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.

Everest Trail Race 2017 #ETR2017 on IRUN4ULTRA

In just 1 month, the 2017 edition of the Everest Trail Race will depart Kathmandu for one of the ultimate journeys on foot.

Following in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first men to reach the summit of Everest, participants will run through time and history. It’s a breathtaking route that starts in Jiri and follows an incredible route to Tengboche – the gateway to Everest Base Camp before returning to Lukla and the journey back to Kathmandu.

Read the full story on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

UK Entries HERE

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.

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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.
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“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

Faces of Nepal – limited edition book

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Due to popular demand I have produced a limited edition small landscape book (13cm x 10cm) on my photography undertaken on a recent working trip to Nepal to photograph the Everest Trail Race.

FACES of NEPAL

Is very much fuelled by a passion for photography, the intrinsic beauty in every single persons face and of course the magic of Nepal.

“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

Printed on 200gm paper on 24-pages with a super gloss finish. The book is hard bound and will last a lifetime. Only 30-books have been printed and all books can be signed (if requested) on the inside front cover with a personal message.

PRICE

£20.00 plus £2 UK postage or £5 postage outside the UK

To order

Faces of Nepal

©iancorless.com_Nepal2014_7-1013#ETRkathmandu

“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

 

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