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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Nepal Trek – A Journey in the Himalayas Part One

Nepal Trek – A Journey in the Himalayas Part One

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

Nepal is magical!

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

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

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

Practical Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

What type of trek?

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

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

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

The JIRI trek.

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

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

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

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

The early trails are magical though!

How long does a trek take?

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at Ama Dablam.

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

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

Day 1 travel to Kathmandu.

Day 2 Kathmandu sightseeing.

Day 3 4×4 drive to Jiri

Day 4 Trek, Jiri to Bhandar

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

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

Day 7 Trek, Junbeisi to Kharikhola

Day 8 Trek, Kharikhola to Phakding

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

Day 10 Trek, Tengboche to Lukla

Day 11 Flight back to Kathmandu

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

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

Guide or no guide?

Ngima Sherpa – our guide.

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

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

Niandi with Ngima’s mother.

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

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

Equipment

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

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

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

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

Niandi’s apparel:

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

Extras:

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

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

Camera:

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

Clarifications:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodges

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

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

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

Visas, permits and so on.

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

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

Money and food/ drink costs.

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

Wi-Fi, Phone and Safety

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

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

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

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

On the trails

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

Insurance

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

Health and hygiene.

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

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

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

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

The Trek

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

PART TWO ‘THE TREK’ TO FOLLOW

*****

Many thanks to PHD for the continued support.

Treks Travels Nepal and my friend Phudorjee Lama Sherpa.

Our guide, Ngima Sherpa.

Everest Trail Race for the inpiration and confidence.

John Percy – Last Man Standing

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John Percy – Last Man Standing

Endurance running brings many challenges and multi-day adventures bring many variables. The process of running day-after-day can push even the most trained and experienced runner to his or her limits. However, for many runners, a race challenge often combines many things – adventure, the unknown, an opportunity to experience a new place, make new friends and yes, a holiday!

Take any race, any race in the world and you will have someone who comes first and someone who comes last. It’s such an awful phrase; last! It sounds insulting, as though that person has failed… but let’s look at the positives. A journey has a start and an end, how one completes that journey is often down to personal motivations, passions and in the scenario of covering distance in a fast time; genetics!

In my most recent adventure, the Everest Trail Race in Nepal, I enjoyed the trails every day with the runners as they climbed, descended and endured the tough and technical trails that this region of the Himalayas has to offer.

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Pasang Llama (Nepal) won the race ahead of Miguel Capo Soler (Spain) and Casey Morgan (UK) with a dominant performance, he completed the six-day journey from Jiri to Tyangboche and back to Lukla in 22-hours, 04-minutes and 22-seconds. His shortest day was 2-hours 50-minutes and the longest day 4-hours 50-minutes.

iancorless-com_etr2016-8828

Now contrast this to John Percy from the UK. His shortest day was 7-hours 32-minutes and his longest day 14-hours 59-minutes. John, like it or not, became a hero of the Everest Trail Race in 2016. He inspired everyone with his relentless enthusiasm, grit and tenacity to push on, no matter how tough it got or how bad he felt.

Regardless of the time, the distance is the same. A mile is a mile, and every mile matters!”

This quote is relevant in every race, day-in, day-out, all over the world. We often focus and concentrate on the front of the race but often it’s the back of the race where a true story and the real drama happens. I caught up with John Percy to ask about his Nepalese experience.
iancorless-com_etr2016-6054

“I’ve done this. I’ve done that. I’ve achieved something that so many haven’t, I may not be the fastest, but I never will be the fastest. I’m not built to the be the fastest, and I’m certainly no Casey Morgan that’s for certain. I’m probably three times the size of him. But what I would say is that I’ve got a dogged spirit and a strong will. I say to myself, ‘Never, ever give up!’ and I don’t give up. Ever.”

Ian: John, ETR, what an experience, huh?

John: The most amazing experience I’ve ever encountered.

Ian: Well, I was just thinking about how I was going to talk to you about your race, and I have decided that I’m going call you the strongest man in the race because you were holding everybody else up above you.

John: Yes. I was certainly holding the wooden spoon at the back but it wasn’t through lack of spirit. Yes, I was the last person nearly every day but it certainly didn’t deter me from finishing.

Ian: Yes. One of the things that amazes me, and one of the things I love about a multi-stage race is the contrast. You have Pasang Llama finishing in three hours. You have you, finishing in 15 hours, and that’s just one day. I’ve often thought, the guys and girls at the front they have real natural gift. There’s a reason why they do what they do – they are good at it! Then, once you start to drift further and further, further back in the field, I always think to myself, “What is it? What is it that makes somebody put themselves on the line? Maybe they put themselves through hell to tick a box, to achieve something?” Do you feel that’s where you’re at, and there’s no disrespect in me saying that?

