Luis Alberto Hernando and Elisabet Barnes head to Nepal – Everest Trail Race #ETR 2017

IAU World Trail Champion and Skyrunning European Champion Luis Alberto Hernando has confirmed he will join the 2017 Marathon des Sables Champion Elisabet Barnes on the start line of the 2017 Everest Trail Race.

Luis Alberto is not new to the ETR (Everest Trail Race), he participated in 2013. After winning the first stage he was unfortunately reduced to a walk but went on to complete the whole race and in the process, he had an incredible experience soaking in the best of what the Himalayas and Nepal must offer. he needs no introduction to the mountain running world, Luis Alberto is the best! His race results, experiences and friendly nature have made the Spaniard one of the most admired and respected runners in the world.

His recent victory at High Trail Vanoise crowned him the Skyrunning European Champion and in the coming weeks he is preparing for the UTMB. Nepal has an impact on a person – the people, the landscape, the scenery, the trails – it really is a magical place and Luis Alberto is obviously keen to return in November to race after his 2013 experience.

Two-time Marathon des Sables Champion Elisabet Barnes is certainly tipping her toe into new experiences and new challenges in 2017. A specialist in multi-day running, the ETR format will suit her.

However, mountains, elevation and technical terrain are all part of a new learning process. In 2017, Elisabet will test her ability at altitude and challenging terrain at Transrockies in the USA. This will be followed with a shorter multi-day race in a colder climate. The two races no doubt providing an excellent base for the 160km journey from Jiri back to Lukla via Tyengboche in November.

Tracing the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hilary, the ETR is wonderful mountain experience that all abilities can embrace. It’s tough for sure – elevation gain, technical terrain and variable temperatures bring a unique challenge. Add to this self-sufficiency (runners must carry all they need for the week but food and a tent is provided) and the race becomes so much more than about wining and times; it’s a journey for the mind and the body. First time participants are changed when they experience Nepal and the Himalayas on foot. The 2017 edition of the race will be no different. Iconic mountains such as Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, Tamseku, and Makalu amongst others provide the most stunning backdrop to the race.

Excellent organization and a small field make the ETR one of ‘THE’ bucket list races in the world. Images tell the story and you can view galleries and read reports from the 2016 edition using the links provided.

2016 Image Gallery HERE

You can also read daily accounts of the 2016 edition

Day 1 HERE

Day 2 HERE

Day 3 HERE

Day 4 HERE

Day 5 HERE

Day 6 HERE

For more information and global entries go to www.eversttrailrace.com

and UK entries to www.everesttrailrace.co.uk

 

Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 Review #Peak20

Packs for a multi-day race or a running multi-day adventure were once the domain of Raidlight. Of course, other brands ventured into the arena but it was only really the arrival of WAA that made everyone start to stop, look and see what else existed.

Packs are personal.

I think a pack becomes even more personal when one requires something to be comfortable for multiple days and also when carrying 6.5kg or more.

Salomon have now extended their ‘vest design’ to the S-LAB PEAK 20 and in doing so, they will turn the head of many a runner and make them question, is this THE pack for them for their next multi-day adventure or race.

Shape, gender, size, height and so many other variables dictate if a pack is comfortable or not and this depends on you, so, when looking at this pack I try to be impartial and when possible I always try to cross reference with a female perspective. The plus of this pack is it comes in S, M, L and XL so no compromising to be made. I am 38/40 chest and I have a medium which fits perfect.

If you are heading to the mountain for an overnight adventure, I am pretty sure the Peak 20 will work for you. However, would the pack work for a race like Marathon des Sables, Grand to Grand, Everest Trail Race or one of the 4 Desert races when one is completely self-sufficient for multiple days?

Let’s look at the packs highlights:

  • 1 main compartment with a full length zip (double slider) that open up allowing easy access and organisation of what is inside.
  • Fabrics that wick and are quick drying.
  • Three sizes – S, M and L.
  • Soft trims so no chafing.
  • Sensifit is a Salomon buzz word that ultimately means it should be the Rolls Royce of bags when coming to fit and comfort.
  • Front hydration pockets x2 (designed for 500ml soft flasks).
  • Adjustable front straps for customized fit.
  • Zipper pockets – It has 2 large pockets on the front, 2 expandable pockets on the shoulder straps and 2 top zipped mesh pockets.
  • Will take a bladder.
  • Ability to carry poles or ice axes.
  • Lightweight at 484g +/-.

THE PACK

This pack will work for an overnight adventure, mountain marathon race or an adventure when an excessive mandatory kit will be required. But, the big question for many will be, can this pack work for a 6-day self-sufficient race?

In a word – Yes!

Simple reasons why:

  • Yes, it can hold 2 x 750ml of liquid at the front
  • Yes, it has 4 pockets on the front that will allow immediate access to anything you will need whilst running a stage.
  • Yes, it can hold another liter to 1.5 liters on the rear in two external pockets.
  • Yes, it can hold everything you need for 6-days self-sufficiency.

OVERVIEW

The pack has a 20L capacity (typical for Marathon des Sables and comparable with the competition from Ultimate Direction, WAA, Raidlight, OMM and others) and has one large external zip on the rear that works two ways so that you can zip down or zip up depending on preference. Once open, it’s possible to access the pack easily and arrange contents. Internally there is a small mesh panel so that you divide the large compartment in two – a good thing for maybe an overnight jaunt but not required for a multi-day adventure.

It’s light, very light! It has a vest style that echoes and follows on from the designs from Salomon’s other models.

The front of the pack has two stretch pockets for soft-flasks or bottles. On top of these pockets sitting a little lower are two large pockets with zips that hold a surprising amount. On top of the shoulder straps are two stretch zip pockets that provide additional storage.

On the sides of the vest are adjustable cords that pull the pack closer to the body or allow the pack to be looser.

On the top of the rear of the pack above the zip, is a central cord pull. Pull this and the yellow cord that wraps around the pack pulls tighter and compresses the contents. Great when the pack is full to make everything tight and secure but especially useful as the days pass when racing and the pack contents become less.

