The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Patan and The Monkey Temple

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 camp 1 with a 0545 departure, the race starts the following day at 0900, Monday 11th November.

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Arrival in Kathmandu

Runners from all over the world arrived in Kathmandu today after a long-haul flight through the night via Istanbul.

The noise and chaos of Kathmandu assaulting the sleep deprived senses of the 2019 participants as they journeyed from the airport via bus to Hotel Shanker close to the popular area of Thamel.

Teardrop flags, the ETR finish arch and a welcome party of ETR crew and hotel staff now making the 9th edition of the Everest Trail Race all too real. Day one is a relaxed day allowing weary travellers to adjust to the time change.

Nerves, excitement, trepidation and anxiety were all present in varying degrees for the challenge ahead. Despite the ETR’s history, the 9th edition will be remembered for a new route. In the 2017 and 2018 editions of the race, it became apparent to the whole ETR team that the development of road networks from Jiri were beginning to impact on the true spirit of the ETR.

Race Director – Jordi Abad

Race Director, Jordi Abad, had looked at options to explore new trails and go back in time and create a more raw and unique experience as was found in the early editions of the ETR.

Now fully developed within the Solu Khumbu district. The 2019 ETR has four entirely new stages in rural, non-tourist areas. Stages 1-3 and stage 5 bringing a whole new experience of trails and views.

The 2019 ETR will truly be a unique experience harking back to the pioneering first edition.

 

The 4th stage remains entirely the same as in the previous editions, and the final stage will once again start in Tengboche and conclude in Lukla but using a different trail between Tengboche and Namche Bazaar.

The 9th edition will be 12 Km longer with an additional 500m of vertical gain. Importantly, the race starts at a higher elevation of 2800m, In previous editions, Jiri was at an altitude of 1800m, this increase of 1000m is a key and important change.

In summary, the 2019 edition of the ETR will be an incredible adventure for all involved. With a total distance of 170 km and a whopping 26,000 m of accumulated gain/ loss – 13,500m of positive / maximum elevation 4,104 m / minimum elevation 1,500 m.

Daily distances are as follows:

  • Stage 1 – 25km 3625m+/-
  • Stage 2 – 26km 3735m+/-
  • Stage 3 – 30km 5396 +/-
  • Stage 4 – 27.5km 4130m +/-
  • Stage 5 – 32km 4465m +/-
  • Stage 6 – 30km 4572m +/-

Daily reports and images will be reported here on this website.

It is anticipated that communication, particularly on stages 1 and 3 may very well be very sporadic, so, please be patient.

Race Website:  Global HEREUK HERE

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Kilian Jornet in Nepal – Autumn 2019

Kilian Jornet returns to Nepal, little news is available of what Kilian plans but the Nepalese/ south side will most likely be the Catalan’s objective.

In my in-depth interview with Kilian (HERE) he eluded to the frustrations of media attention and how in the future, he may well go on projects and expeditions and only provide information of the undertaking after the event. Well, it looks like such a project is now underway.

Laura Font Sentís who has represented Kilian for many years via the Barcelona-based Lymbus agency confirmed to Canadian Running Magazine:

“Kilian will spend some time in the Himalayas with his family and he will take advantage to explore the terrain. If he does any relevant activity he will communicate after he has completed it.”

Everest will receive a dozen attempts this season after the monsoons – after a lull of 8 to 9 years.

According to the Department of Tourism, the last time Everest was climbed in the autumn season was in 2010, when American Eric Larsen achieved the feat.

“It’s difficult to climb Everest during the autumn because of post-monsoon and fresh snow,” said Rameshwor Niroula

I had wondered if Kilian would try to resurrect the project of Ueli Steck before his death in 2017? Confirmation has been received that Kilian does have permission to climb Lhotse but in what capacity and for what purpose is unknown – could it be a speed record or to resurrect Steck’s project?

“Steck died on 30 April 2017 while acclimatizing for an attempt of the Hornbein route on the West Ridge of Everest without supplemental oxygen. This route had been climbed only a few times, the last of which was in 1991. His plan was to climb the Hornbein Couloir to the summit, then proceed with a traverse to the peak of Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain. This combination had not been achieved.”

