Rugged and Tough in Europe: The Alpinultras Series

The theme for this week is most certainly going to be of a European variety as we focus our attention not just on the UTMB circus (previews over the coming days), but some of the other little known events and series that also play host to experienced mountain runners form near and far. We welcome again Pol Puig from Spain to help us with understanding some of ins and outs of this rugged and tough series.

If you’re a ‘massif’ fan of the tough and rugged stuff, then you should seriously consider heading over to Europe and racing some of the events in the Alpinultras series. They make UTMB look like the City2Surf, with some of the events hitting nearly 9,000m of climbing in just 100kms – you have to seriously know how to look after yourself at these events.

During the last weekend in July, one of the races in the series  was the Ultra Valls d’Àneu, an incredible race that visits some of the most beautiful part of the area. UTVA is one of the most technical and the toughest long distance races you can run in the Pyrenees. Its route is well known for being as spectacular as it is hard, and for that reason, it is tailor made for experienced mountain runners.

UTVA is the second race of the Alpinultras series 2017 that started in May 2017 at Picos de Europa with Desafío El Cainejo. According to ITRA, it is the most difficult ultra race in Spain rated with 18 mountains points. The Alpinutras project is aimed at identifying and promoting the most interesting long distance traverses up in the high mountains which meet certain requirements and share values such as being organized by local entities, environmentally friendly, with a marked alpine character, and reaching a relevant altitude around 3,000 meters or more.

In 2017, the Alpinultras series offers a unique calendar of four alpine races, with it being necessary to complete at least three of them to achieve the coveted “Alpino” badge that only nine people achieved in its inaugural edition among the almost 2,000 that took part in its races.

After UTVA, the Alpinultra series will move to the central Pyrenees, to Canfranc – Canfranc, where the third race will take place with a distance of 100km and over 8,000m+. The last race will take place on the Isle of Arran with the inaugural edition of the Ultra Trail Scotland.

The tiny cozy village of Esterri d’Àneu was where the start and finish line were located for UTVA. The race is 96 kms with 7,200 m D+ and has to be completed in less than 30 hours. Many runners could not complete the race due to the challenging time cuts. The race started on Saturday at midnight.

For 96 kilometres the runners enjoyed valleys, peaks and mountains villages. It is a route made for mountain lovers who know who to move fast on technical terrains. The national park of Aigüestortes i Estanys de Sant Maurici and the natural park of Alt Pirineu were the stunning backdrops for this race.

In this fourth edition of UTVA, Genís Zapater and Alberto Vinagre were the fastest. Genís started very strong and he was in the lead until the last kilometres where Alberto caught him. Genís and Alberto decided to do the last downhill stretch together to share first place. It took them 16 hours and 42 minutes to complete the whole loop around Esterri d’Àneu.

Tina Bes, a well-known local ultra runner, was the fastest woman winning in 18 hours and 45 minutes. Only 64 from 150 runners were able to complete one of the most difficult and beautiful races in the Pyrenees.


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Pol Puig
Pol Puig is a writer from Barcelona and a member of the Corredor de Montaña’s website. (, one of the top mountain running websites in Spain.

As a writer from Corredor de Montaña’s team, Pol writes on the Spanish mountain running scene, but knows life down under well having lived in Queenstown during the 2015. He's the Ultra Easy, the Routeburn and the Shotover Marathon in Queenstown.

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