Casey Morgan who placed 3rd said he had the utmost respect for people like you John, who go out and struggle, and fight every day for a finish.

What is it that motivates you?

John: [sighs] Well, I’m a great believer that yet you only got one life, and you’ve got to live it the best you can, and when I do pop my clogs in the end of my life, at least I can go in and say, “I’ve done this. I’ve done that. I’ve achieved something that so many haven’t, I may not be the fastest, but I never will be the fastest. I’m not built to the be the fastest, and I’m certainly not Casey Morgan that’s for certain. I’m probably three times the size of him. But what I would say is that I’ve got a dogged spirit and a strong will. I say to myself, ‘Never, ever give up!’ and I don’t give up. Ever.”

Ian: That was completely on show here every day at the race. Coming into the race, you have commented on Facebook that you’re a little bit nervous and a little bit worried about the race. What worried you before coming out here?

John: I was a little bit worried about pushing my body to the limited at altitude. I’ve been at altitude a few times over the last few years at varying degrees of success and failure. I was a little bit worried about how my body would cope. Obviously, it is a tough race and there is a lot of climbing, a lot of technical descending. I can power through that. I don’t mind that. I didn’t particularly like the technical sections, not really tough on the legs, just tough on my feet and the whole body really.

Ian: Casey said that the descent on day three, which was your longest day, you were out there for 15-hours to get to the finish line. He said, “that’s one of the most technical and persistent descents that he’s ever been on.” What was your thought process on that descent because at that point, you’ve been out there a long time? You’re looking at your watch and your thinking, ” Am I going to get timed out?” There’s all sorts of processes going on within your own mind. What is that experience like for you?

John: Time wise, yes, you’ve always got that worry of being timed out and things like that. Really, as an individual, I just put it in the back of my mind. I’m the type of person who could basically get up first thing in the morning, and march for the next 50-hours and it wouldn’t make a big difference to me. Endurance-wise like that, it doesn’t affect me. But those downhill sections did take a toll on my human spirit. You get to a lot of dark places in these type of events but that day I would say was my darkest hour…

Ian: Of course, I understand that! Once you get to the bottom of the descents, you then had to climb all the way up to the monastery at Kharikhola, it’s already dark and that is tough. At the Everest Trail Race, they try and avoid people being out on the course in the dark because it can be a dangerous place, and the darkness brings its own darkness. It makes it difficult because the trails are technical, and twisty, and rocky, and gnarly. How did you find that climb up to Kharikhola when you had already been out on the course for 12+ hours.

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John: Yes. I think the only good part about that, on the way up was that I knew the end was in sight which was a good feeling. I knew it wasn’t far away. It was a case of just power through. You know, just get through it. Finish it. We’re nearly there now. The end’s in sight. I could see the lights. I could hear people’s voices. It did lift my spirits, the last climb. When you think about it that last climb could destroy the human spirit but for me, it actually raised my spirit a little bit, you know?

Ian: Yes. You weren’t taken out of the race (missing the cut-off), which I think was a really, really good decision. I think always, the rules are in place to give some order and some control in a race. I think, rules are there to be broken sometimes, and effectively what you were given in the race was a second life but in that second life, you seem to have been revived a little bit, I don’t know whether it’s your body adapting to the altitude, maybe you were just getting into a rhythm, but after that, it seemed as though you got into a time zone and was able to then function within the time zones of the race.

What happened? Do you think that maybe that running over the terrain just became that little bit easier which meant you could cover ground quicker?

John: Again, you know, I can only thank the whole team for letting me continue in the race after that punishing hard day where I was out of the time limits. Time limits are there for a good reason. I’ve got to say on that long day, it was the technical descents in the dark which were very, very scary. In addition, I did take quite a big fall on day-2 which did impact on me for day 3. But after that day, I don’t know… something inside says, “Right. You’ve been at your lowest point now. Everything now has got to be a bonus. Just give it everything you can!”

I was quite lucky every day that my body seemed to adapt a little bit better, but I think I just passed that point of being at my lowest ebb, and then I just started to feel a lot better in myself and that lifted my spirits.

Ian: As you get past Kharikhola, you start to get into the more populated trails of Nepal, because you’re on the main schlep into base camp and the scenery changes, the whole atmosphere of the race changes. What has the Nepalese experience been like for you?

John: The Nepalese experience has been awe inspiring. It really makes you wake up and take a long look at yourself, you ask questions about me, as an individual, living in a westernized society, and everything that we’ve got as individuals, as opposed to how the Nepalese people live. I feel now, as if I’m a very lucky individual. You know, how I live my life compared to the very happy folk of Nepal. I mean, they’re just such lovely people. A smile. A handshake, no animosity, everybody was incredible. They see you as an individual.

