Hidden sides of the organization
The history of cross-border relations and in particular between AUZAT and ORDINO.
From the creation of the district in 1990, cross-border cooperation has been one of the strong axes of our action. First with Ordino and Andorra, but also with Spain and Allins, the Pallars, La Seu d'Urgell and even Barcelona.
Result of many meetings, exchanges, studies and reflections, was signed at the town hall of Auzat on September 25, 1992, an agreement of cross-border cooperation between the district of our valley and the commune of Ordino relating to life and development of this common space, formed by our two valleys beyond any border. Concretely, an action and development plan around four main axes:
COMMUNICATIONS (connecting road, networks of walking paths and hiking trails, paths for horse riding, mountain biking, tour of mountain refuges, and so on …)
ACCOMMODATION and WELCOME (construction and modernization of accommodation facilities in mountain and valley for individuals, groups and families)
ANIMATION and PROMOTION (events of all kinds such as sport events)
EXCHANGES in general (between populations, elected officials, economic and tourist actors, associations, young people, elders ..., opening of a clearinghouse on information and the promotion of the two valleys)
Some examples of significant achievements and operations:
Annual MEETINGS of the Port du Rat from the first year in 1992 with a gathering of populations and actors, alternating on one side and the other of the border, attended by 500 to 1000 participants. Human, festive, political and economic meetings,
Tourist EXCHANGES, setting up information points, leaflets common to the two valleys, joint services, hiking product from the 3 countries,
SPORTS EVENTS: creation of the Trail du Port du Rat in 1998, 50 km between Ordino and Auzat via the Port du Rat. And annual ski meetings in Arcalis,
SCHOOLS and YOUTH of the two valleys, annual meetings with drawing and storytelling contests. Meetings also between various associations in particular with seniors' clubs,
Annual photo CONTEST,
Common TRAINING of tourist and sports technicians,
Joint EVENT at the finish of a Tour de France stage in Arcalis.
But all this movement, all these actions, these achievements are strongly linked to the willingness of elected officials in place. Unfortunately, changes of mayors and municipal councils at ORDINO stopped this movement for about ten years. Fortunately resumed in 2009 after new changes and with new actions:
ENVIRONMENT: various reflections and in particular around the idea of a 3 Nations natural park and other actions,
BOOK on the history and relations between the two valleys, writing in Catalan and French of a book of more than 125 pages,
Make the BORDER a path to training: an important file resulting from joint work over several years, then presented to a European Financing Committee sitting in Spain, validation with more than 80% of grants and several years of achievements between 2010 and 2014. Development of a hiking path, the “meeting path”, connecting Auzat to La Seu d'Urgell passing through all of Andorra. Construction of an accommodation structure at departure and arrival. As for us in Auzat, construction of the Montcalm inn. Training being an important axis of the file, with as actors the French and Spanish universities: the Institute of Sports of Barcelona and the Paul Sabatier University of Toulouse (various actions: creation of a Master 2, training of students including sessions in Auzat, international promotion and marketing of the territory as a destination without borders, fairs, website, Topo-Guide… ..).
Dr Céline POIROUX
I ran my first marathon in the mountains without really knowing what to expect. Quickly in the last position, I rapidly realized that it was going to be complicated. Without the volunteers, I will never have been able to finish the race. And especially without the runner closing the race, and what a runner! He encouraged me, followed me, preceded me, fed me, hydrated me and brought me to the end of the race. Throughout these 10 hours I received the unwavering support of the volunteers.
It was then quite natural for me to accept the following year to be a volunteer myself. From one year to the next, I alternate the role of runner and the role of volunteer because every year, an irresistible force brings us back to Montcalm. Certainly, the strength of this organization team so enthusiastic, so passionate, so friendly, so welcoming. Certainly, these mountains of Ariège, so wild and beautiful.
What a wonderful memory this sleepless night at the Fourcat refuge during the first PICaPICA. Seeing each runner, telling him/her a word, filming the dance of a boosted competitor and finishing with our Sandrine who is decompensating and imitating ET. Moments shared with my daughter engraved forever upon my heart.
Thank you all.
David BOULAY : #daveesprittrail The ambassador of Montcalm
I came to the running in May 2015. I progressed quite quickly, I was motivated, I loved it .... but it is the mountain that I liked the most.
