Photos that capture the sacrifice of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Photos that capture the sacrifice of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

In partnership withMerrell
Shot through the eyes of elite trail runner Jamie Mourn, this photo essay captures the agony and ecstasy of the UTMB.

There are few athletic challenges on the planet bigger than the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® (UTMB). Founded in 2003, the UTMB is the Champions League of trail running – the pinnacle of a sport that’s on the rise.

Each year, the world’s very best endurance athletes come together in Chamonix, France, to take on one of the most brutal races in sport. UTMB is a festival of running, with racing of varying distances throughout the week. But it all comes to a climax with 171 kilometres and 10,000 meters of positive elevation, as the race circles the highest peak in Western Europe: Mont Blanc.

An unrivalled challenge that’s both physical and mental, Huck went behind the scenes with Merrell at the UTMB to track Marc Pinsach Rubirola, a Spanish ultrarunner and Merrell Test Lab athlete.

Marc was born in Girona in Catalonia, Spain and started his athletic career in ski mountaineering in 2000 before joining the Spanish national team in 2006. A life-long lover of the mountains, Marc has always run trails to train during the summer months. When his ski mountaineering career ended in 2021, he shifted his focus 100% to trail running and became a Merrell athelete.

Marc has a long list of trail running victories and records under his belt, including the best time on the Aneto, a historic marathon course in mountain running. But he’s most proud of his first place win in the OCC, a 50km race in the UTMB World Series. Seen as the ultimate challenge for mid-distance ultra-runners, the OCC takes place every year in the Franco-Swiss border region, starting at Orsières in Switzerland, crossing the Balme pass with its panoramic views of the Mont-Blanc massif, before descending to finish in Chamonix, France.

“I’m still incredibly motivated to keep pursuing these beautiful adventures that training and racing in the mountains are for me,” Marc explains. “Mountain sports are for me the best balance between effort, hard work and long training sessions – and the sense of adventure of exploring nature.”

Marc’s 2023 season has been full of solid results, with third and second places finishes in the 50km Trail 100 Andorra in June and the Challenge du Montcalm in August, respectively – both UTMB World Series events, seen as statements of intent ahead of the main UTMB event in September.

For this photo-essay, we commissioned photographer and elite trail runner in his own right, Jamie Mourn, to uncover the brutality, epic scale and the fringes of human endurance on display at the UTMB. Jamie was shooting throughout the day and night to capture the essence of the race – its emotion, scale, athleticism, performance and drama.

In addition to tracking Marc, Jamie also shot three other Merrell Test Lab athletes as they tackled this year’s UTMB, Germany’s Thibaud Clipet and Swedish trail running twins Sanna & Lina El Kott Helander.

This year Marc competed in the 100km category and Jamie followed him from the start line in Courmayeur, France. Race winner Jonathan Albon from the UK completed the mammoth course in 10 hours, 14 minutes and 25 seconds. Marc put in a stellar effort but, sadly, this year wasn’t his year. Despite promising preparations, he was unable to finish the course – a testament to the immense challenge of this event.

Although it wasn’t the result Marc hoped for, his attempt still made for a dramatic day’s racing – captured brilliantly by Jamie. Jamie’s images reveal the sacrifice and dedication required to succeed in this cult sport, as well as shining a light on the performance credentials of Merrell’s Trail Running Collection.

Follow photographer Jamie Mourn and athlete Marc Pinsach Rubirola on Instagram.

Find out more about Merrell’s Trail Running Collection. [LINK]