François Lebeau and Jon Glassberg are with Kilian and this would suggest that they will document the project…? Again, this is speculation but one would assume Kilian will undertake any project with a small team and move fast and light, as one would expect!

The Himalayan Times have confirmed much activity for Autumn and I quote;

‘….besides, Spanish climber Kilian Jornet would also attempt to climb Mt Everest after leading a three-member team on Mt Lhotse in the autumn season, Murari Sharma, Managing Director at Everest Pariwar Treks informed.’

Sources said that there would be two teams on Mt Everest this season, also taken from The Himalayan Times:

“Jornet will be using a single permit while others would share another Everest climbing permit. Renowned photographers including Francois Lebeau and Jon Glassberg will be documenting their climbs on Mt Everest.”

                       Article reference HERE

Whatever the project, it’s great to see Kilian fulfil his dreams and personal ambitions once again in Nepal. We wish good weather and a safe time on the mountains.

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Breaking News! New route for the 2019 The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019

The ETR, The Elements Everest Trail Race, after 8 editions will explore new trails for the 2019 edition.

In 2017 and 2018, it became apparent to the whole ETR team that the development of road networks from Jiri were beginning to impact on the true spirit of the ETR. Some call it progress… But the road network, albeit dirt road, is slowly but surely reaching towards Lukla.

Race Director, Jordi Abad, for the past 3-years has looked at options to explore new trails and go back in time and create a more raw and unique experience as was found in the early editions of the ETR. This is not to say the more recent editions have been compromised, on the contrary, one only has to listen to the feedback form the racers. ETR gains universal acclaim from every competitor as being one of the most exhilarating and awe-inspiring journeys one can take by foot.

In 2019, the ETR may well almost appear to be a new race but rest assured, it goes back to the roots of Jordi’s initial vision and it will still offer a unique journey that covers some of the ground raced in past editions.

So, what is new?

The Everest Trail Race by The Elements is now fully developed within the Solu Khumbu district. In the previous editions the first stage was developed in the Dolakha district and it was not until the second stage that entered into the Solu Khumbu.

The ETR will return to the original inspiration to develop by the rural Khumbu, as far as possible away from the tourist circuits. The first 3 stages will meet this objective and will be developed by rural non-tourist areas. The same will happen in a part of the 5th stage.

These changes will also involve changes in a part of the rules, regarding the water supply in campsites and check points. The difficulties to acquire (buy) water or any other liquid during especially the first 3 stages, as well as, the starting at a higher elevation, make these changes necessary.

For past participants, there is a real incentive to return to the ETR with 70-75% of the race route on new and unexplored trails – 2019 will truly be a unique experience harking back to the first edition.

The 4th stage remains entirely the same as in the previous editions. A change in this sector in the current situation would compromise the safety of the runners due to orographical reasons and extremely dangerous paths.

The 2019 edition will be 12 Km longer with an additional 500m of vertical gain. Importantly, the race starts at a higher elevation of 2800m, therefore, some pre-acclimatisation in training would be advised. In previous editions, Jiri was at an altitude of 1800m, this increase of 1000m is a key and important change.

Adapting to altitude is a key element of the ETR and in 2019 approximately 40 km of the race will be runover 3,500 m altitude, of which approximately 23 km will be made between 3,800 and 4,100 m (19 km entirely in the 5th stage). This is a key difference and truly brings a more demanding Himalayan experience to the race.

Importantly, stage campsites are located below the maximum elevation reached during each day, this will facilitate recovery.

As in 2018, participants will continue to be geolocated, even taking into account the limitations of the system in the Himalayas.

In summary, the 2019 edition of the ETR will be an incredible adventure and one that will be talked about in years to come. With a total distance of 170 km and a whopping 26,000 m of accumulated gain – 13,500 m of positive / maximum elevation 4,104 m / minimum elevation 1,500 m.

