Everest Trail Race 2018 Tengboche to Lukla #ETR2018

Day 6 Everest Trail Race #ETR2018

Leaving Tengboche the race retraces stage-5 to Phakding via a diversion at Sensa to the amazing Kumjung Valley where the runners would normally have an incredible backdrop of Everest, Lohtse and Ama Dablam. Today, the cloud came in blocking all views and keeping temperatures very cold throughout the stage.  Arriving at Namche Bazaar the ETR then re-traces stage 5 all the way to Phakding and then as the trail heads back to Kharikhola, a left turn leads to the final climb and the swinish line in Lukla.and then branch left to climb to Lukla and the finish of the 2017 ETR.

On paper, the stage is mostly downhill with 3183m of descent in comparison to 2105m of ascent over the 29.5km course. It’s a tough way to finish a race, but the rewards are worth it!

Today Jordi Gamito eased back and ran with Manuela Vilaseca, overall victory was guaranteed and he enjoyed the day. This allowed Joan Soler to finally achieve a stage victory, well deserved after racing hard all week! Sergio Arias has been a consistent 3rd all week but today he slipped to 4th opening a podium place for Pasang Sherpa.

Purnimaya Rai  despite being guaranteed overall victory, did not ease up today and she pushed ahead to secure another stage victory. Manuela Vilaseca and Becks Ferry finished 2nd and 3rd showing great consistency.

OVERALL GC

  1. Jordi Gamito
  2. Sergio Arias
  3. Joan Soler

OVERALL GC

  1. Purnimaya Rai
  2. Manuela Vilaseca
  3. Becks Ferry

Everest Trail Race 2018 Kharikhola to Phakding #ETR2018

Day 4 Everest Trail Race #ETR2018

Kharikola to Phakding is very much a transition stage. The first 3-days have been quiet with an occasional glimpse of life. From here on in, the experience changes, the trails become busier – mules and yaks are seen regularly and they must be respected… It can be a confusion for a runner, as they force a slower pace and one must wait for the correct time to pass. In addition, Porters are seen regularly, these people are the hub of this area of Nepal, without them, supplies would not reach the lodges and shops. 

The diversity is incredible. Children play, parents work and the runners navigate a way through this section to finish at what many consider to be the gateway to Everest, Phakding.

At just under 30km’s, stage 4 of the ETR is arguably the most runnable. Leaving the monastery, a short twisting descent leads to the river and a long climb to aid station one at Kari La. It is here that the first real glimpse of the high peaks becomes real. They are no longer distant specs but now feel very real and surprisingly close.

The descent to Surke (Cp2) is a 17km rollercoaster series of switchbacks of technical trail with occasional short climbs to sap the legs and lungs.

From Surke, the trail now flattens a little, with a series of small climbs and descents that lead all the way to the finish at Phakding. 

Today was once again all about Jordi Gamito and Rai Purnimaya, the duo led from the front and were untouchable, they crossed the line in 3:34 and 4:25 respectively and now have strong leads for overall victory with two stages to go.

Joan Soler and Sergio Arias once again were 2nd and 3rd, 3:52 and 3:58 for the men and Manuela Vilaseca was 2nd in 4:49 ahead of Becks Ferry in 5:31 who picked up and injury on stage 3.

Tomorrow, stage-5 is a short day of just 20km’s and 2124m of vertical gain. It culminates at the monastery at Tyengboche with Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam providing arguably the most impressive finish line of any race!

Everest Trail Race 2018 Jase Bhanjyang to Kharikhola #ETR2018

Day 3 Everest Trail Race #ETR2018

After yesterday relentless uphill struggle today, day-3 of the Everest Trail Race was all downhill, well, sort of. Starting in Jase Bhanjyang runners passed through Jumbesi, Phurteng, Salung, Taksindu and then from Jubhing the race finishes with a tough climb to the stunning monastery at Kharikhola. At 37.4km in length the total descent is a quad busting 4110m in contrast to 2512m of ascent.

While many talk about day 2 of the ETR being the most demanding, I personally over the years have found day 3 very challenging! The terrain is more technical and in all honesty, 4110m of descent is tough on ones legs and knees… Give me the climbing any day! The final push to the line is long, steep and comes when everyone is very tired, the final steps to the monastery at Kharikhola are relentless.

