Kilian Jornet to take on the fastest #VK in the world – #Fully


KM Vertical de Fully is the fastest VK in the world. Italian VK legend, Urban Zemmer holds the record – a stunning 29 minutes and 42 seconds recorded in 2014.

Overlooking the village of Fully , the very steep path measures exactly 1000 m in altitude. The course uses an old former railroad that has a gradient of 60% and a total distance 1920m. In other words, it’s super steep!

Every 100m, a marker is placed on the track to enable participants to count down the meters to go and to manage the pain and effort.

The arrival to “Garettes” is located 1500 meters above sea level.


This weekend it will be the big showdown, Kilian Jornet will take on Urban Zemmer and Zemmer’s fellow La Sportiva teammate, Marco Moletto.


Taking place on October 22nd, Kilian will start at 12:11:00, Marco Moletta 12:11:40 and then Urban Zemmer 12:12:20.


It’s a tantalising prospect, 30 minutes of pure pain for the legs and lungs, who will come out on top and more importantly, will this competition bring out a new world record?

Kilian may not have conquered Everest in 2016, will he conquer Fully?

In the ladies’ race, VK specialist and record holder, Christel Dewalle will be the outright favourite. Just last weekend she won the VK at Limone Extreme and was crowned the 2016 Skyrunner World Series Champion of the VK distance. Christel’s record is 34 minutes 44 seconds also recorded in 2014.


The full race start list is available HERE


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Limone Extreme 2016 VK and SKY Preview – Skyrunner® World Series


The 2016 Skyrunner® World Series draws to a conclusion in Limone, Italy. The stunning Lake Garda and the mountains that back onto this iconic location provide a wonderful playground to Friday’s VK and Sunday’s SkyRace.

It’s been a long season of Skyrunning with many new races, new experiences and with four champions already announced – Jasmin Paris and Jon Albon for the EXTREME and Cristofer Clemente and Gemma Arenas for the ULTRA – VK and SKY champions will be confirmed in Italy.


VK starts – 1800 Friday Oct 14th/ 3.7km 1080m+ ©iancorless.com_Limone2015-7046

Ferran Teixido currently leads the 2016 VK ranking ahead of Jan Margarit Sole and Andrej Fejfar. All three will race in Limone looking for maximum points and the crucial 20% bonus. For the ladies, Laura Orgue leads Christel Dewalle and Maria Zorroza – as with the men, the top 3 contenders will race.


But the racing does not stop there, arguably, Limone Extreme VK has the best VK line-up of the year with a multitude of talent toeing the line. Marco Moletto, Hannes Perkman, Nejc Kuhar, Rolf Einar Jensen, Luka Kovacic and the unstoppable Urban Zemmer. It’s going to be a seriously competitive race but more top names will contest the top 3 podium places.


Pascal Egli and Alexis Sevennec will race hard along with Oriol Cardona Coll. Pere Rullan may also race after long injury problems and the possibility of Philip Goetsch racing against Remi Bonnet and Stian Angermund is a very exciting prospect. This may well be a course record year!


Racing in the ladies’ race is equally competitive, for sure, Laura Orgue and Christel Dewalle and pre-race favourites but Francesca Rossi, Serena Vittori, Oihana Kortazar, Beatrice Deflorian and Celia Chiron amongst others will push hard up the winding trails to the summit that looks over Lake Garda.


A unique feature of the Limone Extreme VK is that start time! Starting as darkness arrives, the runners ascend the 1000m under the illumination of head torches as lights of Limone glow in the background – it is a truly spectacular VK!

SKY – 11am Saturday Oct 15th/ 27km 2450m+

Tadei Pivk heads up the 2016 Skyrunner World Series ranking with Hassan Ait Chaou and Pablo Villa Gonzales in 3rd. Young gun, Jan Margarit Sole is placed 4th and he may will be a surprise contender for a top 3 placing but he will have a tough fight from the Casal Mir brothers, Oscar and Marc. In addition, Kiril Nikolov, Adrien Michaud, Alexis Sevennec and Andre Jonsson will run – victory could come from any of these top runners.