IN DETAIL

The pack tapers and as you can see from this side-view is narrow at the bottom and then opens up wider as one gets closer to the top. On both sides is an open topped stretch pocket that will take a bottle or other items.

The pack has thin blue padding that does not sit inside the pack but on the outside and underneath the mesh back. The is ingenious as it has been designed so that it can be removed.

It is held in place by small metal buckles that attach to web loops. I removed the padding and used my sleeping mat inside the pack as my padding. Ingenious – not only do you save weight but your mat doubles up as protection when running and sleeping.


The two-way external zip is great to allow access to upper items or lower items in the pack without having to un-zip the whole pack. Importantly, when un-zipped it’s easy to access the inside and arrange items. An internal mesh panel can be used to split the pack into two halves. For some this may be useful but if like me you use the sleeping mat inside, you can only have one large compartment. It’s a great space and like any pack, you will want to play around with how you pack your contents to find the correct balance. As a tip I recommend you leave your sleeping bag out when packing. Put all the contents in and then add the sleeping bag filing in all the empty spaces – you will be amazed how a lightweight down bag will compress.

The external cord the wraps around the pack is designed to be pulled tight and compress the contents. This is adjusted on the rear of the pack just above the zip.

Simply hold the buckle and pull the cord. The cords pulls tight and compresses to make the pack smaller and tight – perfect! You can make this even tighter by pulling the cords on the side and then taking up the the slack by the top adjustment. This on days 3, 4, and 5 will be just incredible at making the pack smaller and smaller as contents are used up.
On the shoulder straps, the yellow cord is also present under the two shoulder zip pockets. Pull the cord here and take up the slack and you pull the top of the pack closer to your back.

 On the sides of the pack between the bottom rear and the front lower pockets there is a yellow cord on each side – again this allows you to pull the bottom of the pack as close to your back as you require.

In a nutshell, this level of adjustment is just perfect and is the best of all packs I have tried.

 The front of the pack is classic Salomon vest design but with some differences. Fitting to the torso comes via 3 straps. Two go right to left and one goes left to right. These attach via a black plastic hooks to a yellow cord.

They can be moved up or down and they can also be made tighter or looser. In particular, this will be useful for lady runners who need to adjust the pack to fit around their chest. It’s a method that works and the on-the-go adjustment is welcome.

There are two stretch pockets that are designed for soft-flasks. This for me caused concern as I was under the impression that they would only hold 500ml. Not so! These pockets will take the Hydrapak SF750 soft-flasks and you can drink from these without the need to remove them.

Prefer straws? The Hydrapak 600ml bottles with straws will fit.

Prefer hard bottles? This is where I needed to think outside the box… OMM make very slim 500ml bottles and they fit like a glove.

Have no fears, you can carry enough water up at the front. Also, lets not forget the two external pockets. In my tests, I had 2x 500ml OMM flasks on the rear too. So, at a minimum you could carry 1litre or 2litres with 2 bottles on the rear. At a max you could carry 3litres with 1.5 up front and 1.5 at the rear.

UPDATE on the bottle situation. I finally obtained 2x 750ml Raidlight bottles with straws and they fit like a glove to the front pockets!


The two pockets that sit below the bottles are a real welcome addition. They are easy to get at. They have great capacity, trust me, you need no more additional space up front, especially when one considers the two additional sip pockets on the shoulder straps. These pockets are less spacious but they will take a phone, snacks or other essentials.

 

There is an attachment system for poles that comes over the right shoulder. I personally though would probably attach to bungee cords to the front of the pack so that I can place the poles across my chest when not in use.

Fit is sweet and with all the adjusters you can really get this pack close to your torso. It fits like a piece of clothing and there are no rough edges – all the seams are soft. Salomon actually say that the pack may be worn against the skin and it will feel like apparel.

At 484g it’s light.

INITIAL SUMMARY

This pack is still under test and things such as longevity, strength, weaknesses, durability and so on have not been tested as it’s too early to say.

However, what I can say is that this is the best pack I have tested for running when the contents are heavy and I require 20L capacity.

I have long been a fan of the Ultimate Direction Fastpack as I loved its simplicity and no nonsense approach to the task of carrying many items and weight. The Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 has now become my new favourite.

It’s not without flaws – what pack is? The yellow cord compression works like a dream but it can be a little tricky to set up – it’s a small price to pay though.

The front bottle pockets almost certainly require soft-flask use or using the OMM 500ml bottles. I personally would always caution against soft-flasks for a multi-day, if they puncture, you are screwed. However, the Hydrapak soft-flasks are more durable than much of the competition and they have never let me down. The 600 or 750 versions work with the vest – perfect.

We will follow up with some action shots of the pack and an overall summary from a male and female perspective in the coming weeks, for now, this pack gets an ‘A’ for awesome.

Photo below is copyright Ricky Gates – he’s currently using a prototype Peak 20 with front pack. Interesting!

You can read Ricky’s specs and the contents of the pack on his Facebook page #transamerica 

In use at Everest Trail Race, November 2016

Some comments:

Paul Wilson Used one on the spine race. It was ace. Did most of my training with an ultimate direction fast pack then seen got the Salomon pack. Which proved to be far better.

Jana Studzinska Tested on fully self supported solo running trip across Serra de Tramuntana. Can’t recommend more.

Sito Castello perfecta para la Everest Trail Race.

Robert Kampczyk Cool bag. Like it because my complete Photo Equipment can insert.

What Salomon say:

Ideal for alpine running, superlight mountaineering or fast hiking, the streamlined S-LAB Peak 20 set uses our trail running knowledge to move fast in the mountain, with stretch fit and complete stability. With convenient access to the 20L compartment, both the pack and the load are easily compressed for maximum stability under partial load. It includes front storage solutions for two 500ml soft flasks and essentials and possibility to carry poles, ice axes…

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable fit
  • Breathability

FEATURES:
Back systems
MotionFit Trail
Sensifit (pack)

Load Management
Soft Twin Link
Compression quick lace
Top and bottom sensi load lifter

Pockets & compartments
2 front soft hydration elastic pockets
2 front zipped large pockets
2 shoulder expandable pockets
2 top zipped mesh pocket

Carrying system
4D Pole holder

Opening & closure
Wide front opening with double sliders

Miscellaneous
Soft trims
Apparel sizing
Patent pending

Fabrics
PVC free
Elastic Power mesh
Fast wicking fabrics
70D Nylon Double Ripstop, Waterproof 500mm
70D Nylon Triple Ripstop – Silicone coating, Waterproof 500mm
Elastic Jersey

Pack weight (lb oz) : 17.073
Pack weight (g) : 484
Pack volume (l) : 20
Pack volume (ci) : 1220

Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Day 2

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Heavy skies greeted us for day 2 of our 2017 multi-day training camp. It looked cold out there… the reality was very different. It was a hot day with no wind. Almost oppressive!

