St. J native records fastest-known alpine climb of Mt. Blanc

Hillary Gerardi climbs Mt. Blanc in the French Alps. All photos from her public Facebook page.

By Guy Page

A St. Johnsbury native has set a FKT (fastest known time) world record for climbing and descending Mt. Blanc from the French Alps town of Chamonix. She completed the 20.2 mile trip in about seven-and-a-half hours.

The summit of Mt. Blanc is three miles (15,777 ft.) above sea level. 2004 St. Johnsbury Academy graduate Hillary Gerardi reported on her public Facebook page:

“FKT Round trip from Chamonix 7h25’28” (32.5 km/3875 m). Yesterday was the best possible outcome I could have imagined for this project that has been years in the making! The preparation has been physical, mental, technical, relational, material, altitudinal, meteorlogical and climatological…. It has allowed me to spend many days in the mountains and countless hours scheming and planning both alone and with friends.  It has been both a solo pursuit I’ve been focused on and also a shared goal that so many people have contributed to.”

At the beginning….

Her world’s record earned her props from fellow climbers on social media, in particular the responses to a photo of her collapsed in exhaustion at the summit of 15,777 ft. high Mt. Blanc: “What a picture, you gave it your all, bravo Hillary,” said Bruno Lavid. Added Frank Morris: “I felt like this on my much slower trip.”

An elite marathon and mountain runner, Gerardi is sponsored by Black Diamond, the outdoor clothing company. Her Black Diamond bio describes how she went from a not-very-interested-in-running student at SJA to setting the record summit of the iconic Mt. Blanc:

Hillary Gerardi did not intend to become a runner. It wasn’t until after high school that her love affair with the mountains truly began, when she started climbing and working in the Appalachian Mountain Club huts in New Hampshire. She realized that she loved looking at interesting lines on topo maps and seeing if her body could take her there. She first tried her hand at trail running at the Great Adirondack Trail run, where she took the win and figured she’d checked off the trail running box. 

At the summit

Not long after finishing school at Middlebury College, she and her partner, Brad [Carlson, of Hinesburg, now her husband], moved to the French Alps, where she started to expand her mountain-related passions and began running again. When she won a 12-lb leg of prosciutto at her first European trail running race, she decided the sport was for her and started racing and excelling at distances from the vertical kilometer to 120 km races.

Hillary still prefers power hiking, scrambling and ridge-rambling to actual running, but saw her career as a “skyrunner” really take off in 2018, when she place first at three of the sport’s toughest races: Tromso Skyrace (Norway), Trofeo Kima (Italy) and Glencoe Skyline (Scotland), as well as the Mont Blanc Vertical Kilometer and the Monterosa Skymarathon. 

When not racing, she holds down a day job at the Research Center for Alpine Ecosystems (CREA Mont-Blanc) in Chamonix, where she keeps getting after other mountain passions as a skier and alpine climber. She also continues to draw lines on maps and see where she can go with her own two feet, and is putting together a list of dream FKT’s back in her home in the Northeastern US, among other places.

WHAT IT TAKES video featuring Hillary Gerardi

Categories: Sports