Meet the Athlete:
Born in Vermont and based in the Chamonix Valley since 2010, Hillary Gerardi finds purpose living and breathing among the mountains. Her achievements as a skyrunner, ultrarunner, and ski mountaineer are no small feat, and we're so excited to support her adventures as an athlete through this partnership. Read on to learn more about Hillary and our collaboration print, Allez.
To the Hills we go! 🏔
In between her rigorous training schedule, Hillary gave us a window into the brain of a professional skyrunner.
Hey Hillary! Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? What is your VT connection?
I am a mountain endurance athlete, specializing in technical mountain running (skyrunning) and ski mountaineering. I have been based in the French Alps for the last 13 years, and spent the last six of them here in Servoz in the Chamonix valley. Before moving overseas though, I grew up in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont and went to school at Middlebury College.
Can you explain to us what is skyrunning?
The official definition from the International Skyrunning Federation reads ‘running in the mountains above 2,000m altitude where the climbing difficulty does not exceed II° grade and the incline is over 30%.” but I’d generally describe as basically steep trail running…except you have to use your hands to scramble up and down, and you’re not always on a trail.
Many of the historic skyrunning races involve going from a town or village, up to a peak, and back down as fast as you can, but in practice, I’d say it really has to do with the style of trail and terrain you’re on.
How did you get into skyrunning?
In some ways, accidentally! In 2015, I was planning to do an ultramarathon and took a tumble on my bike, breaking a few ribs. I wasn’t able to get in the volume necessary to do an 80-mile race, and set a punchy 25km skyrace in the French Pyrenees as an alternative goal and found my niche.
What do you love the most about your sport?
There is so much I love about it, it’s a little hard to know where to begin…
The trails of the northeast are super technical, so in some ways, running on technical trails here takes me back to days in the Greens, Whites, and ‘Dacks. And I think that more generally what I love about moving through technical terrain is that it demands total concentration. It’s almost like a mindfulness exercise - if you want to move safely and efficiently, you can’t be anywhere but right there in the moment.
And then when you stop to look around, you find yourself in the most incredible places.
"...what I love about moving through technical terrain is that it demands total concentration. It’s almost like a mindfulness exercise - if you want to move safely and efficiently, you can’t be anywhere but right there in the moment.
And then when you stop to look around, you find yourself in the most incredible places."
You just completed the FKT of Mont Blanc - congratulations! Can you tell us about the adventure - how it went, what the mental prep was like, how you felt when you summited, any big takeaways? What inspired you to go for this specific FKT?
Thank you! I think that this one is actually my most rewarding achievement to date, and it’s still pretty fresh! Mont Blanc has been an objective for me for several years, especially since I’ve been living in the Chamonix Valley. But climate change has had a big impact on the route, and droughts in 2021 and 2022 meant that we never got enough snow to fill in a key passage of the itinerary. I actually had begun to doubt whether the Mont Blanc FKTs (set by Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg) would ever be able to be challenged, but then this spring, the drought finally broke. We started getting snow and I realized that I might get a chance to take a try at it. I focused all of my energy on it, refreshing my technical skills (efficient cramponing, rope work, crevasse rescue, etc), getting to know the course inside out, acclimating, prepping gear, and training for it.
I honestly didn’t think that it was really going to be possible to beat Emelie’s stout record and I was still kind of hesitant about my legitimacy as a mountain athlete, so I was actually pretty quiet about the record attempt. I kind of vaguely just told people that I had ‘a big mountain project’ to explain why I wasn’t racing. When I actually got to the top in under record time, I was elated, but also like ‘ok, now I need to not get hurt running down 12,500 ft back to town.’ I was not taking anything for granted!
I think one takeaway is that I should be a bit more confident in myself and trust in the process. Defining one specific objective and focusing on it is not a guarantee that things will pan out, but it’s definitely the best way to put the odds in your favor and you shouldn’t be afraid of failure or what other people think of you.
More on the print:
Allez is bold and bursting with energy, just like Hillary when she's running through the foothills of the French Alps. A blend of teal and deep blue, this print pulls inspiration from an original star print, called "Stellar". This print was on Hillary's very first Skida headband that she wore in some of her first races.
Translating to "go on", this print encourages us to proceed and be bold!