The early hours were dominated with admin and but then it was time to do a final recce of one of the coastal runs that we will run with camp attendees. In previous years’ we had attempted to hug the coastline and take a rough trail (with scrambling) to a coastal town, Tenesar, and then navigate around the trails to Montana Teneza and Montana Blanca.

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We had failed!

Often losing the path to undertake an extreme version of sktyrunning that was far too risky for those attending a multi-day race.

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The wonders of Google Earth and Movescount software afforded me the opportunity to look at the area in detail in advance of this years’ camp and yes, we nailed it! We had a wonderful 20km recce which provided some stunning views, challenging terrain and plenty of laughs.

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Everything is place now. The clients arrive today, Thursday and it’s all systems go.

The camp will officially start this evening with a shake out coastal run to loosen the legs, make everyone feel relaxed and then we head straight to the bar for welcome drinks and a first night group meal.

The action starts Friday at 0800 with a long run that will vary in length based on the speed and ability of our three groups, the participants can expect anything from 24 – 36km.

Happy days!

Want to join our 2018 camp? Go HERE

Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Day 1

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The snow, the ice, the rain and the cold arrived in the UK. Temperatures plummeted. Lanzarote was the only place to be and thank goodness our multi-day training camp is now an annual fixture.

Elisabet Barnes, Niandi Carmont and myself arrived on this majestic Canary island of Lanzarote, two days ahead of our 2017 camp to put logistics in place and do a final check of some of the run routes we will use.

Blue skies and 20 degree temperatures greeted us. The bright blue sky, the warm rays immediately rejuvenating us from the cold and dark of the UK. No confirmation is needed but within seconds we know only too well why we do this camp at this time of year.

Today was all about settling in but it would be rude not to get out on the trails as the day came to a close. Using one of our training run routes, we ran, climbed and scrambled one of the many volcanoes that are located on this island. It was a magical way to end the day.

Wednesday, we will do a full long run route recce and then on Thursday, our clients will arrive from all over the world to start a full-on week learning how best to train, prepare and plan for a multi-day race. Lanzarote is the perfect environment for this.

Out 2017 #multidaytrainingcamp is underway!

The Ultimate Equipment Guide to Desert Multi-Day Racing – Hints ‘n’ Tips

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Desert running brings many challenges and running in a desert for multiple days brings a whole new set of challenges. Over 30-years ago (1984), Patrick Bauer, filled up a pack with food and water and trekked off alone into the Algerian Sahara to cover 350km’s on foot in a self-sufficient manner. Little did he know at the time, but this journey was the start of something incredible, the Marathon des Sables.

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Also read

Top Tips To Better Multi-Day Running HERE

Multi-Day Food On The Cheap HERE

MDS as it is affectionately known paved the way not only for multi-day desert racing but ‘all’ multi-day racing, be that in snow, ice, rainforest, jungle or the mountains. If multi-day racing was the mafia, MDS would be the Corleone family and Patrick Bauer would be the Godfather – Don Vito Corleone.

All multi-day races have followed and tried to replicate the MDS format, however, the reality is, I have yet to experience a race that matches the size, the scale, the organisation and awe-inspiring splendor of what Bauer and his team have created in the Sahara. Ask anyone, despite experience, despite achievement, MDS is usually ‘on the bucket list!’ It’s fair to say, that MDS is directly attributable for many new ultra-runners. You see, MDS offers more than just running, it offers a challenge, it offers something quite unique – the Sahara and the MDS strips the runner back to basics and deprives them of all luxuries so that they are stripped raw. Runners find themselves in the desert.

 

The 32nd Marathon des Sables takes place in 2017 and runners all over the world are wondering and asking the question, “What equipment do I need for the MDS?”

This question is the same for many other desert races but I need to be clear, not all races are the same. For example, MDS requires the runner to be completely self-sufficient. This harks back to Bauer’s pioneering expedition in 1984. The runner must carry ‘all’ they need for the duration of the event, the only exception being:

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Bivouac – A simple tent cover is provided at the end of each day and this tent must be shared with 7 other runners.

Water – Water is provided in bivouac and out on the course but is rationed.

Anything else the runner needs must be carried – pack, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food, snacks, luxuries etc.…

The above format is very similar for races such as the Grand to Grand in the USA, Racing the Planet races such as Atacama, Gobi and so on.

So, items discussed in this post directly relate to a ‘self-sufficient’ race in the MDS style. To clarify, races such as Big Red Run in Australia and The Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun in South Africa are ‘semi’ self-sufficient races and therefore runners can carry far less items and often bags are transported each day and therefore the runner can run light and fast. However, please keep in mind that many of the kit items and needs directly relate and are transferable.

The Detail

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Let’s be clear, it is important to note that equipment will not make you complete any race. What it can do is make the process easier and more comfortable. Equipment is something we all must take to any race and finding out what works and doing the research is part of the fun.

If you want to increase your chances of completing your chosen race, commit to the training required, get your head in the correct place and then finish off with the appropriate equipment for the job. Far too many stress about what equipment they need and neglect the appropriate training.

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Multi-day racing in its purest form should be very simple. However, over the year’s deciding what equipment to take has become increasingly more complicated.

It shouldn’t be complicated and in all honesty, it isn’t!