Daily distances are as follows:

  • Stage 1 – 25km 3625m+/-
  • Stage 2 – 26km 3735m+/-
  • Stage 3 – 30km 5396 +/-
  • Stage 4 – 27.5km 4130m +/-
  • Stage 5 – 32km 4465m +/-
  • Stage 6 – 30km 4572m +/-

Interested in joining the most awe-inspiring multi-day race in 2019, go to the website HERE

Three Passes Trek 2018: Ultimate Trek in the Everest Region

Nepal, the magic of Nepal! It truly is a remarkable place and if you are a trekker, fastpacker, runner or mountaineer, it is arguably THE best place in the world. Nepal changes people, it really does. I experienced the change on my first visit 7-years ago and I have been going back ever since. It’s not just the trails, the Himalayas or the stunning vistas; It is so much more! It’s the combination of all those elements for sure, but it is the Nepali people that often lure me back. They truly are the salt of the earth.

I have just returned from once again working on the ‘ETR’ – Everest Trail Race. It’s a 6-day running journey of 160km’s that starts at Jiri and traces a route that Hillary and Tenzing took when they first made their way to summit Everest. It’s a magical race and the structured format is a wonderful way to experience Nepal for the first time.

Home for 2-days and I was already missing the trails, views and the people, however, a stinking cold I picked up on the journey home was keeping me from sleeping. In the middle of the night, I laid a Nepal map on the floor and started to plan a journey that would take in the ‘Three High Passes’ on a circular route from Lukla.

It was as I stared at the map, I began to realise the options open and the possibility to do out and backs and add some serious additions to what is, an already very popular trek.

The high passes are:

  • Renjo La 5338m
  • Cho La 5380m
  • Kongma La 5535m

Now of course, before undertaking any route like this you have to ask yourself some really sound questions and gain an understanding of trekking or running at altitude – you don’t just do it. You have to ease yourself in and acclimate to the demands.

For me, I am not overly worried at being circa 5500m. My job regularly takes me to high altitudes, for example this year alone I have been over 5000m in China, been at 4000m in Turkey, been at the summit of Mt. Teide in Tenerife, been at the summit of Monte Rosa and of course, just recently I have done Everest Trail Race. So, I am pretty well prepared to go to 5500m or higher. The big question is usually, can one stay there? 

See the map below:

My route would follow the very clearly defined high pass trek, clockwise, finishing with the higher Kongma La at 5535m. For example, this is usually done in 16-18 days and often 21-days are recommended to allow for any issues or problems. 

My idea, once again (I did a trek last December) was to avoid the noise and the frenzy of Christmas and travel to Nepal for an adventure.

Rough plan was to leave the UK for Dubai Dec 13th, arrive in Kathmandu on the 16th. Start my trek on the 18th and finish on the 30th. Return to Kathmandu on the 31st and then have some RnR time before returning to the UK.

That allowed me 13-days.

However, I know from experience that I can move considerably faster and cover more ground than a normal trek, so, it got me looking – what could I add?

The plan is to add ‘out and backs’ to my route that would add some spice and challenge:

  • Gokyo RI
  • Kala Pattar?
  • Everest Base Camp
  • Ama Dablam Base Camp
  • Taboche
  • Thamersku Base Camp

I am well connected with the guide / Sherpa community in Kathmandu and so I asked Pasang Sherpa and Lhakpa Rangdu (both who have summited Everest multiple times, Lkakpa, 11 times!) Was my schedule feasible? Pasang knows me well and he immediately said yes! He confirmed that I usually cover double what most trekkers do in a day, also, mt time on the ETR confirms this. So, the plan was turned into a reality.

Initially I was going to go alone, but December in Nepal is very cold and relatively quiet. Pasang did not insist, but highly recommended a fast Sherpa to join me. I didn’t need much persuading and I agreed. I was adamant though – no porter, we carry our own equipment for the duration moving fast and light.

Another factor to consider was the crossing of glaciers. I had already made the decision to carry mini-spikes and a light ice axe.

THE PLAN:

13th Dec leave UK

17th KTM 

18th Depart for Lukla (early flight I guess) and then we hike to Namche.

19th Lumde

20th RENJO PASS to Gokyo to include Gokyo RI

21st CHO LA PASS to Dzongla

22nd Gorak Shep w/ Kala Pattar?

