The hardest part for Nepali trail runners is getting to the start line. There are few races in Nepal that offer real learning experiences for elite runners.
Bishnu Maya, first place in her first international race.
To get the the top as a trail runner, you have run with the best trail runners. Roger Henke explains it well at the end of this blog post:
Before Nepal has a chance of becoming widely known and recognized for its mountain running talent the pool of individuals that compete for the possibility to compete on the world stage needs to grow, not a bit but by several factors. And that requires a training and youth sports infrastructure that is totally absent in Nepal. But, as in Kenya, Ethiopia and Jamaica, it all has to start somewhere and it always starts with a couple of individuals who are hors catégorie and make it on the world stage. And these individuals all need(ed) a little bit of outside help to get there and be able to show their qualities.
So it’s great then to have an opportunity for another young girl to show her ability, and discover a lot more. Mira first saw, with eyes as big as dinner plates, what international elite trail running was in Chamonix at the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in 2014. Now Bishnu Maya Budha gets the same in Hong Kong. A smaller event that in Chamonix, but still a fantastic setting to learn what trail running is about and, even better, with a tight community of dedicated runners who’re helping her find her feet.
Bed Sunuwar‘s pretty lucky incidentally. He’s raced before in Hong Kong, China and Switzerland, but somehow has had fewer opportunities that he could or should have. If he was better at the marathon though, he might not have received permission letter from the army to allow him leave to get to Hong Kong. In terms of running in Nepal, the marathon event beats trail running every time. Coaches complain that trail running slows marathon runners down. They might be right, on the flat at least, but it is a terrible missed opportunity looking at the bigger picture.
Matt ran with Bishnu Maya as he did with Mira last year.
[ December 5, 2015 12:04 ] Matt Moroz: 51:00 on the nose for her or even just under. I was at the end taking pics so she may well have done 50:45. Not quite as fast as Mira but she destroyed the competition and wasn’t at all pushed. She probably had more up her sleeve.
So this sounds good for Sunday and the 50km race, which is the big event of the weekend. Many runners skip the VK and save themselves for the 50km. So Bed and Bishnu Maya could be a little tired on the start line, but no less determined to claim another trophy.
Congratulations to both of them and huge thanks to their support team in Hong Kong: Matt, Jeri, Steve, Retha, Deer Horn, Gone Running, Lantau Base Camp, and Michael Maddess at Action Asia Events. Thanks too of course to those who paid the bill to get them there through our small but effective fund raiser last weekend. Great!
Top 5 Men – Name-Nationality-Team/Sponsor-Time 1. Joseph Gray-United States-Mío Global, Spenco-38:35 2. Eirik Haugsnes-Norway-Inov8-38:47 3. Bed Bahadur Sunuwar-Nepal TEAM-Nepal-40:36 4. Orlando Edwards – UK – 40:44 5. Anders Kleist-Sweden-IL Akele-41:27
Top 5 Women Name-Nationality-Team/Sponsor-Time 1. Bishnu Maya Budha-Nepal-Nepal-51:50 2. Maud Gobert-France-Adidas-52:30 3. Charlotte Henry-France-54:05 4. Rebecca Nakuwa-Kenya-55:18 5. Nicole Lau-Hong Kong-55:28
Manaslu Trail Race 2015 – words and images by Mark Brightwell
The race starts in gloomy greyness at Soti Khola, 700m above sea level and flanked by the roaring waters of the Bhudi Gandaki. We will follow this river to its source at the snout of a glacier below the towering twin summits of Manaslu but not directly. That would be too easy. Instead we climb away from the river, through the inversion and into glorious sunshine, our spirits rising in conjunction with our altimeter readings.
Having climbed a vertical kilometer our path starts to traverse, taking us first through Lapu and then along to Lapsibot where a flattened heap of rubble bears testament to where the school once stood. The epicenter of the 25 April earthquake was just a few kilometers from here; the race wraps around it like a horseshoe.
A multi-day mountain race that not only covers 185km and ascends nearly 15 vertically but that also circumnavigates the epicenter of a recent earthquake? Clearly this is no ordinary race.
After sweeping down an airy ridgeline the sandy trail descends through pine forest all the way back to the banks of the Budhi Gandaki. The final kilometers to Korlabeshi are flat, rocky and hot but salvation is at hand: cups of hot lemon at the Finish Line and better yet, the cold refreshing pools of the river in which to bathe.
On Stage Two we learn the meaning of ‘Nepali flat’: whilst the trail follows the course of the river, as it does so, it rises and falls so much that by the end of a 30km day the total ascent is still comfortably running to four figures. We reach Pewa and are accommodated there in a new wooden lodge. The sound of the river once more ushers us gently towards our dreams.
Each day is a transition. Today we leave jungled hillsides behind and criss- crossing the mighty river, climb steadily into an alpine wonderland. In Namrung we pass women working in the fields, taking out potatoes from the earth where they have been stored. Further up, on an exposed crest at Lihi a lady in the fine colourful Tibetan dress is using the wind to sift wheat from chaff.
At a fork we bear left and climb away from the main trail towards Hinang Gomba, a Buddhist monastery where we receive a warm welcome and have our first taste of thukpa, a Tibetan soup, thick with freshly made noodle and vegetables and highly restorative. At the head of the valley towers Himal Chuli, a southern satellite of the as yet unseen Manaslu.
The speed is a shock and my eyes stream with tears as they’re blasted with cold morning air. I catch a trailing foot on the rocky ground and sprawl forwards, sliding on all fours across the dirt before picking myself, no harm done, and continuing my downward trajectory.
Back in the main valley we reach Lho where the distinctive M-shaped peaks of Manaslu dominate the skyline. Again deviating up a side valley, we climb straight for them and arrive in spite of the best efforts of gravity at a barely conceivable plateau, flanked on three sides by mountains and at the very furthest recess of which lies our Check Point.
Tite Togni crossing the huge plateau under Manaslu’s east face
This particular Check Point allows a ‘Check In, Check Out’ system whereby the race clock stops as you arrive and only re-starts when you depart. A stroke of compassionate genius by the race organisers, this means that the splendour of the setting can be enjoyed at leisure and the body can start to acclimatise and recover before hurtling back down to the main valley.
From our new base the format changes slightly and we have the luxury of two nights in one place! The day’s racing, an out and back from Samagaon to Manaslu Base Camp, is quite possibly the world’s highest vertical kilometer race. It’s a battle to ascend at speed from 3550m to 4750m and the ‘Check In, Check Out’ is again a welcome opportunity to rest, acclimatise and appreciate the incredible surroundings.
Stephan Tassani-Prell defending his ascent win on the descent.
At Samagaon, as part of its mission to encourage and develop trail running, race organisers, Trail Running Nepal, link up with the local school to hold a one kilometer race. Apparently oblivious to the effects of altitude that have been steadily slowing us down, the children tear through the village, pass beneath the recently re-built chorten and take the Finish Line. Their sunlit faces portray a mixture of excitement and curiosity.
From Samagaon a short day takes us to Samdo, another ethnically Tibetan village. The nearby border has just been opened and caravans of yak pass through on international shopping missions. For some, the temptation of going to the border with Tibet is too great and they follow the yak. For others the temptation of bed is greater and they enjoy a slumbersome rest day.
Yaks at the Rui La going to Tibet.
Having climbed over the course of the week through various ever-sparser biospheres we must now cross the barren post-glacial wastes of the Larkye La, the 5160m pass that stands between us and the resumption of our race and the final descent to Dharapani.
We start out in the dark, a snake of headlights heading into the inky blackness. Long before the sun finds its way above the horizon, the snow- covered flanks of Manaslu are lighting up a magical pre-dawn purple. Ahead of us the inky blackness recedes towards the far horizon.
The long gradual ascent through snow-covered fields of moraine eventually leads to the welcome sight of prayer flags, beyond which the earth drops steeply revealing a new vista; a desolate, harsh landscape of snow and rock.
