This, my fourth CSM, was a great day.
We were up at 6 am in our hotel in Montebello. After breakfast in the room shared by 5 of us we got the bus to the start and the four of us in the ‘Scrabbled Skiers’ team set off at around 8 am together with 100's of others in good weather with occasional snow flurries. The skiing was fairly easy. Michael shot off ahead, Helen dropped back, and Sue crashed. Ken, as a ‘Coureur des Bois’ had an earlier start.
Due to poor snow conditions in the east, this year’s route had been changed. It now comprised 4 sections each day, Sunday’s route being a straightforward reversal of Saturday’s. It was just 70 km each day instead of the usual 80 km.
I had never even dreamt of completing all the sections in a day, due to early cut off times and my inability to ski at any speed. But Sue and I stayed together and whilst she had quite a few falls over the two days, including one incident with a bush from which it took ages to untangle her, I discreetly removed my skies to deal with the trickier icy sections. (This is Not Cheating!) Towards the end of the third section I was baulked by a number of folk spreadeagled down a steep hill. Sue had dodged them but I’d stopped to allow them to tidy themselves away before flying down this exciting hill in what I thought would be my last action of the day.
But at the checkpoint Sue was shouting ‘they haven’t closed it’, so without a second thought I went straight through, being the last person before the 2.30 ‘cut-off’. Whilst Sue ended her day with refreshments at the checkpoint, I was now ‘last man’ having missed the refreshments, at the start of the 17 km section.
Time for some adrenaline to kick in!
I soon started to pass groups who had started between one and two hours earlier than us and had clearly rushed through the checkpoint before taking a break, so I was encouraged by all the overtaking. And then I spotted Linda, usually one of our team but this year attempting the whole course as a ‘Coureur des Bois’. I knew that she was taking the event very seriously and that her training had been completed before ours had even started. She wasn’t at all impressed to hear my cheery ‘hello’ – I was not someone she had expected to see at this point! Anyway, with the aid of a couple of drinks stations and a few chocolate covered raisins, I managed to maintain a good speed to the finish, in the tracks of Ken and Michael, who had been much quicker over the 70 km course that had taken me about 8½ hours.
The hot bath followed by a delicious a la carte meal at La Lanterne Restaurant concluded a brilliant day.
The following day Sue and I enjoyed a leisurely 56 km, knowing that we couldn’t possibly ski fast enough to manage the 2.30 pm cut off due to the configuration of the course and today’s short final section.
Even speedy Michael failed to make the cut today, but Ken, with his early C de B start, did succeed in completing the whole course and got the medal he’s been trying for over the past few years. His moment of fame came later at The Banquet, when he went ‘on stage’ together with all the others who had succeeded in this not inconsiderable Challenge.
[For those who do the TGOC, the CSM Banquet is a Canadian version of the Thursday night dinner, buffet style, but otherwise the same trusty format, with a French Canadian clone of Uncle Roger.]
Later we discovered that Linda was sufficiently traumatised to have stayed in bed on Sunday, having retired from this event ‘for ever’.
But Sue and I had got Silver and Gold individual awards, and our Scrabbled Skiers team actually received the Bronze Medal in the mixed touring team category. Wow!
Sue and I are sorry not to be able to take part in 2008; this event has produced some memorable days, not least my first attempt in 2004, recorded in all its gory detail here.