Lanzarote Training Camp 2018 Day 1

Today was arrival day at Club La Santa in Lanzarote. Early starts from a snowy and icy UK saw our first clients arrive midday and then a steady trickle of runners arrived culminating in our last runners arriving at 1630. In total, the 2018 Lanzarote Training Camp has 46-attendees.

We have the best coaches on hand to guide our clients through the rigours, both physical and mental, for preparing for a multi-day adventure in 2018 or onwards into 2019.

Arguably, day 1 is a relaxing day as it is all about travel. However, to ease everyone into a challenging week, we started with an easy 1-hour run as the day came to an end. Clear skies, the glow of a disappearing sun and the smell of the ‘sea’ in the air – what better way to start a training camp?

Tom Evans, 3rd place at the 2017 Marathon des Sables led the speedy runners. Sondre Amdahl, experienced single-stage and multi-day runner, lead the 2nd group. Two times MDS champion and experienced multi-day race expert, Elisabet Barnes, guided group 3 and then group 4 was lead by our walking specialist, Marie Paule Pierson.

It was s stunning start to the 2018 camp!

Early evening drinks, a group meal and briefing finished the day. Tomorrow, Friday, the participants embark on a lengthy coastal run of sand, rocks, single-track and dunes. It is going to be a great day and one that is eagerly anticipated by all.

Why not join our 2019 Training Camp?

More information HERE

The Namibia Crossing is HERE! A new journey for 2019.

The 2019 NAMIBIA CROSSING has been confirmed.

A new name, a new adventure! The NAMIBIA CROSSING is a 200km, five-day foot race from South Africa to Namibia through the ancient arid landscape of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. The race was previously known as the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun, the new name reflects the ‘crossing’ of the Orange River and the doorway to Namibia.

From the crystal fields of Sendelingsdrif in South Africa to the infamous giant boulders of Tatasberg deep in the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park; this unparalleled journey then crosses the Orange River into Namibia and the wild lands of the Fish River Canyon. This is the running experience of a lifetime; this is the this is the Namibia Crossing.

Add the dates to your diary, June 16th to June 22nd 2019

(additional travel dates required)

Five days, 44km + 33km + 40km + 49km + 26km = 200km.

Official race website HERE

UK and EUROPEAN entries via Steve Diederich HERE

Overlaying the Orange River border line between South Africa and Namibia is a 5,920km2 arid mountain desert wilderness unlike any other in the world. This area is a jointly managed conservation initiative called the /Ai /Ais- Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, that incorporates the Richtersveld National Park in South Africa and the Fish River Canyon National Park in Namibia.

What this area contains is an ancient geological and natural landscape that is quite simply unparalleled on Earth. Not only is this is the oldest mountain desert in the world, it’s the richest one – holding more than a third of the worlds known succulent species. In fact, it’s second only to the Cape Floral Kingdom in terms of botanical diversity.

Throw in the largest canyon in Africa and some uniquely desert-adapted African wildlife and you have yourself a wilderness running experience that is quite simply unmatched.

The Race in Summary:

Day 1:

This 42km day takes us over the crystal fields, past the ‘Vyf Susters’ and up ‘Helskloof’ pass, to break through the ‘Numeesberge’ and into the heart of the Richtersveld and our overnight camp at De Koei.

Day 2: 

This 33kms day takes us into the magnificent valley between the Tswayisberg and Vandersterrberg mountain ranges to a seldom visited ‘Armmanshoek’ (Poor-mans- corner). We overnight at Hakkiesdoring.

Day 3: 

One of the most iconic days on the Namibia Crossing – this 39km day takes us across
the Springbok Vlakte, over the Tatasberg mountain and down to the Orange River.

Relaxing and washing off in the Orange River at De Hoop camp rounds out a thoroughly rewarding day.

Day 4:

The Namibia Crossing – A short boat trip across the Orange will drop you on Namibian soil and to the start of the longest day, at 50kms. This is a tough day but as your reward, you can relax in the hot hot springs right in the riverbed, where you will be staying the night. The final briefing will precede dinner in this open-air, canyon camp.

Day 5: 

The final 25km takes on a final few bends of the Fish River, before we duck out, up Zebra valley, and follow game trails through the rolling foothills. There is a sting in the tail, but the view is worth it! A short elevator drop gets us to the finish at the Hot Springs Resort.

This is a fully supported running experience in a remote wilderness area which includes six nights fully-catered, individual tented accommodation, luxury bus transport from Cape Town to the reception venue and return, exquisite camp cuisine and a fully-stocked, remote camp setup. This also includes all entrance and permit fees, transport of personal items during the event and logistical & medical support throughout.

Embrace the journey of a lifetime!

South African entries and info:

Tamaryn Middleton – tamaryn@wildrunner.co.za or +27 21 789 0318. Otherwise try her mobile phone: +27 72 373 5081.

UK and European entries use the contact form below.