The steep descent eventually gives way to a gentler gradient. We turn the corner into a misty valley strewn with boulders and flanked by forest. The hardy trees are adorned with hanging mosses that move, ghost-like with the breeze. At the foot of this valley is Bhimtang, our final stopping point.
After the cold concrete of Samdo, the warm wooden huts of Bimtang, not to mention the flowing beer and fresh-made pizza, ensure that our final evening is passed in high spirits and to the sound of laughter.
Whilst sections of ‘Nepali flat’ go some way to slowing our progress, the 22km descent from Bimtang to Dharapani nonetheless flashes by and we are all too soon passing under the Finish banner for the final time.
The race has been many things to many people. For some it was their first taste of Nepal. For many it was their first experience of a multi-day event. For the three young Nepali runners, sponsored by Trail Running Nepal, it’s the first chance not only to race in an international field but also to spend time among foreigners, practice their English and learn something of the world beyond Nepal’s borders. For the communities we’ve passed among we hope it’s reinforced the notion that after the earthquake trauma of six months ago, normal life can resume: tourists are returning and with them, a more positive outlook for their livelihoods.
For me what stands out most is the beauty not only of being able to travel through such spectacular mountains, sometimes running, sometimes, walking, sometimes stopping to take breath, a photograph or a moment’s reflection but to be able to do this in the company of such a wonderful, diverse but above all, friendly and buoyant group of fellow athletes.
It’s nice, we’re filling in the visa application form together. “It’s beautiful,” she says, thumbing through the pages of the passport. Phunchok from the Himalayan Children’s Foundation is observing, nodding. Bishnu Maya is staying at the home they have with nearly 100 students, many of whom are runners who train regularly in the week, thus a perfect place for Bishnu to be right now – just a week away from a big race.
The passport is a work of art as most seem to be these days. A beautiful and expensive thing – this one cost about $US100 in order to be completed within a week. When thinking she could race in Hong Kong, it was easy to overlook that Bishnu Maya might not have a passport. But the plan for Hong Kong is still on. If tomorrow she gets a wink that the visa will be issued, then she can go to Dragon Air and buy the flight ticket.
So tomorrow (Monday 30) is visa day.
[Update: so far at 2pm no good news :( so we keep waiting.]
Regardless of if she gets it or not, it looks good for the next time at least. The support from the Hong Kong end has been great.
Jeri Chua at Race Base has been fantastic coordinating a few of the troops there. Steve Carr and Gone Running signed up to provide great shoes suitable for the courses. The organisation Free to Run, have promised a package of running stuff for Bishnu, include the right pack, bottles etc. Others have offer help at the races, cfrewing and support, which is fabulous.
It’s a big thing to race and not just run, to run hard, to eat and drink enough and properly, to save seconds at aid stations, toilets, obstacles etc. To know the route enough in advance, to listen to your body not to over cook it, and on this course, to save enough for Dogs Tooth, the crazy rocky ridge climb, and subsequent descent, ascent and long descent.
So Bishnu has Thursday and Friday to warm up to that! Around her she has Bed Sunuwar who’s very experienced. And of course Matt Moroz who knows everything about running in Hong Kong. Jeri will be there for the VK too on Saturday.
Wow – it is quite exciting! Just needs a visa.
Should things go well, there is The North Face 100 the following weekend where the 50km or 100km events are open for Bed and Bishnu. Shame they couldn’t make a team. Next time.
OK, tomorrow 10am at the China visa office. If we have good news we’ll report back here.
UPDATE: Still no good news. So while waiting, we went to try archery!
Home! Finished in 49:55hrs. Thanks every one for the messages and good wishes. And huge thanks to Mark Brightwell for running with me all night and listening to me hiccup for the last 6 hours. I’m hitting the shower and then bed. #Team7Hills
50 hour face! Photo: Mark Brightwell – click for original post
Congratulations Seth. This is 50 hours of effort with no sleep. Great that people think up these challenges, and then do some research and then ‘just do it’. This is not easy. We’ll find out from Seth the exact distance and altitude change, but something like 180km and … 15000m of ups and downs?
Right now Lizzy is more than half way around the Manaslu Circuit which she just completed on the Manaslu Trail Race. So well acclimatised, and familiar with the route, she is charging around sleepless. Now (Sat Nov 28: 13:30) she has just crossed the pass.
Still some 100km to go for her.
Back to Seth’s valley rim run. There’s a certainly a great 3- or 4-day training camp in there. The Kathmandu Valley is beautiful at most times of the year. Plenty of tea-shops to refill calories and liquids and some accommodation too in convenient places.
So have a think about that. Mean while good luck Lizzy & sleep well Seth! Congratulations!
“The stupid Official Volunteer directed Kiran to turn right instead of straight towards the dam. He thought the route might have changed, but they ended back at the starting point losing 1 hr 5 mins,” said coach Ramesh Bhattachan, “While going downhill Ras slipped and hurt his right thigh. Anyway they carried on till Check Point 8 Tai Mo San and I decided that he could not continue as they had walked all the way from Shin Mun to Tai Mo San. He dropped out officially and the three continued and completed in 15 hrs 5 mins.”
Definitely some lessons learned at last weekend’s Oxfam Trailwalker event.
You can read a full interview with the sponsor Awoo Wear, over beer and tabasco sauce, here:
Awoo did a great thing. Columbia previously had sponsored the team, but pulled out of covering flight costs. The HK trail running community as usual worked out how it could help. A week or so later, enough sponsorship to get the team over with food and board, and some fantastic running shirts to boot.
“Milos Pintrava has been a fantastic sponsor with a great support team,” said Ramesh.
1st – 2XU UFO – 11 hrs 58 mins
2nd – Champion System HK – 12 hrs 25 mins
3rd – Xempower Europe – 12 hrs 52 mins
Ramesh had forecasted that, “our team would break the record with a target of 10 hrs 50 mins. If we had not been guided in the wrong direction, technically the team would have finished in 10 hrs 53 minutes with a new race record,” he claims.
However, “Lady luck was not on our side. We will try next year.”
Well done guys.
In between action shots during a photo shoot with AWOO Team Nepal, I put the DSLRs away & pulled out my old Mamiya 645…
Our decision to walk from Dhunche to Kathmandu over the Tihar weekend was based partly on aesthetics and partly on pragmatism. Aside from the undeniable beauty of the Gosaikunda lakes and the spectacular views of Langtang the route has various logistical advantages. For one it is accessible within a four-hour drive from Kathmandu which is always useful when most domestic flights are being cancelled. For another it is doable in 3-4 days (at a brisk walk) and so can be fitted into a long weekend. The following is brief account of our trip which might be of use to anyone wanting up to date information on the route to do a fastpack run or a hike as we did.
View of himalayas from near Gosaikunda
Day 1 (Thursday): Breakfast in KTM. Drove in a jeep to Dhunche (please don’t ask how much we had to pay for a jeep). Arrived 3pm and started walking. Initially we intended to walk for a couple of hours in order to help with acclimatising and time us more of a time cushion. We were soon regretting this idea when both Deurali and Dimsa proved to be unoccupied (there were some lodges standing but none were open). After a couple of hours of walking in the dark and some disconcerting animal noises, just when had resigned ourselves to a very cold night in a cow shed, we stumbled upon the Red Panda lodge in Shin Gompa. Never has the cocktail of a smoky fire, hot dahl bhat and soft bed seems so appealing.
Day 2 (Friday): Early start with lots of climbing. By lunchtime we were over the first pass at 4165m. Rather unhelpfully Map House had marked the Gosaikunda lakes at 3480 (instead of 4380) which meant we were falsely anticipating an additional 1000m of descent and ascent between the passes. I was persuaded to join some Germans in one of the coldest swims of my life after which we recovered by having a scenic lunch by the lake. After that we were quickly over the 4610m Laurebina pass. We had optimistically anticipated picking up the pace on the descent but the terrain proved challenging (and our legs were pretty shakey) so we opted to stop in Phedi.
