Set against one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring backdrops on the planet, the Everest Trail Race is one of the world’s toughest high-altitude ultra-marathons. I had the pleasure to attend the 2013 event and I am pleased to say, I am going back…
My job affords me some great opportunities and all of them are special and unique in so many ways. However, Nepal, the Himalayas, the people and the amazing trails that lead to the stunning vistas of Everest and AmaDablam from Tyangboche are some of the most memorable moments I have ever had. I was told Nepal would change me and it did. It’s a cacophony of sound, visuals and emotions and the opportunity to experience this one more time is something extra special.
From the noisy and frenetic streets of Kathmandu to the isolation of camping under the stars at the monastery at Kharikhola, Nepal and its people cemented itself within my heart and I know that participants of the 2014 ETR are in for a very special experience.
I’d like to thank The North Face and Suunto for providing me with support to make this journey possible.
Winding through the remote Solukhumbu region of the Himalayas in Nepal, the ETR takes place over six punishing days and covers a distance of 160-km with over 25,000m of vertical gain.
Terrain is mixed and the daily distances are roughly 22, 28, 30, 31, 20 and 22 km respectively. Daily altitude gain starts 3,000 meters up to 5,950. It’s a breathtaking route that starts in Jiri.
Participants will experience breath-taking views of not only one, but also several of the world’s tallest mountains: Everest, Lothse, AmaDablam, Tamseku, Kangtega, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. On the fifth day, arriving at Tyangboche the Himalayan backdrop is magnificent providing a wonderful boost before returning to Lukla via Namche Bazaar.
The race does require a degree of self-sufficiency. Participants must carry all the personal technical equipment they will need to survive – a sleeping bag, warm clothes plus the mandatory safety equipment laid out in the race rules. Temperatures may rise to 18°C and drop -10°C at night, is is part of the challenge!
In fact, the race is a test for both runners and the race organization as the area is only accessible by foot. Snacks, meals and water are provided both along the route and in the camps at the end of each stage.
“You reach the highest point of the day and you are breathing hard, short shallow breaths. You think you must stop, that you can’t go on, but then you settle into a sustainable rhythm. Your body is adapting to the workload, to the altitude and with that realization you feel a rush of empowerment that motivates you to run right past the foot of Everest.”
- 9th November – Travel to Kathmandu
- 10th November – Kathmandu
- 11th November – Sight seeing in Kathmandu
- 12th November – Transfer to Jiri
Race dates 13th – 17th November.
As an example of what lies beyond the starting line, the longest single stage in 2012 was 20 miles (31km). Typical distances are broken down as follows:
Day 1 – 22 km (+ 850 m ascent)
Day 2 – 28 km (+ 2,250 m ascent)
Day 3 – 30 km (+ 2,450 m ascent)
Day 4 – 31 km (+ 2,950 m ascent)
Day 5 – 20 km (+ 1,450 m ascent)
Day 6 – 22 km (+ 450 m ascent)
The actual routes and formats change every year. The Race Director, Jordi Abad and his team spend a month meticulously planning routes that are made public before the event starts.
Competitors camp overnight in two-man tents provided by the ETR. The tents are transported stage-by-stage and await the runners at the end of each day. Meals are provided each night in a large food tent. It provides a wonderful and most memorable sound each evening as the sound of weary laughter echoes around camp.
Schedule (from 2013)
Day 1 – Departing Jiri at 0900 runners will cover 21.5km and two major peaks, Mali at just over 2400m and Deurali Pass (2700m) at approximately 18km.
Day 2 – Leaving Bhandar, non-stop climbing follows a short 4km descent; firstly to Gompa (Golla) at 3010m, a small downhill section follows of 2km and then a climb to Pikey Peak at 4068m. It’s a tough-tough day and the sting in the tail comes at the very end with a very short and steep ascent to Jase Bhajyang. Total stage distance 23.92km.
Day 3 – Jase Bhanjyang to Kharikhola 37.4km
Stage 3 is all about running downhill, however, the finish is brutal ascent to Kharikola at 2100m. Leaving Jase Bhanjyang runners have a short ascent of 2km to 3800m and then an 8km descent to Jumbesi, CP1. A 6km climb to just over 3000m is then followed with a 4km descent to Lharpa and CP2. Another 3km climb to 3000m and then a brutal leg-sapping drop from 3000m to 1500m in 10km before the final sting in the tail, a 3km climb to the finish.
Day 4 – Kharikhola to Llegada 27.5km
Departing the monastery a small descent awaits the runners of just 4km before a long tough climb to Kari La (CP1) at 2900m. From here the course goes up and down all around 2700/2800m for approximately 10km before a very steep descent to CP2 at Surke (2200m). A continual climb to CP3 at Cheplung continues to the arrival at Phakding/ Llegaga.
Day 5 – Phakding to Llegada 20km
Leaving Phakding at 2600m runners will only gain 200m in the first 8km. CP1 Namche Bazar is at 10km (3400m). Phunki Tenga at 17.5km (3300m) now will offer the runners the most spectacular views of Everest and the other 8000m peaks. This sight will spur them on for the kick in the tail; the 2km climb from 3300m to 3700m and the finish at Tyangboche.
Day 6 – Tyangboche to Lukla
The final stage of the ETR re traces much of the same ground of Day-5 but (obviously) in the opposite direction. The main difference comes after Phakding when the trail splits and participants go left climbing to the finish in Lukla.
Flying out of Lukla on day 7, all participants and staff return to Kathmandu for an opportunity to relax before returning home after a stunning awards and closing ceremony.
View my Everest Trail Race photo galleries HERE
Race website UK – HERE
Race website Global – HERE
Trail Magazin (Germany) on the 2013 edition available HERE
Like the Wind (edition 2) Purchase HERE