Here is just a simple list of absolute essentials, one could say that this list is mandatory:

  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Buff
  • Jacket
  • T-Shirt
  • Shorts/ Skort
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Gaiters
  • Rucksack
  • Sleeping Mat (optional)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Head Torch
  • Flip-flops or similar
  • Toilet paper
  • Personal medical kit (feet etc.)
  • Spot Tracker (supplied at MDS, optional at other races)
  • Road Book (supplied)
  • Salt Tablets (supplied)
  • *Food for the required days
  • **Mandatory kit
  • ***Water

Optional items:

  • Warm jacket (usually down that packs small and light) – I consider this essential and not optional
  • Stove and Esbit fuel blocks
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Spare socks
  • Walking Poles
  • Goggles
  • Spare clothes (?)

Luxuries:

  • Mp3 player
  • Phone
  • Solar charger
  • Kitchen sink…

Perspective:

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Any multi-day race has (arguably) five types of participant:

  1. The elite races who will contest the high-ranking positions.
  2. Top age groupers who will look to race for a high place and test themselves overall.
  3. Competitive runners looking for a challenge.
  4. Those who wish to complete and not compete.
  5. Newbies who are out of their comfort zone.

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When one looks at kit and requirements, it’s easy to think that the needs of the top elites in group 1 will vary from those in group 5. I would arguably say no! All the runners need the same things; they all must carry the same mandatory kit and they all must carry the same minimum food requirement.

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I think the differences come with experience. Novices and newbies will more than likely prepare for the unknown, the ‘just in case’ scenario. Whereas top runners will be on a minimum, the absolute minimum. Groups 2- 4 are a mix of groups 1 and 5 and they fall somewhere between.

So, for me, groups 2, 3, 4 and 5 should (where possible) aim to be like group 1. The only key difference comes with shoe choice. Runners who will spend much longer on their feet and out on the course will most definitely need a shoe that can withstand that pressure and the shoe must also be good for walking. Groups 2-5 never fully appreciate (often until it’s too late) how much they will walk in a desert race.

EQUIPMENT IN DETAIL

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When looking at equipment, I am going to provide a brief synopsis and then some recommendations. I will then supply ‘my’ equipment list.

Hat – A hat is essential to keep the sun off your head; options exist that have a neck cover built in to avoid that delicate area that will almost certainly be in the sun all day.

Sunglasses – So many choice, but you need a good pair that has ideally a large lens to protect the eye. Some desert specific sunglasses include a brow pad that helps stop sweat dripping in your eye. Do you need prescription? If so, I use prescription Oakley and they are excellent. Do you need goggles? Yes and no. If you have good sunglasses with good coverage, then no. However, should a sand storm hit, it can be uncomfortable. Goggles guarantee no sand in the eyes.

Buff – A buff or even two are essential. One around the neck helps keep the sun off and you can also wet it to help reduce core temperature. In wind and sand storms, the Buff is lifted and protects mouth, nose and sometimes eyes. A spare Buff is a luxury but worth considering.

Jacket – Jacket choice will depend on sleeping bag choice. If you are using a light bag, a lightweight down jacket is an essential item. Look at Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, Yeti Companyon Strato, Mont-Bell Plasma 1000 Down, Berghaus VapourLight (not down) and/ or PHD custom made.

T-Shirt – It’s not rocket science, you will have been running in a shirt already, if it works, why change it? I read countless arguments about should it be black or white – you know what, it doesn’t matter. Look at the elite runners, they are often sponsored and have little or no choice on colour. Comfort however is key.

Shorts/ Skort – Same answer as T-Shirt.

Socks – Getting the correct socks are key for any race and like I have said for shirt and shorts, if you have socks that work, why change? So many options exist but for me I am a firm believer in Injinji toe socks.

Shoes – Shoes are personal and must be suited to you, the individual. Consider your gait (neutral, supinate or pronate), consider time on feet, consider your weight, consider how much you will walk (and then double it) also consider shoe drop and how much cushioning you need. It’s impossible to recommend any one shoe because of these variables. You will see top runners using a lighter shoe, remember, these shoes only need to last 20-30 hours. However, you may well need a shoe for 40, 50 or 60-hours. Do you need a trail shoe? No, you don’t need a trail shoe but I would say that many trail shoes are more durable as they are designed for the rough and tumble of variable terrain. Do you need an aggressive outsole? No, you don’t, but I do think some grip is better than none and therefore I would use a trail shoe over road. Protection? Toe box protection is a good idea as deserts include lots or rocks, far more than you may think. Do I need a size bigger? Shoe sizing does depend on what is ‘normal’ for you. I always recommend a thumb nail of space above the big toe, you don’t need any more than this. Recommendations of going a size is bigger is bad advice in my opinion. A shoe that is too large allows your foot to move, a moving foot causes friction, friction causes blisters and the rest is the same old story that I see at desert races all over the world. However, I would recommend a shoe with a little more width in the toe box, this will allow for some comfort as the days progress. If you are prone to feet swelling, discomfort, blisters and so on, get a strategy sorted before you head out to your chosen race.

Gaiters – Are essential and they should be sewn and glued on to the shoe to guarantee that no sand can enter. Raidlight, MyRaceKit, WAA and Sandbaggers make versions of gaiters.

Rucksack – A rucksack is one of the most essential items for the race as it will hold on your kit for the duration of the event. Many versions exist and the type of pack you choose depends on many things: Male/ Female, Small/ Large, Tall/ Short and so on. Some packs just don’t work for some people. You also need to consider if you need a front pack to hold essential items. How will you drink on the go? How much do you plan to run in comparison to walk? I have some simple advice:

  • Keep the pack as small as possible, if you have a bigger pack you will just fill it.
  • Keep the pack simple – far too many packs are over complicated and messy
  • Keep the pack light
  • Make sure that drinks are accessible, easy to use and don’t bounce
  • See how the pack feels full with all food and then see how the pack feels with 5-days food missing.

Raidlight used to be ‘the’ pack for a multi-day race but that has changed in recent years. For sure, Raidlight are still one of the main options, however, the WAA pack is a ‘go-to’ at many races and the Ultimate Direction Fastpack is slowly but surely becoming a favourite. New entries to the market are coming from Salomon and OMM have been making packs for multi-day adventures for years.