Episode 150 – Ryan Sandes and Brian Boyle

This is Episode 150 of Talk Ultra and we chat with Ryan Sandes ahead of his new and exciting FKT attempt in Nepal. Kurt Decker chats with Brian Boyle and Speedgoat is here.
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NEWS
Not much news this early in 2018, Ian and Karl chat about Bandera 100k and HURT 100. We also give a shout out to Dave Mackey!
*****
00:38:11 – Kurt Decker talks with BRIAN BOYLE
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01:01:55 – Ian Corless talks with RYAN SANDES
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Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel FKT on GHT.
Hope you had an amazing festive season and got to enjoy a very well deserved breakJ In early March 2018, Ryan Sandes and his trail running best bud, Ryno Griesel, will be undertaking their next mission impossible in attempting to set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the Holy Grail of Mountain Trails, the Great Himalaya Trail’s.Ryan and Ryno will be leaving from high altitude training in Afriski on the 5th of Feb before they head out to Nepal on the 21st of Feb.
While most of us mere mortals started off the year setting fitness goals that we hope to achieve by at least the end of 2018, Ryan Sandes and fellow Salomon athlete, Ryno Griesel, have set themselves the goal of running, and hopefully beating, the current fastest known time (FKT) for the Holy Grail of Mountain Trails, the Great Himalaya Trail. They are aiming to tackle the more than 1400km in early March and in under 28 days – that’s essentially running an ultra-marathon every day for under 28 days, in the mountains, and at breathless altitude levels.
What makes this feat so impressive? The Great Himalaya Trail attempt is a single long distance trek from the west end of Nepal across to the East end, covering a staggering 1406km, with 68 500m of ascent and 70 000m of descent, a distance that takes a normal human roughly 5 months to walk. There are currently more people who have walked on the moon than those who have completed this entire trail!
“I am really excited, but also a bit nervous to be attempting to run the Great Himalaya Trail with Ryno in a few weeks’ time,” says Ryan. “This is going to be, by far, the greatest challenge of my life. I have never covered a distance (in one go) this far on my own two feet. There are so many unknowns we are going to have to deal with along the way, but that I guess is what intrigues me most about the challenge. This distance is so great and the mountains are so big that I have not quite gotten my head around the project yet. The plan will be to take it day by day and adjust our strategy accordingly!”
The current FKT was set by fellow South African Andrew Porter in 2016, who completed the challenge in 28days 13hrs 56min.
The Great Himalaya Trail is not a single trail but rather a combination of various trails in either the upper (GHT High Route) or middle (GHT Cultural route) districts of Nepal stretching from the west to the east (or vice versa) end of the country. Ryan and Ryno will traverse the route combining the High GHT and Cultural GHT to challenge the current recognised FKT, whilst self-navigating the best possible route to link up the 12 required check-points as set by Andrew.
“I am extremely excited and humbled by the opportunity to share the Himalayas with Ryan in such a cool adventure,” says Ryno. “Researching a project of this scale, I am nervously aware that we simply cannot prepare for everything and that we will have to rely on the foundation of our friendship built from previous “epics” to find solutions on-the-go and carry each other through! I am really looking forward to it & we will take it day by day – looking after each other!” 
This challenge is a follow on project to Ryan and Ryno’s very successful 2014 Drakensberg Grand Traverse. The much larger mountains and extreme conditions in the Himalayas would be a natural progression for both of them to explore their limits. Although there will be limited points where they meet up with crew to receive permits and basic kit exchange, Ryan and Ryno will rely on local hospitality for nutrition, water and a place to sleep.
The route that Ryan and Ryno will be taking is (based on the Andrew’s current FKT) :
·         Start in the village of Hilsa on the Western Nepal/ Tibetan border and cross the following points (villages and passes).
·         Simikot at roughly 77km
·         Gamgadhi at roughly 150km
·         Jumla at roughly 193km
·         Juphal (280km) or Dunai at roughly 290km
·         Chharka Bhot at roughly 380km
·         Kagbeni at roughly 444km
·         Thorang La Pass at roughly 463km
·         Larkye La Pass at roughly 561km
·         Jiri at roughly 928km
·         Tumlingtar at roughly 1075km
·         Finishing on the Eastern Nepal/ Indian border at Pashupatinagar.
Thanks to our ability to ALWAYS be in contact, Ryan and Ryno will have live tracking throughout the traverse, and will also do regular social media updates to show how they are doing and what they are experiencing.
01:41:07
*****
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Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
*****
Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE
Website – talkultra.com

Timothy Olson joins the 2018 The Coastal Challenge is #TCC2018

With just 1-month to go to the 2018 The Coastal Challenge, #TCC2018 – Race director, Rodrigo Carazo, is pleased to announce that TNF athlete, Timothy Olson, will join the line-up for the race. It has been said, year-after-year that ‘this’ TCC is the best… Without doubt, 2018 has the greatest line-up in the race’s history!

Joining Timothy Olson on the start line in Quepos this coming February will be past winner and previous course record holder, Michael Wardian here. Fast-man and 2017 CCC champion, Hayden Hawks here. The Cape Wrath Ultra and Dragons Back Race champion, Marcus Scotney here. The flying Brit, Tom Evans here, who placed 3rd at the 2017 Marathon des Sables – the highest ever placing for a British runner at the race. Chema Martinez, the speedy Spaniard once again returns to TCC, he has placed 2nd many times, can he win in 2018? Finally, Sondre Amdahl here who raced TCC in 2017, has recently made the podium at Everest Trail Race and has an illustrious resume at ultra-distance races, UTMB and Western States to name just two.

The ladies’ race is also set to be a classic with previous 2015 champion, Ester Alves here returning after placing 3rd in 2017. MDS two-time champion, Elisabet Barnes here, also returns to Costa Rica, however, illness post Everest Trail Race in November may will impact on her chances for the podium, in her words, “Preparation for TCC this year has been poor with two bouts of cold and flu, I am seriously behind but I love Costa Rica and the race, so I don’t want to miss it!” Finally, Skyrunner 2017 World Series champion, Ragna Debats here, will have her first taste of Costa Rica and its amazing landscape after an incredible 2017.

They say it is hot in Costa Rica – with this line-up, the trails between Quepos and the finish at the stunning Drake Bay can expect to be scorched as these fast guys and girls blaze a trail over this iconic multi-day event. As the locals say, “Pura Vida!”

I caught up with Timothy, after a tough 2016, 2017 saw a return to form for the American. It was my first question, how was 2017?

2017 was a solid year, I hope to build on that health and fitness and have a strong 2018. It is always nice to get a good win against solid competition and I achieved that. I plan to continue to train smart and have lots of fun getting in long runs in the mountains.

You have recently been training in Chile, how was that experience?

Chile was great, it was fun to explore and have a fun Holiday with my family there. I did a TNF Endurance Challenge race and then after the race I took some time off and enjoyed some chill runs with my wife and kids. So there wasn’t much training, I hope to get back to Chile and explore the mountains down south. 