 

23rd EBC and back to Lobuche

 

24th KONGMA LA PASS to Somare

25th Ama Dablam BC and back to Pangboche

26th Tabuche Peak and back to Pangboche

27th Monjo

28th Thamersku BC

29th Lukla

30th Spare day

31st Back to KTM 

1st KTM 

2nd Onward travel

It is very easy to look at a fastpack like this and lose perspective. Daily distances mean very little when climbing and descending at altitude and particularly in this environment – it is going to be very cold too, especially at night.

Pasang Sherpa – the main man and my Mr Fixer.

EQUIPMENT:

I recently wrote an article on equipment for fastpacking in Nepal, HERE. While much of what is in this article is correct, I am making some changes for December. First and foremost I am replacing my SPOT with a Garmin inReach MINI. I asked friends was the difference worth it and I have to say I am currently blown away with the device. User friendly, small, great battery life and perfect sync with the EARTHMATE App on iPhone. The map below is what I imported into the inReach as a ‘just in case’ scenario is needed.

However, the primary use for the inReach will be safety. It has a SOS button and that in a remote environment can be the difference between life and death. Also, I can send and receive messages – not essential but really great for letting the important people in my life know that I am ok. The other function will also allow anyone to follow me by using this link HERE – I must stress, I am going for no FKT’s, not looking to set records or do anything out of the ordinary, however, you may like to see where I am? I haven’t decided yet if I will turn the inReach on each morning and off each evening or leave it permanently on. The battery will last 20-days on 30-min tracking.

I am going to use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 backpack. It is light, super comfy and will allow me to carry all I need.

I have purchased a pair of RAB Endurance Down Gloves which are maybe overkill, but, I have had friends at EBC and in that area in December and it has been -25, so, I don’t want  cold hands!

I am using the inov-8 ROCLITE 325 Gore-Tex fastpack boot.

I normally do not take waterproof clothing but I have decided to take the inov-8 AT/C Race Pant (170g) and AT/C Stormshell Jacket (175g).

Ice Axe – I am taking the amazingly super-light CAMP Corsa which is just 200g

YakTrax XTR cramp ons

The rest of my equipment will be as follows:

Day:

  • inov-8 3/4 tights.
  • inov-8 AT/C Merino Top
  • inov-8 AT/C soft-shell Pro Top
  • Plus inov-8 ROCLITE 325 Gore-Tex, inov-8 AT/C Race Pant (170g) and AT/C Stormshell Jacket

Night:

  • RAB INFINITY 500 sleeping bag
  • RAB NEUTRINO PRO Jacket
  • RAB MICROLIGHT Jacket
  • RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY
  • RAB 120 long sleeve base layer
  • RAB 120 pant
  • PHD down socks
  • RAB PROTON PANTS
  • RAB gloves, hat and neck rolls

Extras:

  • Basic toiletries
  • Headtorch and spare batteries
  • Earphones
  • Phone
  • Pen
  • Passport
  • Black Diamond Z Poles
  • Waterproof bags

Camera:

  • Sony A7RIII with 35mm f2.8 prime lens and 4 batteries/ 2 spare SD cards.

*****

Departure form the UK is Dec 13th and you can follow my tracker HERE

I will do iPhone posts during the trek, mainly on Facebook and Instagram Story. All the good images will come post the trek when I can download and edit.

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Episode 164 – Chris DeNucci, ETR2018 and Travis & Maria talk 200’s

