Episode 124 – Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016

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Episode 124 of Talk Ultra is all about the Everest Trail Race with a selection of audio from 5 participants – Andreja Sterle Podobonik, Casey Morgan, Jennifer Hill, Tom Arnold and John Percy. We bring you news from the ultra world and Niandi Carmont co-hosts

We are in La Palma and bring you the audio from our apartment right on the Transvulcania route. So, apologies if you can hear the sea in the background and if we sound like we are recording in public toilet….

RUNNING BEYOND BOOK many thanks for all the great comments and support. It’s been great to get so many messages on social media. For those interested, we are planning a RUNNING BEYOND event in the UK in London. The venue is tbc but the dates will be Friday March 3rd to Sunday March 5th. We will have Running Beyond Book on sale and of course it will be possible to get it signed. We will have an exhibition of images from the book printed large in a gallery but this will also be a three day event on all things ultra, trail or mountain running. We will have guest speakers, films, a photography workshop and this will all be in conjunction with Like The Wind Magazine and Run Ultra. Watch this space!

00:21:31NEWS

100k Worlds in Spain

  1. Hideaki Yamauchi 6:18
  2. Bongmusa Mthembu 6:24
  3. Patrick Reagan 6:35
  1. Kirstin Bull 7:34
  2. Nikola Sustic 7:36
  3. Jo Zakrezewski 7:41

JFK50

  1. Jim Walmsley 5:21:29 smashed Max Kings by 13 min! For perspective – Walmsley’s year now included nine wins in 10 starts, six course records, and two giant FKTs in the Grand Canyon.
  2. Anthony Kunkel 5:52
  3. Mike Owen 5:56
  1. Leah Frost 6:23
  2. Caroline Boller 6:32
  3. Megan DiGregorio 7:02

2017 Skyrunner World Series Announced and new Vertical World Circuit HERE

ETR 2016

Pasang Llama

Miguel Capo Soler

Casey Morgan

Andreja Sterle Podobonik

Jennifer Hill

Sarah Davies

00:36:54 INTERVIEWS FROM EVEREST TRAIL RACE

  • Andreja Sterle Podobonik
  • Casey Morgan
  • Jennifer Hill
  • Tom Arnold
  • John Percy

UP & COMING RACES

Australia

Queensland

Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn 100km | 100 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn 50km | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Cayman Islands

Off the Beaten Track | 50 kilometers | February 21, 2016 | website

Finland

Lapland

66° North Ultra Race | 66 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

Roavve Polar Ultra 300 | 308 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

France

Yvelines

51 km | 51 kilometers | February 21, 2016 | website

51 km en relais | 51 kilometers | February 21, 2016 | website

Ireland

Kildare

Donadea 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

New Zealand

Bedrock50 | 53 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Taupo 155 km Great Lake Relay | 155 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Taupo 67.5 km Great Lake Relay | 67 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Sri Lanka

RacingThePlanet: Sri Lanka 2016 | 250 kilometers | February 14, 2016 | website

Thailand

100 km Relay | 100 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

50 km Relay | 50 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Thai Ultra Race | 140 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

USA

Arizona

Ragnar Relay Del Sol | 200 miles | February 19, 2016 | website

Southwest 125 Ultra | 125 miles | February 15, 2016 | website

Colorado

Headless Horsetooth Fat Ass 50K | 50 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Virginia

Holiday Lake 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Washington

Fishline 50K | 50 kilometers | February 21, 2016 | website

02:05:08 CLOSE

Our next show will be a christmas special and we will bring you our four favourite interviews from 2016, so, if you have a preference or a favourite, let us know on our Facebook page.

 

 

02:08:30

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Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com

inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ Base Layer/ Mid Layer Top

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My recent trip to Nepal for the 2016 Everest Trail Race provided an opportunity for me to try out some new kit items. I do plan to write a full article on the kit I used and provide an overview for those who plan to either run a similar multi-day race or maybe go trekking.

One thing that is key for any multi-day journey, trekking or racing is weight and functionality. You really do have to be brutal with your choices. Luxuries, in general, are a no, no as they just add weight.