Sleeping Mat (optional) – Inflatable, Foam or no mat. I’m a firm believer in taking a mat, the weight v comfort is a no brainer. I would also choose an inflatable mat even though it does run a risk of puncture. However, with good admin, good care, in years of using inflatable I have never had an issue. A foam mat is guaranteed to last the race but for me a large and cumbersome. OMM make a very thin foam mat that they use as the back padding for their packs – this may be a god option for the real minimalist runner. Look at products from Thermarest, Sea to Summit, Klymvit and OMM.

Sleeping bag – Like the pack, a sleeping bag is a key item is it is likely to be the largest and heaviest item (except food and water) that you will carry. A sleeping bag is important as a good night’s rest is key for day-to-day running. If you are on a budget, Raidlight offer a ‘Combi’ that is a sleeping bag that converts into a jacket. You kill two birds with one stone and the price is a bargain. However, for me it has downsides – it’s large, heavy and offers limited flexibility with temperature regulation. I will always go with a sleeping bag and down jacket scenario is this for me provides less weight, less packed size, more flexibility and the option to get warmer at night by wearing the jacket inside the bag. Problem is, this comes at a price. A lightweight down bag and jacket will be more than likely three to four times the price of the Raidlight Combi. Also, consider your size, shoulder width, height and so on. Some bags are very small whereas bags such as PHD and Yeti can be purchased in small, medium or large. Recommended bags are PHD (custom or off-the peg), Yeti, Western Mountaineering, Haglofs, OMM (not down) and Raidlight.

Head Torch – Don’t compromise, you need a good head-torch that provides enough light for running in a black desert at night. Don’t use rechargeable or a torch with gizmos. You just ideally need variable power, a red-light option so you don’t disturb others at night and it will either take AA or AAA batteries. Recommendations are Black Diamond, Petzl, Silva or LED Lenser.

Flip-flops – Free slippers that hotels give away are popular as they are small, fold and are lightweight. However, they don’t stay on and they don’t protect from thorns or stones. Cheap, lightweight plastic or rubber flip flops work for me. I have seen some improvised flip-flops made from run shoe insoles and some string. It’s that group 1 to group 5 scenario again!

Personal medical kit (feet etc.) – Foot care is essential and although many races have a medical team on hand to look after you and your feet, understanding how to do this yourself is key. learn foot care and treatment and understand how to tape your feet. Ready-made foot care kits are available such as this at MyRaceKit here

Spot Tracker (supplied at MDS, optional at other races)

Road Book (supplied)

*Food for the required days – (see clarification below). Food is very personal and it’s imperative you find out what works for you based on your size, gender, calorie burn and speed of running. The front runners will use carbohydrate and fat as fuel as they will run at a faster pace and therefore they will potentially fuel ‘during’ each stage with carbs. However, as you move through the pack going into groups 2-5 the need for fat as a fuel is more important and therefore ALL runners before heading out to any multi-stage race should ideally have taught their bodies to use fat – we have an unlimited supply of this fuel! Post run it’s important to repair, we need protein for this and re-stock energy supplies, we need carbs for this. Dehydrated meals for many runners form the basis of a morning meal and evening meal. Many options are available, some people can eat anything, others are very particular. Keep in mind allergies such as gluten intolerance and decide in advance will you go hot or cold food. For me, the additional weight of a Titanium stove and fuel is worth it for hot food and a drink. We sampled some dehydrated food in 2015 HERE. In 2015, my partner Niandi Carmont ran Marathon des Sables and we worked hard to reduce pack weight to the minimum and we made sure we dialed food choices in to provide her with her desired calorie needs but also keep weight low.

As an example:

  • Dehydrated Meals x6 672g
  • Dried Mango 93g x 4 372g
  • Porridge 59g x 7 413g
  • Coffee 1g x 10 10g
  • Peanut Butter 33g x 5 165g
  • Honey 21g x 8 168g
  • Mini Salami 10g x 10 100g
  • Tropical Mix Bag 194g
  • Sesame Bites 27g x 6 162g
  • Dried Banana Block 270g
  • Mixed Nuts 200g x 2 400g
  • Macademia Nuts Bag 153g
  • Cranberries Bag 175g
  • Pitta Wraps 296g

Total Weight 3550g

**Mandatory kit – see clarification

***Water – see clarification

MY EQUIPMENT LIST

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It’s important to note that equipment must be specific to the race you are doing and race conditions. The list below is an example of equipment for Marathon des Sables. However, if I was going to Atacama or the Grand to Grand (both self-sufficient) I would be looking at a heavier and warmer sleeping bag and a warmer jacket. Temperatures at night get much colder than the Sahara. The Grand to Grand can also have rain. If a rain jacket is on your list, the inov-8 AT/C Stormshell at 150g is hard to beat.

It’s important to note that equipment will not make you complete any race. What it can do is make the process easier and more comfortable. If you were looking for a one-stop solution, I would say that if you went away and purchased the equipment list below, you would have a comfortable and successful race. The exceptions come with shoes, that is personal and food. Food choices below are personal but a good example, you must find what works for you.

Also, note that minimum pack weight (on day one) at MDS is 6.5kg. So, you can keep purchasing lighter and lighter and then find that you are too light. I have done this. The plus side of this, is that lighter equipment allows you to take more food and/ or more options – again a good thing. For example, in my equipment list, I could go with a slightly lighter jacket, I could not take poles and I could leave the iPods at home and that would allow me 2 or 3 more dehydrated meals. However, I would prefer the equipment I want and am happy with and add 2,3,4 or 500g for the first day. Remember, the pack gets lighter as the day’s pass.