You have signed up for TCC to kick-off 2018 – what is the attraction?

Costa Rica is an amazing place filled with life, lush greenery and so many amazing places to explore. I’m excited to try a stage race, push myself with some fast runners and enjoy nature and chill beach camping

We have quite a line-up for the 2018 race – Tom Evans, Michael Wardian, Marcus Scotney, Hayden Hawks, Sondre Amdahl, Chema Martinez and more… The local competition will be strong too! It is tough way to start a year – do you embrace that?

That is quite the lineup! Just like any race, I line up and try to give my best, I don’t really concern myself with other competition. However the competition does motivate me to be in good shape and work on my speed game to be ready to go. This will be a great opportunity for me to push harder at the start of races to keep contact with the leaders. This will be a challenging yet fun way to start the year. 

Costa Rica – hot, humid and challenging, In many ways it sounds perfect for you?

We’ll see, I don’t mind heat, but day after day of intense running and heat can catch up to you. I hope to race smart and be mindful that we’ll be racing for 6-days. I do like a good challenge, so I’m excited to see how it plays out. 

What are you most looking forward to at the race? The reason I ask,  family is joining you beforehand – is that a bonus or distraction?

The family will travel back to the States when I start the race. Traveling with family definitely has its distractions to my training and sleep schedule but it sure is fun to experience this world and travels together. It definitely enriches the experience having family around, but I’m excited for a week focused on running for the Costal Challenge. 

Mindfulness, tell me what it brings to your racing and your life in general.

Mindfulness is a practice of being aware of your body and mind – connecting them together with your breath to focus and bring ones attention into the present moment. I feel like running and being in nature encourages me to be present and appreciate each moment. In training and racing, the practice of breath awareness and focus allows me to push myself and train hard when it’s called for. My practice of mindfulness through meditation plays a tremendous roll in both my training and life in general. Being mindful of my training encourages me to prioritize recovery and chill days too which keeps me healthy and helps me continue to enjoy running. With kids, jobs and the chaos of life, my meditation practice allows me to be present with my family and when challenging moments arise, I use my practice and instead of reacting unconsciously in those moments I can respond appropriately and make wise choices.

Is this your first multi-day in the style/ ethos of Marathon des Sables?

Yes, I did TransRockies a while back but wasn’t really racing. I had a fun partner and we had a great experience but I’m excited to try it out with a little more effort. 

Any plans for other multi-day races?

Not as of now, but if some multi-day race offers me a solid deal to come out and join I’m more than open to more of these.

What does 2018 hold beyond TCC.

I’m really excited for this next year of racing. After TCC I think my next big race will be Madeira 115k in April. I haven’t figured out much after that, but I’m looking at UTMB. Still open to suggestions that I should consider. Maybe the Broken Arrow Sky race in Tahoe in June. It should be a great year and I look forward to pushing my limits in 2018. 

*****

TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.

You can read and view images from the 2017 edition HERE

Follow #TCC2018

Twitter @talkultra

Instagram @iancorlessphotography

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

The Coastal Challenge

Facebook HERE

Website (UK) HERE

Website (Global) HERE

Ester Alves return to The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica #TCC2018

Ester Alves is returning to Costa Rica!  It comes as no surprise… TCC has always been at the top Ester’s list and 2018 will see the Portuguese ladies 3rd participation in the event. She is a past winner and last year, 2017, she places 3rd behind Anna Frost and Anna Comet.

Recently, Ester fought a hard fought battle in Nepal for the top spot of the Everest Trail Race – she finished 2nd after an incredible competitive race.

Recovering over the Christmas break, her sights are now set, once again on the TCC podium.

You are coming back to TCC, a past winner, what is that attracts you to this adventure?
Coastal Challenge give us the oportunity to run, in a magical place like the rain forest and at the same time enjoy moments of fabulous tropical relax with all atlhetes in the camping intimicy 🙂
You have just raced ETR in Nepal, it’s quite different, how was that experience?
Very hard for me. I went to ETR without altitude training or specific climb training. I trained hard in the gym, it was my only option as I knew that it would be a climbing race. All the views, landscape and the place is amaizing: the people, organization, mountains, animals… a different world
Is there anything you can take from Nepal that will help with TCC?
NEPAL is more about climbing … Costa rica is more about running… speed!. But there are some technical parts at TCC that are similar to Nepal. When you arrive from Nepal and you see those Sherpas, carrying many kilos on their heads you understand that anything is possible and your body is an amazing machine…. you became powerful with that thought!
How are your feelings for the 2018 TCC, once again you will race Elisabet Barnes – you two have a battle going on.
I have a big admiration for Elisabet. She is a  fighter. Running with her is knowing that you wont rest at all… It is always a challenge to know you are running against MDS queen.
You seem to handle the heat and humidity well, any new plans (tricks up the sleeve) for 2018?
The only trick is the experience, and training and this year another trick: tranquility…. it helps to control the anxiety before and during the stages.
With a month to go, how is training after the Christmas break?
I never stopped for xmas. I did plenty of bike and gym work and I did a little running. It was all active recovery really post Nepal. The work is being done now! The worst day at TCC is the first, it is such a shock. So hot, so humid that you cannot take a breath.
What 3 tips would you give to those who will do TCC for the first time?
1) Be paciente with the heat
2) Rest well after stages
3) Don’t leave food around your tend because of the small animals 🙂
What do you most look forward to at TCC?
I love Costa Rica and the race, it’s so special. The whole experience is magical and I am sure 2018 will be another great year – I look forward to everything about it!
What objectives do you have for 2018 post TCC?
After TCC I will start to prepare World Championships in Penyagolosa, after that I will return one more year to UTMB. At the end of the year I have a big project to Climb an 8000m peak – Shishapangma (8027m) in Tibet. Here is the project https://www.facebook.com/wegonnatry/
Finally, heat and humid of TCC or snow, cold and mountains of Nepal?
To be honest it is all about the challenge, pushing boundaries and testing myself – that can be heat, humidity, snow, cold or altitude. I embrace the challenge.

TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.

You can read and view images from the 2017 edition HERE

Follow #TCC2018

Twitter @talkultra

Instagram @iancorlessphotography

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

The Coastal Challenge

Facebook HERE

Website (UK) HERE

Website (Global) HERE

Nepal Trek – A Journey in the Himalayas Part One

Nepal Trek – A Journey in the Himalayas Part One

Not counting my recent trip, the one on which I am writing about, I have visited Nepal four times. Nepal changed me. It has that effect on people. It’s a magical place of noise, colour, wealth, poverty, squalor, amazing trails, amazing views and some of the most beautiful people you will ever meet.

Nepal is magical!

I first visited in 2013 followed by 2014. I missed 2015 after the earthquakes and returned in 2016 and 2017. Each time I was working on the Everest Trail Race, a multi-stage running race that covers 100-miles starting in Jiri, following in the footsteps of Hillary and Tenzing to Tengboche and then returning to Lukla on the last day. It is a stunning race, one that I look forward to each year. However, despite my best efforts, my partner Niandi, was never available to take part.

So, this year, 2017, after working on the race in November, I returned to Nepal in December to experience the trails over Christmas in my own time with Niandi and with a guide – Ngima Sherpa.

Amad Dablam, Nuptse, Lohtse and Everest – need I say more!

Practical Information

Trekking in Nepal is extremely popular and pre-2015 it was a booming business. The 2015 earthquakes impacted greatly but now in 2017, it is booming once again and a recent study confirmed that figures are ahead of pre-2015.

The key months for trekking are October, November and December and then it picks up again in March, April and May.

October and November is very busy with warm sunny days and relatively warm nights. December is considerably quieter and much colder at night, the days are still sunny and warm. Spring is the main time for attempts on Everest with the key period being around May 10th, so, as you can imagine, March and April is when all the expeditions trek into base camp and start adjusting for the altitude.

For me, November is great, December is considerably better but be prepared for the cold nights, particularly when moving beyond Tengboche and above altitudes of 4000m.

We stayed at HOTEL SHANKER here in Kathmandu, it is an oasis of quiet amongst the noise of Kathmandu. It set back off the main road and has gardens and swimming pools. It’s proximity to Thamel here is excellent. Thamel is a key area for tourists with shops, cafes, bars and so on.

Traffic in Kathmandu is crazy but Taxi’s are cheap. Airport to Hotel Shanker is around £5 and it can take 20 to 60-mins based on traffic.

What type of trek?

Nepal has many possibilities for trekking and as a kick-off I consider two options to be the most obvious:

  1. Following in the footsteps of Hillary (read here) and trekking in from Jiri, taking in the early and quiet trails to then pass Lukla and head up through Phakding, Namche Bazaar, Tengboche and then onwards to EBC (Everest Base Camp) or maybe take in the high passes to then return to Lukla and fly back to Kathmandu.

  1. Fly to Lukla from Kathmandu, miss out the early trails and then hike into Phakding, Namche Bazaar and then onwards to EBC and/ or the high passes.

The JIRI trek.

The long climb – all 2500m+ to the summit of Pikey Peak.

If you haven’t experienced Nepal and the Himalayas before, my advice is to start with the Everest Trail Race which starts in Jiri. If you so wish, you can then do what I did and follow up with a solo trek. My main reason for this is two-fold; you get to follow in the footsteps of history and more importantly, you get to experience the early and quiet trails that are very different to those beyond Lukla. Importantly, if you go via the summit of Pikey Peak, you hit over 4000m early and get one of THE most amazing vistas of the Himalayas.

Niandi at the summit, a great moment for her and me.

Once you have done the Jiri to Lukla section there is maybe no need to re do these sections. Should you return to Nepal, you can fly directly to Lukla.

The early trails are magical though!

How long does a trek take?

Let’s assume that you want to do an EBC trek from Jiri. This would normally take, with most trekking groups and/or guides 24-days. The route would take you from Jiri all the way through to EBC via Tengboche and then return to Lukla with a flight back to Kathmandu.

However, if you are reading this, chances are you are an ultra-runner and therefore you can cover distance and time quicker. To provide some perspective, on our recent trek, Niandi and myself covered Jiri to Tengboche in 6-days, most treks would take 12 to 14-days!

Pikey Peak summit, the wind was blowing a gale and it was freezing cold.

One needs to be realistic when trekking, especially in Nepal. Distance can mean very little when you have 1000’s of meters to climb and descend, so, keep a perspective. Running will be minimal, especially with a pack. Fast-packing is no problem, especially if you get the kit right and the pack weight manageable, more on that later. In December, it is fair to assume that you have 10-hours of day to trek, that is working on 0700 starts and 1700 finish time. Darkness arrives around 1730. But one must consider the altitude and if you have experience of hiking/ trekking/ running above 3000m. There are no guarantees with altitude and one must respect it. You need to adapt, particularly once one hits 4000m and beyond.

When trekking, you need to decide firstly how long do you have? This is THE most important initial question as this will dictate what you can realistically achieve. *Tip – factor in at least 1 extra day for emergency/ contingency. Also, think about travel to and from the trails. For example, starting from Jiri requires transport via vehicle from Kathmandu, this takes 7-10 hours. Flights from Lukla can be cancelled due to bad weather, so, factor a day of contingency.

Looking at Ama Dablam.

How high are you going? If you plan to go to EBC, you need to factor ‘adaptation’ days for altitude. This varies with previous experience. But if you are planning long-term to go to Nepal, it makes sense that you do some adaptation in advance. For example, you can go to Tenerife and hike to the summit of Mt. Teide at 3718m. Personally, I am regularly between 2 and 4000m working on races, early in 2017 I went above 5000m in China. But Niandi had little adaptation. For her, this came on day 2 of our trek with Pikey Peak summit at over 4000m. This worked because we were at the summit for minimal time and then descended to 3400m. It was 3 days later that we then reached 3800m and above after descending and climbing a rollercoaster of trails.