The many lakes at Gosaikunda
Day 3 (Saturday): There had been clear evidence of earthquake damage throughout the route but from Phedi this became much starker. Most settlements were largely destroyed with just the occasional tea house that had been rebuilt. The trail too was badly affected with several major, yet not insurmountable landslides. In most cases previous guides had generously marked out the most accessible routes. A short distance after Thadepathi the route had detoured over (rather than around) a small hill due to a massive landslide although this too was fortunately well marked. Another 8-9 hour day took us to Kutumsang where there were 2 or 3 lodges in various states of reconstruction.
Day 4 (Sunday): Needing to be in KTM by mid-afternoon we set off early. The route actually became slightly harder to follow and we entered more populated areas. Each village seemed more damaged than the last as we made our way through Chipling and down to Chisapani. The final push was over Borlang Bhanyang and then down the never ending steps to Sundarijal. We were relieved to find a half empty bus heading for KTM. After 1 hour, 5km and about 60 people perching on the bus our relief turned to frustration and then abject terror (at several points I was convinced we were about to tip).
As anyone who has ever been lucky enough to walk it can testify this is a stunning route. The great views north into Langtang and beautiful lakes are hard to beat and it benefits from the ease of access. Although some guides will list it as a 6-7 day walk it can be done in 3-5 and doesn’t require long drives or flights. Due to what looks like some hard work by locals the trail is definitely walkable (although obviously requires the usual care and precautions). There are certainly fewer occupied villages and tea-houses/lodges along the way but there are still enough to be comfortable. Many locals complained about the dearth of visitors and the Spring season is likely to be crucial in determining how much reinvestment returns to the region.
Matt first came to Nepal for the Mustang Trail Race. There he met Mira Rai in just her second trail race. There after he put together a training programme for her, and coached her through four amazing MSIG series races in Hong Kong from October 2014 to February 2015 – read about supporting Mira Rai in this post. Lantau was the training base, and while back in Nepal, Mira received training programmes for him. Mira Rai loved it there, the running community was super supportive, and she learned a huge amount about competitive running.
Now Matt is Race Director of the China Mountain Trails trail running series. Here’s the location of one of his races below.
Matt and Mira at a finish in Hong Kong.
So the good news is that China Mountain Trails through Matt is keen to continue helping support Nepali runners. Mira did so well in and after Hong Kong and Matt knows that there are other runners with potential just waiting for an opportunity.
So, for the Kathmandu Ultra on January 2nd, China Mountain Trails is giving the first male and female in the 50km and 80km categories will be able to race in China in 2016.
It’s such a privilege to support Nepali trail races and runners in this way. After running in Nepal and working closely with some of Nepal’s finest, we feel blessed to be able to offer these prizes. It’ll be so exciting to welcome 4 great Nepali runners to our races in 2016. – Matt Moroz, Race Director, China Mountain Trails
Thanks a lot Matt, Sandy and team. This is a fantastic opportunity for four young athletes.
It’s not an official ISF sanctioned Vertical Kilometre race, but fulfils the criteria and is beautiful to boot. Hard work though, because of the altitude – from about 3500m to 4800m, we’ll update with the GPX track data later. But here are some of the photos from that stage of the Manaslu Mountain Trail Race 2015 and the one preceding. November in Nepal gives some awesome clear skies. Can be cold in the evenings, but for tough trail runners ,it is not much of an issue if you get to run in conditions like this!
It’s a vertical Kilometre at altitude! Gian Mario Campostrini  powering the 1200m descent.
Babara Tassani Prell enjoying the rewards after the big climb…
Tite Togni the Italian Yoga Runner showing what yoga can do for you wearing Mira Rai’s green wig.
Laufsport Tassani in Nepal – the duo negotiating a trail 1200m above the morning start point. First stage hard work.
Stephan Tassani Prell won on the ascent, trying to win on the descent.
And if you are looking for the world’s highest, how could we forget Bruno Poirier and Les Chevaliers du Vents. “Vertical Race Annapurna Mandala Trail (2012, 2013, 2015) : 10 km +1750 m. Muktinath (3670 m) – Thorong La (5420 m).”
As trail runners we can certainly spend a moment to reflect what we can do with our legs and what that means for us. We can probably also try to image what suffering a serious injury or loss of a limb might mean.
This happened to many people at the time of the earthquake, who were hit or crushed by falling masonry or rocks. There are few facilities to care for people with such injuries. After 90 days, the period that amputees must be observed to ensure the amputation has properly healed, hospitals are forced to discharge their patients through the simple need to free up space for the next patient. Subsequent treatment, physiotherapy and prosthetic limb fitting is not a service readily provided. These are people, remember, who’ve not been at their home since the earthquake, if they have a home standing at all.
Handing over a cheque for $1200
One dedicated hospital worker, Samrat Basnet, (just recognised for his work Nov 29) saw this 90 discharge process happening and decided to do something to help. To cut a long story short, he rented an old unfurnished house and set up a makeshift clinic called Nepal Healthcare Equipment Development Foundation (NHEDF). You can see him in some of the photos below wearing glasses. With the help of some volunteers and professionals alike, NHEDF is helping some 30 or so patients to get back on their feet, literally. The clinic has running costs of about $4k per month and with a mixture of individual and institution donations it has just managed to scrape by so far.
Samrat Basnet Founder/Chairman Nepal Healthcare Equipment Development Foundation Kathmandu, Nepal Mobile No: +9779851015746
Published by Ashutosh Tiwari on his Facebook page. 7 August 2015 at 20:27 CURIOSITY SERIES V: 5 QUESTIONS TO RICHARD BALL
Richard, a long-time friend of Nepal, is the man who popularized trail running in this country.
ASHU: We’ve heard of running in general and of marathons. But what is this trail running? How is trail running different from, well, just running?
RICHARD: The American trail running Association has thought hard about this so I don’t have to. They say trail running has four elements: 1) uses unpaved tracks; 2) has natural obstacles; 3) significant elevation gain/loss i.e. hilly; and 4) scenic. As you can guess it’s less about a hard rule or definition and more about encompassing the spirit of this sport and why people like it – running in beautiful, and often very challenging, natural environments.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that you introduced trail running in Nepal? How did you get into trail running yourself? What made you decide that Nepal’s hilly terrain is ideal for trail running?
RICHARD: I didn’t introduce it but could say that I have worked to popularise it (with limited success). Roger Henke, onetime Director of the Summit Hotel in Kupondole, got me into trail running and taught me to run without crashing my heels to the ground. My pains and injuries faded away. We’d do slow Saturday runs with friends to discover new places and we’d cover some very long distances stopping for tea at many places on the way. I learned that the body is capable of a lot, if you train it slowly, no matter how flabby your starting condition.
Nepal is obviously ideal for trail running. It is a nation of foot trails connecting tens of thousands of villages. And of course it is possible to stay almost any place along the way, and in pretty good comfort in trekking areas. So a great place for people who want to come and run and explore for several days.
QUESTION: Nepali trail runner Mira Rai’s victories in ultra-marathon (i.e 100 KM) type of European races recently have given rise to this sense that there must be many other naturally gifted trail runners in Nepal. Do you think so? If, how can those latent talents be flourished?
RICHARD: It’s a big project. One route is this: First you have to be able to find talent. That means holding enough small races around the country and advertising them reasonably well, then hope that talented people show up. Then the best of the runners bring together in another race, perhaps in Kathmandu or a district or zone centre. If there is a real talent there then there has to be a scheme to assist.
This kind of programme exists in many countries. It’s very simple: small salary, equipment, training plan, advice and so on. Where does this lead though? We need to develop a couple of high profile races here in Nepal for people to aim towards.
Racing overseas is not guaranteed: it requires money and a certain type of person to be able to function well in another country. The second route is for the Nepal’s Athletics Federation to acknowledge trail running as a sport, and make it a competitive event for police and army, and then bingo. Right now I have racing opportunities in China with free flights and prize money and nobody to go.
