The Els 2900 is unlike any other mountain race. It summits all seven of the highest peaks above 2,900 metres in Andorra, which lies in the eastern Pyrenees between Spain and France, and involves approximately 70K of distance with 7,000 metres of elevation gain. This year’s race was won by the team of Canadian Nick Elson, 34, and American Dakota Jones, 27, on Saturday, October 6, and the two set a new team record of 12:13:00, smashing the previous record of 16:51.
What makes Els 2900 so unusual is that runners must hike 1,400 metres to the start the day before and spend the night together in a mountain refuge. At midnight, 25 teams determine the best route across Andorra’s seven highest summits. Runners must pass all seven checkpoints atop each peak, while supplementing with only two aid stations. The race finishes below Comapedrosa, the highest peak in Andorra.
Els 2900 has no route markings. Runners are required to determine the best route across all seven summits, relying on their own orienteering and mountaineering skills. Nick and Dakota spent almost six hours navigating GPS on their phones during the race to ensure they were on the fastest route. At the 40K checkpoint refuge, the men were on the route they had scoped out days prior to the race. Nick says they were “definitely starting to get tired and slow down a little.” They managed to summit the fourth peak, Font Blanca, at dawn.
The final three peaks cover about 15K in distance over Malhiverns ridge, which is “loose and exposed,” explains Nick. Most of the teams chose a route around the ridge, but Nick and Dakota’s experience over technical terrain paid off as they ran to the finish.
Nick tells Canadian Running he has wanted to race Els 2900 for a few years. When Dakota’s original partner Emilie Forsberg cancelled, they joined forces. Hopefully this is just the beginning for the successful Canadian and American mountain running duo.