On our trip, Niandi and myself wanted a holiday but we also wanted to be aggressive on daily distances and be challenged. Our schedule was as follows:

Day 1 travel to Kathmandu.

Day 2 Kathmandu sightseeing.

Day 3 4×4 drive to Jiri

Day 4 Trek, Jiri to Bhandar

Day 5 Trek, Bhandar to Jase Bhanjyang via the summit of Pikey Peak (4100m) not the normal trek route.

Day 6 Trek, Jase Bhanjyang to Junbeisi via a different route to most trekking groups

Day 7 Trek, Junbeisi to Kharikhola

Day 8 Trek, Kharikhola to Phakding

Day 9 Trek, Phakding to Tengboche (here it is possible to hike on to EBC over 2-4 more days based on adaptation, remember, you need to return to and also adjust for altitude. Tengboche is 3800m and EBC is above 5000m)

Day 10 Trek, Tengboche to Lukla

Day 11 Flight back to Kathmandu

We had then had three days in Kathmandu. We could have used one or two of these days had we had an issue with flights from Lukla. As it was, we had no issues and used day 1 as relaxation and the other 2 days for sightseeing.

As a note, nobody that we met on the trails and in the lodges, was covering the distance that Niandi and myself were covering, they were doing half at the most! However, if you are fit, our trek is most definitely manageable and ultimately, in my opinion, more rewarding.

Guide or no guide?

Ngima Sherpa – our guide.

I knew the route and did not need a guide but I decided to take one. This proved to be a great decision on so many levels:

  1. We gave back something to the community, guides need tourists and we provided employment.
  2. This trek was a holiday for me after a year on the road, it was also Niandi’s first Nepal experience. I wanted no hassle and also be free of stress and worry – I let my guide do the worrying.
  3. Our guide, Ngima Sherpa, was a dream to be with – we now consider him a great friend.
  4. Ngima guided us without imposing, he kept to himself allowing us space, he handled all logistics, negotiations and made our trip smooth and like clockwork. He handled our lodges, passes for the National Park, our flights from Lukla and so much more.
  5. He showed us parts of the trails we would not have seen had we not been with him and more importantly, he introduced us to his friends and family on the trails. We were blessed.

Niandi with Ngima’s mother.

In summary, between Jiri and Tengboche a guide is not essential but I recommend one.

Beyond Tengboche, going to the high passes and to EBC I would strongly advise a guide – this is primarily due to the variables that altitude can bring – having an experienced professional around makes sense. For example, Ngima had medication should we need it and a tent for altitude sickness.

Equipment

Quite simple, in my opinion, if you are going trekking, carry your own kit! We saw so many people trekking with a little 3 or 5ltr packs and behind them a porter weighed down by a 20-40kg holdall. Don’t get me wrong, the porters need business but if YOU are trekking, why get someone else to carry your equipment? The only exception comes for those who are going climbing or on longer expeditions when obviously kit requirements are far greater.

Niandi and myself were self-sufficient carrying ALL we needed from the moment we left Kathmandu till the day we returned, 9-days. My pack was 7kg and Niandi’s was 5.7kg. Niandi used an Ultimate Direction 30ltr Fastpack (here) and I used a Montane Ultra Tour 55 (here).

You need to accept that you will smell, that you will wear clothes for many days and that you may, or more than likely, may not shower. For perspective, Niandi and myself managed 2 hot showers thanks to our guide, we had a shower on day 5 and on day 8.

Equipment is personal but I have dialed my apparel for Nepal over previous trips and I know it works. I basically advised Niandi on what to take and our equipment lists were almost identical. Niandi used PHD down products which were made specific for her needs (socks, trousers, jacket and sleeping bag). I am a huge PHD fan and have used their products on 3 of my previous Nepal trips, for this trip, I used RAB products. Both PHD and RAB are UK based companies. PHD here and RAB here.

Niandi’s apparel:

  • Merino wool base layer long-sleeve top x2 here
  • Merino wool base layer long tights x1here
  • 3/4 run tights x1here
  • Run shirt x1here and here
  • Medium weight down jacket here
  • *Medium weight down jacket with hood, 1 size larger (for when really cold) here
  • Down over trousers here and here
  • Down socks here
  • Down lodge/ tent slippers here
  • Merino wool liner gloves here
  • Lightweight waterproof/ windproof jacket here
  • Primaloft mitts here
  • Warm hat
  • Buff x2
  • Underwear x4
  • Merino wool socks x2
  • Nike Wildhorse 4 shoes here
  • **Down sleeping bag here and here
  • Trekking poles – Black Diamond Z-Pole (folding)
  • Dry towel
  • Wet wipes x3

Extras:

  • Compass
  • Knife
  • Head torch and batteries
  • Medical kit
  • Medication – paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Cold&Flu tablets, Imodium, lip cream and sun cream
  • Small toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, small shower gel, small deodorant etc.
  • Dry bags for kit
  • Sunglasses
  • Yaktrak hand warmers x8 here
  • ****2ltr bladder

NOTE: If you forget ‘any’ kit or equipment. You can purchase ‘anything’ in Thamel. There is a plethora of shops. Please note, many products are fake and super cheap. I wouldn’t take any fake item on my trek. That is just me! However, many do. There are ‘real’ stores such as The North Face, Mountain Hardwear and so on and they are all on the same road ‘THABAHL RD’ Google location here

Camera:

***Sony A9 with fixed 35mm f2.8 prime lens and 4 batteries.

Clarifications:

*We took 2 down jackets so that we could layer. I have found from experience that this is better than carrying one larger, heavier and warmer jacket. At times, it can be cold, but not too cold when one down jacket is adequate. Should temperatures drop, you can add another jacket for luxury with relatively little extra weight – 2-400g +/-.