QUESTION: What are the challenges and the constraints of making trail running a bona fide sport in Nepal in terms of logistics, economics and science?
RICHARD: Beyond it being accepted as an event in its own right with a number of events, then organising quality events becomes the next problem. It’s hard to get lost or take a shortcut running around a track. In the hills I’ve lost many people due to ambiguous or unclear trail marking, and idiots who remove trail markers.
We’ve figured this out now but the bottom line is making a trail race is a lot of work and it has to be done to a high enough standard that the result is fair and trusted by the runners. On top of that prize money draws the best runners in and sponsors are needed for that. Army runner Samir Tamang says that Mira’s last win has changed opinions considerably within the army. People are asking about the sport and what she is doing. So now is the time to do something.
QUESTION: Now that some trail runners are competing and winning in some of the global tournaments, some people are dreaming of riches . . . is this true? How can runners like Mira and others manage finances while pursuing their passion on the trails all over the world?
RICHARD: If they want riches, then better try setting up their own business. There is not much money for athletes in running (though getting bigger in China right now). It’s like anything else actually. A million books are published in the states each year and perhaps less than 10 make a million dollars in revenue. There are only a handful of people making a living from running, and certainly not big money, and those people are not only good runners, but are good at representing their sponsors, speaking nicely, looking nice and being real brand ambassadors.
For the brands, a winner is important, but not nearly as important as a lower ranked athlete with a great personality who can represent the brand and encourage more people to get into the sport and buy products. This aside, nobody is going to win in this or any sport without some kind of passion for it.
People can dream all they like about riches, but it is passion, hard work, and a lot of luck that will bring success. For the rest, they get to enjoy the benefits of running and racing, and if very lucky, feel they’ve fulfilled their potential and have the chance to see a new country once in a while.
BONUS QUESTION: How can the Nepal government, our various sports bodies and Nepal’s private sector help promote this sport all the more?
RICHARD: Well the same way they promote any other sport, minus the negatives. I’d say the government should consult with people like Samir Tamang who can explain how the sport works in other countries and his understanding of what needs to happen.
I guess someone high up needs to ask the question honestly, does having Nepal runners winning races and unfurling the flag as they cross the line sound like a good thing or not.
Around 300 came to an 18km trail race in Nagarkot on August the 1st. The organisers did a great job of promoting. The private sector can take note that there are new opportunities to get large groups of people out challenging themselves and get fresh publicity in the media as sponsors. THE END
(Please share this, if you wish, and do write your comments.)
This is a fundraiser to help restore Nepal’s damaged heritage sites. This is a great idea, to sell wonderful historic prints from the Nepal photography archive, and Peace Corps volunteers, to raise money for this specific cause. Click the image below to see all of the images offered, and info about the deal with DHL to ship with up to 70% discount.
From the organisers:
Namaste and greetings from Kathmandu!
The April and May earthquakes in Nepal have caused tremendous loss of lives and livelihoods. In addition to losing homes and infrastructure, the Nepali people have lost many important heritage sites. Rebuilding these sites will be as important as rebuilding homes and other infrastructure. It will create employment for thousands, boost tourism- an industry that employs millions, and most importantly restore a sense of identity for the Nepali people who have strong cultural and emotional ties to these sites.
Photo Kathmandu, an international photography festival that will be launching in November, is promoting a Special Print Sale to raise funds to contribute towards the rebuilding of heritage sites in Patan. This Special Print Sale features 35 beautiful photographs contributed by two archives – Nepal Picture Library and the Nepal Peace Corps Archive, and is being managed pro bono by photo.circle and Kazi Studios.
As mentioned a couple of weeks earlier, the Dolomites Skyrace organisation, and the mail winner together collected a sum of money to assist the victims of the earthquake. Mira had a think about where she wanted that money to go. She wanted to help other sisters and in particular runners.
This is what Danielle of Her Turn said:
Her Turn has watched with excitement as Mira Rai has exploded on the trail running scene and proven what women and girls can do when given the opportunity to develop their innate abilities. The girls that Her Turn works with come from similar backgrounds to Mira and very often have little opportunity to explore and develop their own unique talents.
Life in the Nepali hills can be a tough existence with families doing what they can to get by. Girls often bear the brunt of this tough scramble and typically put their family’s survival needs before their own desires. Mira has shown a new generation of girls how to dream.
Her Turn is excited about the possibility to connect with others encouraging women’s and girls’ involvement in sports. We believe sports can be an important avenue to raise girls’ health, confidence, and self-esteem and “level the playing field.”
Girls enjoying sport
Here’s a little about us and what we hope to do with incoming funding in light of the new post-earthquake situation in Nepal:
Her Turn is a non-profit program that runs educational workshops on leadership, health, and safety for adolescent girls in rural districts known for high rates of trafficking, child marriage, and sexual violence (you can find out more about the program on our website, or by reading our latest annual report). These districts (Sindhupalchok and Gorkha) are also two of the districts most affected by the earthquakes that ravaged Nepal this spring. Disasters typically affect women and girls more severely, particularly in contexts where gender discrimination impacts resource allocations such as relief materials and food. Problems such as sex trafficking and early marriage stem from structural, cultural, and economic causes, like poverty, low social status of girls and women, and limited work opportunities. The unstable post-disaster landscape puts women and girls at even higher risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.
In addition to the destabilization of disrupted family networks (through death and dislocation) and economic networks, traffickers are reportedly taking advantage of the vulnerable situation by increasing efforts to solicit women for sex work. The monsoon rains are now exacerbating the situation, with the threat of landslides further dislocating families and communities who must move elsewhere to seek safety. Adolescent girls in particular report high levels of sexual abuse and harassment after disasters, and cite the lack of privacy of emergency shelters. Girls are also more likely to be pulled out of school after disasters than boys, as female household members may need to devote more time to domestic tasks that are more difficult after disasters. Girls are also reportedly considering leaving school for work abroad to help their families through this economically trying time.
Her Turn educational programme
Her Turn has been working to address problems such as trafficking, early marriage, gender-based violence (GBV), and school dropouts through workshops in several schools since 2012. Her Turn now proposes refresher workshops to support previous participants and reinforce Her Turn educational content, which is even more relevant and needed in the new post-earthquake landscape. At this critical time, it is important to make sure girls and women remember and have access to life-saving information on preventing trafficking, early marriage, and GBV, and remember how staying in school can help them and their families in the long-run. While these issues do not immediately come to mind as life-saving assistance, they are incredibly important and often overlooked issues in times of disaster.
Thanks to a generous sponsor we could invite a number of runners to travel a race on the 1st of August. The monsoon period can be beautiful in different kinds of ways: blue skies, crisp white clouds with clear views to mountains between, or, alternatively, lukewarm cloud meeting mud. For the 18km race on the 1st August, the latter happened. It was still beautiful, with lush jungle and planted paddy, but required more effort to appreciate with mud squeezing between your toes.
The young runners (5 girls and 3 boys) came from Gorkha, Helambu and Thulo Sirubari in Sindhupalchowk and Langtang and they were super excited to be traveling for a big event like this. We travelled the night before, stayed in a hotel and primed muscles with dal bhat.
The race was sub-organised in many ways to the point of chest number pins being forgotten, but that did not stop these young runners from enjoying the occasion (and the extra kilometres they ran due to the route marking sabotage that went on!)
So a big deal for these young people to be invited to travel out of their village for a running race. They loved it. They’re looking forward to the next event at the end of September. This photo below is from a local newspaper and has Sunita right out in front at the start.
Thanks again to John at Gone Running Hong Kong for sending running equipment such as shoes and running clothes, that’s have been given to these guys to be able to run.
The start of the 18km race in Dhulikhel. Sunita up in front!