In 2015 I registered on the Trail of Miners to begin! Bing .... in the month of June, I learn that the race is canceled. I have no information on my paid registration. A few days later, I discover that Gilles Denjean wants to restart the race. I contact him through Facebook and I register again, this time successfully. Immediately, the relationship between us was very good! Except that I am talkative and you are calm, quiet, thoughtful, it's your nature. I appreciate you a lot because you are a very simple, nice, brave guy who totally get involved, with all his heart, like me!! It's the emotions that speak and the heart that vibrates.
I have a lot of memories but the one I specially remember from the 2018 edition is Yoko .... a girl who runs well, who is nice, sweet, simple and charming!
I took her back to Andorra the day before to take her bus to Barcelona airport to return to Japan. All along the way, we discussed through the translation tools of our smartphones. We laughed a lot!! I asked her “will you come back?”, she answered “Yes” ...
Once back in Tokyo, she said “thank you” and she was happy to have spent a wonderful summer in Auzat! in Ariège.
André FERNANDEZ, in charge of meals :
Since I started with the Vicdessos canteen team and thus as employee of the Tourist Office, then of the Com-Com, it was natural that we participate in this event, which closed for us a summer season, more and more intense over the years, followed by much quieter years at the local central kitchen under Didier DUFFAUT’s leadership.
From those years, I remember moments of great conviviality, always working in a good mood (even if it was necessary in the evening to resume the service for the groups on holiday).
But the most important thing about this adventure is when the Com-Com decided to withdraw and when Gilles with his team took over the lead of the Montcalm Challenge, which has become for some years now the major event of our valley (who would have imagined such a large and spontaneous mobilization?).
Now it's time for new challenges, which means to make what has been done sustainable and to make the PICaPICA something concrete (which is not an easy matter). After that, it may be time for me to make way to others (and to enjoy a more peaceful activity as a volunteer).
For my part, within this new and very close catering team around Alain WAROQUIER, it should work!
The path security team
Claude PAULY :
The idea of the Montcalm Challenge, launched by Alain and Bernard, was obvious to me: to combine sport, solidarity and discovery in our beautiful mountains. And with them, everything has always been possible! To put it in place, beyond envy, a professional of this type of race was needed: Jacques Soulié was therefore one of the first partners too. He practiced and mastered this discipline: skiing, mountaineering and mountain running, his skills were invaluable.
I put my own skills at the service of this beautiful project. As a mountain guide, a lover of mountains and nature, I wanted to provide a safe environment for future runners who would participate in this race. Safety was a leitmotiv shared by all, and I believe we have succeeded, for the pleasure of the runners, from the youngest to the most experienced.
From the beginning of the project, we had the free of charge support of PGHM (gendarmes) and SDIS (firefighters), faithful partners for 30 years now.
The first choice to make was that of the route: define a route, choose the right itineraries among all the proposals offered by our mountains and their paths.
Second essential and central point: set up a markup. An action just as demanding as essential. Again, we worked hand in hand with Jacques Soulié. Over the years, I have worked to transmit the keys of a quality markup. And today, the columns of volunteers go up alone and place the path marking tape. As a race manager, I just have to check. It is a great satisfaction to have been able to transmit this essential skill.
Security also involves the cordon sanitaire and the medical team. I thus brought doctors to accompany us in this adventure, that Mireille has federated for a long time. Jean, her brother, a volunteer doctor from the very beginning, remains faithful to the race. A very sincere thought to Jean-François Rouzaud, whom no runner without a medical certificate could avoid!
It is to Fabrice that I transmitted this mission a few years ago and who, as a professional, manages entirely the medical network.
My HQ since 1989 on the 24 hours of the race is based in Pinet. It is with Jean-François Chaumel that we lead the evacuation operations if they are necessary, in connection with Yves and Barbe in Auzat Command Post. My complicity with Jean-François is simple and obvious; some whistles on the radio and the Command Post knows for 30 years now that the transmitter is: Claude!
But beyond the technical skills, the logistics and the organization, these 30 years of Montcalm are also for me a beautiful family story. From the beginning, my wife accompanied me there by joining the paramedical team. In 1992, she was sleeping at the 2900 m pass and she was 5 months pregnant. Flavien, born 4 months later, will make all the scouting as well as the markup of the race with me from the age of 7.