Jordi Gamito was unstoppable today setting a blistering pace that nobody could match. He now has a lead that almost certainly guarantees victory in the 2018 edition of the race, barring an accident. Joan Soler and Sergio Arias worked together today and finished together consolidating 2nd and 3rd places.

For the women, Nepali Rai Purnimaya worked hard and took victory ahead of Manuela Vilaseca in 2nd – these two have a real battle ahead. Becks Ferry was once again 3rd.

The trails and route for the ETR from Kharikhola to Tengboche and back to Lukla are now on the main trekking route of this area of Nepal. In particular, from Lukla, many trekkers are making slow and steady process to Everest Base Camp. The experience over stage 4 really does change for the participants, the more kilometres one covers, the more people one sees. The arrival in Bhandar next to the river is a welcome one.

Everest Trail Race 2018 Monkey Temple and Patan #ETR2018

Today, the calm of the Monkey Temple and historical Patan. It’s a day of noise, colour and amazing people as the ETR runners relax and soak in the beauty of this magical area.

The Monkey Temple *’Swayambhunath’  is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’ for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. For the Buddhist Newars, in whose mythological history and origin myth as well as day-to-day religious practice Swayambhunath occupies a central position, it is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is second only to Boudha.

Patan *Lalitpur Metropolitan City is the third largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu and Pokhara and it is located in the south-central part of Kathmandu Valley which is a new metropolitan city of Nepal. Lalitpur is also known as Manigal. It is best known for its rich cultural heritage, particularly its tradition of arts and crafts. It is called city of festival and feast, fine ancient art, making of metallic and stone carving statue.

Each year I am constantly surprised and blown away by my experiences as I meet the locals in their environment, some I now have seen for several years on my trips to these magical places.

Tomorrow the runner’s leave early morning for Jiri and camp 1, the race starts the following day at 0900, Thursday 8th November.

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Everest Trail Race 2018 #ETR2018

EVEREST TRAIL RACE, Nepal

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didnt do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (Sherpa Tenzing) are the stuff of legends; real comic book heroes for this modern era. They had the RIGHT STUFF! You know what I mean, stiff upper lip and the ability to take it on the chin.

Think back, 50+ years ago clad in wool and leather boots they departed Kathmandu on what is now considered one of the most iconic journeys everon the planet. A journey that would take the duo and a British expedition step-by-step, stride-by-stride from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp; a journey to climb the highest mountain in the world, Everest.

To follow in the footsteps of these pioneers, to follow in the footsteps of Hilary and Tenzing and retrace the ‘53’ journey is beyond running. Its a life affirming and life changing experience and one that the Everest Trail Race provides.

Kathmandu is just the most incredible place. Its a cacophony of noise, colour, people, cars and dust. Nothing can really prepare you for the assault on your senses. A dichotomy for the mind; I embrace the poverty around me and I make it look amazing with stunning photos. Am I a fake? Its a question I often ask. Do I prostitute the locals for my own gain? I think the answer is yes! But with each photograph captured I receive a smile, an acknowledgement that I have made them happy.

Departing Kathmandu, the road to Jiri is a twisting and gut-wrenching series of bends and miles. At 1905m altitude base camp 1 is warmed by the glow of yellow tents. As the sun lowers behind the surrounding mountains, anticipation of the journey ahead is high. Sherpas and porters prepare dinner and we spend a first night under canvas. Suddenly, the journey ahead feels very real.

The Everest Trail Race (ETR) follows the route of Hilary and Tenzing from Jiri all the way to Tengboche and then turns around and heads back to Lukla, thus facilitating an easy and manageable exit point to fly back to Kathmandu.

At 100-miles in distance an experienced ultra-runner may well think the race to be easy. Think again. The combination of relentless climbing, long descents, technical terrain and high altitude makes the ETR, mile-for-mile one of the toughest races of its type.

Broken down into manageable chunks, the race is divided into 6-stages with daily distances of approximately 22, 28, 30, 31, 20 and 22km. Altitude gain starts at 3000m and builds to 6000m. The ETR is a journey to widen one’s eyes and lungs. The visual splendor of the Himalayas is beyond words. The mountains, trails and people arguably provide one of the most stunning backdrops to any race on the planet. It’s easy to become stuck in the moment; the moment of relentless forward motion, then something stirs, you look up and as your jaw hits the floor, the visual splendor takes what little breath remains away; you are left gasping, breathless at the beauty.

Large eyes, dried dirt, runny noses and wide-open welcoming smiles; the Nepalese people really are the salt of the earth. Living in a harsh, demanding and remote environment they have adapted to the surroundings and have found a peace and humility that we can all learn from.