We’re releasing Today the first virtual race that sync automatically the runs to create a final valid leaderboard. We have partenered with Oxfam Intermón and 100% of donations will go to them to support Nepal. After a few months we still need to collaborate.
If you want to know further do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
So take a look and run for Nepal on the 12th!
There is at least one other event going on on the same day. Pedal Harder is a fund raising bike ride in USA. Do you know of any others?
It’s August 7th, approximately half way through the monsoon. Heavy rains cause big and small landslides through this period and generally people don’t travel much from the villages and everybody waits until the rains are over before doing anything substantial.
Many people have been asking about safety for trekking in Nepal this coming season. Two areas have been checked out with respect to trail conditions, bridges and hotels. They pretty much say that apart from some identified work that must be completed, it looks good for trekking this coming season. I recommend you download read the reports below.
Below are brief answers some of the questions that travellers to Nepal have been asking some of the main tourism organisations in Nepal recently. It is not an exhaustive list so feel free to ask your question in the comments below so it can be added to the list.
Staying at home is safe, and even then there is risk. Travel anywhere has risk and risk can be minimised by getting good information and making safe choices. So we’re not going to call Nepal safe, as posed in the title, just as touring the States or Scotland has risks. Be smart, get informed, and you’ll travel safely. Please feel free to send a mail to email@example.com with any questions you may have.
Are the ATMs working?
Yes all as normal, just ensure you have told your bank you are travelling worldwide and will be using ATMs in Nepal. Standard Chartered is reliable and seems to have the least charge locally.
Is electricity still working?
Yes but we are still subject to the normal ‘load-shedding’ schedules – rolling powercuts. Most tourist hotels and restaurants have power backup.
What is the drinking water situation?
Mineral water is still available for travellers but if you want belt and braces there are many makes of water purification units around and readily available in the market (some are now in Nepal)
Can I get from point A to point B?
Travel is fine at the moment, the monsoon will no doubt loosen hill sides as it always does but there are many geologist groups in Nepal monitoring the situation, and will continue to do so after the monsoon. ICIMOD expect that there will be a very high risk of landslides in the 14 worst earthquake affected districts but the rest of Nepal will be at the same level of risk as pre-earthquake.
Is Everest buried?
It is believed that Everest has sunk about a centimetre but so far no scientific surveys have been completed with published results. It’s definitely still there
Is Kathmandu flattened?
Definitely not! Most parts of the city are working as normal. In many places you would not know there had been an earthquake – this includes the major tourism hub of Thamel
Are you living in rubble?
No and there are very few piles of rubble around, the majority have now been managed or are in the process of being managed and removed.
Which ones are the safest hotels in Kathmandu, Nagarkot?
Nearly all of the top end hotels have been checked and are now open as before, certainly the high profile (not necessarily the most expensive) ones are. The majority of Thamel hotels have not yet had government engineers surveys but they are open for business as normal. When considering a hotel choice please look for the ‘Green Sticker’, the official survey stamp that the building is safe. http://www.drupartment.com/nepal-hotel-status – you can check this portal for hotels that are open for business as normal
Is Wifi free at all the hotels and restaurants?
Those that have this service are still providing it
What about food?
Most of the favourite and popular restaurants are open for business as usual but the same travel advice applies as it always has done – use hand gel and avoid small ‘local’ back street restaurants to stay healthy. Many restaurants are closing early (9pm) but only because there is so little trade
Does the phone and Internet work?
All communication systems work as you would normally expect.
Is there lawless behaviour like looting?
No, Kathmandu is back to its normal, gently bustling self. Compared to other countries, tourists are very seldom affected by crime and that remains so. There is also quite an atmosphere of togetherness as people are pitching in to help with rebuilding.
Is there a likelihood of aftershocks during my visit?
Nepal has always had earthquakes, on average it gets over twenty per year, many under 4 magnitude so there always have been tremors. These are now happening in a very short and mostly gentle form on a regular basis however most people are not even aware of them happening.
“I enjoyed it immensely. It’s a once in a lifetime race,” said Tite Togni, Mira’s big sister and mentor in Italy, about the Dolomites Skyrace which took place this weekend.
Race director Diego Salvador and Mira Rai
Mira took part and finished 14th female in the 22km event comprising of a massive climb then descent at blistering pace. It’s a different game to the longer ultra distance races Mira’s training programme is oriented to (for the Skyrunning Ultra series). But its a once in a lifetime event through stunning scenery so why not?
What’s beautiful is that the race organisers decided to collect funds through the event to send to Nepal to help the relief and rebuilding effort in affected areas.
Mira with Tadei Pivk
Says the race’s press release, “The Organizing Committee of the Dolomites Sky Race with a regard for Nepal has collected funds in favour of the people who were involved in the earthquake, a gesture which was also associated with the winner who decided to donate his victor’s prize money for the same cause. The money collected was delivered to the athlete Nepalese Mira Rai (14th at the finish), Mira Rai said, ‘I wanted to thank the organizers for the initiative to raise funds for my own people affected by the earthquake. We will use them with Richard Bull, Trail Running Nepal, for an initiative specifically targeted at women.'”
Tadei Pivk (left) is a member of Team Crazy Idea – what a great t-shirt! – and his gesture is generous and noble. “Sharing the jackpot cashed today Canazei populations were involved in earthquake that hit Nepal, I’ll help with that by delivering the amount in Mira Rai.” Thank you Tadei Pivk.
KM finished 3rd at The North Face Endurance Challenge race in the 10km distance in Ontario. One happy KM below! She is brand new to trail running. Lhadup told her how to save precious seconds by not slowing down to go around puddles! She has a 35 minute 10km time and now wants to take that to longer distances on the trails. Congratulations to KM and best of luck with the coming trail races in Canada.
KM Koju 3rd on the podium with Ultra legend Dean Karnazes giving the prizes.
Sindhupalchowk hosted a trail race on Saturday 27th and it was a great experience. Buoyed by the news of Mira Rai’s race win in France the day before, some 20 foreigners and 100+ locals gathered to race. It started only about half an hour late, which is the price you pay for inviting dignitaries who are never on time. The honourable youth and sports minister came and blessed the event with his presence, and even competed in the 1km event*. Bravo!
The three events were 29km, 16km and 1km. All well marked and on a nice mixture of jeep trails and single track. Some 150 people signed up for the events in total.
The earthquake was felt hard in Thulo Sirubari: many lost their lives and thus many friends and family members; most lost their houses,food store & seeds, many possessions were lost or damaged and so on. Despite all the relief efforts, the community is faced with rebuilding itself, which for many is financially impossible. It’s so big and overwhelming. The race was one day only, two months after the earthquake, but it seems that it was something for everybody to look forward to, to work together to create, and to enjoy together. And everybody benefited from school equipment – reading and writing books, pens – given to participants, who ran to rebuild their schools. See below regarding the fundraising effort that accompanied the race.
So how was the race?
The 1km race startline.
It was amazing. Way to hot, but very beautiful. The longer courses passed through forest, villages and fields. After a big descent to a river valley where people were harvesting their rice crop, a long, unending climb brought runners to a ridge-line dotted with villages. It was great to see that local community members had put out tables and made aid-stations for the runners. It was really nice. Of course it was heartbreaking to see so many flattened houses and people working hard to clean up, improve their temporary shelters, while doing hard work in the fields. It was good to know that the race was a focus for so much effort by Jimi, Jo and Ram to assist the schools in all the villages we passed through.
A community organised check point on the 29km race.
From a trail running point of view, let’s just take a moment mention Sunita Giri (15). Here she is below after raiding the 11km checkpoint. Almost everyone who comes to run in Nepal comments on Nepalis confidence on technical trails. It’s second nature. On the downhill to the checkpoint Sunita completely outpaced me in her sandals and colourful pants rolled up. Ram informs me that she has been training like crazy for the race. When collecting wood and water from down the hill she has been collecting extra and not stopping while walking back up hill. She came in first, and when she figures out her shoes size, we’ll make sure she has a pair of running shoes from the “sponsor a runner” funds and see how they work for her.
