FKT: Guillaume Arthus - Via Alpina, Red Trail (Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Monaco) - 2019-10-28

Route variation
Original Red Trail 2500km
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
44d 9h 58m 11s

My name is a Guillaume Arthus. I am 29 yo ultra runner from France.  Starting September 14th, 2019, I will attempt to run [self supported] the Via Alpina Red.  I am aiming to set the FKT record of 43 days. Previous known record (more a rumor than a documented trace) is told to be 60 days on French forums.

Guillaume had a real-time tracker, but it stopped working in the final few days of the hike.  He posted his daily GPS tracks to Strava.  We copied his daily reports from Instagram below (which also contain many excellent photos, of course.

Day 1 (9/14): "VIA ALPINA - DAY 1  It is on! I started at 5:50. 8K done, only 2642km to go. Weather forecast is sunny for the 1st week.  There is some minor issues with the tracking web page: it shows only the last location and not the track. It is getting looked at ? (The safety team has access to the full data, so nothing to worry about)"

Day 2 (9/15): "76K topped the 63 of yesterday. It was a good day despite a lot of road sections. Likely the last ones of those until Monaco area. Fine by me ?"

Day 3 (9/16): "Only 52K done but with 4000m of elevation and one of the feared section, for its exposure and difficulty, is done. Perfectly on the expected target!"

Day 4 (9/17): "Done with Slovenia!  Followed the plan today and cruised through Triglav. I am heading to the town stop for the "night" and getting ready for Day 5 monster. The real test is tomorrow."

Day 5 (9/18): "The feared 1st long day with its 69K 4500m is slaid. 321K 16900m done in total ? that's only 12% ?"

Day 6 (9/19): "Rain, fog for 8h turned to a clear sky for an epic 15K on ridges. 58K 4300m today?"

Day 7 (9/20): "Dolomites ❤❤❤ Today was a transition day after the hard work of DAY 5 & 6. I finally got to this the heart of the Dolimites and it was amazing."

Day 8 (9/21): "Complicated to say to the least. Started by vomiting at 2:30am, felt like crap for 8 hours, managed to get some food down. I stopped earlier than planned to save the body and get some needed rest. I will be tomorrow 4h behind schedule. Not so bad for 8 days. Will see what comes next. Somehow I still clocked 60K. No idea how."

Day 9 (9/22): "Sunrise above #Anterselva and a 7K D+1600m to kickstart the day. Still in recovery of sickness. I am getting better but had to make the day somehow shorter to secure the stomach get fixed."

Day 10 (9/23): "It started so well in Italy. Glaciers, amazing speed and a monstruous sandwich gracefully made by the hut the night before. Didn't ask for it, they just did to help the Via Alpina. Then I crossed the border to Austria. Rain. 80kph wind, 0 visibility... for 8h. Drying out as much as possible before going to bed. This is going to be the clear challenge of the next few day in Austria. The entire weekend is forcasted with rain. Don't care. Bring it on. I'm ready."

Day 11 (9/24): "The clear day before the rain. It is quite a perfect day with a sweet mix of everything the Alps have to offer. Sunrise, sea of clouds, fresh air, bliss,... heaven. But tomorrow will be hell. 12 hours of heavy rain expected. So I am making sure DAY 11 is a big one because the following 48h will be damnation. Bring hell Austria. I got you covered."

Day 12 (9/25): "A crazy good day! 1/4 of Via Alpina done. Less than 2000K to go. Reached the 4th country: Germany. Logged 60K+ Only 1h of rain instead of 12 in the forecast. The best part? I caught back all my delays from being sick. I nailed it. EPIC."

Day 13 (9/26): "Like that tree, it was a mess. Rain, hostile terrain, fog,... I fell several times because of mud on downhill and manage to damage my jacket. It will need some duck tape. But like that tree, it is still standing. Reached where I wanted for the day. Clearly the hardest day so far. A true mental battle. Can I see sun now?"

Day 14 (9/27): "A hidden gem. The valley was supposed to be random without anything special. I was wrong. It kept on giving."

Day 15 (9/28): "1st third of the Via Alpina being done, it is quite nice to see the pace still hold. Tomorrow is a monster day. 69K D+4500m. Let's see how it goes."