But as in the VK, the list does not stop there; Ondrej Fejfar, Aritz Egea, Albert Garcia, Rolf Einar Jensen and a potential victory may well come from Mr. Skyrunning, Marco De Gasperi. But ultimately, Remi Bonnet will return after a year plagued by injury. Last year he dominated the Limone SkyRace and VK, can he do it again?


If he does, he will have to beat the Skyrunning World Champion for the VK and SKY distance, Stian Angermund. Stian has been on fire in 2016 and is without doubt a favourite for victory! Salomon will also send Micha Steiner, Davide Magnini, Stian Aarvik and Stefan Knopf.


As stated, the line-up for the Limone Extreme SkyRace is extensive and dark horses will no doubt appear from the sidelines.


Megan Kimmel has been on fire in 2016 and leads the Skyrunner World Series ahead of Laura Orgue and Ragna Debats. Last year, Megan had a below performance at Limone and it lost her the Series title, I don’t think that will happen this year! Laura has had a long year of racing and has shown some fatigue at times, however, she has had an opportunity to recover recently and for sure she will push Megan all the way to the line.


Yngvild Kaspersen will also run and has great potential for a podium place. Caroline Chaverot (Skyrunning World Champion for the ultra-distance) is a surprise entry and my gut reaction is that this race will be too short for her? It will certainly be interesting to see how she performs – she is an incredible talent!


Celia Chiron, Sheila Castano, Aitziber Ibarbia, Michaela Mertova, Maria Zorroza and Nuria Dominguez all add to a stellar line-up!

Skyrunning was born in Italy, it only seems appropriate that the traditions and ethos created on the slopes of the snowy Alps should now be carried forward on new mountains and in new places such as the Creste Della Mughera mountains that back on to Limone sul Garda.

Race website here VK information here SkyRace information here

Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott RunningCompressport and Salomon.

About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.

The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents. is the official photographer and media partner for the

Skyrunner® World Series

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Running or Walking Efficiency when Climbing


VK world record holder, Urban Zemmer

Recently I have produced a couple of articles about how to ensure that you are an efficient walker when participating in long or mountainous events. You can read them HERE and HERE.

The first article discusses Training to Walk for Ultra, Trail and Mountain Running and the second article is about Walking, Running and Climbing with Trekking Poles.


On December 15th, the University of Colorado Boulder released a document called, CU-Boulder researchers discover optimal range of slopes for extreme uphill running.

This article made me take a look and read in-depth for two reasons: first and foremost it ties in nicely with my previous two articles but more importantly and secondly, research into VK data dates back some 16-years and was pioneered by the ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) who created the VK format as a racing discipline.

To clarify a VK is 1000m of vertical ascent and the objective is to climb the elevation gain as quickly as possible. The original context of the VK always was about research and data.

VK courses vary greatly but the ISF consider a true VK to be under 5km in length. To understand the variables, some VK’s, for example the Dolomites are just over 2km in length. By contrast, Limone Extreme is a considerably longer course with a less extreme gradient.

Fully, Switzerland has long been a testing ground for VK performance and a post from the ISF which was updated 22nd October 2012 adds some very clear and specific points to consider:

“Italy’s Urban Zemmer rocketed up the 1,000m vertical course, only 1.9 km long, in just 30’26”, 20 seconds faster than the standing world record set here in 2011.”

In addition, the ladies records tumbled:

“French runner Christel Dewalle was first in 36’48” followed by Axelle Mollaret in 37’44” and third, Maude Mathys from Switzerland in 37’56, all beating the previous world record set two years ago by Italian Valentina Belotti in 38’50.”

Notably, the ISF commented:

“The new men’s record nears a speed of 2,000 vertical metres per hour (precisely 1,971m) an incredible ground-breaking performance that the ISF has been monitoring for many years in a scientific research project… Depending on the course and type of start, poles are permitted and yesterday, most of the runners used them.  However, to date, the advantages of using poles has not been scientifically demonstrated.”

In 2014, the record for the VK was once again broken by Urban Zemmer at Fully, Switzerland with the incredible time of 29’ 42”.


Remi Bonnet prefers to run a VK and never walks

So by simple logic (I am no scientist), it would suggest that the steepest course is the fastest as Fully is only 1.9km long. To quote, Run the Alps,The Vertical KM race in Fully, Switzerland is considered to be the fastest vertical kilometer course in the world. The race, held on a former funicular route, is home to both the men’s and women’s world records.”