Sunita, after raiding the checkpoint.
Sponsor a runner
We promised you that you could sponsor a runner, and that we’d send a photo of such a runner to you. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the start of the event was pretty chaotic and we got through 210 race numbers in a short space of time, and everybody crowded around to watch the process. Entry was 10 Rupees per person. Some adults entered just for the race number, and as the start happened, they were standing around chatting enjoying looking like racers but without racing. Participation is everything, even just the dressing up part!
So we collect from a bunch of very generous people and the amount collected is below. The majority of this money is going into school uniforms. Many children still only have the clothes they were wearing on the day of the earthquake, and this is also why the race t-shirts were so popular.
Minister’s entourage taking a very unsubtle shortcut after 100m.
Thanks so much to all who supported the race. The event was a success and the village is still buzzing.
Ram Puri who made this all happen with a vision of getting to work to make his home village better after the earthquake. With his great energy he brought so many people together to do great things, including this race.
Ramsden Infants’ School in Barrow-in-Furness, UK raised $300 by having a “dress down” or non-uniform day. Sure those children will be delighted to know that their money will be going to buy new uniforms.
Boston’s Trail Animals! Yay!
The Trail Animals Running Club in Boston, USA held a fundraiser run for Trail Running Nepal and raised $1250 which has just been sent over to add to the cause. Thanks so much Yeti Runners.
The French ambassador for coming and completing the full 16km event. Wow.
Friends of Gone Running Hong Kong, and Tail Wind Asia who collected running equipment as prizes for runners and cash for Trail Running Nepal to support runners. Despite below, we’re going to use the TWA money for the two 16km runners who trained hard for the event.
Sponsor a runner crowd. Yay! Our promise failed. We’re really sorry. The event was too popular and morning registration was fun chaos. We’re hope you’re happy to know that. Collected amount below. All of this will go to new uniforms.
Thanks to Stephanie Lecat for water and bananas, some school materials and to Stéphanie Marquez for blankets, mats, mosquito nets and musical instrument for the village. And the big dal bhat!
Of course thanks to the local communities for hosting the race, putting up checkpoints, supporting the runners. It made it a great day for everybody. Next year will be huge!
Here are your donations after PayPal’s cut for it’s convenience.
Pung Ivan Michael
José Jorge García Fidalgo
Totals in USD
* Just in $141.20 from Julian in Japan, $18,92 Lily in the UK and $94,50 from TailWind Asia / John in HK. Plus $177.82 from Lizzy Hawker. Thanks to all of you! I think the total is now approx. $1080. I hear-by close this collection. * not all of the 1km was completed. See below.
Minister’s entourage taking a very unsubtle shortcut after just 100m.
She ran the last 12km hard, she says, but for the rest, just “enjoying”, the “wow, beautiful place”, and revelling in this “great chance I have.” That mixture of a little bit of hard running and a lot of appreciation gave rise to a spectacular victory last Friday in the 80km Mont Blanc Ultra in Chamonix.
Jordi Saragossa, the Salomon Team photographer, took this picture which epitomises this, and it is a wonderful moment in the often focused, serious (pained) expressions of the subjects of pro-trail running photography. “Mira looked relaxed and in control the whole day, she was just loving the experience,” was the caption of the image on the Salomon page.
Every race allows benchmarking, and adds one more piece of evidence regarding the capability of an athlete. Last weekend’s race might not have had a line-up equivalent of an Olympic race, with every big name present, but the course record of 12:38:49 that Mira took, held by last year’s Skyrunning world champion Emelie Forsberg, in a landscape that most trail runners will be familiar with, offered a such chance to benchmark.
So with last Friday’s performance, regardless of what commenters have been saying, from overblown to cautious, Mira has at least arrived (in style) on the European scene. Here she is, exhibiting her unique essence, at the finish line.
In women [‘s event], seeing the podium, one wonders if there is not a shift in the sport for runners. Young women are almost unknown in the sport. If the young Nepalese (25) had already made a splash last summer, on the other side of the Alps; this year in Chamonix, Mira was a “revolution” of joy, humility and manners. “After my birthday, this is the best day of my life,” she effused. “And I thank everyone for supporting me as I ran for my country.”
“I’ve run regularly since 1 year,” she informs. “Yet she runs with a certain maturity in the management of the race. After only a year of regular practice, What will be her level of competition in a year from now?”
In Nepal, the reaction has been huge. Nepal’s oldest (and pretty much trusted) national daily cropped the Salomon logo off of the bottom of a downloaded image and put it on the front page. Mira wanted to “put her name” and that of her home district and village out there, and now she’s accomplished that.
Mira on the front page of Saturday’s Gorkhapatra, oldest national daily newspaper.
The timing of her win could not have been better. After a large area of the country has been flattened by an earthquake, it’s had a huge effect on the nation’s psyche. Nepal of late has been battered from above (snow storms and avalanches etc.), from within (governance), and now, with enormous effect, from below.
Mira’s photograph, winning, the Nepal flag being held up in victory, has simply given many people something to be proud of. “She did something good for Nepal,” says the woman in the shop who gave me her copy of the newspaper, “It is very good.”
On Facebook, “Inspiration!”, “Proud to be a Nepali”, and “You’ve made Nepalis proud,” and, tellingly, “It’s good to find Nepal on [the] news that has nothing to do with earthquake.”
I think it would be accurate to say that few people here have a clue about the sport and the status of the race (she is not a world champion now), and it doesn’t really matter at this moment. Mira, smiling, looking powerful, holding the flag aloft has given a small, sweet dose of good news against the exhausting reality of Nepal’s current current affairs.
Another good thing is that Nepal Athletics Association was asked to make a comment about the race. The Vice-Chairman, Sushil Narsing Rana, was reported as saying, “The victory of Nepali woman athlete in France is a big achievement for the country’s [sic] sports.”
This is good because Nepal Athletics Association currently sees only flat, and as far as 42km: a national coach has reportedly complained that trail running makes runners slower on the track, and a permission letter to compete in the IAU world championships last May was allegedly not given as the distance is out of NAA jurisdiction. Maybe internally there will be some reflection about this and something positive will come of it.
Team Mira, the loose & growing collection of individuals who’ve helped Mira over the last 15 months, are delighted to put it mildly. Mira can’t quite comprehend the change that has happened so fast. Effort has been put in, but the reward of being part of a such a story, in the tailwind of Mira’s achievements, has been wonderful. In addition, Mira is now associated with Salomon, and is thankful to Greg Vollet brother and team for developing a quality training plan and the support around race events.
The English expression, “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” is apt. Mira was a thirsty horse looking for water and Team Mira had a pretty good idea where the water was. Our role has been figuring out a direction, and overcoming obstacles on the way to get there, on repeat. Obstacles overcome, Mira consistently put in hard work training (alone) to keep the chances coming. For me, it makes me think about how much other spectacular talent is out there looking for help to figure out a direction and overcome obstacles.
Mira’s first trail running medal for her first 50km trail race in March 2014. In borrowed jacket over storm-soaked cotton t-shirt.
The starting line up of Mira’s first trail race.
That was March 2014. This is Friday 26th June. Congratulations Mira!
Mira is continuing with Team Salomon and the World Skyrunning Series. Currently she leads with 200 points. Competitors need to compete in four races in total and the best cumulative score wins the title. Mira’s next Skyrunning race is in Tromso, Norway on 2nd August.
An update from Lloyd Belcher who earlier this year took on the project of making a short film about Mira Rai, a trail runner with an extraordinary story. A description of the project can be found on the small crowdfunding website we made for the project here if you don’t know already http://www.miraraifilm.com/.
Making a film, even a short one, is a mega task. As anybody who’s tried to sort through two weeks worth of vacation photos will know, it is not easy sorting through all the images you have. Scale that up to video files and audio files, some 120GB in total, and the work load starts to become apparent. And then the takes and retakes that have to be translated by Nepali speaking volunteers in Hong Kong… Essentially this means Lloyd has had to pass the original June deadline over, and, due to planned obligations, re-schedule the release in December 2015.