Episode 164 of Talk Ultra and the Godfather of Trail brings us an interview with long time friend, Chris DeNucci and he also talks with Travis and Maria about running 200’s! Ian brings three interviews about Everest Trail RaceJordi Gamito, Manu Vilaseca and Alice Morrison.
*****
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*****
NEWS
EVEREST TRAIL RACE
Love this race, once again I was out there on the trails documenting from within. There is no other better place to run… Jordi Gamito was dominant winning 5 stages and taking the 6th easy to take overall victory and become the first Westerner to win the race in the 8yr history. Manuela Vilaseca started well but Nepali Purnimaya Rai took the reigns and eventually took a strong victory for the women. Read the reports here:
Day 1Day 2Day 3 Day 4 Day 5Day 6
*****
02:03:33 Interview with JORDI GAMITO, MANUELA VILASECA and ALICE MORRISON – Everest Trail Race.
*****
JFK50
Turned out to be one hell of a race with Jared Hazen taking the win in what many are saying is the best run on that course ever! Zach Miller was 2nd and Allan Spangler 3rd.
Kate Pallardy (not a name I know) took the win in 6:40 ahead of Kaci Lickteig and Riley Brady, 6:53 and 7:09.
GRAND CANYON RIM TO RIM TO RIM
Ida Nilsson set a new FKT of 7:29:16 and I have news come in that it has just been broken… 7:25 apparently – Taylor Nowlan
TUNNEL HILL 100
Amazingly, Zach Bitter ran 12:08 which as I understand it, a world trail best for the distance. Mike Bialick was 2nd and Alexander Bleiweiss was 3rd, 12:56 and 14:58.
Three women were separated by just 9 minutes – Neela S’Souza 1st, Steph Whitmore 2nd and Megan Smyth 3rd – 16:52, 16:57 and 17:03.
RIO DEL LAGO 100
Chris DeNucci took the win in 16:36 and Amy Philips for the women in 21:21.
*****
Interview with CHRIS DeNUCCI
*****
PINHOTI 100
Jeff Browning did it again… what a year! He finished in 16:30 – he would have probably broke the CR had he not gone off course with course sabotage. He had to chase, re-gain the lead and win ahead of Evan Dare and Kyle Curtin.
Aden St Charles, Lauren Jones placed 1st and 2nd for the women with Holly Adams and Molly Freeman finishing joint 3rd – 21:14, 21:59 and 23:35
*****
Interview with TRAVIS & MARIA
*****
CLOSE
03:25:13
****
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*****
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Equipment for Fastpacking in Nepal – A Guide

Having just returned from Nepal, I have once again had many questions from runners, hikers and enthusiasts on the equipment I used during the Everest Trail Race.

I would normally say, read ‘this’ post and send a link. However, over 7-years of going to Nepal and the Himalayas, I have constantly tweaked and changed equipment. In 2018 I made some significant changes. So, I have something to write about.

The Everest Trail Race is a 6-day multi-day running race. Runners aim to cover 160km over 6-stages with extremely varied terrain, huge altitude gain and descent and of course, they have altitude to deal with. They must carry all they need for the race. However, a tent is provided which they share, food is provided, and water is rationed and provided at specific checkpoints. The race is the ultimate fast packing exercise as runners obviously try to be as light as possible without compromising warmth and comfort. The race takes place in November, the prime trekking season in Nepal – days are usually sunny and warm and the nights are cold. At certain places on the route, nights can be very cold.

My equipment requirements are not too dissimilar to that of the runners as I to need to move over the trail as fast and light as possible. However, I also need to carry camera equipment. This is significant and adds KG’s instantly.

I have also learnt over the years that I do not like being cold.

In my first Nepal experience I went light (too light) and I was cold. A little extra weight with warmth and comfort is worth it, for me! But here in, this is where the challenge comes and actually, this is part of the fun of fastpacking and in particular, fastpacking in Nepal when the variables can be so great.

This is even more poignant now as I am planning to return to Nepal in a few weeks on a much longer and harder trek than the ETR and when temperatures will be considerably colder, especially at night.

One thing is for sure. You go trekking in Nepal and you will rarely change clothes and a shower/ wash will be a rarity. Accept it! Everyone will be the same so embrace this as part of the challenge. There are ways of dealing with this and I like to think of my clothing as day and night. During the day, I am wearing run clothing, and, in the evening, I am wearing more mountain specific clothing.

I am not the fastest on the trails, but I move considerably faster than nearly all the trekkers. So, I look more like a runner when trekking than a trekker. For example, trekkers will wear boots, trousers, and a shirt. I use run shoes, run tights and a run top.

It is also important to consider individual needs and individual strengths when looking at equipment and weight. For example, a 5ft woman weighing 50kg is going to have a very different set of abilities to a 6ft 85kg man. Keep this in mind!

My equipment list below is specific to me and my needs, but it does provide an excellent start point.

