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Patrouille des Glaciers 2014 – A mythical race through the Swiss Alps

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During the second World War between 1939 and 1945, Switzerland lived under the threat of enemy invasion. The Mountain Brigade 10 have to mission to defend the south-western part of Swiss Alpine Massif Central.

Br Inf Mont 10

Br Inf Mont 10

Two captains of the Mountain Brigade 10 – Rodolphe Tissières and Roger Bonvin wanted to test the endurance of their men. They are creating an alpine race from Zermatt to Verbier in a single step by the Haute Route. The first edition was in April 1943 with 18 patrols. The first time rallied the distance in 12h and 7 minutes (The current race record is 5:52!)

In 1949 the race was stopped because one patrol disappeared into a crevasse on the Glacier of Mont-Mined and was found eight days later. This accident unleashed harsh criticism and the Federal Military Department decided to ban this race for over 30 years, until 1984, the 4th edition.

For the first time in 1992, the Patrouille des Glaciers was the first girl team and any participation from the army of the Republic of China. This year are more than 27 different nationalities who will be present at various feeders including soldiers of the Chinese Army, South Africa or United Arab Emirates.

The Course

From Zermatt to Verbier the team must race 53km whit more than 4000 drop – 110km flat. For the small race, from Arolla to Verbier, the team must race 26km whit more than 2000 drop. This year it’s 1772 patrols – civil and military was in the start whether 5316 people.

As want tradition, all teams go to the Church of Zermatt for Mass Patrol few hours before the long climb that lead from the village to Head White. Up there, in the middle of the night , strong winds and extreme temperatures can curl with -40 ° C awaiting racing teams. Once past the station control , the teams head to the Cabane Bertol to Arolla.


In Arolla nearly 885 patrol await the start that will lead to dirction Col de Riedmatten strategic location of couse requires mental strength and resistance extraordinary cold – or just good warm clothes because the time to waiting can quickly reach 45 minutes without moving. When their turn came, the patrol was roped off for the neck and head of the Pas du Chat and very long journey along the Lac des Dix until Barmaz. From there the teams head towards the Rossablanche , last big race avaant difficulties to reach the finish line in Verbier.

This year is the Italian CS Esercito which imposes 6:01 before the French AS- GX and the Swiss border guards. On the short course is required in the Swiss before 2:58 two French teams. Women ‘s record in 2010 fell on the great course in 7:27.

For the vast majority of participants this race is legendary and force them to confront the effort to excel throughout the course, to tap into their limits while adapting to the whims of the mountain. For hours they will be glued to their ski in the cold, sweat and concentration with several pounds of equipment on their backs.

The Organization

For the safety of the race, 1500 soldiers from diffrent battalions working 2 weeks before to preparing and securing the course surrounded by 40 emergency physicians route 8 avalanche dogs, 3 and 4 weather specialists specialists from the Institute of snow and Avalanche Research Davos and many civilians.

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