Lloyd is running the Dragon’s Back race in Wales this weekend and we wish him big luck for a big challenge.
Below, something of what Mira is up to, but first a short snippet from Lloyd’s editing room.
A glimpse into the short film ‘Mira Rai’. A special moment as Mira returns home to her mountain village & tells her family about the running adventures she has been on overseas. It was a moment that as a film-maker you just hold your breath & know that something special is taking place. The sense of pride from the family was very touching. – ‘Family Pride’ – Mira Rai from Lloyd Belcher Visuals on Vimeo.
Mira in Chamonix
Around 10 months ago, Mira arrived in Italy, and Chamonix shortly afterwards sent there with the hunch that she would benefit from the experience. She did of course, greatly, and was wowed by the scenery and the scale of the UTMB event that she watched. Ten months later, with a weight of medals and trophies in her collection now, she’s back to compete in the Skyrunning Ultra world series, starting with the Mont Blanc Ultra 80km event on the 26th.
Tite Togni with whom she has been staying this time and last, reflects on the second time around:
“It all happened in a twinkle of an eye and Mira’s got talent in keeping pace, not only in running but also in joyfully taking all the ‘chances’. In just one week she’s trained double mileage from this time last year, but she also slept and rested more hours than last year, which is a good sign of her adapting here. In fact she’s been double fast also in learning new skills like swimming, even some Italian phrases like ‘dai dai’ which she adopted as a mantra reminding her to hurry up, stay concentrated and at the same time, reminds her of her beloved, often times missed, ‘brothers ‘ at home (dai in Nepali means brother).”
And good news for Mira also that Greg Vollet & Salomon have taken her under their wing to see how she does this season. On Friday the 19th she was taken (thanks Marco Beretta) to the Annecy offices where she was kitted out in Salomon gear from head to toe. Is Mira ready for the race?, I ask Marco:
“Yes . I think she is ready in terms of athletic preparation. But some work about race strategy and 80km-race psychology is necessary this week.”
And there is five days to do that. It’s been just over a year from her first trail race in Kathmandu to be running in a world class race with the Salomon team. This is something her family, and us her supporters, really can be proud of.
Just back from a few days in glorious Dhorpatan in Baglung district. The name comes from the flat meadows above the ~4000m high tree-line, which are locally known as patans, and the marshy flat open valley next to which the village itself sits called dhor. If you are a slightly adventurous trekker, trail runner or mountain biker, I can highly recommend visiting Dhorpatan. And by adventurous, I really only mean ready to take things as they come, with simple food and accommodation, and just be ready to direct your trip rather than be led.
The trek you’ve never heard of – not new, but in it’s early days: The Dhorpatan trek. Here’s a view of the Himalayas from Jalja La. Samir Jung Thapa / GHTDP.
Where is Dhorpatan!?
Here it is at a glance. It’s west of Pokhara and the Annapurna region, about a day’s travel by jeep.
Location of Dhorpatan in Nepal – west of Pokhara… click for Google Map.
Here is a Google Earth representation to show proximity to the mountains.
Why the recommendation? Well, it is just beautiful. Our recce trip lasted just a few days. I was with two mountain bikers who wanted to assess the trails for mountain biking trips in Dhorpatan. You’ll find extremely friendly people, wide, well-made trails, pristine forest and meadows, sparkling rivers, and experience a kind of way-out-there remote feeling.
Additionally, tourists don’t really go there, it is very seldom visited. In 2013 just 88 visited! (Source.) Many of those will be doing a camping trek into Dolpa, from Beni to Dunai, which is part of the Great Himalaya Trail lower route. Some more still we be private hunting parties coming to shoot Blue Sheep and similar for a fat dollar-per-head fee (which then goes to aid conservation efforts). And the rest will be adventurous people like you looking to explore.
You might have heard of the Guerilla Trek. While the name is catchy and stays in the mind, it does not reflect the experience of being there, which is tranquility, peace, friendliness, and an almost complete feeling of detachment from the busy modern world.
“While visiting this otherworldly area, another name may come to mind: The Shangrila Trek…follow it and be transported to a timeless land, … of legendary hospitality.” – Guerilla Trek.org
Man Bahadur who has promoted this area for a long time suggested the name “West Dhaulagiri Trek.” This is nice and locates the area with reference to a well known mountain.
Why is Dhorpatan ‘undiscovered’?
It’s silly to call it undiscovered, but that is often the tourism marketing language used. There are many fabulous places to visit in Nepal but access is, and long has, been an issue. Older webpages talk about three or four-days to hike in or out. There has been a lot of road building in Nepal and so access has changed a lot.
Our trip started in Pokhara and we took a jeep to Baglung, then Burtibang. There the jeep gave up – 2WD was not enough for a river crossing and the poor road conditions. So from here we walked the 6 or so hours to Dhorpatan and it was also a very pleasant walk. We spent a night in a tiny hotel in Bobang and set off early the next morning. So, just one to one and a half days to reach Dhorpatan.
Accommodation around Dhorpatan
Around 4 or 5 years ago the UN Medep programme helped communities build tea-house accommodation. For instance the Dhorpatan tea-house is simple but comfortable. Dal bhat, potatoes, omelettes and the kind of things you can expect to eat. The manager rents the place of the community for a fixed fee per year, so everyone benefits from it. Other simple tea-houses are spaced regularly. If you are a small group or 2 or 3 with guide, then I think you could very easily find accommodation in people’s houses.
Itineraries for Dhorpatan
Our recce itinerary was:
Drive Pokhara Burtibang, walk Bobang (9 hours)
Walk Bobang > Dhorpatan (3 hours)
Return trip to Phalgune pass (~4000 m, 6 hours)
Loop west in the morning, then walk to Gurjaghat (3 hours)
Gurjaghat to Jaljala > Darbang (8 hours, hiking, running – long day)
Jeep from Darbang to Pokhara (5.5 hours)
This below is one itinerary for the Great Himalaya Trail lower route to Dunai, but it requires some camping. If you want other suggestions, please add a comment below.
This is the staged trail race around the Annapurna Circuit, largely following the off the beaten track ‘New Annapurna Trekking Trails’, that we’re excited to be running in collaboration with Seth Wolpin and Wide Open Vistas. Right away, here are some facts and figures:
Here we ask some questions of Seth who’s in Kathmandu having just completed some work for Wide Open Vistas, the charity organisation he is part of, which aims to offer educational opportunities in Nepal.
How has the Annapurna Trail Race been affected by the earthquake?
We have reports that buildings have seen little damage compared to the earthquake affected areas to the east. We also have reports that the trail system is still in good condition. We are confident that over the next three months conditions will settle down and that locals along the circuit would certainly like to see trekkers return to Nepal to help with tourism revenue and rebuilding. The event has caused us to re-tailor this race so that it becomes a fundraiser to help communities on the circuit as well as elsewhere in Nepal. Proceeds will go to Wide Open Vistas and other vetted charities in Nepal and we will help runners set up their own fundraising pages too if they like.
What are the key things you love about the Annapurna Trail Race?
I love the villages, people, and views along the way. Annapurna has been considered one of the top ten treks in the world. Lately jeep track building has had it fall out of favour – but many people don’t realize that there is a whole set of wonderful alternative trails that take us someway back to the famous Annapurna trek of old.
I love that. I also like how we finish so close to Pokhara. It makes for a great after party!
So the Annapurna Circuit has a road now?
That was my fear when I returned to the circuit last year after taking a few years off. But I was relieve to find it isn’t. There are many opportunities to run on alternative trails and stay away from the jeep track.
Yes – there are a few sections where we need to be on road – but the vast majority of the time it will be a non-issue as we will on opposite sides of the valleys from the tracks.
So what about this NATT – what’s it like?