As soon as we decided, for ever more security of the participants, to implement a last runner for each race, Robin, my elder son, then Flavien and finally Rémi, as soon as he could, have occupied these positions.
In 2009, for the 20 years of the Montcalm Challenge, Robin made me the joy of registering for the race secretly and I discovered him at the Pinet, for a nice time at the arrival of 6 h and 10 min!
In 2017, Flavien and Rémi received from Gilles a trophy for having crossed the finish line together, hand in hand, without having forgotten to place the markup the day before. Always an essential gesture for "Pauly volunteers" ...
The Montcalm, for me, is 30 years of happiness, investment and sharing. This is a baton change that I managed to pass to my children, and that I am happy to pass to the new generation. It’s up to them to highlight now this magnificent race, as beautiful as demanding, as are our mountains, with all the humanity that we have tried to inspire!
Daniel LACASSIN :
I participated in 4 editions of the Montcalm Marathon, the first of which in 1990 and I finished 2 editions. One year, I went all the way up with Bernard PIQUEMAL during his first participation to the Montcalm Marathon.
Before the difficulties of 2016, I had been a volunteer once at the Refuge du Pinet to help Claude PAULY. Since CAP MONTCALM has taken over the organization, I volunteer every year.
For my first year of involvement, I fixed the path of the Vertical Kilometer (clearing of the ground, cleaning of the path, stone paving when needed).
For the second year, I reopened the path that the elders used to take before 1966 and the creation of the road. I found some pieces of former paths and I reopened the path that connects Goulier to the Pic du Sarrasi by the ridge of the Cauderas wood. I started in September and I finished completely reopening the trail in June. I used to go up with my tools and my bottle of water. After 6 to 8 hours of work I was getting hungry, it was the signal for me to go down and finish my work day.
This trail is still used by the Vertical Kilometer and the PICaPICA.
Last year, with the creation of the PICaPICA, I worked a lot on the paths to secure them:
- Shaping of the firns at the Sulho pass and above the Pinet.
- Rehabilitation of the grassy parts of the trail to the Pic d’Endron, the last meters of the Malcaras pass, the ridge leading to the Bizourtouse pass and the descent between the Pinet and l’Artigue.
- Reopening of a wood cut in the forest above Saleix.
- Marking of the Malcaras and demarking the Vertical Kilometer.
- Securing the crossing of the streams at the Pla de Labinas and at the Riufret.
I spent many weekends in the mountains and I took two weeks off in early August to do all this work.
Last summer I had to go to the Malcaras 6 times. It doesn’t bother me at all because I love being in the mountains.
I am from Capoulet and Junac and I have known the Montcalm massif very well since I was a child. I started in 2011 with the hiking race because I was too young to participate in the Marathon. I then ran the Montcalm Marathon in 2012, 2013 and 2015 as well as the Vertical Kilometer in 2016 and 2017. Last year, being injured, I could not participate in the Marathon so I supported the organization of the PICaPICA. With my uncle Daniel, we secured the Pic de Sulho and twice, the firn over the Pinet and the ridge of Bizourtouse.
I also finalized the marking between the Arinsal pass and the mountain hut of la Croutz. During the PICaPICA, I was at the Pic d’Endron the first night and then on Friday, considering the terrible weather conditions, I had to carry an electric generator on my back up to the top of the Montcalm. Saturday, I took the opportunity to see the runners of the Marathon. Sunday, I removed the marking of the descent from the Malcaras. I also participated in the preparations for the 2019 edition accompanying Nahuel who measured the Soulcem to Soulcem loop using the maximum precision of his GPS.
The Logistic Team
Yves BORDES :
In the 75’s, I made the first Port de L’hers and Vicdessos free flights (the name “Vicdessos, the Flights Valley” comes from there). In 1987, first paragliding competition in the Pyrenees and in Risoul: direct flight down to Vicdessos ... and after of course, full speed to see the Montcalm races, on the roof of Ariège.
What could be more beautiful than seeing all these sport and mountain lovers competing up to the “Stone” ... In 1991 Robert Marty is there. He is the project owner to manage the mountain race with Gérard Martinez for the future project Andorra Auzat Vicdessos and we made the identification of the area skiing on the peaks of Caraussans.