**Sleeping bag was good for -5 but I use the layering system for sleeping. On warm nights, just the sleeping bag is adequate. A chilly night and Merino base-layers and the bag works great. If it’s cold, base-layers, down socks, down trousers and down jacket really increases the warmth for a super cozy and warm night.

This article is interesting re layering https://www.outsideonline.com/2271191/how-experts-layer-sleeping-bag

There is no such thing as a cold nights sleep, only not enough layers,he says. I layer when Im inside the bag just as much as I do while outside the bag. When youre climbing Everest, youre not naked under your down suit. The more heat you can preserve in a warm layer next to your body, the better.

***I am a photographer so was always going to take a camera. However, I didn’t want the trek to be like a photo assignment, so, I travelled light with a fixed lens – 35mm works great for portraits, landscape and general shots. I didn’t want to re-charge batteries so took 4.

****Both Niandi and myself prefer bottles to a bladder, but I have found a bladder far more practical in Nepal for many reasons. It is easy and quick to drink while moving, more often than not one is using poles and one can drink from the bladder with no issues (don’t need to remove a bottle, drink and replace), you move at a slower pace in Nepal so stopping once, re-filling the bladder causes no issues.

Tip – When talking about ‘warmth!’ This is of course subjective and you need to draw from personal experience. If you are a cold person, you will need more warmth and vice versa. From experience, being cold can be miserable, so, a little extra weight and guaranteed warmth is worth it! Niandi for example gets very cold hands through a circulation problem, we took 8 sets of Yaktrak hand warmers to ensure that we had this contingency if required – we used them all! The higher you go, the colder it will get. Also consider wind chill. On our day 2 as we summited Pikey Peak at 4100m, the wind was over 50mph and it was below -15. It was really cold, be prepared.

The pack on your back and the contents is your lifeline. It contains everything you need but remember you need to carry it, so, a little luxury is okay but too much and it will slow you down and tire you. Be frugal and be minimalist – it is all part of the process and the journey.

Lodges

Lodges are everywhere and there is no shortage of a place to eat and sleep. However, be careful! October and November the trails are busy, particularly from Lukla to EBC. The same applies for Spring, so, book ahead if possible. This is where a guide can step in. For our December trek, the trails are quiet and getting a room is no issue.

Lodges vary. Some are extremely basic, others are more developed. But just remember where you are and what you are doing… if you want luxury, you are in the wrong place. All lodges will provide food. The basic ones will give you no choice and probably serve Dahl Baht – rice, vegetable, lentil sauce, pickles and maybe some bread. Other lodges will have a menu with a variety of food options including chicken, apple pie and even pizza!

On Christmas Day, Niandi and I stayed in what I would consider a ‘luxury’ lodge – we had a bottle of red wine, a dinner of chicken, chips and vegetable and we followed that with chocolate pudding and a shot of rum. Days or dinners don’t get any better!

Visas, permits and so on.

On arrival in Kathmandu you need a visa, a 15-day tourist visa is 25 dollars. Go online here, download the form and fill out in advance. It saves time.

You need to purchase a KPRLM permit (Khumbu Pasang Lhama Rural Municipality) which costs approx £20. This can be purchased on the trail. Make sure you trek with your passport! After Phakding you need to purchase a Sagarmantha National Park pass, approx £30, which allows you access to the high passes and EBC. Keep this pass handy as you have several checkpoints to pass and it needs to be shown.

Money and food/ drink costs.

Carry the local currency and that way you will not have any issues or worries. Make sure you have enough cash! You will need the cash for the passes but all your lodges, food, drinks and so on will be paid in cash… Visa/ MasterCard machines are scarce! The higher you go; the more expensive things are. The reason is quite simple, products are either carried in by porter or flown in by helicopter. To clarify, a San Miguel beer will cost 500 NR in Lukla and 900 NR at Tengboche. On the trail, you will pass small shops all the time, so, getting a Coke, Mars bar, snack etc is not an issue. A bottle of water is 80-200 NR, a Coke 250-400 NR, Beer 500-1000 NR, Rum 500+ NR and dinner will cost you between 400-1500 NR depending on what you eat, how much you eat and how remote the place is.

Wi-Fi, Phone and Safety

I switched off and avoided all comms for my trip. The exception coming on Christmas Day when I posted a photo on FB and messaged my family. If you want phone connection, I suggest you purchase a Nepali SIM in Kathmandu – much of the trails now have 3G and 4G. Many of the lodges have Wi-Fi and you can pay locally for the odd connection. I had my phone with me as a back-up.

For safety, I took a SPOT GEN 3 GPS which I had turned off for the whole trip. It was nice to know though that should I need to press the emergency button, the option was there! Important beyond Tengboche, the high passes and EBC when phone signal disappears.

We also had a guide as an additional safety/ back-up.

Don’t underestimate this area, IT IS DANGEROUS. If things go wrong you will potentially die. Sounds dramatic I know but it is true.

On the trails

The trails are at times challenging. No need to clarify but you will be climbing and descending a great deal. Niandi and myself covered 108-miles and 16,200m of vertical. Trails can be wide, narrow, dry, sandy, dusty, rocky, muddy and in addition, from Kharikhola or Lukla you will have Mules, Yaks and porters to deal with. Simple rule, they have right of way and please keep ‘wall side!’ Don’t put yourself on the ‘edge’ side of the trail as a Mule or Yak may push you over. Both Niandi and myself used trail shoes, Nike Wildhorse 4 shoes – they were perfect! No blisters, really comfortable and great for walking. I carried ‘micro-spikes’ in case of ice.

Insurance

DO NOT got to Nepal without ‘extreme’ insurance cover. This MUST include evacuation by helicopter. Dogtag and BMC are good places to start.

Health and hygiene.

You can carry had sanitizer and it may make you feel better. But I have found over the years to go with the flow. Take in some germs every now and again and ultimately become more resilient. I do feel this is the way forward. Niandi and myself used nothing on the trails other than water and some soap – we had no issues. However, a stomach bug is a distinct possibility and I carried Imodium, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Cold & Flu tablets as a precaution.