Nepal in November provides some real contrasts which can really test kit choices. Days are sunny, warm (at times hot) and shorts and a t-shirt work great. However, as soon as the sun disappears, the temperatures drop dramatically. Depending on what altitude you are at and how exposed you are, those temperatures will continue to drop and exposed locations will drop well below -10.

I am all for layering my clothing and to provide some perspective, here is my kit list for the duration of the Everest Trail Race.

nepal-kit

You will see from the above, I was keeping things light and functional. 3.2kg of apparel for 7-days and that included my sleeping bag. In addition to the above apparel and sleeping bag I had an Aarn pack, Aarn front photo pockets, 2 x Canon 5D cameras and 3 lenses: 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200. The camera equipment weighs a great deal. More on that in my next post when I summarise all the above kit.

One piece of kit was a stand out though. The inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ top.

Merino wool for me is essential as a base layer when working in cold climates. I make sure I have long leggings, socks, gloves and top all made from Merino.

The advantages?

  • Warmth
  • Less odour
  • Quick drying
  • Warmth when wet

So, when I first looked at the inov-8 product I was really impressed as it offered some key features that I had not seen on other Merino products:

  1. Hood
  2. Zip
  3. Thumb loops
  4. Hand mitts

The downside being that as a base layer top, it was a little heavier than the competition. However, the competition didn’t have the ‘extras’ that made the inov-8 attractive. To cut a long story short, I decided to go with the additional weight and put the product through its paces in Nepal.

If I wanted to be truly lightweight and despite the odourless qualities of Merino, potentially a little smelly, I could have gone with just one base layer. I didn’t! I took two tops. I had a simple reasoning and logic for this. I would wear one during the day and the other at night.

Unlike other products that are available, the inov-8 is not a form fitting product. Thank goodness! I hate feeling squeezed into my clothing. The AT/C MERINO LSZ is loose and not baggy and provides a snug and reassuringly comfortable warmth. The real selling points of this product are:

Hood – The hood adds great warmth, fits snuggly and if you zip up the 1/2 zip to the top you are left with a really warm base layer that works exceptionally well in the early morning before the sun rises. At the end of the day after the sun disappears and at night when inside a sleeping bag and you want additional warmth and the options to stop drafts going down your neck.

Hand Mitts – The cuff of the sleeve has a thumb hole as seen on many base layer products and what this provides is almost a half glove with no fingers. However, inov-8 have added an extra layer of fabric and by folding this back and over the fingers, it provides a simple hand mitt. Again this worked exceptionally well for early morning or late evening chills or when sleeping to keep extremities warm.

At the end of the day, the inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ is a base layer, there isn’t a great deal to write. However, this product impressed so much I was keen to give the product a nod. The addition of Superfine 18.5 micron Australian Merino wool delivers fantastic next-to-skin feel and fit, the hood and 1/2 zip is a great feature and the hand mitts is the type of simple innovation that I love.

This product is a winner.

As we are entering into the cold, dark, inclement months, an inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ would make a great addition to any kit list.

Product information at inov-8 HERE

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 trail, not surprisingly, Pasang Sherpa was once again blazing a trail along this tough ETR route, he was looking to make amends for a poor day yesterday. He was pursued by the top-4 runners, Joan Soler, Casey Morgan and Miguel Capo Soler. In the ladies, Andreja Sterle Podobnik took the race to Jennifer Hill today leading by a minute at the top of the first climb.

After CP1 at Jumbesi, the runners crossed the Junbesi Khola river and climbed up to Phurteng at just over 3000m. Descending to CP2 at Lharpa another climb awaited.

The race now had a familiar format; Pasang would lead the men by a considerable margin, followed by Casey and Miguel, Joan was off the pace, today he didn’t feel quite as good!

For the ladies, Andreja like Pasang would lead the lead the way but Jennifer marked the gap.

Today’s finish line at Kharikhola is a special one, it’s one of the best I have witnessed, however, the runners have to work for that finish. Leaving Taksindu La, the final long descent of the day, 3100m to 1500m in 10km. However, at the bottom the sting in the tail, a 4km climb from Jubhing to the Monastery finish.

Pasang and Andreja took out the respective stage wins. Importantly, Pasang dictated a very fast pace today regaining all the time lost yesterday and now providing himself a convincing lead over Miguel and Casey. Although Andreja tried today, Jennifer ran a consistent pace and the time she lost was relatively insignificant to the overall classification.