We decide to start at midnight from the Pinet with our paragliders. The refuge is full, there are still people singing! ... 2am, we wrap ourselves in our rags and on the slope to sleep a bit. In the morning we find ourselves almost ... in the lake!
When the first rider starts the descent, we get ready to take off and ... who's in the lead? Jacques Soulère, the hare, the eagle, whose training is to run up to the Prat d'Albis and to go down... flying! We did not manage to catch him before the arrival of the race ... Hats off to "the Gallic"!
What an edition!!!
I came in the beginning to help Hubert - and it lasted I cannot remember how many years - because there was a need and I like to help as well as I like challenges.
Later on, it is something that became obvious to me and led me to the creation of a small file allowing to easily communicate the results of the race to the village square.
With the commentators of the race, Patrick Anné and Robert Vicente, we were (with Hubert) a good team, nicknamed the "Muppets”.
I have worked a lot as a volunteer, whether in snowshoe races (at the time) or in karting competitions (in many places in France) thanks to JC Sanchez’ friendship.
Also, in the paragliding competitions (local events in Foix, Vicdessos and Arbas but also for French Championship and World Cup events).
I am not from Auzat or Vicdessos but I am close geographically and I consider myself to be from there.
I appreciate that "things" are happening in this valley and the Montcalm races are one of those things. For this, we must congratulate and thank the people who are behind this event and we can only help them as best as we can because they could not do anything if they were alone. Moreover, it is important for the valley.
I think that like the “Tour de France”, it interests another audience but it promotes our beautiful valley.
The future will tell if I stay on the radio or if I get a new assignment, knowing that I am getting older and that physical condition does not move in the right direction …
Christian DEFRANOUX :
Through the cycling race “l’Ariégeoise” I discovered the Montcalm race whose atmosphere seemed to be the same.
I decided to get involved in this event.
Being a mountaineer, I asked René PAUDELEUX to assign me a position in the heights. With Jean-Claude SOUQUET, we held the position near the “Pique d'Estats” lake.
Since then, because of my age, I went down to the “Etang Sourd” where I have been assigned for several years now.
From the beginning of my participation, I remember very nice evenings at the Pinet refuge with Patrick, the refuge keeper, playing the guitar, and so on...
My involvement will remain as long as the atmosphere is what it is now.
I like getting involved in volunteering, meeting new people, exchanging ideas and making sure that these events will continue in this valley.
Béatrice GOURMANDIN :
On the occasion of a participation of the "Escagarols du MONTCALM" (who remembers?) on a hike to the “Pic des Trois Seigneurs”, and during a break in a cafe, Bernard sketched on a corner of a paper tablecloth the hypothesis of an ascent to the Montcalm for crazy lovers of mountain and challenges. "THAT’S WHERE I CAUGHT THE MONTCALM VIRUS".
I tore up and kept this piece of paper tablecloth which was the starting point of the "MONTCALM archives". Over the years I filed: race rankings, photos, table mats, etc... and everything has been stored with care for 29 years.
Maguy BORDES :
It is a small khaki tent installed on the Auzat village square...
I am inside this tent with for company a radio and a charger ... and here is the radio control station of the race with a direct view to the Montcalm and to the Pla Nouzère.
These two contacts, for the control station, are the only connection between the Pinet, without refuge at that time, and the other radio points that they must relay.
With my experience of the paragliding competition organized in Risoul, I thought I could be able to occupy the radio link.
Alas! it is not counting on the interventions of "Jeannot de Pla Nouzère": to give the run times of the runners ... to give his point of view ... to ask for news of the race ... in short, a lot of talking!
And this is the beginning of my exchanges with Jeannot, the very active guy on the radio frequency. Patiently, I remind him regularly that he interferes with the communications of the other signalers of the race ... who are precise and concise: Jacques Soulié, Claude Pauly, Jean-Pierre Pelipenko, in charge of transmitting to the radio control station the information coming from the "hidden" radio points and who still succeed to squeeze in between the exchanges. Long day!
It was 30 years ago. Jeannot the generous and talkative guy passed away, I physically met Jacques Soulié and Jean-Pierre Pelipenko only 3 years ago...
