MONTE ROSA SKY MARATHON: The highest race in the Alps. Boffeli and Maguet fly up to 4,554m and back. Our SECTION TRAIL RUNNING ITALY celebrates today a new edition of this alpine pairs race. Swedish twins Lina and Sanna El Kott Helander won the women’s.

Yesterday the Monte Rosa SkyMarathon 2021 was disputed, in another edition of the legend born in 1992 with the race that launched the skyrunning in the small village of Alagna Valsesia on the Italian side of the mountain. As many as 558 athletes from 36 countries took part in the third edition after the 2018 relaunch, a slightly reduced number due to Covid restrictions.

Maguet and Boffeli winners at  Monte Rosa Sky Marathon. Photo credit: Ian Corless.


With ‘just’ 35 kilometers long, the gravity of the race is measured with an exhausting vertical climb of 17,000 m to the Margherita refuge at 4,554 m of altitude that marks the turning point. Added to this unique skyrunning recipe is the challenging terrain over moraine, snowfields and glaciers. The second edition of the AMA VK2, a double Vertical Kilometer®, was concomitant and covered half the course of the main race, only uphill.


The route runs along the original route first completed in 1993 from Alagna Valsesia: The key altitude steps are as follows: Start at 1,192 m, to climb through the Bocchetta delle Pisse 2,396 m,. Continue to the cable car station at 3,260 m. From there continue to the Refuge Gnifetti, 3,647 m, Colle del Lys, 4250 m, and finally look for the summit in the Refuge Margherita, 4,554 m returning by the same direction to Alagna. The route ascends and descends on trails, ski slopes and through glaciers in a loop for a total distance of 35 km and 3490 m of altitude

This race requires true alpine experience: A high level of physical preparation, experience in high altitude mountaineering, knowledge of the risks of the terrain and ability to manage possible sudden changes such as strong winds and sub-zero temperatures. The route is an Alpine ascent, in its own right: It starts on mountain trails with demanding sections of ascent and descent, on snow fields, glaciers with cracks, exposed areas, steep grasslands and stony stones, possibly subject to severe environmental and climatic conditions, reaching the top at 4,554 m.

Apart from the ski area of Alagna in the Piedmont region, from Indren, the course crosses at Gressoney-La-Trinité in the Aosta Valley to Colle del Lys. From here, it is on Swiss territory to the summit and the Margherita hut in Italy.

Respect for the environment and solidarity with other competitors are among the main requirements of this high-altitude race.

Littering out of supplies is subject to a penalty of 3′ to 20′ or disqualification in more serious cases. Assistance from outsiders is allowed only within a +/- 100 m area of help points. The route is signposted with flags and duct tape and/or colored poles. Other signage can be communicated at the briefing and/or race day. Signage should be followed in plain sight before snowfields and on the exact course in the snow and glacier, subject to disqualification.


The Italian William Boffelli added yesterday the third victory in this race. Interestingly, he has achieved this by competing each time with a different partner. Today, he was paired with Nadir Maguet, winner of AMA VK2 in 2019. The rope paid off, crossing the finish line first in 4h43’58
The second men’s team at the finish were Franco Collé and Tadei Pivk in 5h01’28”.” Collé set the record with Boffelli here in 2018 in 4h39’59” and Pivk, a skyrunning champion, after many years out of racing, proved his prower once again. The third to close the men’s podium were Henri Grosjacques and Daniel Thedy in 5h13’07”.”

After a week of severe heat and zero temperatures, even at 4,300 m altitude, the snow was soft underfoot, adding to the challenge. To ensure the safety of runners, in addition to mountain guides, alpine rescue service and expert volunteers, runners should run in pairs, tied together. like any traditional alpine chordate. And they must do so, moreover, by wearing crampons.

In fact, the risk inherent in the race was seen when a crack opened under a competitor in the glacier that had deviated slightly. Fortunately, his partner was able to hold him with the rope. A mountain guide immediately arrived at the scene and the rescue helicopter was called. The injured athlete was taken to the nearest hospital in the Aosta Valley and is not seriously ill.

A great show of solidarity came from another pair of competitors who came to the scene after them to help, sacrificing precious minutes: André Jonsson of Sweden and Remí Français of Switzerland, who eventually finished in ninth place.