You can watch a YouTube clip of the 2013 Fully race HERE

Watch the video of Fully and you will see varying techniques, some walk, some walk/ jog, some (most) use poles but one thing is consistent, the effort is almost maximal for all. Therefore, in a non-scientific look at Fully, the fastest performances come from the genetically gifted who have all the elements required for an optimum VK performance: lung capacity, V02max, lactate threshold, power to weight ratio, technique and so on.


Marco de Gasperi like to mix running and walking

But what about the optimal slopes for uphill running as questioned by CU-Boulder. They posed the question:

“Imagine that you are standing in Colorado at a trailhead where the base elevation is 9,000 feet. Your friend challenges you to race to the summit of the mountain, which tops out at 12,280 feet, roughly 1,000 meters of elevation gain. There are several different trails that go to the summit. They are all steep and some are extremely steep. One trail averages a 10 degree incline and the sign says it is 3.6 miles long. A second trail averages 30 degrees, but is only 1.25 miles long. A third trail averages 40 degrees, but only 1 mile long. To get to the summit the fastest, which trail should you choose and should you walk or run?”


Poles or no poles on a steep gradient?

This is a question that the ISF have asked and researched for many years. A paper titled, “Energy costs of walking and running uphill and downhill at extreme slopes” looks into this:

Davide Susta, Alberto E. Minetti*, Christian Moia and Guido Ferretti

Département de Physiologie, Centre Médical Universitaire, 1211 Genève 4, Switzerland, *Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Manchester Metropolitan University, Alsager ST7 2HL, U.K.

The energy costs of walking and running (Cw and Cr, respectively, in J kg-1 m-1) increase with the slope uphill (up to +20%) and decrease with the slope downhill (down to -10%) (Margaria, 1938; Margaria et al, 1963). Outside this range, no measurements of Cw and Cr are available in the literature, even though walking and running on the mountains at greater slopes is becoming commoner and commoner practice in leisure and sport. We therefore set out to carry out the present study, the aim of which is to determine Cw and Cr on men walking and running at slopes up to +45% and -45% on the treadmill. After local ethical approval, 10 subjects (Skyrunners) were admitted to the study (age 32.6 + 7.5 years, body mass 61.2 + 5.7 kg, maximal O2 consumption 68.9 + 3.8 ml min-1 kg-1). They are all endurance athletes practicing mountain racing. O2 consumption at the steady state was measured by the open circuit method, using Leybold O2 and CO2 analysers and a Singer dry gas meter. Heart rate was measured by cardiotachography. Blood lactate concentration was determined after each run as a check for submaximal aerobic exercise.

Each subject performed up to three walking and three running trials at progressively increasing speeds on the level, and at the slopes of 10, 20, 30, 35, 40 and 45 % uphill and downhill. The duration of each trial was 4 min, and expired gas was collected during the 4th min of exercise. Minimum Cw on the level was: 

1.85 + 0.57 J kg-1 m-1 (n = 10) at the speed of 0.69 m s-1. During uphill walking, Cw increased with the slope, to attainthevalueof18.08+1.57Jkg-1 m-1 (n=9)atthespeedof0.69ms-1 andat the slope of +45%. During downhill walking, minimum Cw was lower at the slope of -10% (0.81 + 0.37 J kg-1 m-1, n = 9) than on the level. At slopes below -10%, it progressively increased. At -45%, it was 3.46 + 0.95 J kg-1 m-1(n = 5). Cr on the level was 3.40 + 0.24 J kg-1 m-1(n = 30). Cr increased with the slope, to attain 18.69 + 1.42 J kg-1 m-1(n = 6) at +45%. 

During downhill running, Cr decreased and attained its lowest value at the slope of -20% (1.73 + 0.36 J kg-1 m-1, n = 24). At lower slopes, it increased. At -45%, at speeds higher than 1.38 m s-1, it was equal to 3.79 + 0.57 (n = 7). The mechanical efficiency for vertical displacement was 0.216 + 0.015 at +45% and 1.078 + 0.275 at -45%. This data on the level and at slopes up to 20% correspond to those found by others on non-athletic subjects (Margaria, 1938). At higher slopes, the increases in Cw and Cr are such as could be predicted assuming that all energy is used to lift the body. By contrast, at -10% and -20%, both Cw and Cr are lower than in non- athletic subjects (Margaria, 1938), suggesting greater recovery of elastic energy at each step in the present athletes. At slopes below -20%, the increases in Cw and Cr are such as could be predicted assuming that all energy expenditure is for negative muscle contractions.