A mountain epic with some friends ... that was my first steps leading up to this mythical event.
Goulier, one evening early August ... 96 ... I think ...: "The “Pied de l'Isard” participates in the supervision of the Montcalm race, are you interested? "
"Well, yes, why not ..."
"And do not forget, on Thursday, you will have to take down your pack to the helicopter, otherwise, you will sleep under the stars!! "
And indeed, I have not forgotten!
Friday morning, wake up at dawn. Inventory and re-inventory of the bag, it's good, I think I have everything ... maybe be a little bit too much, I said to myself while lifting the bag ... well, we'll see.
Departure from Goulier at 7 am, "do not forget your pass" ... for me, it's all Greek, I will understand later!!
The path through the forest road seems very long to me. In the car, we are shaken like a snow globe!! I think that if it continues like this, there will be not much left to walk! SWEET ILLUSION ...
Once the cars are parked, we start the ascent and confirmed mountaineers or not, we are all driven by the enthusiasm of the shared adventure.
They had been talking about it for a while now ... and that’s it, we reach the "Montcalm tables", mythical place of the traditional snack break. Tongues are wagging, many stories to tell, the bursts of laughter disturb the quietness of this mountain corner.
But soon, the leaders sound assembly: "we have not arrived, we must leave! "
And the group starts off, trying to find the right pace.
The slope of the climb increases, the firn to cross is somewhat intimidating but we move forward ... and some begin to regret having chosen the "tin of sardines and red wine" breakfast ... they have heavy legs and they are getting short of breath!!
But no matter, we'll all get to the top, the "goats" in front, "the amateurs" at the back.
Montcalm, we are there!!!! For the "amateurs", aperitif at the top is mandatory ... the “goats” prefer to go directly to the 2900 pass to find a place for the night without pebbles ... sic ...
Arriving at the small terraces that were waiting for us, we hear a thunderous: "These places are reserved for the gendarmes!”. The voice came from the platform dedicated to the helicopter, right in front of us.
Gulp ... and if we had not heard anything ... now at work, let’s set up the tent!!!
In the evening, around the hot soup, we smoked the peace pipe.
It was ... a couple of years ago!!
Nicole DENJEAN :
The Montcalm: at home, in Auzat, it’s a reference, a symbol. Many associations, businesses, services ... incorporate it into their name.
We live at the foot of the Montcalm, it is part of our daily life ... it is our skyline.
Some forerunners, 30 years ago, had the idea of doing a mountain race, the Montcalm Marathon. According to the words of the elders, it took 2 days to reach it from Auzat. Well, we would see what these runners were going to do.
In a first step, I was the photographer of the race ...
I placed myself above the Pinet and on the way down, I photographed these women and men who seemed to be flying from stone to stone. I realized without a doubt that we had gone to another world, another dimension: the record was set at just over 4 hours ... maybe extraterrestrials?
Whatever the performance, each year the Andorrans of Ordino and some Auzatois, whose fathers kept the flocks together on the slopes of these mountains, meet each other around this Montcalm Challenge ... it has become a heritage sporting event around which locals, vacationers, all Montcalm lovers meet, because mountain is a beautiful adventure, a real story of friendship ... without borders ...
From the French “pic” to the Spanish and Catalan “pica”, runners from all nations, we are waiting for you ... welcome to all!
Isabelle PIRES :
The Montcalm, I fell into it 25 years ago! The organization of this event was part of our mission when we were working for Intercommunity. From the beginning, I was assigned to the registration of the runners and I stayed there, so today I am responsible for it.
Registration: a workstation full of stress and adrenaline! When we started, it was with Excel files in connection with the timing. Files compiled by Gilles, full of macros, which ended up making us crazy. One wrong manipulation and it was hell! As an anecdote, the timing was the ideal place for the new one who was pleased to take this job and very happy by this proof of trust given to him/her for a first participation. Then, at the end of the day, he/she swore not to do it again ... and was a little bit angry with us!