Disclaimer: No equipment or apparel was supplied by RAB, Osprey or Montane. They were all purchased items. The apparel by inov-8 was supplied and the Trail Talon 290 shoes were purchased by myself.

Sherpas and Porters are able to carry huge loads and weight…

PACK

I have used many packs over the years. The runners tend to use the Ultimate Direction Fastpack which is generally a great option. Other variants come from Raidlight, Salomon and so on. Typically, a capacity of 20-30L would be required.

I need to use a larger pack as I carry more, especially with the cameras.

For 2018 I used the OSPREY EXOS 38 which really was excellent. It had great comfort, flexibility and many features that made it a pleasure to use.

My other favourite packs, and to be honest, when I return in December, I will either use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 or 55 depending on my equipment needs? Both these packs are minimalist, light and very comfortable.

WARMTH WHEN SLEEPING

I have already said I like to be warm and layering is absolutely key to regulating temperature. Especially at night.

I do not take the warmest and biggest sleeping bag. The reason being I like to have flexibility. Such I have an unusually mild night, I still want to use my sleeping bag and not be too warm. However, if it’s cold – really cold – how do I get warm? Well, I have three options:

  1. Sleeping bag on its own
  2. Merino base top and bottom and sleeping bag
  3. Merino base top and bottom, down pants, down jacket and sleeping bag

I also have down socks that I would wear over merino wool socks. So, as you can see, I regulate temperature in a very controlled way. In addition, the above I can also wear gloves, a hat and a neck roll. Just wearing a hat really helps retain heat.

Layering is key!

Sleeping bag is a RAB INFINITY 500

Merino top is a RAB 120 long sleeve

Merino Bottoms are a RAB 120 pant

PHD down socks

JACKETS

I take two down jackets. One thinner than the other, again offering flexibility. This year I upgraded to a warmer down jacket, the RAB NEUTRINO PROand it was such a great choice! It was so warm, comfy and with a two-way zip it allowed flexibility of movement. It also had a great hood and high collar.

The lighter jacket was a RAB MICROLIGHTwith no hood. This offers excellent warmth in the morning and evening when on the trails. It also is excellent in my sleeping bag on colder nights. It packs small and is lightweight.

RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY is a great mid-layer that works well in the dry or wet and is excellent when the warmth of down is not required.

PANTS

I have used down pants previously but this year I used the RAB PROTON PANTS which are not down filled, a little heavier but more flexible for other uses and they are Primaloft. So, they can get wet and keep warm. Down cannot get wet!

HAT, GLOVES and ACCESSORIES

Hands and feet are so difficult to keep warm and for me, they are the areas I most struggle with. So, I have options:

RAB Merino liner glove

RAB Xenon Mitt (warm and waterproof)

RAB Windblock convertible gloves which allow me to use my camera

RAB Shadow Beanie (for day use)

RAB Beanie (for night use)

RAB neck tubes (usually have 2 or 3)

RAB hut slippers allow me to remove my run shoes and are also much warmer. I go a size bigger than needed so I can wear my down socks in them too.

DAY CLOTHING

My day hike/ run clothing is pretty conventional, and I have long been a fan of inov-8.

It is possible to wear shorts as day temperatures are usually very good, however, I prefer the flexibility of 3/4 tights as they also keep my knees warm.

I use the AT/C Merino Top, and should temperatures get high, I just roll the sleeves up. One great addition is that the sleeves have thumb holes, so, they also provide a great alternative to using gloves.

The AT/C soft-shell Pro Top is brilliant early morning or late afternoon when the warmth of a down jacket is not required. This jacket has been tweaked over the years and has some great features – high collar, good hood, two pockets and thumb loops to help keep hands warm.

Extreme Thermo Skull Hat keeps my head warm and the Extreme Thermo Mitts are excellent – much better than gloves.

Shoes are always a debatable point and very personal. I prefer to use a shoe with cushioning, a wide but not too wide toe box, adequate all-round grip and 8mm drop – the Trail Talon 290 is perfect for me and on the recent ETR were perfect every day!

TIPS

My inov-8 run apparel is for the day. As soon as I finish the day’s run or trek. I immediately get changed into my RAB Merino base layers and put on my overprints, down jacket and put on a hat. This makes sure I don’t sit in damp clothing.

