18. Watch up step and enjoy the climb.

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