Ian: You know what’s really interesting, I have spoken to many about Nepal and the Everest Trail Race, and each person has said that the people, not the mountains are the most important thing.

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John: No, you’re right. It’s the people that make this race so special, and everybody that is involved with the race passing through the whole Nepalese countryside, and through the population and everything. It’s certainly for me, been the most enjoyable thing I have ever done. I’ve done a lot in my life, and seen a lot in my life, but this is probably going to be one of the highlights of my life.

ETR: When you get to Tyangboche on day five, you get that finish line, and for me it’s one of the best finish lines in the world. What’s it like seeing Ama Dablam, Everest, Lothse, Nuptse?

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John: You can’t believe you’re there. I’ve been in mountains all my life. I’ve climbed all over the UK and quite a bit of the Alps. I’ve always wanted to see Everest. I’ve seen it so many times, as you can imagine in movies, looked at it in books etc.… To actually stand in front of it, at the most famous monastery in the world, no doubt about it, it’s just truly awe inspiring.

ETR: Final day, basically, a nice little parade lap home. You weren’t last. [laughs]

John: No, I wasn’t!

ETR: You saved a big effort for the last day?

John: Yes. I really pushed myself and I thought to myself, I had a little cheeky glint in my eye. When I got to the three-and-a-half km to go, I thought, “Sorry, Eusebio. Every man for himself now and I went for it.”

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Ian: Race done, experience completed. Everybody has a new and personal experience, they are all so different, but your experience is maybe more rewarding? But I think what’s also quite important is your experience has affected everybody else’s experience because they’ve been able to see how you struggled, battled and succeeded. I think it makes people look at themselves and think, “Well, next time I race I’m not going to pull out when the going gets tough,” they will say to themselves, “John stuck at it at ETR and managed to survive and get through.”

You’ve been to some dark places in this race!

What’s the outcome now, you’re sitting here in the sun next to a pool? It can feel like a distant memory, when a runner finishes a tough race, they often say, “I’m never doing that again.” Then within 12-hours that say, “It wasn’t that bad, was it?”

Was it not that bad?

John: Yes, it was bad. That will not change in my head. Yes, it was hard, yes it was tough. Pain will go away. Leg pain, arm pain, whatever I have got, pain will go away. But the memories will never go away of this race. I will never forget it and I’ll always say, “Never ever, say never.”

Ian: Final question for you. There’ll be people listening to this thinking, “You know what? ETR sounds like a brutal race, I want to go next year or the year after. What advice would you give, Casey for example said that the most important things coming into this race, is not necessarily being a runner but being a great hiker and a great walker. Of course, Casey ran quite a great deal too. What advice would you give to people?

John: A mixture of both. I did a lot of hill work before I came to this race. You need a mixture of both endurance, speed and human endeavor. You need to be on your A-game to complete this race.

Ian: Where do you go from here? What’s next? Is there another race or is there another experience? Are you now tempted by Everest having gotten so close to it?

John: No. I’ve enjoyed seeing Everest but I’m not an individual who would dare to climb Everest. It’s never been my goal. I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, K2 and quite a few of the big peaks in North Africa, Africa and Europe. But next from here? I have got something in my head that I really wanted to do. Whether I do it or not remains to be seen. There’s something there that I still want to do. It’s just like I said before, when I do leave this mortal coil, I want to say, “Well, I did this, this and this and this”

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John with Eusebio – they became great friends on the trails

READ AND VIEW IMAGES FROM THE 2016 EVERST TRAIL RACE HERE

Episode 124 – Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016

A_GRAVATAR

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

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HEREAndroid HERE or via a web player HERE

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

Website – talkultra.com

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 Race Preview

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Set against one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring backdrops on the planet, the Everest Trail Race is one of the world’s toughest high-altitude ultra-marathons. I had the pleasure to attend the 2013 and 2014 and I am pleased to say for 2016, I am going back… 

IMAGE GALLERIES from 2014 HERE

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The FACES of NEPAL HERE

Nepal, the Himalayas, the Nepalese people and the amazing trails that lead to the stunning vistas of Everest, Tawache, Ama Dablam, Nuptse, Lohtse and Thamserku from the amazing Tengboche (Thyangboche) Monastery are some of the most memorable moments I have ever had.

On my first visit, I was told Nepal would change me and it did. It’s a cacophony of sound, visuals and emotion.