WEARING:

Hat: inov-8 or The North Face

inov-8-hat

Shirt: inov-8 AT/C Base with zip or The North Face ‘Flight’ Series – Both light and functional and allow air flow. I don’t like tight or compression as they are too hot.

inov-8-atc-t-shirt

Shorts: inov-8 AT/C 8” Short or The North Face ‘Flight’ Series – Both light and functional and allow air flow. I don’t like tight or compression as they are too hot.

inov-8-atc-trail-short

Socks: Injinji Trail Midweight or Injinji Outdoor 2.0 (which is Merino wool)

injinji-midweight

Shoes: The North Face Ultra Endurance, Scott Kinabalu Supertrac or inov-8 Trail Talon – Please note, I am a ‘neutral’ runner who prefers a moderately cushioned shoe with an 8mm drop. I would happily use any of these shoes in any multi-day race. They are comfortable, take a gaiter well, have good protection and they work excellently when walking. Remember what I said, shoes are very personal.

scott-kinabalu-supertrac

tnf-ultra-enduranceinov-8-trail-talon-275

Watch: Suunto Ambit 3 Peak 3 – Has enough battery life for a whole race. If I was worried about weight I would just go with a cheap digital.

Buff: Any

Glasses: Oakley Prescription – Prizm Trail Flak 2.0 has interchangeable lenses so I can switch from clear and smoke

oakley-flak-20-xl-matte-black-black-iridium

IN THE PACK:

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20L 520g – It’s a simple pack that is light, fits to the torso well, comes in S/M or M/L, holds two large bottles comfortably against the torso and importantly they don’t bounce and it has 3 external stretch pockets. The main compartment has a roll-top closure, so, as pack contents get less, you can roll the pack smaller to reduce any problems with contents moving around.

ultimate-direction-fastpack-20

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket 180g – is super light, has a full zip and pockets, it’s a jacket I can use anywhere. I could go lighter, a little lighter, for example, the Mont-Bell is 50g lighter!

mountain-hardwear-ghost-whisperer

PHD Minimus K Sleeping Bag 380g – PHD work for me, you can have them custom made with or without zips and they are excellent. Yeti make a bag that is more than 100g lighter but I prefer the warmth and comfort of the PHD.

phd-minim-ultra-k

Thermarest Prolite Small 310g – Small, comfortable and you can double up and use it as padding in your pack.

 thermarest-prolite-small

Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles 290g – Lightweight and folding that provide 4-wheel drive when walking.

black-diamond-carbon-z-pole

Black Diamond Spot Headtorch w/ batteries and spares 120g – Powerful (200 lumens), lightweight with many varied settings.

 black-diamond-spot

Esbit Stove 11g – Small, lightweight and simple.

esbit-stove

Esbit Titanium Pot 106g – Small, lightweight and durable.

esbit-pot 

Esbit Fuel 168g

esbit-fuel

iPod Shuffle x2 64g – Life saver

Buff 16g – Essential

Spare Socks 91g – Injinji Trail Midweight or Injinji Outdoor 2.0 (which is Merino wool) 

Flip-Flops 150g – But Xero True Feel are good.

 sandals

Total Weight 2406g If I was looking to be very minimalist and as light as possible, I would not take the stove, pot and fuel and the poles, total 1831g. But, I would probably prefer the option for hot food/ drinks and work around no poles, so total weight would be 2116g.

EXTRAS:

  • Compeed 22g
  • Sportshield 8g
  • Corn Wraps 8g
  • Spork 10g
  • Pen Knife 22g
  • Compass 32g
  • Matches 20g
  • Savlon Antiseptic 18g
  • Toothpaste 36g
  • Tooth Brush 15g
  • Superglue 3g
  • Space Blanket 60g
  • Hand Gel 59g
  • Wipes 85g
  • Toilet Paper 36g
  • Safety Pins 5g
  • Ear Plugs 2g
  • Venom Pump 28g
  • Blindfold 15g
  • Sun Cream 80g
  • Whistle 15g
  • Signal Mirror 12g
  • SPOT Tracker 113g

Total Weight 806g

TOTALS:

Pack and Main Kit Contents: 2406g

Extras: 806g

Food: 3550g

Total 6762g

This pack weight includes poles and cooking utensils plus luxuries like Mp3

 (water would be added to this weight)

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IN SUMMARY

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I enjoy the process of looking at kit, looking at the options available and working out what is best for me and my situation. In some respects, I am lucky as I can test many items out in the market place and decide what I do and what I don’t like. However, trust me, products these days are so good that you can’t go wrong with almost any of the choices. Yeti, PHD, Haglofs etc. all make great sleeping bags, they will all work. Mountain Hardwear, Yeti, Mont-Bell etc. down jackets are all excellent, they all work. I could go on, but you get the picture. Like I said at the beginning, multi-day and desert racing is not complicated, don’t make it so. The only item you need to be sure on is shoes, make sure you get that right. But then again, I am sure you were running before you entered your multi-day race? You were using run shoes, be them road or trail and one must assume that they gave you no problems? If the answer is yes – why change them!

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Finally, we all love equipment and gadgets, it’s fun to go shopping and get new items. However, being physically fit and mentally strong is what will get you to the finish line – equipment is just part of the process, remember that.

Good luck!

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Clarification:

*Food (As required at Marathon des Sables)

He/she must select the type of food best suited to his/her personal needs, health, weather conditions, weight and backpack conditions. We remind you that airlines strictly forbid the carrying of gas (for cooking) on board either as hand luggage or otherwise. Each competitor must have 14 000 k/calories, that is to say a minimum of 2,000 k/calories per day, otherwise he/she will be penalized (see ART. 27 and 28). Any food out of its original packaging must be equipped, legibly, of the nutrition label shown on the product concerned. Any food out its original packaging must be equipped, legibly, of the nutrition label shown on the product concerned. 

**Mandatory Kit (as specified at Marathon des Sables)

  • 10 safety pins
  • Compass 1deg precision
  • Whistle
  • Knife
  • Disinfectant
  • Venom pump
  • Signal mirror
  • Survival blanket
  • Sun cream
  • 200-euro note
  • Passport
  • Medical certificate

***Water (as specified for Marathon des Sables)

Liaison stage: 10.5 liters per person per day

  • 1.5 liters before the start each morning,
  • 2 or 3 x 1.5 liters during the race, at check points,
  • 4.5 liters at arrival post.

Marathon stage: 12 liters per person per day:

  • 1.5 litre before the start in the morning,
  • 1.5 liters at check-points 1 and 3,
  • 3 liters at check-point 2,
  • 4.5 liters at arrival post. 