Boffelli statement: “I said ‘third lucky time’ before the race and I did! Certainly, my most unexpected victory, not because of my partner, but because I’m recovering from a small injury. However, I couldn’t stop participating again in the Monte Rosa SkyMarathon! We did a great race, from the beginning,” Maguet said. “We always push hard and after winning the AMA VK2 two years ago, I finally ran the whole course. The snow conditions weren’t ideal, but we had a great time anyway! “


The women’s race presented an interesting new twist with the participation of the best skyrunners, the Swedish twins, Lina and Sanna El Kott Helander, their first time running at such height, and a little worried. Faced with strong competition from Italians Giuditta Turini and Laura Besseghini who led 2019 to the final stages, the twins closed in 6h22’12.”

The Italian team Turini, Besseghini, closed this time a triumphant second in 6h31’30 “and a narrow third, were the Italians Marina Cugnetto and Roberta Jacquin in 6h32’35”.

It was no surprise that the best men’s and women’s teams were Italians, running at home, but riders from low-elevation countries like Sweden, who arrived worried about altitude, also knew how to compete as the champions showed.

El Kot Helander wome´n’s race winners. Photo: Damiano Benedetto.

El Kott Helander: “A wonderful race, a spectacular tour! We are very happy to have had the opportunity to race in this spectacular environment. We’re not used to the height but we didn’t have any problems at the top. The snow was melting quickly towards the end, but we managed to get there anyway!”


  • Top 5 MEN Boffelli-Maguet (ITA) – 4h45’58 «; Pivk-Collè (ITA) – 5h01’28 «; Grosjacques-Thedy (ITA): 5h13’07 » Felicetti-Beccari (ITA) – 5h20’39 «: Viret-Sévennec (FRA) – 5h29’01 «
  • Top 5 WOMEN: El Kott Helander-El Kott Helander (SWE) – 6h22’12 «; Turini-Besseghini (ITA) – 6h31’30 «;; Cugnetto-Jacquin (ITA): 6h32’35 «; Orinal (CZE) – Sperger (GER) – 6h38’57 «; Grandjean (FRA) – Bertschy (SUI) – 6h55’59 «

AMA VK2 (9KM/D+2.100M)

In parallel, the second edition of the double KV baptized as AMA VK2 was played. This time we saw American Hillary Gerardi steal the show. In 2018 she won the Monte Rosa SkyMarathon with Britain’s Holly Page and this year, unable to face the long race, she wanted to return to Alagna to drink the mountain air. Nine kilometers of pure ascent with 2,086 m of vertical ascent, this double Vertical Kilometer® perfect reaches a maximum of 3,200 m of altitude. He crossed the steep finish line covered in snow in 1h58’57”,, a new record.

Italy’s Corinna Ghirardi closed an excellent second place in 2h02’33”, while France’s Iris Pessey, a previous record, was third in 2h09’17”.

With the 2019 winner competing (and winning) the Monte Rosa SkyMarathon, first place went to Italian Damiano Lenzi in 1h32’13 “beating Nadir’s record by an incredible 9’48”. Switzerland’s Pascal Egli finished second in 1h38’15” and Italy’s Giovanni Zamboni closed the podium in 1h42’43”.

What was a man’s dream in 1992 became history, the story of a new and innovative sport. “The Monte Rosa SkyMarathon, the race that marked the birth of skyrunning, is here to stay!” said Marino Giacometti, founder of the sport and president of the International Skyrunning Federation. “The stage is set to repeat history, a legend in the making.”


Top 5 MEN Damiano Lenzi (ITA): 1h32’13 «; Pascal Egli (SUI): 1h38’15 «; Giovanni Zamboni (ITA) – 1h42’43 «; Martin Zhor (CZE): 1h51’47 «; Lloyd Donovan (GBR): 1h55’48 »
Top 5 WOMEN: Hillary Gerardi (Estados Unidos): 1h58’57 «; Corinna Ghirardi (ITA) – 2h02’33 «; Iris Pessey (FRA) – 2h08’17 «; Raffaella Tempesta (ITA) – 2h10’01 «; Chialvo Martina – (ITA) – 2h11’48 »



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