The trekking route, on which we travel, is the motorway of Nepal. We are the tourists, a constant stream of heavy goods vehicles surround us: porters, mules or yaks. Porters transport goods and services up and down this trail motorway daily, an important lifeline to the whole community. For £10 a day they will carry 30kgs on their backs covering high altitude and long distances with the ease of mountain goats. Experienced porters have been known to carry up to 120kg per day. It is beyond belief or comprehension. It is easy to look on from the outside and nod disapprovingly. However, this is normal. No roads exist here, the only method of transporting any goods along the trail are by porter, yak or mule.

Day 1 to Bhandar eases runners into the race with 3700m+/- of vertical gain and descentand approximately 21km in distance. The mind is released, and the legs and lungs try to follow. The sound of horns from local villagers announce the race is underway.

Bhandar to Jase Bhanjyang is a beast and arguably day 2 is considered one of the toughest of the race. It’s a brute! A brute of epic proportions; it leaves every runner questioning the journey ahead and the possibility of completion. Deviating from Hilary and Tenzing’s route, the ETR does not circumnavigate Pikey Peak at just over 4000m but goes over it! As one runner said, ‘It would certainly appear that day 1 really had been just a hors d’oeuvre and the race would miss the entrée and go straight into the main course, ready or not!’

Like any good meal, you can sometimes be a little over faced with the plate in front of you. Pikey Peak was such an indulgence. It was a climbing journey that made a vertical kilometer look like a small hill-rep. Front-runners can anticipate 2-hours plus of relentless climbing, the remainder of the field can spend 4, 5, 6 and maybe longer negotiating the steep slopes of these Himalayan foothills. From the summit; each step of pain is rewarded with a wonderful vista of the Himalayan range. In the distance Everest, Lohtse and Ama Dablam making this 4000m-peak dwarf with their 7000m plus splendor.

Kharikhola provides an incredible end to day-3. A monastery perched atop a mountain. I have often heard how runners have discussed and explained out of body experiences while running. Its not something one can pinpoint, like a mirage they come and go leaving one to question ones sanity. Kharikhola may well have provided such stimulus. Is that real?one may ask and as the final steps arrive and the ETR finish banner awaits.

Travel is the discovery of truth; an affirmation of the promise that human kind is far more beautiful than it is flawed. With each trip comes a new optimism that where there is despair and hardship, there are ideas and people just waiting to be energized, to be empowered, to make a difference for good.” – Dan Thompson, Following Whispers: Walking on the Rooftop of the World in Nepal’s Himalayas.

The trail changes and suddenly more trekkers, more porters, more mules and yaks populate the trail to Lukla and beyond. Dropping down and climbing up, the trail switches and twists and as you turn a bend at Kari La, the mountains hit you through the mist. They are no longer distant peaks but massive snow-covered monsters that make you realise how completely insignificant you are.

I see a woman carrying wood to her home. I stop her and ask for a photograph. Without hesitation she stops, looks me in the eye and patiently waits while I work my craft. Her face is leathered, full of lines and adorned with gold jewelry. She is beautiful. I cant even remotely pinpoint her age, but her face tells me a multitude of stories. Each line an experience. A story of laughter, a story of childhood and I am sure many stories of hardship.

Tengboche, the finish line of day-5 offers a panorama to bring a tear to the eye. Everest, Lohtse and Ama Dablam are close and the finish line of the ETR frames them beautifully like a classic painting. Relief, emotions and an outpouring of tears make the journey worthwhile. So tough the journey, many a runner needs to be reminded to turn around, look, and see what is behind them. The reaction always the same, a huge intake of air, a hand to the face and then a lowering of the head.

Hillary and Tenzing carried on from Tengboche. In the process they created a new world, a world where anything is possible. They climbed to the top and looked down and in doing so they paved the way for all of us to set new horizons, new goals and they have made us all ask the question, what if?

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

Edmund Hillary

Passing through Sagarmatha National Park, crossing Hilary Bridge, navigating through Namche Bazaar the final calling of Lukla confirms the end of the ETR.

Nepal and the Everest Trail Race provides more than a race experience, they provide a spiritual journey that transcends running. Running may be the vehicle but the trails of Nepal provide the highway, a highway to a new experience, to something magical and to something special.

Words taken from the book RUNNING BEYOND HERE

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