UIAA setting standards at the Patrouille des Glaciers

 Image courtesy: Patrouille des Glaciers (PdG)
One of the most famous events in the ski mountaineering calendar – the biennial Patrouille des Glaciers (PdG) – takes place next week, 19-23 April.

The competition is organized by the Swiss Land Forces and supported by a number of partners including the Swiss Alpine Club, a UIAA member federation.

The event’s origins are rooted in the border patrols which took place during the Second World War – the first organised race itself was held in 1943. However, a tragic accident in the 1949 edition led to a long ban, with the competition eventually re-launched in 1984. Today the PdG still has a strong military presence among the 1,800 three-member teams who rope up on the start line.

The mythical PdG course has to be completed in one single stage. The full 53km route from Zermatt to Verbier equates to 3,994m of ascending and 4,010m of descending for an effort equivalent to 110km. This over a demanding topography with significant sections over high alpine glacier terrain.

The shorter course from Arolla to Verbier is 26km is length, comprising 1,881m ascending and 2,341m descending for an effort of 53km.

During this magnificent test of endurance and stamina across the Valais Alps, the UIAA will be a key presence. Organisers require participants to use climbing and mountaineering equipment such as helmet, ice axe, rope, climbing harness which comply with UIAA standards.

Furthermore, UIAA President Frits Vrijlandt will participate in the event for a fourth time as part of Team Hollandia along with teammates Marc de Haas and Matthijs van Hasselt.

“This competition is all about comradeship, growing beyond yourself, sporting fairness and enjoying the beauty of the mountains. We have been training hard for several months and hope for good weather and snow conditions,”
 explained Vrijlandt.

 Team Hollandia training in Vanoise, France

Given the stringent technical and physical challenges the competitors face, participants who register for the PDG must meet the following requirements:

    • broad alpine experience that qualifies them to independently master unexpected situations under extreme conditions in an inhospitable mountain environment;
    • careful personal preparation and adequate training in order to meet the physical, mental and technical requirements of the competition;
    • full compliance with the PDG regulations and willingness to follow instructions of the PDG command to the letter before, during and after the race; and a
    • willingness to show the ‘PDG spirit‘ towards their own team members and all other participants by displaying mutual fairness, caution and solidarity as well as recognising their own limits and respecting nature and the unique alpine world. This sporting fairness also entails acceptance of registration procedures and admission decisions.