This article was first published by TrailRunnerMag.com. To get more of their premium content along with your Outside subscription, join Outside+.
There was sad news coming out of Chamonix, France, early on the morning of August 25.
The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc race organization reported that a male runner from the Czech Republic competing in the 145-km TDS race died after suffering a bad fall and serious injuries. The accident occurred at the 62.3 km mark on the descent of the Passeur de Pralognan, an 8,421-foot mountain pass west of Chamonix, France.
It is believed to be the first death in the 19-year history of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc races in and around Chamonix.
A spokesperson for the race said the UTMB race organization is deeply saddened and wished the international trail running community to join in offering condolences to the family and friends of the victim.
When the accident occurred at 12:25 a.m. CET, the rescue team stationed on the course responded to the scene immediately and additional emergency personnel was called into action via helicopter support. Despite life-saving treatments, the runner (who is being kept anonymous until all family members have been notified) succumbed to his injuries. Because of the remote and complex nature of the rescue operations, the race was partially halted and the runners located at the Passeur de Pralognan, and further back, were instructed by the race committee to turn around and go back down to Bourg Saint-Maurice, where they were met and transported back to Chamonix.
The race began on Tuesday afternoon in Courmayeur, Italy, and runners experienced clear skies and cool temperatures through the night and into the early morning. The 293 runners who had already run through Passeur de Pralognan were allowed to continue on to finish the race, but the remainder of the approximately 1,200 runners who were turned back will not be able to continue.
Norway’s Erik-Sebastian Krogvig was the eventual winner of the TDS, making it back to Chamonix after 18 hours, 49 minutes, 58 seconds. The TDS race, officially known as the Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie, is the most technically challenging race during the UTMB week, with several craggy climbs and descents that require precise footing and balance.
“This is a tough section of the course,” reports Trail Runner Magazine contributor Doug Mayer, who lives in the Chamonix area. “You’ve just climbed 2,000 meters in about 10 km, then need to hold on to chains on the other side. They have a rescue group right there at this spot, always. It’s the most technical moment of the race.”