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Restart Rugby Alpine Challenge 2018 – Day Two

September 13th, 2018


RPA Group CEO & Founder Damian Hopley brings you all the action from the 2018 Restart Rugby Alpine Challenge…..


Monday 10th September – Buet Village to Refuge Pierre a Berard
1300m to 1925m 


Our bags are packed, our boots are padded and we are all set for the off. The kit list sent out by our fantastic trek organisers, Chamonix Hard Cross, is extensive, and I have to admit that I have actually bought some walking poles. For someone who used to wince at the thought of wearing hiking boots, this is a Damascus moment. I have reached an age where they have become both essential and a badge of honour. Good grief. That said, if anyone sees me walking over Putney Bridge with them, you know exactly what to do.

With overnight bags packed, we set off from Buet Village in Valloracine to Sur les Rochers 4km and climbing 250 vertical metres. The first 75 minutes climbing is brutal as the aftermath of last night’s energetic revelries take their inevitable effect. We are extremely fortunate that the weather is set to be stunning for the Trek, but temperatures of 25 degrees aren’t so helpful for the climb. Ed has bought his personal (and multi-talented) physio, Mike Denbee (aka Denners) to help him on the trip. Ed’s left leg is heavily strapped around the knee and he has a stabilising device around his walking boot to help him lift his leg sufficiently to climb. It is nothing short of incredible to see Ed clambering up the tracks and is a constant reminder of why we are all here.



Our first stop is for an excellent lunch, the group is moving well and, as we fill our faces with cheeses, hams and bread, spirits are very high. Our next destination is 7km away and another 375m of climbing. We will be spending the night at the refuge Pierre a Berard, some three hours away, and for those of you who know me well, this is not something I am looking forward to. I am more a towelling robe and club sandwich-by-the-pool kinda guy, so heaven only knows why we agreed to this change in the itinerary for this year’s event. I suspect I am not the only one who is terrified about what lies ahead.

The pace of the trek is steady, as previously mentioned, as this is the first outing for the  majority of the group so it’s important that we hydrate regularly and don’t spread out too far. The ‘esprit de corps’ is a key ingredient for this adventure and everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction.

We get into the refuge mid afternoon and our guide Sebastien suggests that there is a good ascent to a hidden lake some 3km away for those who fancy another couple of hours on their feet. The landscape is very different to previous treks and it proves to be a very challenging climb. As with all things mountainous, when we finally arrive at the destination it more than makes up for the strenuous approach. Led by former Wasps and Gloucester star Will Matthews, a former schoolmate of Ed’s, some of the braver trekkers decide to get into the lake for a cool down, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.




On descending to the refuge, we are shown our quarters for the night and I am horrified to learn that there is no spa on site. In fact, there isn’t much at all. One WC, one trough with four taps to wash with and our accommodation is a shared dormitory for 20 people. The majority of our group are staying in a dedicated hut, but eight of us have selflessly volunteered to go into a dorm with a group of German and French climbers. It is our very personal gesture to soften the Brexit blow.

There is a distinctly quieter mood at dinner as we steel ourselves for both an early start in the morning and a dormitory night spent with 20 fellow trekkers all crammed in like sardines and sleeping cheek to cheek. I become slightly hysterical but, as with all mountain men, I keep my emotions well disguised as I feast on a slab of over cooked ham and dry pasta. Yum.

Having met a couple of local donkeys who Daisy Hodgson takes an instant shine to (can’t think why), we all wish each other a bonne nuit and head up to face the music in the dorm. Andy Summers, a returning trekker from last year and all round top man, has drawn the short straw as the only available berth left for him is wedged in the eves of the pitched roof. If you imagine Ryan Reynolds in Buried you get the picture. As a former front row, Andy is a stocky, athletic individual who literally has to crow bar himself in. Andy also courageously confesses that he snores and physio/singer in-chief Denners is thrilled at the prospect of spooning Andy for the next seven hours.



I can barely contain my excitement as I get into bed, neither can Ali Stork, superstar of the CHX team, at the prospect of sharing a top bunk with five strapping men. Some girls have all the luck. Her husband, and CHX co-founder and fellow superstar, Damien, draws the short straw of lying next to me and he pushes me away as I attempt to spoon throughout the night. The night is one of the longest on record and poor old Denners has to endure a snoring performance from his bed pal that sounds like the advance on Leningrad.



In the other hut there is slightly less commotion, not helped, we learn over breakfast, by Daisy Hodgson’s fits of giggles and ghost story renditions minutes after lights out. Her husband and all time Premiership record points scorer, Charlie has heard it all before and slips gently into the arms of Morpheus unlike the rest of us.


Steps: 29, 498
KM: 23.01
Calories: 7, 572


To read Damian’s day three blog please click here


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