©iancorless.com_Nepal2014-0108#ETRkathmandu

From the noisy and frenetic streets of Kathmandu to the isolation of camping under the stars at the monastery at Kharikhola, Nepal and its people cemented itself within my heart and I know that participants of the 2016 ETR are in for a very special experience.

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Winding through the remote Solukhumbu region of the Himalayas in Nepal, the ETR takes place over six punishing days and covers a distance of 160-km with over 25,000m of vertical gain.

Terrain is mixed and the daily distances are, on paper, relatively short. Don’t be fooled though. Altitude and technical trails make the ETR a very specific challenge. Daily altitude gain starts 3,000 meters up to 5,950. It’s a breathtaking route that starts in Jiri and follows an incredible route that would eventually lead to the base camp of Everest.

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Runners will trace the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first man to reach the summit of Everest, along with Hillary, who was born in the Tengboche area in a village called Thani.

©iancorless.com_Nepal2014_7-1013#ETRkathmandu

Participants will experience breath-taking views of not only one, but also several of the world’s tallest mountains: Everest, Lothse, Ama Dablam, Tamseku, Kangtega, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. On the fifth day, arriving at Tenggboche the Himalayan backdrop is magnificent providing a wonderful boost before returning to Lukla via Namche Bazaar.

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A self-sufficient race, participants must carry all they need with the exception of food for meals and a tent. Breakfast and dinner is provided and all the runners sleep in 2-man tents.

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Temperatures vary greatly from warm sunny days to icy cold nights. Remember, the runners carry everything they need, so, shorts and T-shirts for the day and a down jacket, multiple layers and a very warm sleeping bag for the night. As with most multi-day races, a change of clothes is a luxury and a shower almost non-existent.

The route is only accessible by foot or helicopter, so, the challenge is equally tough for the race team.

The Everest Trail Race is without doubt the journey and experience of a lifetime.

LOGO ETR

“You reach the highest point of the day and you are breathing hard, short shallow breaths. You think you must stop, that you can’t go on, but then you settle into a sustainable rhythm. Your body is adapting to the workload, to the altitude and with that realisation you feel a rush of empowerment that motivates you to run right past the foot of Everest.”

Schedule:

6th November – Travel to Kathmandu

7th November – Kathmandu

8th November – Sight-seeing in Kathmandu

9th November – Transfer to Jiri

Race dates 10th – 15th November.

  • Day 1 10th – 22 km (+ 3800 m ascent)
  • Day 2 11th – 24 km (+ 5300 m ascent)
  • Day 3 12th – 37 km (+ 6600 m ascent)
  • Day 4 13th – 28 km (+ 4500 m ascent)
  • Day 5 14th – 20 km (+ 3200 m ascent)
  • Day 6 15th – 30 km (+ 5200 m ascent)

16th November – Return to Kathmandu

17th November – Relaxing day in Kathmandu

18th November – Return home

©iancorless.com_Nepal2014_9-3522#ETRkathmandu

The actual routes and formats change every year. The Race Director, Jordi Abad and his team spend over a month meticulously planning routes that are made public before the event starts.

Competitors camp overnight in two-man tents provided by the ETR. The tents are transported stage-by-stage and await the runners at the end of each day. Meals are provided each night in a large food tent. It provides a wonderful and most memorable sound each evening as the sound of weary laughter echoes around camp.

Race Route (to be confirmed)

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 3Jase 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 4Kharikhola 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.

Ones to watch.

The ETR is very much a race about an experience and a journey, however, a race will take place and as in previous years, this will be very competitive at the front.

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From the UK, Casey Morgan will be one of the main contenders for overall victory. In 2016 he has raced consistently well in tough and mountainous races all over the world. The big question will come with his ability to handle high altitude.

Miguel Capo Soler placed 17th at the 2014 Marathon des Sables but his best result came in 2013 when he placed 3rd along with 10th at Lavaredo Ultra Trail.

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Roger Vinas has had an incredible 2016 racing the Skyrunner World Series – the technical trails and altitude of Nepal should not be a problem for this talented runner.

Ismael Dris placed 18th at the 2015 Marathon des Sables, 2nd at the 2013 The Coastal Challenge and has raced Everest Trail Race on one previous occasion.

Sarah Davies from the UK placed 2nd lady in the 2016 Spine Challenger and also won the Malvern Hills Ultra. Adapting to the cold shouldn’t be a problem, the altitude will be a question mark.

Argentina will be represented by Paula Haimovich, Vanesa Levi and Daniela Alderete.

Full entry list HERE.

The 2016 edition of the race has a main sponsor – The Elements Pure Coconut Water. Other official sponsors are Compressport, 225ers, ways gps and Burq.

Official Race Website – HERE

UK entries – HERE