Non-stop stage: 22.5 liters per person over 2 days:

  • 1.5 liters before the start of the race in the morning,
  • 1.5 liters at check-points 1, 3, 6,
  • 1.5 or 3 liters at check-points 2, 4 and 5,
  • 4.5 liters at arrival post,
  • 4.5 liters at the bivouac.

Why not join our Multi-Day Training Camp in Lanzarote with 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion, Elisabet Barnes. The camp takes place in January each year.

Information HERE

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Support on PATREON HERE

support_patreon

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Stage 6 Results and Summary

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Everest Trail Race – Race Day 6 Tyangboche to Lukla

At 3086m, the temperatures were just a little cool outside, a night in a lodge offered just that ‘little’ extra protection but many commented that they thought it was warmer in a tent.

I was up at 0530 an on the trails by 0600 to hike 2-hours into the course to Khumjung which would offer us the spectacular back drop of Everest, Lohtse and the stunning Ama Dablam. The first runners arrived before 0900 and then I spent a day on the trails, running, hiking and walking with the race as it unfolded.

It was a cold start with temperatures well below freezing, however, moving with a pack and a couple of cameras soon elevates your internal temperature and before long I was down to a base layer, gloves and a buff for additional temperature regulation.

The race started had two starts again, 0700 and 0800. The route dropped immediately from 3800m to 3300m before climbing back up to Khumjung at just over 3800m. It’s a beautiful trail, technical in sections but the views offered are inspiring. It’s a difficult place to run… you need to watch where you put your feet but around you the vistas are just incredible.

Climbing up to Khumjung one is suddenly surprised by quite a large village with rows and rows of houses. I had to look twice to make sure I was still in Nepal. At our vantage point, we waited. On cue, Pasang Lama arrived running up trails I struggled to hike up. This guy is a machine. He waved, wished Namaste and pushed onward up the trail.

Over 30-minutes later, the usual suspects arrived, Miguel Capo Soler, Casey Morgan, Andreja Sterle Podobonik and many of the other top placed runners today were running together and having fun. It was a little like the last day of the Tour de France. They were working together and obviously content that the last day would be an enjoyable one.

Andreja was powering along, looking up the trail she focused on keeping a pace with the top men.  It may have been the last day with a commanding lead but she wasn’t taking it easy.

Sarah Davies was the next top ranked lady that passed me and I suddenly started to wonder if 2nd placed lady, Jennifer Hill was having a bad day? It turns out that Jennifer had sickness through the night – the last day was going to be a tough one!

The long descent from Khumjung lasted 6km. It wasn’t an easy 6k! The trail twisted from left to right with conditions changing from dry sand, rocks, clay and large stones. Passing through Namche Bazaar was quite an experience; one would almost call this a ‘metropolis’ of the region. It has many building, an obvious presence of tourists and with this demand, shops, restaurants and bars. We had no time to stop, pushing on through the trail we were now on one of the main trekking routes to Lukla. Yaks made the journey difficult in places, they occupy the single-track with horns outstretched, needless to say, and you need to be careful.

At the front of the race, the pattern was set and overall standings would not change, Pasang Lama and Andrej Sterle Podobonik would be crowned ‘champions of the 2016 Everest Trail Race.

However, as they crossed the line in Lukla, I was several hours behind following the experiences of the other competitors. This is what is so great about the ETR, irrespective of ability or speed, Nepal, the region, the trails; the people offer something for all. It has been the most remarkable journey.

At Phakding we crossed the Dudh Koshi river and we were in the final stretch home. Weaving in and out, up and down, the sun beat down on us. Today was all about camaraderie and I was fortunate to experience those moments.

Cheplung was our final CP, just 3.5km to go uphill to the finish in Lukla. It was a beautiful moment to see the pain, the passions and emotions from six grueling days on the most incredible trails released as each and every runner passed under the ETR banner. Tears, joy and relief; it was a bond shared with each and every runner and one that each member of the ETR staff could appreciate. You see, the race is not only about the participants, it is also about the incredible organization and planning task that is undertaken by Jordi Abad and his team.

This is no ordinary race! You can’t just drive a car to a place as and when it is needed. Meticulous planning makes this race happen and I have to say, it was executed to precision and perfection.

The race is over. But the journey is not complete. Tomorrow we fly from Lukla back to Kathmandu and the prospect of a day and a half to explore inspires even more emotions and passions.

Nepal is a contrast. It is a cacophony that penetrates the eyes, skin and mind. It is possibly the most exhilarating, awe inspiring and incredible experience you could ever witness.

The ETR doesn’t come to an end for me, it’s my 3rd time in Nepal and I have the same feelings and emotions just like the first time. Nepal provides a beginning, a beginning of a love affair with Nepal, the people the trail and the Himalayas.

Namaste.

The 2016 Everest Trail Race Overall Results (confirmed times to follow)

  1. Pasang Lama
  2. Miguel Capo Soler
  3. Casey Morgan
  1. Andrej Sterle Podobonik
  2. Jennifer Hill
  3. Sarah Davies

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Stage 5 Results and Summary

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Everest Trail Race – Race Day 5 Phakding to Tyangboche

Last night we stayed in a lodge and it was another very cold night. We were in a valley, so, once the sun disappeared, temperatures plummeted. Everyone was cold, despite being inside.

Stage 5 of the race is the one we have all been waiting for. The arrival at Tyangboche provides one of the greatest vistas available with Everest taking center stage.

The first 5km rolled along pretty easy with Pasang and Alejandra leading the way. On entering the Sagramantha National Park route markings would no longer exist and participants would need to use the route book. In principal this sounded a little more complicated than it actually was. The route was very straightforward and at any points where an error could be made, an ETR staff member would be present to ensure the correct path was taken.

After crossing the famous Hillary Bridge the main ascent to Namche Bazaar would start. At CP1 Pasang was once again forging an unassailable lead, not only on the stage but the overall classification. He is well ahead of the rest of the racers. Miguel Capo Soler and Casey Morgan followed the Nepalese runner but he was too strong finishing well ahead of the Compressport duo. On the final tough ascent to the finish, Miguel pulled away from Casey opening a short time gap.