Today, we are of course more experienced because the timing is managed by professionals but it is still necessarily linked to registration! However, despite our experience, we sometimes have great moments of loneliness when unfortunate errors in bib numbers occur! When names are swapped, endless discussions shake our team, we wonder who is who, why this runner has the wrong bib, and how many "r" in this English name that we misspelled from the beginning and that nobody could pronounce anyway! All this stress to finally realize that all is going well, that the race is an expected event, which attracts every day more sportsmen and women and that almost all of them leave satisfied with the event!
Every year we like to tell ourselves those moments when we would have preferred to hide under the stand table, but we do not forget those moments where we were proud to present ourselves with the brand-new design of the Montcalm tee-shirt! Another of our prides, which we can brag about on a March 8, is the increase in number and performance of our female runners, which reminds us that next Monday, we should resume sport!
To me, this event is today much more than a race because it has remained the same from the beginning, our race: the team created it and remained united behind it. These are moments of friendship, nice meetings, the pleasure of seeing again runners, families ... but also moments of sharing and work.
For this thirtieth edition, beyond the sporting feat recognized by all, I hope that we will succeed in transmitting the joy that drives us, the volunteers and the runners, for this beautiful event that is the Montcalm Challenge.
Historical volunteers :
Alain LEPLUS :
Almost 30 years ago, the "Challenge of the 3000m peaks in Ariège" was created by the intercommunity. The objective was to accompany the development of the "Montcalm Nature Sports Station". Since its creation, it allowed to give a new identity to our valley, focused on nature sports, and to promote the human dynamics of its inhabitants. This sporting event with its innovative mountain character has brought together all those who wanted a future for this valley, abandoned by industrial evolution.
Over the years, we have been constantly improving the quality and reputation of this event by working on the safety, the respect of the environment, the friendliness and the strength of our collective. This challenge has become a reference in the Pyrenees and even beyond.
In 2014, this public-private dynamic, the foundation of this event, is questioned. What a shock!! What was this challenge going to become? What to do?
It is from our collective, based on 25 years of involvement, passion and friendship that a solution has emerged. All those who did not want to see this "monument" disappear gathered and mobilized to solve the administrative problems and to find the material and financial means.
Initially based on public initiative and management, this Challenge was able to survive in a new dynamic of more private initiative. The “Cap Montcalm” association has become the new base of existence and evolution while maintaining the most sincere and widest possible partnership.
Being involved in this adventure since the first day as an employee, it is now as a volunteer of Cap Montcalm that I continue the development of this sporting event that did not just resist but on the contrary, strongly developed by resuming its leading position in the fields of races, trails, sustainable events, cross-border events … This evolution gives it today an international reputation.
This great sporting event has become a powerful mean of economic development in this valley .... What a pleasure to be able to write it ... But it also commits us to the efforts to be made to structure our associative business while being vigilant about our values and our friendships.
Montcalm has not finished surprising us and giving us great satisfaction.
Gilbert PIQUEMAL :
I was seduced from the beginning by this challenge which develops the awareness of our valley and its peaks. We were forerunners on mountain races. Thirty years ago, no one was talking about trails, marathons in the mountains and even less ultra-trails.
I get involved in this adventure because of the good atmosphere between the volunteers, the very good relationship with the runners and for our "Dad" Bernard PIQUEMAL.
From the beginning, I took care of the mountain hiking race. The start was at the “Montcalm chalet”. Later on, we gathered everything on the Artigue car park.
I'm managing this place with a great team around me.
I remember the first hiking race. Claude had set up 3 paces: a slow, an average and a fast one, with 3 mountain guides. At the beginning, it was ok but after a while, it was a panic because all the hikers got mixed up. We abandoned this concept afterwards.
I also remember the start from the chapel of Marc: many runners paused to pray and especially the Catalans.
Long live to the Montcalm challenge and to the PICaPICA!!!
Let's keep this good atmosphere with all the volunteers and the runners.
For me, it's my thirtieth year, I've never missed an edition. Who would have thought that at first?
For this thirtieth birthday, I hope the sun will be there!
René PAUDELEUX :
I was a spectator on the side of the road and I helped a person who was giving water to the runners. I asked for information about the organization, this race interested me by its size. I decided to participate and get involved in this beautiful adventure by giving my time, my energy, to share this passion of the mountain and my experience with others. It is with joy that I meet elders, who often became friends from one year to the next one, and we recall memories of the old time. The pleasure of meetings, sharing with the newcomers, trying to attract future volunteers because this race would not exist without them.