Day 16 (9/29): "Incredible Liechtenstein! By far the most scenic day of the Via Alpina. This is not even close. The exigent path delivered blow after blow of epicness. I am speechless by the diversity of the trails of the day. A day to remember as one of the best one ever."

Day 17 (9/30): "Broke 1000K! Technical day to say the least. I reached the expected target but the trails were of the most commited ones so far. They also removed the bridge across a violent glacier torrent that forced me to make quite the detour just to find a way to go across with acceptable levels of risks. SO COLD."

Day 18 (10/01): "GOT IT BACK! After forgetting my pack of electronics and passeport at last night non garded hut, I had to find a way to fetch it. Receiving worldclass help from a hotel front desk, I arranged a 6h round trip with a taxi to get there. It was in the hut still, hidden under a blanket. Obviously the Via Alpina schedule took a hit, but it is still alive. Let's go back to the grind."

Day 19 (10/02): "With a late start as I was getting the electronics back, I still made good progress and reach the Stelvio pass under rough conditions: hail and snow. I found an abandonned building with more holes that a roof for the night. It will drop sub 0 for sure within couple hours."

Day 20 (10/03): "After sleeping in sub 0C temperature, the start was filed with wind and snow while going down the #Stelvio. The day was quite efficient with its 70K, allowing me to catch a part of the lost time. Still many hours to get back. Still many days to go. Less than 1500K to go."

Day 21 (10/04): "Another sub 0C night, but this time with a 00h30 start. There are 161 official stages of the Via Alpina. I do 3.7 on average. They usually range around 15K each. But not in that section. They all are 20K+, making it quite hard to see true progress is being made... besides loging 65K+ days."

Day 22 (10/05): "Snow day! ❄❄❄ 15K today was on crispy fresh snow. The 5cm layer was just enough to turn the mountain white and make lovely sound and feeling of opening a fresh trail. Accumulated delay from the bag event was up to 3 Rs (1R = 1 of the 161 official leg of the Via Alpina). After 3 days of grinding, it is down to 2! 9h late out of 22 days, not bad. "

Day 23 (10/06): "Half way and half frustrated. Despite starting the 2nd half of the Via Alpina, today was not fun. I couldn't make any speed. The fault? Maybe a little down in my constant grind attitude as I scored the big 1/2 landmark, but it is rather due to the horrible terrain. A 7K D-1400m followed by a 8K D+1600m. It wasn't easy under the foot either. To "top" the day, the right shoulder of my waterproof jacket is heavily damage and no longer waterproof. Left shoulder could follow at any time. Oh, and it will be raining all night until 7am. I think it is the Via Alpina way to tell me: "you got 50%. The last 50% is going to take you double the effort". I am ready. (But tonight, a bit pissed)"

Day 24 (10/07): "Injury, jacket and out of focus. Right of the bat, 2h in, I hit my knee on a slipery rock. Not damaged seems to have been done to any tendons but the pain is lasting. Hopefully the night will fix it. I found a replacement jacket. I had to wait an hour for the shop to open but it was worth it."

Day 25 (10/08): Switzerland.  "A crazy down:D-1400m in 4.5K. The steeplest piece of trail I have experienced of my life. The knee held like it was nothing. Hit only is confirmed, no consequences. This night, snow ❄ is expected from 4 to 7 am. The problem, I am supposed to be on a 2800m pass followed by 5K of blocks with kern navigation. I don't really want to risk that as it is a legit safety concern. I specifically flagged that section as such in my plan. What are the options? Option 1.Kill the day now, have a late start and pass around 12 when snow will have somehow melted. Or... there is option 2. Going for it now before the snow starts. That means no sleep tonight."

Day 26 (10/09):  Switzerland. "Taking my responsibility against the elements. Option 2 was taken. 1st pass was indeed giant blocks. It was the good call. Falling asleep mid descent, I found a chapelle and get 2h of sleep. I head to the 2nd pass. -4C, 40kph wind and light snow fog. Crossed the Rhone... and it them proceeded to rain hard for 7h... I am liquid. Via Alpina just delivered its worse weather day and, despite some heavy grunting/shouting/screaming, I got through. Also, I am now down 2Rs vs 3Rs since the bag incident. 9h diff vs schedule after 26 days. Time for rest and to do it all over tomorrow. But today feels like a hard battle. I won this one."