Stage results:

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

 

General Classification:

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

Stage 4 preview: Kharikhola to Llegada 27.5km

Departing the monastery, a small descent awaits the runners of just 4km before a long tough climb to Kari La (CP1) at 2900m. From here the course goes up and down all around 2700/2800m for appx 10km before a very steep descent to CP2 at Surke (2200m). A continual climb to CP3 at Cheplung continues to the arrival at Phakding/ Llegaga.

 

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Stage 2 Results and Summary

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Everest Trail Race – Stage 2 Bhandar to Jase Bhanjyang

Stage-1 finished yesterday in Bhandar and due to logistics it was necessary for myself to leave camp and make my way to Golla, the midway point of stage 2. It was a 3.5 hour hike with 2000m of vertical, I arrived in the dark and was saddened to see the lodge that I had stayed in on two previous occasions was now a pile of rumble – real evidence of the earthquake od last year. A two story house gone and now the family living in make shift huts. It was devastating to see and no doubt it has devastated them but they are a resilient people, life goes on and as such they offered me a bed and food.

I departed 0530 to climb to Pikey Peak at 4068m. In principal, you look at the stage and think, it’s only 23.9km, and it won’t be too bad! Wrong. The stage has 3468m of vertical ascent and 1796m of negative descent. It’s a brute!

On the trail the freezing early morning temperatures started to rise and with it the sun. Suddenly, the first glimpse of the snow capped Himalayas and Everest in the distance. It was another tough hike to Pikey Peak and in particular, once I got passed 3600m I could feel the altitude hit! Ever watched a program on Everest and seen everybody walking really slow up the gradients? Now I know why… this stage of the ETR was a brute and without doubt it would cause some damage. Finally, we arrived at the Peak and waited for the runners. 

It was a split start today, slow runners leaving at 0700 and faster runners at 0800.

Starting with a short and technical descent for a couple of km’s, runners crossed a river via a suspended bridge and then it was pretty much all ‘up’ for 16/17km. The gradients were not brutal (however, poles were essential) and terrain underfoot on the whole was very good, but the combination of these elements and altitude made the whole experience extremely harsh.

Pasang Lama and Jennifer Hill were overall ETR leaders going into stage 2 and they lived up to their billing leading their respective groups to Golla

I had expected Pasang to be in a league of his own today, after all, he is Nepalese. However, the early gaps he had opened up were given away to Miguel Capo Soler and Casey Morgan. In the final climb to Pikey Peak – it certainly looked like he pushed too hard! Miguel was the first to reach the summit and then several minutes later, Casey arrived saying, “Now that is tough, I am nearly passing out with the effort.”

Pasang was expected next but first day 4th place finisher, Joan Soler, arrived next looking strong. Pasang finally arrived but he looked broken, constantly needing to stop.

Jennifer Hill proved in great form and dominated once again for the ladies with Andreja Sterle Podobnik once again following in 2nd to the summit.

One-by-one runners made the Pikey Peak summit, some in better shape than others. Unfortunately, the stunning early morning views of the Himalayas disappeared as the day passed and in the latter stages the race was blocked out with cold wind and dense mist requiring the ETR admin team to make some changes for the latter runners to ensure their safety.

In the distance, just 4km away from Pikey Peak, base camp could be seen early in the day at Jase Bhanjyang (3549m). A technical descent was followed by one last tough climb to the finish and an opportunity to rest.

Miguel took a strong stage victory ahead of Joan Soler who passed on the descent. Casey, post-race said that the climb to Pikey Peak had taken a great deal out of him allowing his Compressport teammate to pull away.

Jennifer once again won the ladies race with Andreja placing 2nd and Sarah Davies 3rd and moving up to 3rd lady overall.

The day took its toll on many runners, with altitude sickness causing issues and of course fatigue.

Going into Stage 3, Miguel Capo Soler and Jennifer Hill have a strong lead.