Margaria, R. (1938). Atti Acad. Naz. Lincei 7, 299-368.

Margaria, R., Cerretelli, P., Aghemo, P. & Sassi, G. (1963). J. Appl. Physiol. 18, 367-370. This work was supported by a grant from the FSA- Federation.for Sport at Altitude

Referring back to the CU-Boulder research:

“Based on our research, we now know that choosing the second trail (30 degrees) and walking as fast as you can within your aerobic capacity is the fastest way to go,” Kram said. “For either running or walking, slopes between 20 and 35 degrees require nearly the same amount of energy to climb the hill at the same vertical velocity.”

This new study (HERE), which was recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, is believed to be the first to examine the metabolic costs of human running and walking on such steep inclines (suggested by the CU-Boulder researchers.) However, I would question this and refer to research by the FSA – “Energy cost of walking and running at extreme uphill and downhill slopes.” Received 29 November 2001; accepted in final form 29 April 2002. You can download this detailed documentation HERE and it is essential reading.


Who is the most efficient?

It would appear that gradients of 20-35 degrees require the same amount of effort and interestingly, CU-Boulder research found in a study:

“A vertical rate of ascent of just over 1 foot per second, is a pace that high-level athletes could sustain during the testing. At that speed, walking used about nine percent less energy than running. So, sub-elite athletes can ascend on very steep uphills faster by walking rather than running.”

In simple terms, this is something I have found out by attempting VK’s in my own time in and around events. More often than not, the effort required to run is so hard that it becomes counter productive. I have even found that including run sections to be counter productive as this raises my heart rate, increases lactate acid and requires me to recover while still climbing. However, if I maintain a constant effort walking, this produces the best results for me.

CU-Boulder research went on to say:

“The study examined 15 competitive mountain runners as they ran and walked on the treadmill at seven different angles ranging from 9 to 39 degrees. The treadmill speed was set so that the vertical rate of ascent was the same.  Thus, the treadmill speeds were slower on the steeper angles. The athletes were unable to balance at angles above 40 degrees, suggesting a natural limit on the feasible slope for a VK competition.”

In regard to the latter point, this in some respects relates to Fully, Switzerland and brings in another element, the use of poles and if poles allow a faster ascent when the gradient steepens. One only has to look at the Dolomites VK and Fully VK where poles are used by nearly all participants. The ISF plan to do a new test with and without ski poles, but it is not easy to do a serious test. Although not scientifically proven, it’s fair to say that using poles with gradients under 20% it will mean more Kcal and a reduced performance. However, with gradients steeper than 25 or 30%, the use of poles can correct style, etcetera and can improve the overall performance.

The CU-Boulder article is available to read in full HERE.

I can quote technical papers and research all day, however, as a runner you want to know the answer to the question, should I walk or should I run uphill and should I use poles?


Irrespective of if you plan to run a VK or not, the research and thoughts provided by the FSA and CU-Boulder confirm that running or walking uphill provides an incredible workout. Importantly though, research confirms that walking should be a key element in any training plan, (*…walking used about nine percent less energy than running) especially if you are racing or training on hilly or mountainous terrain.

When participating in ultra events, reverting to periods of walking may well produce greater results and faster times. This is very evident when the terrain steepens; running will only expend more energy and produce slower times. The use of poles appears to benefit performance when gradients steepen, this is not scientifically confirmed.

On a final note though, many other factors come into play when looking at results and as with everything, there are exceptions. Urban Zemmer, Remi Bonnet, Laura Orgue, Christel Dewalle and so many more are able to run when others need to walk. We can’t choose our parents or our genetic pool. Ultimately, find out what works for you but practice makes perfect and the more climbing you do, the better and the faster you will become.

Embrace the mountains and going uphill.


Christel Dewalle, ladies VK world record holder