Day 27 (10/10)  57.6km: "Glorious. Le Valais delivered stunning landscapes all day with somehow easy trails under the foot and much more. It feels fantastic to have a "recovery" day and yet deliver K & D+. It is giving me a great opportunity to ease the body before the last 3 days of #switzerland that will require full commitment. I passed the 1500K mark. I am N°1 on strava worldwide for D+, N°2 for K in Oct. What a glorious day." 

Day 28 (10/11)  58.1km:  "Snow scare with slick shoes. The day eventless until the final pass and its unexpected snow on the ground in 30° slopes. My shoes totally gave up on traction. They have been surviving 1550K at that point and had less scupture left than roads. Only giving up after all of that? Damn those were good. Legendary. I chased down the clock to #Adelboden before 6, which I did with 15min to spare.That would be my timeframe to find a pair of trails in 48FR/12US. I somehow found that. The other pair is now gone. Trashed? Of course not, they are on their way to Paris."

Day 29 (10/12)  59.5km:  "A bit of paradise. Good mileage, good elevation, crazy landscapes. The sunrise was a bliss, the passes were committed yet still fun, the weather was charmingly warm yet not to hot. Perfect."

Day 30 (10/13) 54.4km:   "Despite ice on the trail at sunrise, I managed to take a safer official variant and got through.  But I was still concern by the next pass which was at similar altitude. This video is that very moment of discovery. A great news. Less than 1000K to go! Quite exciting to move from 4 to 3 digits. One momth has now passed and I am quite please to see my mind and body holding still strong. The 43 days target seems to be gone as I am closer each day to get a full day behind schedule. 1 day loss for 30 days. That's only a 3% loss. Not bad at all. I would I signed for that. Sub 45 is still plenty in reach and I am super fine with that. That would still put a 15 days lead on the previous record."

Day 31 (10/14) 59.0km:  "FRANCE + D+100K done. That's nice ? Fully restocked and prepared for tomorrow 12h rain above #chamonix."

Day 32 (10/15)  61.8km:  "Barely 2 meters away. Unbelievable. this big horn allowed me to keep my temper under all this wetness. Rest of the day was rain and fog for 10h..."

Day 33 (10/16)  68.3km:  "Goodbye Swiss ??, Hello Aosta! [Italy] Switzerland is now completed. Feels amazing to finally close another country. This morning border crossing was fun in the fresh snow. The lac at the top was a nice touch too."

Day 34 (10/17)  65.5km: "Snow, Tarentaise, Snow. ❄?❄ Leaving Italy for a while, compacted snow and ice was the departure gift. After crossing all day a balcony trail to head to #Tignes, the winter refuge will be above 2800m tonight. Needless to say that snow will be there. The only question is how much. Either way it will be a late finish and a short night: rain is expected tomorrow. Hopefully I'll back moving before it even starts so that I can get down to #Maurienne safer."

Day 35 (10/18)  72.3km:  "It was supposed to be rain all day. Only got few drops. The opportunity was too good not to be taken. I pushed and got an extra 10K in. Also, I broke 2000K today. This is awesome. "

Day 36 (10/19)  59.9km:  "No rainbows without rain. Straight from the start, the rain kicked in for 10h straight. I focused ln on the good vibes received since the start by everyone and posted a little something about it. Believe it or not, it made the rain stop. Powerfull vibes. Today's objective was to have a short 47K day and find a warm place to dry everything for the night. Original stage length day was 57, of which I did 10 in yesterday's surge. With no refuge open at the target finish, I need to add 4K.
57-10+4 = 51, right? Well for the Via Alpina it actually means 58. After my body, my mind take ghe cold shower. Rain is outside and inside. I put my head down and went to work. While on top of the 3rd pass of the day, I recognized the trail. I've been here before. I was there during my very first trail race, the "Trail des Ecrins". My mind went full rainbow."

Day 37 (10/20)  54.6km:  "Via Alpina is getting ready for a punch. Today was fine. As people start to see the dot moving closer to Monaco, some think it is a done deal. This is wrong. There is still a Tor des Géants and a UTMB to go: 500K. The Via Alpina knows it an is sending a reminder. Day 38 & 39 are marked as the hardest of the trip. The 2 worse D+ / K ratio, 60K+ distances to cover and hard terrain. This is the make or break moment. The Via Alpina decided to not go easy on me and tossed everything for those 2 days to come. Rain for 36h, potential snow on passes, 0 refuges open, and no food supply since 78K ago, making this a 212K without supply. I will run lo on food, sleep, batteries, warmth and Ks. But I will keep calm under this blow. I will stand my ground. Bring it Via Alpina. I was born ready."