The first year I started in the lower part of the race close to Marc.
The following year, I left with the Péchiney team to take the position at Montcalm Pond. We passed the Pinet refuge which was under construction.
Then come the 2900 coast (at the top, everything is different: storm, cold night, rain ...)
A few years later, Aimé asked me to replace him at the Pinet refuge.
For anecdotes (there are a thousand) it is not possible to answer in 4 lines.
Camp at 2900 :
The storm turns the marabou upside down during the night: everyone outside, in the cold, the snow, the picnic in the rain (long life to camping!).
With JPP, we blow up a bomb at the top of Montcalm at midnight.
Anxiety at night, under the threat of a storm, to make the decision with (JS) to evacuate or not the camp.
Great fright: To save time, the pilot of the helicopter asks to hang two nets for the hoist. The load is too heavy and he cannot lift it. He pulls on the side, the charge falls into a hole, pulls the helicopter down. Emergency unhook of the load under the helicopter with JPP (that’s quite something!)
Refuge of the PINET :
Ascent of the volunteers to the Pinet on Friday afternoon. Just arrived, bad news, the helicopter could not bring the nets because of bad weather. You have to build a team to go down, back to the DZ, look for safety equipment and supply for the runners.
The climb was difficult under the weight of loads, spontaneously some volunteers remained at the Pinet refuge came to meet their friends who are very tired to help them. (It's sportsmanship).
More fun, the descent of the water packs to the Etang Sourd with JL's mules.
On the descent, you are in front of the mules that push you with their muzzle if you do not walk fast enough. It’s no joke! You walk behind the mules, they are faster than you. You pull the reins to slow them down, they stop, you release and they jump 2 meters forward and you have trouble following them. Some were surprised and laughed a lot at this adventure.
Gilbert CUMINETTI :
I have never been a runner but I like to participate in the organization of sporting events. I have always enjoyed the Toulouse-Barcelona Trail, the Ariège Trophy, the Béarn tour or other team races, but the Montcalm Marathon is another dimension.
I am above all a lover of the mountains which are so beautiful, difficult sometimes and at times dangerous. What a pleasure to meet with friends at the top of a mountain and share unforgettable moments in a very simple way.
My friendship with Bernard Piquemal and Alain Leplus allowed me to discover this race, to be able to get involved as a volunteer. I have been in the organization since the beginning, and it is a real pleasure in August to meet again all the friends for a new edition. The fellowship, the friendship, the involvement, the conviviality and the gift of self, allow us to achieve feats to ensure the safety and the smooth operation of this extraordinary race. Gilles Denjean has federated around him a strong, efficient and professional team whose goal is to always improve.
At the very beginning, for three or four years, I was co-responsible for the camp at the 2900 pass and I keep some special memories of this period. I remember taking the helicopter for the first time and finding myself in the middle of these stones for setting up the camp. Where to locate the tents, no equipment, no areas with grass. We then prepared the place as best as we could with slates and some soil to settle for the night. The nights were long and we were looking forward to getting up in order to relieve our aching backs.
But what a pleasure on the day of the race to see and support Jacques Soulère who jumped from stone to stone like an isard. Each year we had a well-known competitor from Pamiers who often came by bike to the race, participated in it and then went back home on his bike. One day, when he passed in front of me, he asked me to tell him his time. His face was happy because he had improved the time of the previous year by two or three minutes. He was about seventy years old at the time. Respect to you, Monsieur Michel!!!
Generally, at the end of the race, the nets are prepared to get down the equipment and the bags and the manager waits for the last rotation of the helicopter to go back down into the valley. One year, I stayed alone in shorts and shirt waiting for the helicopter. Except that the person in charge of the rotations and the pilot completely forgot to make this last rotation and went to lunch. My battery was empty and therefore no more radio link, and moreover the mist arrived (maximum visibility of 30m). I did not dare to walk down because I was afraid the helicopter would come back and would not find me. I waited like this for two or three hours and at one point I heard the helicopter coming by the Riufret, I went on a firn so that he could see me more easily. The skids of the helicopter had barely touched the ground that I was already inside. I informed the pilot that we had to board the guy from the Montcalm lake. The pilot hovered and followed the path down. Fortunately, Roger went up to the “horns” and we were able to take him on board. And now how to reach the valley? It seemed to me that the blades were going to touch the rocks and that our last hour had arrived. All of a sudden, we found ourselves at the DZ area. Drops of sweat were running down my forehead, I shook the pilot's hand for a long time. Bravo the artist!!!