Stage results:

  1. Miguel Capo Soler
  2. Joan Soler
  3. Casey Morgan
  1. Jennifer Hill
  2. Andrej Sterle Podobnik
  3. Sarah Davies

General Classification:

  1. Miguel Capo Soler 7:19:17
  2. Casey Morgan 7:27:53
  3. Joan Soler 7:29:22
  1. Jennifer Hill 10:05:35
  2. Andrej Sterle Podobonik 10:18:20
  3. Sarah Davies 12:45:26

Stage 3 preview: Jase Bhanjyang to Kharikhola 37.4km

Stage 3 is all about running downhill, however, the finish is brutal ascent to Kharikola at 2100m.

Leaving Jase Bhanjyang runners have a short ascent of 2km to 3800m and then an 8km descent to Jumbesi, CP1. A 6km climb to just over 3000m is then followed with a 4km descent to Lharpa and CP2. Another 3km climb to 3000m and then a brutal leg sapping drop from 3000m to 1500m in 10km before the final sting in the tail, a 3km climb to the finish.

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Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Stage 1 Results and Summary

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Everest Trail Race – Day 1 Jiri Bazaar to Bhandar 

As the sun disappeared last night, so did the temperature but by Nepal standards it was a warm night! Just a base layer upper and bottom required inside the sleeping bag.

Morning came with a welcoming hot tea delivered to every tent by the Sherpa’s who are helping us. Organization is excellent. ETR have one advance team everyday, so as we are looked after in Jiri and new base camp, tents, eating tents, media tent and so on are being assembled in duplication. As Jordi Abad explains, “it’s the only way it can work here. The terrain is too difficult and too arduous to try and transport the same facilities day after day.”

At around 0700, villagers from Jiri came to observe the ETR roadshow and they played music to announce the start as they have done for the past several years.

On the stoke of 0900 the runners departed and the cold chilly of the early morning had disappeared with the rising of the sun. The contrast between just a few hours extremely noticeable.

Starting at 1890m the runners had a short descent and then immediately the first climb of the day to Mali at 2200m. Pasang Lama dictated the early stages followed by Casey Morgan and Miguel Capo Soler.

Jennifer Hill bided her time in the early stage but took a convincing lead and looked relaxed throughout the stage. Andreja Sterle Podobnik and Janine Canham pursued.

Deurali Pass via Khasrubas (2173m) was the toughest climb of the day and the highest point 2715m. Pasang, only had a slender lead over Casey and Miguel. A long descent to the finish and anything could happen – Pasang prevailed and took the stage win in Bhandar. 

Andreja couldn’t pull back time and Jennifer and the British athlete secured a stage one victory with Janine taking 3rd.

Runners now have the opportunity to relax, eat and prepare for tomorrows stage. It’s a tough day!

Stage 2 preview:

Leaving Bhandar, non-stop climbing follows a short 4km descent; firstly, to Gompa (Golla) at 3010m, a small downhill section follows of 2km and then a climb to Pikey Peak at 4068m. It’s a tough-tough day and the sting in the tail comes at the very end with a very short and steep ascent to Jase Bhajyang. Total stage distance 23.92km

Please note: I am leaving stage 1 camp today and hiking through the afternoon and early evening to hopefully arrive at a suitable vantage point to record images from stage 2. Updates will follow as soon as possible.

 

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Kathmandu to Jiri

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Departing in five 16-seater mini buses, participants of the Everest Trail Race made the long, twisty and at times stressful journey from Kathmandu to Jiri for the start of the 2016 edition of the ETR.

It’s a rollercoaster journey up single-track roads, a frenetic and constant beeping of horns and a multitude of bends that would leave the most hardened rollercoaster freak with a turning tummy. The roads are wide enough for ‘just’ two vehicles – a loud blast on the horn means we are overtaking. The lack of road rules works, all the drivers are prepared for anything and as such, nothing happens.

Our lunch stop was a welcome break from the journey. While runners found a space and relaxed, I walked looking for some local colour. I found a family relaxing under a tree, the midday sun was warm and they needed a break from the hard work in the fields.

They locals embrace tourists and actually seem to enjoy the process of having a photo taken. I lifted out balloons for the children and comically all the adults wanted one too. They were sitting, laughing aloud, as each and every one of them tried to inflate them. I am convinced they had not witnessed a balloon before. I inflated one and let go…. It whirled through then air and landed as if dead.