The priority is then to get the day’s clothing dry. A priority if you are not carrying an alternate set of clothing.

EXTRAS

Extras add weight, but I do consider certain items to be essential.

  • SPOT Tracker for me just makes sense and is a great security blanket.
  • Mobile phone – get a Ncell sim when you land in Kathmandu. You can get a 30-day sim with 16gb of data for not much more than £10. Coverage on the trails now is pretty good!
  • POLES – I use Black Diamond Z Poles, they are light, fold and are essential on the relentless climbs and descents.
  • EARPHONES – handy at night when relaxing.
  • EAR PLUGS
  • BLINDFOLD
  • HEAD TORCH and batteries
  • WET WIPES
  • MICRO FIBRE TOWEL
  • BASIC TOILETRIES
  • PEN
  • PASSPORT
  • WATERPROOF COMPRESSION BAG

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Based on what type of trek you are doing, where you are going and when you are going, the requirements will vary here. For example, I am returning to Nepal in December and I will need light crampons and an ice axe.

The simple thing with any extra is that it adds weight. So, always ask the question, ‘Do you really need it?’

Read about the Everest Trail Race HERE

Read about the 2017 edition of the race HERE

And now, what is next for me….

Well, Nepal captures my imagination like no other place. Last year after the ETR I returned and did the whole race on foot in the same timescale as the race itself. It was a wonderful experience.

So, this December, the plan is to fly into Lukla and then do the high passes with some serious additions visiting Base Camps and peaks:

  • Gokyo RI
  • Everest Base Camp
  • Ama Dablam Base Camp
  • Tabuche Peak
  • Thamserku Base Camp

SCHEDULE DECEMBER:

18th – Depart for LUKLA go straight to Namche

19th – Namche – Tengboche – Namche (acclimatisation)

20th – Namche – Thame – Lumde

21st – Lumde – Renjo La – Gokyo – Gokyo RI – Gokyo

22nd – Gokyo – Dragnag – Cho La – Dzongla

23rd – Dzongla – Lobuche – Gorakshep

24th – Gorakshep – EBC – Gorakshep – Lobuche

25th – Lobuche – Dingboche – Somare

26th – Somare – Ama Dablam Base Camp – Pangboche

27th – Pangboche – Tabuche Peak – Pangboche

28th – Pangboche – Namche – Monjo

29th – Monjo – Thamserku Base Camp – Monjo

30th – Monjo – Lukla

31st – Lukla – KTM

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Everest Trail Race 2018 Phakding to Tengboche #ETR2018

Day 5 Everest Trail Race #ETR2018

Phakding to Tengboche is one of the most beautiful trails in the world – the views are constantly incredible, the trails challenging and when one leaves Namche Bazaar, the views of AMA Dablam and Everest as one winds along a narrow path are beyond impressive. When the runner’s arrive at the monastery, the ETR place a finish arch that frames Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam perfectly, It’s quite the picture postcard and the perfect finish line for the ETR.

2124m of positive incline and 20km are the stats for stage 5. Each year, it is considered to be an ‘easy’ day but it never is…

Departing Phakding (2700m), Namche Bazar (3600m) is the first port of call then Kumjung and Cp2 and Phungi Tenga (3300m) before the tough and steep ascent to Tengboche at 3900m.

The finish line at Tengboche is arguably one of THE most amazing finishing lines of any race and this was reflected in some of the emotions shown as runners crossed the line today. It’s a mix of laughter, tears and elation – at times, all three. The view alone is enough to make one cry.

Today, Jordi Gamito and Rai Purnimaya clinched stage victories and almost certainly the title, Everest Trail Race 2018 champions. Jordi has dominated the race winning every stage and Rai appears to have become stronger as the race progressed.

Manuela Vilaseca and Becks Ferry once again placed 2nd and 3rd and will likely finish in these positions on GC at the end of tomorrow’s 6th and final stage.

For the men, Joan Soler finished 2nd running a strong 5th stage and Sergio Arias was 3rd.

Tomorrow is the final day of the ETR 2018 and the runners run back to Lukla via Namche Bazaar.

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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