Pictures and memories, I have plenty and even if today it has become harder for me to spend two or three days on the “stone”, I am always looking forward to finding again the atmosphere, friendliness and fellowship that this event gives me.
Aimé MAURY :
Mr. Memory. Elected town councilor for more than 30 years in Auzat. Handyman with a great knowledge of the history of the village and its inhabitants.
I have participated in this great adventure from the beginning. I was elected to the town council of Auzat and I held various positions in the Montcalm race organization. At the beginning, I was in the mountains. I took the responsibility of the Pinet position. The evenings were boozy, we laughed a lot. But as I got older, I went down to take on new missions on the village square. I was in charge of recruiting volunteers, I made the link with the communal employees in charge of setting up the big tents, the setting up of the tables, the chairs, the reservation of the gymnasium ... In 2017, I trained and transferred my experience to Nadine Bertrand who replaced me in 2018. I gave her lots of little tips but I'm still in the organization team, to help as much as I can.
Bernard PIQUEMAL, the father of Montcalm :
The Adventure on Auzat begins at the end of the 80s. How to make this Country live if one day Péchiney closes its plant ...!!!!
What development to create new Activities and Jobs ...!!!! How to attract new populations and young families?
To achieve these goals, new tools were created: The Professional Tourist Office in 1987 and the District in 1989. Elected President of these two organizations, I also open the scope of the thinking on how to make people know this country and how to make them love it, how to differentiate from other mountain valleys? An idea is quickly agreed by all, even if it is new, innovative, built around our natural assets, our mountains, our heritage and our borders, our young people and athletes.
But what to do to promote the country, it was necessary to find something very new, particular and a little crazy ....... and as so often at the end of a meeting, around a table, a joke pops up on the summits of the Pyrenees: Vignemale, Montcalm and others ....
The next day I suggest to Alain why not organizing a big event with a race on the roof of the Ariège ... and immediately, with Claude’s support, the idea makes its way ... the following day, the whole team was working on the future “Challenge of the 3000m summits in Ariège”.
If I'm the father of this adventure, without the team around me, with Alain in the lead, this Challenge and many other things would not have emerged in this country.
With the trust of the colleagues, the team becomes larger and we test the feasibility in all its aspects. At first, many skeptical people, others thinking we were crazy, we had to convince and mobilize the human and financial means.
It started as an experience in the first years but this has been going on for 30 years now, a team with a hard core of actors and hundreds of volunteers, a state of mind, passion, involvement, solidarity, financial support and support from local Communities but most of all with thousands of runners coming from all over France and many foreign countries ...
The Dad turned himself into an organizer and a president of the event for 24 years, even into a runner (three Montcalm marathon and several Trails in the Valley) following a challenge with some friends, but also to see the race more in details and especially from the inside to identify the positive aspects and the opportunities for progress of the race in order to make it grow. All that, once again, thanks to Alain who during this period replaced me at the direction of the race.
The adventure was launched ... and the Montcalm Challenge began to be visible, to radiate and to put a magnifying glass on the activities of the valley with the creation of a mountain tourist station of a new kind, innovative, audacious: the Montcalm Sports-Nature Resort.
What emotions, memories, anecdotes ... with, in 30 years, the participation of thousands of volunteers, who have made year after year the success of this event.
A great human adventure, a tool also to bring people together, to joint efforts and to create social cohesion.
Even a cancelation of the event in 2015 by the current local elected officials and their threats that continue, have not changed anything so far. I am very happy to see the baby growing well in the good hands of a young guy from the country, Gilles Denjean (one of my assistants in the former organization team) who took over to continue the great adventure.
The event has grown, evolved, developed, become international and essential, while keeping its original spirit.
Very modestly, sincerely and with emotion, a big thank you to all the actors and participants in this great adventure of 30 years, for Auzat and for the valley, as well as for this extraordinary slice of my personal life.
Long live to the Montcalm Challenge.