Alejandra once again showed her dominance not only in the ladie’s field but the overall classification. She took another stage win and overall victory is not in doubt. Jennifer Hill ran another consistent day but could not match the ladies’ race leaders pace and once again Sarah Davies finished 3rd lady and almost certainly secured the final podium place.

Irrespective of the efforts of all the runners and ETR staff, the main hero of the day is Nepal. The sky remained clear and pure blue to show the beauty of the region and the stunning Himalayas. Tyangboche is an incredible place with a series of small lodges and shops serving essentials. It has a monastery and of course it’s a hub for those trekking or moving higher up into the mountain ranges or going to base camp.

This evening we are all treated to a night in a lodge! Of course we have no heating, but at 4000m we all expect -10 temperatures. However, I do think a few ‘beverages’ may be consumed with just one day remaining and the finish at Lukla.

Stage results: *Times to follow

  1. Pasang Lama 3:13:27
  2. Miguel Capo Soler 3:25:04
  3. Casey Morgan 3:27:27
  1. Andreja Sterle Podobnik 4:16:15
  2. Jennifer Hill 4:40:06
  3. Sarah Davies 5:44:37

General Classification: *Ranking to follow

  1. Pasang Lama 18:43:21
  2. Miguel Capo Soler 19:32:18
  3. Casey Morgan 19:43:16
  1. Andrej Sterle Podobonik 26:04:14
  2. Jennifer Hill 27:12:58
  3. Sarah Davies 34:07:11

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Stage 4 Results and Summary

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Everest Trail Race – Race Day 4 Kharikhola – Phakding

It was a wonderful calm night and relatively warm, certainly in contrast to the previous night. I was up and on the trail by 0600 to hike my way in to CP1 at Kari La (2893m). It was a tough 8km, basically climbing 1000m in 5km.

Kharikhola to Phakding is a very busy trail with Sherpa’s and Porters making journeys up and down the trail, there are continual mule trains ferrying all sorts of supplies to shops, lodges and other facilities. This is the only way to move things around. This the motorway of this region!

I arrived at CP1 approximately 30 minutes before Pasang Lama arrived, once again he was leading the way. He covered the initial 8km in a ridiculous 60-minutes. Today, Casey Morgan was feeling jaded with a head cold, he pursued the Nepalese runner with Miguel Capo Soler but the writing was already on the wall. Andrej Sterle Podobnik controlled the ladies field from the front once again putting race leader Jennifer Hill under pressure. Jennifer looked relaxed as she followed but Andreja was pulling away.

It seems highly unlikely that Pasang Lama will not be the 2016 Everest Trail Race winner but the ladies’ race has an exciting battle between Andreja and Jennifer.

From Kari La, the trail drops down through twisting and winding trail; sometimes technical and occasionally muddy. However, if you are confident on your feet and feeling good, you can certainly keep a great pace going.

Pasang arrived at CP2, Surke in 2-hours with 17km covered. His nearest rivals were 17-minutes later.

The further down the trail we went, the busier it became. We started to see more and more groups of trekkers with Sherpa’s and porters and of course the continual ferrying of all sorts of items escalated as the demand for supplies increased.

From CP3 at Cheplung, passing Nurning the towns became a little more organized, formal and touristy. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but our early days on the trail had been remote, almost isolated. We were now entering in to the hub of Nepal’s trekking arena and our proximity to Lukla was obvious. Lukla is a main hub for the doorway to Everest.

Weaving in and out of the trails, passing on the right of mules, squeezing past trekkers on the left and jumping around porters, the finish of stage 4 was soon in sight.

Dropping down the trail and crossing the Kamsyawa Khola (river) the day was done. An exhilarating and eye opening day on the trails of Nepal.

Pasang Lama once again took victory with Casey Morgan and Miguel Capo Soler placing 2nd and 3rd. For the ladies, it was Andreja Sterle Podobonik ahead of Jennifer Hill and Sarah Davies. Importantly, Andreja now has the lead in the ladie’s race.

Stage results:

  1. Pasang Lama 3:45:43
  2. Miguel Capo Soler 4:03:33
  3. Casey Morgan 4:03:34
  1. Andreja Sterle Podobnik 5:10:50
  2. Jennifer Hill 5:55:29
  3. Sarah Davies 6:54:02

 

General Classification: 

  1. Pasang Lama 15:29:55
  2. Miguel Capo Soler 16:07:16
  3. Casey Morgan 16:15:50 
  1. Andrej Sterle Podobonik 21:48:00
  2. Jennifer Hill 22:32:54
  3. Sarah Davies 28:22:35

Stage 5 Preview: Phakding to Llegada 20km

Leaving Phkakding at 2600m runners will only gain 200m in the first 8km. The climbing of the day begins but the terrain and severity is much more relaxed than the previous days. 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.

 

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Stage 3 Results and Summary

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Everest Trail Race – Stage 3 Jase Bhanjyang to Kharikola

The mist and wind persisted into the night and it was seriously cold! Jase Bhanjyang sitting just below 4000m is renowned for being a cold place and last night it lived up to expectations. Needless to say, kit was tested and those who compromised on weight were left with a really cold and uncomfortable night. Pretty much everyone slept in base layers and down jackets with hoods up and gloves on.

Once again, it would be a split start, 0700 and 0800. Today’s stage had considerably less climbing than stage two, however, it had lots of descending, it may not hurt the lungs as much but it would certainly hurt the legs. Many thought it would be an easier day…

A short climb out of camp the runners would then descend to Jumbesi (CP1) at 2696m. This initial trail would see them running through a dense forest section.

No hiking on the trail for me today, I was helicoptered out to Kharikhola – a beautiful Monastery on top of a mountain (Pema Namding).

Kharikhola is a main trekking route and in addition, it is a main route for supplies. It amazes me to watch children carry baskets literally as big as they are and for sure, probably twice the weight. Donkeys go up and down the trail all day carrying all sorts of supplies, from bottles of gas, water, corn, maize, beer, Coke, cigarettes and so on. You suddenly realize how life moves around in these mountains.

Sherpa’s arrive carrying packs that look as though it will be break their packs, behind them, a string of tourists with small packs and poles.

Back on the t