Day 38 (10/21)  59.9km:  "Resilence and trail angels.  Last night, as I came across 2 trail runners heading up while going down to Ceillac.  I asked if anything was open for a night and a meal as I am doing the Via Alpina. They instantly invited me to their home. What a lovely treat only topped by the kindness of the entire family, the 500g of pasta they let me devour and a full day worth of food they gave me. Trail angels. Today was just rain and I was ready to cave the last of the 4 sections of the day even before going to bed. My legs though otherwise and let me glide at good pace despite 11h of rain. I made the 4 sections and it feels amazing to clock this one. Tomorrow will likely see a loss of section, a quest for unfoundable food supply and much more. The hardest day of the Via Alpina is tomorrow. Brace for impact. I am heading straight in it. Love it."

Day 39 (10/22)  51.7km:  "Massacre confirmed. Via Alpina is putting all in. Terrain is horrible, fog and rain at night, and... closed all the shops. I had 2 options to restock today and they are both closed... making the original 200K stretch without resupplying a 360K one. The next shop is in 3 days and I have 1.5 of food on me. All houses are empty, refuges are closed and without winter spaces. I might even run out of electricity because of the GPS shenanigans. All I have is water, before it is raining all the time. But I will prevail. I will find a way. I will crack this."

Day 40 (10/23)  57.4km:  "Hunger and food. The night was aweful. My stomach was screaming for food. By 5am, I had eaten the 2 bars I had planned for the day, which should have hold me until 8am. I start the 1st sandwich, knowing that has this rate, my supply will run out in 1.4days instead of 2.6 required. I am still starving and pissed I myself. I cannot control the hunger. It is eating me alive. In the middle of the 3rd section of the day, there is a little dot on the map. A few houses I think, as always. Nothing will be open, as always. There is actually a hotel there. There is actually light there despite looking closed. It is closed. But the hosts live there all year. He opens the door. He has more food for sell than an actual shop. This is paradise. I restock and when back at it. The following days just got an all lot easier thank to luck. I think the Via Alpina realized thzt 360K without resupply was to harsh and went with only 280K. GPS is dead. We move to spreadsheet."

Day 41 (10/24)  38.4km (passed into Italy):  "Ice Ice Baby. The worse combo with ice is a steeple pass with big blocks and kern navigation. Guess what happened this morning? Yep. Took 1h30 extra to get throuh safe. 100% worth it. I saw a piece of blue sky this morning. First time in 6 days. Paths are torrents, river crossings are knee deep and I just want a day of dry sun. GPS update: KO for the rest of the trip. Manual tracking is in place with Safety Team but require that I have phone signal."

Day 42 (10/25)  70.0km (to Ormea, Italy):  "Tears were shed. How many days did it took me to have a mental breakdown on the trails? The answer was 42. After 10 days of rain, no warm food in 5 days, no food left in the bag, I was starting to lose it. The tipping point was when I realized I needed to log 70K +3000m to make it to a warm place with sleep and food instead of 54. I broke down bad Then, I picked myself up and grinded for 9 hours straight to reach Ormea. It was bloody hard, but I won that battle. Let's finish that bad boy."

Day 43 (10/26)  48.3km  "Feet are dead, couldn't care less. The pain is real as the damage of 10 days of rain is real. Each step is felt. I do 96000 steps per day. Ouch. Tonight, I will have 110K to go. Highlight of the day: I saw the sea. That flat blue thing I left 1000h ago (yes, that's the actual number) Just need a bit more grinding and patience for Monaco now. Keep calm and Via Alpina."

Day 44 (10/27)  "Final push. With Monaco getting so close, it is hard to keep pushing without getting bored of how much there is still to go. But I move. 55K to go. So close. I just want to see the end now. Pyrénées' tactic is triggered."

Day 45 (10/28) Done!  "I finished the Via Alpina in 44d09h58m11s. Words are failing me to describe how I feel. I will start by thanking you. Your comments, your messages, your encouragements. It made it all possible, especially during those 10 hellish days between Nevache and Mercantour. Thank you."