This is a premier European Alpine marathon. It's a very competitive mountain marathon starting in St. Niklaus and climbing continuously to Zermatt on paved and dirt roads from 3500 ft to 5000 ft. From Zermatt, the course climbs steeply on dirt roads and singletrack before ending with a monster climb in the final mile to end at 8500 ft.
Zermatt is car-free, so the road stops at Tasch and you must take the train into Zermatt. The race starts 13 miles down the valley in St Niklaus so you must take the train the morning of the race (race entry includes free transportation Friday to Sunday) to the start. Be sure to include your transportation ticket in your drop bag as you'll need it to get back down the mountain from the finish at Riffelberg.
Start in St. Niklaus by winding your way through the town. You'll now follow dirt and paved roads up through the valley towards Zermatt. Note that you'll be paralleling and crossing the railway tracks at various points (be prepared to be stopped by race officials at all railway crossings if the train is coming). Pass by Herbriggen, through Randa, and then through Tasch. The course is a gentle grade mostly with some pretty good road climbs at times up to Tasch. In Tasch, you'll start a long singletrack section on the Bahnweg Zermatt-Tasch
Stay beside the river and then beside the train tracks (the train will be on the other side of the river for a ways but then will cross over to your side). As the train enters a tunnel, the trail will snake up the hillside a bit and then straighten out again. As you begin to reach Zermatt, you'll pass Air Zermatt with its large helicopter "parking lot" and soon after the train station. Just as you reach the cavernous opening of the train station, take a left and follow the pave path down and over the tracks.
Proceed through the "main drag" of town, past the central church and as you reach the other end of town, watch for the singletrack on your right. Follow this singletrack for a short ways and then take a left at the trail intersection onto Edelweissweg to Zen Steckenstrasse
connector which circles a farmhouse and includes a bridge crossing over the Zmuttbach stream. This is essentially a 180, and now you'll head back into town on the roads. After you wind through town you'll start the longest climb of the day.
The dirt road of the Waldweg
starts by entering a nice shaded forest. It climbs steeply for an access road. The road winds it way 3+ miles up the mountain in three long switchbacks.
ends at Sunnegga. Continue a short distance more as the road starts to drop. You'll see a lake in front of you which is where you'll be headed. Follow the singletrack ahead, Leisee to Grindjisee
Take the trail around the left side of the lake but stay close to the lake. At the far side of the lake, the trail will continue on. At the first intersection head left. Now stay right until you reach the small Grindjisee lake. Head to the right around the lake, over a small wooden walkway and the trail will end at an access road.
Take a right on the access road. The road will immediately bend to your left and will soon cross a wide, flat wooden bridge and a right will put you onto another access road, Grunsee
Continue straight and stay right at the next road intersection (there will be numerous trail intersections the entire way). Before long you'll pass the Grunsee
lake a left. As you approach the Berghaus Grunsee
on your right, watch for the singletrack on your left. This is Grunsee to Rifflelalp
The trail enters the forest quickly and provides for rare shade in this area. The trail will eventually loop to your left and cross a boulder field though it is more runnable than it first appears. The trail will continue on and eventually will become a wide path alongside the train tracks as you reach Riffelalp.
At the Riffelalp intersection, turn left onto the wide access road, Riffelalp to Riffelberg
. The road will turn to your left and flatten somewhat before again turning right and climbing again. The road will flatten for a short time as you reach the train tracks. Now the road will climb steeply as it follows the train tracks to Riffelberg.
As the train and access road turns left, you'll see the buildings of Riffelberg. Here continue straight on a short connector, a short cut past the Riffelhaus on your right. This singletrack will climb the hill in front of you and then connect to the Riffelberg Chapel Loop
. Turn right onto the singletrack and follow it up the hill to the chapel on your right. Just past the chapel stay left at the next intersection. At the next intersection head straight and into the finish chute.