Relaxed with the balloon distraction, one-by-one they looked into my lens.

Weathered faces show the lines from years of toil in the fields. Children have wonderful circular faces that glow and piercing eyes with a cheeky smile.

I could photograph these people all day!

Back on the bus the ride continues and finally our arrival at Jiri came. We had been on the road 8-hours and the glow of yellow tents was a warm welcome as the day began to lose its light.

Water collection, tent allocation and final preparations were underway for tomorrows race day as the runners became acquainted with their new homes for the next 6-days . A mug of hot tea warms as the departing of the sun takes the heat of the day away and the temperature slowly drops…

Day 1 commences at 0900 Thursday 10th November.

Jiri (1850m) to Bhandar  (2050m) – 21.5km 3795m+

The stage has two summits, one at 2400m and the high point of the day at Deurali Pass 2700m before descending to the finish at Bhandar.

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Arrival Kathmandu

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The 2016 Everest Trail Race has begun… as with all races, it starts with a journey and as I am sure you all know, some are more bearable than others. This was a good one! We departed Heathrow on Nov 6th in the early evening, a 4-hour flight to Istanbul was followed with a short wait time before a red-eye flight through the night to arrive in Kathmandu for midday the following day.

The Nepal/ Kathmandu impact hits immediately – noise, colour, cars, motorbikes, buses, dust and people are everywhere!

A short journey to our hotel is followed by a simple pre-registration of athletes; the official race briefing will take place tomorrow. Everyones tired but a new day has kicked in leaving everyone unsure if they should be eating lunch or breakfast? Eyes are watery and red, hair is a little dishevelled and wild, but the anticipation of the 2016 ETR has everyone wired and excited.

It’s time to unpack, prepare and organise equipment for the race that starts in three days time but first a little exploring – the bustling streets of Tamil await and provide a quick and rapid immersion into the wonders of Nepal and it’s people.

Tomorrow, Monday, is a day of organised exploring to the Monkey Temple and Durba Square; a hub of history for this region of Nepal.

Sleep deprived, it’s a short day for everyone, bed calls and tomorrow the 2016 Everest Trail Race experience really begins for all concerned.

Racing starts on Thursday10th November

Day 1 – Departing Jiri at 0900 runners will cover two major peaks, Mali at just over 2400m and Deurali Pass (2700m).

Day 2 – Leaving Bhandar, non-stop climbing follows a short 4km descent; firstly, to Gompa (Golla) at 3010m, a small downhill section follows of 2km and then a climb to Pikey Peak at 4068m. It’s a tough-tough day and the sting in the tail comes at the very end with a very short and steep ascent to Jase Bhajyang.

Day 3 – Jase Bhanjyang to Kharikhola

Stage 3 is all about running downhill, however, the finish is brutal ascent to Kharikhola at 2100m. Leaving Jase Bhanjyang runners have a short ascent of 2km to 3800m and then an 8km descent to Jumbesi, CP1. A 6km climb to just over 3000m is then followed with a 4km descent to Lharpa and CP2. Another 3km climb to 3000m and then a brutal leg-sapping drop from 3000m to 1500m in 10km before the final sting in the tail, a 3km climb to the finish.

Day 4 – Kharikhola to Llegada

Departing the monastery, a small descent awaits the runners of just 4km before a long tough climb to Kari La (CP1) at 2900m. From here the course goes up and down all around 2700/2800m for approximately 10km before a very steep descent to CP2 at Surke (2200m). A continual climb to CP3 at Cheplung continues to the arrival at Phakding/ Llegaga. 

Day 5 – Phakding to Llegada

Leaving Phakding at 2600m runners will only gain 200m in the first 8km. CP1 Namche Bazar is at 10km  (3400m).  Phunki Tenga at 17.5km (3300m) now will offer the runners the most spectacular views of Everest and the other 8000m peaks. This sight will spur them on for the kick in the tail; the 2km climb from 3300m to 3700m and the finish at Tengboche.

Day 6 – Thyangboche to Lukla

The final stage of the ETR re-traces much of the same ground of Day-5 but (obviously) in the opposite direction. The main difference comes after Phakding when the trail splits and participants go left climbing to the finish in Lukla.