I had 4 packets on Andrex wipes – a luxury! Each night it was wonderful to wipe down, freshen up and ‘feel’ clean even though we both knew we weren’t! Also, important for when going the loo.

I carried a Lifesytems NANO (here) First Aid kit for emergencies.

I also had a Leatherman Juice C2 here for practical purposes.

The Trek

That is the practical stuff out of the way… so The Trek.

PART TWO ‘THE TREK’ TO FOLLOW

*****

Many thanks to PHD for the continued support.

Treks Travels Nepal and my friend Phudorjee Lama Sherpa.

Our guide, Ngima Sherpa.

Everest Trail Race for the inpiration and confidence.

Ragna Debats to join the 2018 The Coastal Challenge #TCC2018

Ragna Debats had a stunning 2017 racing all over the world in multiple Skyrunning events and distances – surprising that someone born in the flatlands of the Netherlands can run so well in the Mountains. It was a full year and one that at times could have so easily pushed her over the edge. However, Debats managed her time well and concluded her racing year with an epic journey to Nepal.

A break over the Christmas period and a return to consistent training, Ragna now sets her sights on Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge. It will be a new challenge and one that should suit the Skyrunner well, the mixed terrain and technical challenges should suit her skill set.

In May, Ragna has her sights set on the IAU World Trail Championships.

I caught up with Ragna, with 1-month before Costa Rica it is all systems go.

You have had a great year – Skyrunning Champion, IAU World Trail top result and recently racing in Nepal – what has been a highlight?

For me personally, my highlights have been the Olympus Marathon where I won and set a new race record, High Trail Vanoise where I became EU Champ. The Rut, USA, I won and set a new race record too whilst having fun – a dream! However, I have enjoyed all of the races, 2017 was a great year!

Racing in Costa Rica will be very different but it will suit your skill set, what are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to racing in a completely new scenery! I can’t wait to see the tropical rainforests and the beaches, it is going to be incredible.

Are you doing any specific training for the heat, humidity in Costa Rica – if so, what?

I have just started training again after a break over Christmas. Basically, I am working towards the IAU World Championship in May and during January and February I will mainly focus on strength training and volume, Costa Rica will work well in this plan, however, adapting to the heat will be difficult.

You have just done a multi-day race in Nepal, is multi-day something you’d like to do more of in the future?

Nepal was a great experience, mainly on a humane level and because it was a real cultural adventure. From a running prospective I was a little disappointed, but Nepal offered so many new challenges it was always going to be a learning curve. Also, the race concluded a long and hard year of racing.

Do you have a plan or strategy for Costa Rica, or will you take each day as it comes?

I hope I will feel like when I ran the Pyrenees Stage Run in 2017 where I could push every day and enjoy the race from the beginning until the end. We shall see what happens!

You will have strong competition from Ester Alves, Elisabet Barnes and more… does that excite you?

Yes, definitely! I’m always looking for good competition and I will revel in it. It’s exciting. 

Tell me a little about your preparation for Costa Rica – what are you doing at the moment?

At the moment, I am just getting back to regular training sessions after my running break and my Christmas holidays in Holland. But I feel really motivated to get into a good shape for 2018.

What will a multi-day race bring you for your plans later in 2018?

I think it will give me a good base for the season. After the race, I will start with specific speed work which will lead into the world champs!

What are the plans for 2018?

Until May I will be mainly focused on the Trail World Championship and afterwards I will follow the ISF World Series and the ISF World Championship.

Finally, what is your lifetime, long-term dream race or goal?

I would love to win the UTMB, the Trail World Championship and to become the overall World Champion!

TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.

You can read and view images from the 2017 edition HERE

Follow #TCC2018

Twitter @talkultra

Instagram @iancorlessphotography

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

The Coastal Challenge

Facebook HERE

Website (UK) HERE

Website (Global) HERE

 

 

 

 

Episode 149 – Camille Herron and Pat Reagan

Episode 149 – Welcome to our 2017 Christmas and New Year show! We interview Camille Herron about her stunning end to the year and an amazing 100-mile world record. We also introduce Kurt Decker, the Godfather of Trail, as he does his first solo ‘TU’ interview with Pat Reagan.
This edition of Talk Ultra is to the point, no waffle, no chat, just two great interviews! We all need a break after all…
Thanks for the great support in 2017 and we look forward to sharing this magic world of mountain, ultra, trail and Skyrunning in 2018!
00:03:15 INTERVIEW PAT REAGAN
 
00:49:50 INTERVIEW CAMILLE HERRON
End 01:51:26
Keep running
Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE
Website – talkultra.com

Hayden Hawks to join the line-up at The Coastal Challenge 2018 #TCC2018

Hayden Hawks is one of those rising stars in the sport. A fast-guy moving from tack to trails and leaving scorch marks behind… But who is this 25-year old from Utah? In 2016, he burst on the scene with victory at Speedgoat 50K, sponsorship with Hoka One One followed and victory at Capstone 50K in November laid the foundations for that very memorable head-to-head with Miller at San Francisco 50. I profiled Hawks for IRUN4ULTRA and you can read that article here.

In 2017, Hawks toed the line at Transvulcania Ultramarathon. We expected a dominant performance and in the early stages, along with Tim Freriks, the American duo set a relentless and fast pace. By the time they reached the high-point of the course at Roques de los Muchachos, Freriks was looking strong and pushed ahead whereas Hawks felt the pace and had to eventually ease up but he pushed on for a finish, way outside his and all pre-race expectations.

It was a learning curve, but with learning comes knowledge. Hawks then turned un in Chamonix to toe the line at the CCC, one of the shorter races over the UTMB weekend – he won it!

It was all starting to click into place and just recently, Hawks once again toed the line at San Francisco 50; the super-fast showdown that often concludes a racing season for many an elite. It was Freriks once again who took the top slot but this time Hawks sealed a podium place (3rd) rounding out a solid 2017.

With 2018 around the corner, Hawks has secured a place at the 2018 The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica #TCC2018. It will be a seriously competitive start to 2018 and in a race that will bring a new experience and learning curve for the Utah man.

The 2018 edition of TCC is already looking like a stunning race. Two-time MDS champion Elisabet Barnes will return to Costa Rica and the UK’s Marcus Scotney who won the Cape Wrath Ultra and the Dragons Back Race has his first TCC experience ahead of him. – read HERE.

In addition, the UK’s Tom Evans will also run the 2018 TCC, read HERE the unstoppable Michael Wardian HERE and just recently, two new names have been added, Sondre Amdahl and Ragna Debats – more news to follow on this!

I caught up with Hawks to find out a little more ahead of the 2018 TCC

  1. You have been tipped as one of the ‘new wave’ of US ultra-runners who will make an impact on the world ultra-scene – how does that feel; does it bring pressure?

I am excited to be in this situation where I can inspire and help others. That is really what’s it’s all about. Of course, it can bring pressure but learning how to embrace that pressure and turn it into positive energy is what you need to do as an elite. This is a dream come true and I feel so blessed to be in the situation I am in, doing what I love every day. Life is wonderful and amazing and I hope to be the best I can for years to come! 

  1. You have some fast friends, Jim Walmsley and Tim Freriks, do you guys push each other to new limits and expectations?

We definitely push each other in races, sometimes training, and definitely inspirationally! These guys inspire me and help me want to be better. I know that I have to be on my A game at all time. We are all pushing the limits and making our sport more exciting and fun to watch. We always want to give our best and push the limits. It’s also great to have competition that you also call friends. Isn’t our sport awesome?  

  1. You started 2017 with Transvulcania, what was it like racing in Europe on those trails?

I actually ran 4 races before Transvulcania in the USA to start 2017 that all went great. I always wanted to race in Europe though and really enjoyed my time. I was pretty tired going into that race and should have been more prepared. It was a great learning experience that I would never change, this blow up has changed my career and helped me so much from the lessons I learned. European trails are definitely different and need to be practiced on, but they are fun and amazing to run on! I really enjoy them.  

  1. CCC was a great moment for you, tell me about it?

It was a career changer! Definitely the best and most exciting race I have won to date! I had a great time and felt so strong for that race. I crossed the line and felt like I could have kept going. It was just one of those perfect days! Can’t wait to go back! I appreciate everyone that believed in me after some rough races and the support and congratulations that I have received. 

 

  1. You have decided to run TCC in Costa Rica in 2018 – it is a multi-day race in heat and humidity – are you intimidated by the race?

I am not intimidated. I have been to Costa Rica before and know what the weather, trails, and culture will be like. It will be amazing! I have been training by doing 150+ miles a week in 6 Days for years. My body and mind know how to do that and I believe that it will really bring out my strengths competing in this style of event! I also love climbing and so the vert will not be intimidating but embraced! 

  1. You will have strong competition from Mike Wardian, Tom Evans, Marcus Scotney, Chema Martinez and more – you are going to need to be fit, healthy and strong – does that excite you?

I love competition! It gets me excited to know that I will be going up against athletes like these! They are also good friends of mine so I am excited for the fun times we will share together! I always make sure I am prepared and expect my competition will do the same. We will have many hard fought, exciting, fun miles! 

 

  1. Tell me a little about your preparation for Costa Rica – what are you doing at the moment?

Right now, I am doing 100 miles in 3 Days in the Bears Ears area in Utah that is under attack for protection. This is a very rugged and technical land. I will be doing upwards of 150 miles in 6 Days training for this race. I will be prepared!  

  1. What will a multi-day race bring you for your plans later in 2018?

A multi-day race will help my body learn how to push even when it is tired. I will need this for the longer races I will be doing, specifically the 100 mile races. This will be a great race as well as great training in a wonderful land! 

  1. What are the plans for 2018?

I will be doing some long races in 2018, capping it off with my first 100-mile race. Not 100 percent sure what that race will be. I love the long events and will be running Mt Gaoligong 125k and Penyagolosa 100k this spring! 

  1. Finally, what is your lifetime, long-term dream race or goal?

My dream race like many other Americans is to be the first American to win UTMB. I love the vibe and fans of this race and the area it is held in. I would also like to travel the world running races across the world experiencing new cultures and lands! 

TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.

You can read and view images from the 2017 edition HERE

Follow #TCC2018

Twitter @talkultra

Instagram @iancorlessphotography

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

The Coastal Challenge

Facebook HERE

Website (UK) HERE

Website (Global) HERE

Episode 148 – KILIAN JORNET SPECIAL

Episode 148 of Talk Ultra is a Kilian Jornet Special

Kilian Jornet was pretty much was missing from the mountain, ultra and trail calendar for the past 18-months and rightly so. He had set targets on the final summit of his Summits of my Life project – Everest. A failed attempt in a previous year and then Nepal earthquakes had put things on hold. No bad thing. Kilian learned, progressed and then finally summited Everest twice in one week which blew the minds of the whole world.

Of course, anything so amazing has questions raised over it and rightly so. Just recently an article appeared and Kilian responded. Read HERE.

The Interview 01:0810

This interview with Kilian is in-depth and discusses the whole #SOML project and we talk about Kilian’s approach and ethos in regard to his adventures.

The interview is not about trying to prove what Kilian has achieved! This is about providing a voice and hopefully in that process, many aspects will be made clear.

More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all of those questions. The film will be released in 2018.

Post Everest, Kilian started running again and won a super-fast Sierre Zinal, he won Hardrock 100 with a dislocated shoulder, placed 2nd behind Francois at UTMB and won Glen Coe Skyline. In the winter, he has had operations on his shoulders and now is in recovery and waiting to get back into the SkiMo season.

******

This show is co-hosted by Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Meltzer and we provide a review of the 2017 Mountain, Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning year.

You can read the article here.

Length 02:46:12

Links

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE
Website – talkultra.com