The ‘New Annapurna Trekking Trails’ are great. Trail marking are great and easy to follow, the views are fantastic. We actually rarely saw other trekkers when we were on these trails, I think a lot of trekkers want to just bag the pass so they take a jeep as close as they can, go up and over, and try to get out from Jomsom. I won’t judge them – but it makes for a lot more solitude and serenity on the trail!
The timing, why is it good at that time of year?
The last two weeks in September are perfect because it is the tail end of the monsoon so we will see very few trekkers.
There can be clouds for sure – but they can be beautiful in their own way dancing around the mountain tops. This will be my sixth time to Annapurna during the last two weeks of September and I’ve never been disappointed. It is also prime apple harvest and we will run through some great orchards.
Why did you put a 50km race in there.. why not every day?
We want to have a unique format for people – this will be a small group cultural run. A fast pack. There are a lot of fit, active people who want to do the circuit but don’t want to do an organized tour which are usually relatively slow. The message here is quick and light – but not racing so we have time to stop and smell the roses, see the temples, meet the locals etc.
But we also want people to experience what it is like to run hard in the mountains and maybe even get a little competitive. So that is why we worked a 50k stage into the circuit. It will also be after the pass so we won’t have to worry about altitude issues and we will finish at a wonderful hot spring.
Your favorite part of the trail?
I love the section from Marpha to Tadapani. This is the same section that will be the 50k race. We are running on great trail above the Kaligandaki River for much of it – through small villages and with some great scenery.
And one other?
There are some trails connecting Muktinath to Kagbeni which go through two Tibetan villages. This route isn’t part of the NATT system (for some reason that has people following the jeep track). I love this section because it is basically lower Mustang and the landscape is amazing. Technically it is jeep track but I think some washouts have made it unnavigable. I’ve never seen a jeep on it and also never seen another trekker on it.
And one last one…?
There is another great section we will do that is way off the beaten track. It is mentioned in the NATT guidebook but not part of the NATT system. We go through a small Tibetan village and climb a little pass before dropping down into Jomsom. Great views, a descent that will get your heart pounding!
What about the Annapurna Circuit Fastest Known Time – how big a challenge is it?
It was big! I’ve never tried to push myself that hard. My Everest summit push was about 35 hrs and this was twice as long. Of course there are big differences between the two – but trying to move at altitude for that many hours is hard and I wasn’t super trained. It had been over a year since I ran my last 100 miler. It was also the first time I had run through the night (actually two nights) solo and that was interesting. I loved it though and hope to try again this year after the fast pack and hope others will join me.
To say Nepal is going through difficult times at the moment would be an understatement. The web is filled with images and stories about the tragedy.
Right now, just before the weekend comes though, we wanted to share two more positive stories from Nepal published in the Guardian newspaper in the last couple of days.
Firstly Purna Tamang has made it to Australia to run the THF100 near Sydney, the hardest race of his life. He’s among stacked field of great runners, and of course the heavy knowledge of what is happening back home, he has to rebuild his family house on his return. We wish him the very best tomorrow.
The second thing is to mention that Nepal is still a place you should visit. The west and east of Nepal remain unaffected by the earthquake, many of the affected areas’ trails and buildings will be repaired over the coming months, and of course, many of those affected actually work in tourism and will need the work as much as every to help them rebuild their communities.
If you are planning a holiday here later this year and have questions about the situation, please feel free to ask by email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to inform you as much as we can with the information we have.
Please click the Guardian images below to read more.
Good job Mira Rai and Samir Tamang for together writing another page in the drama-filled story of Nepali trail runners.
Here they are leaving from Nepal for the Buffalo Stampede Skyrunning race in Australia. As one indignant (but fairly correct) commenter on Facebook put it, arriving one day before the competition showed “very bad managements”.
Kirant Dilungxa: “How can she going to run tomorrow, arrived today tomorrow competition.. That is very bad managements who ever responsible for her administration…. List a week need to climatisation and training…. Anyway best of luck sis….“
I was a little ignorant about the Australian visa application process and applied for a visitor visa, assuming it would be like the Schengen visa: a friend invites you with a letter, you give their recent bank details, a detailed itinerary of travel and accommodation, invitations from the race director, proof of funding for the trip, a letter from your employer releasing you from work, bank statement, insurance document, medical form, print outs of mentions in the media, copies of certificates, anything that supports the idea that you have a life to return for, a flight booking, the filled out 13 page visa form, and last but not least, a passport photo. And last and definitely not least, bankers drafts for the visa fee and the handling agents.
Australian visa paperwork
But, apparently to run in a race in Australia, if you are Nepali at least, you need a temporary work visa – who’d have known!? So US$510 wasted, and another $570 invested for the visa second round. Thanks to the Australian Ambassador Glenn White who found this out for me.
All hope was lost by 9:30am on Wednesday in the Malaysia Airlines office where the tickets were made ‘open’ so that the date of travel was removed and could be used again for Buffalo Stampede 2016 if necessary. This after expensively changing the tickets once already. We’d overlooked Easter holidays for which the Australian Immigration office in Delhi was closed, and a national road closure (bandh) on Tuesday on which the local office was deserted.
At this point Mira, Samir and Purna were as stoic as can be: “OK sir, no problem,” in triplicate. While disappointed, it was taken as something that happens – you win some, you lose some – and quickly accepted.
Thursday 16:31, an email came saying Samir’s visa had been granted. An immediate sprint down to the Malaysia Airlines office again to see what if anything was possible. Nothing – the plane was full. Checking, checking… a seat becomes available. A quick SMS to Marcus Warner and Manen Tamang in Australia to check it is actually possible, and the seat is booked for Samir. Mira calls and she’s been called from Delhi, but there is no seat for her. Her visa “GRANTED” email comes but have to tell her there’s no seat. And then, somehow, someone somewhere cancels their trip, a free seat appears, and it is booked.
Believing the race chance was over, Mira had just done three hard 700m climbing sets that morning and was then told to get her bags ready. Samir showed up and collected his visa and tickets and looked happy and ready.
In Melbourne Manen Tamang and Jane Shadbolt had volunteered to help them from airport to start line. Manen waited behind in Melbourne and saved the weekend.
Arriving, less fresh. – (Credit: Lloyd Belcher Visuals)
In the end the result was good – 3rd for Mira and 4th for Samir, but both felt they could have had better races. Both complained of “leg jam” according to Manen, and Mira said, “Today very hard. I feel ok, [but] my legs don’t work.”
Samir received a boost mid-course when Stevie Kremmer caught up with him. Chicked is the term used by machos when beaten by a woman, and in this sport it happens a lot. Manen says, “Stevie was telling me how he went flying…haha!”
Fully prepared the night before.
Manen observed, “… boy, both of them are supremely confident…nothing phases them. Not even getting locked out of their rooms when having breakfast.” What? Yes, Mira left the key inside the room and when Manen returned with the sleepy manager and a spare key, Samir was trying to break in through a window and Lloyd (photographer) the door.
“[We] Got there [start line] 5 mins before the race and they were so cool and relaxed. Started doing warm ups when the race was about to start…ha…enjoyed every moment of it.” In Sai Kung 50km Mira showed up at the start with no running clothes. She’d left then behind where she was staying. Is there a pattern of excess race morning drama developing?
All round a great experience for both in a world class race. Thanks to Manen Tamang, Jane Shadbolt (who also fundraised for Mira’s flight ticket), the awesome Malaysia Air staff in Durbar Marg, the Australian ambassador here Glenn White, Sean Greenhill and Marcus Warner at the race, Greg at Salomon in France and Nabin and Pasang at Expedition Himalaya.
What about Purna? Purna Tamang also received his visa, but was too late for the 75km race on Saturday. So he gets to run in the The North Face 100 near Sydney if we can manage the logistics.
Photo credits: Sarah Biss, Lloyd Belcher, Jane Shadbolt.
What a mess. At the time of writing it is one hour until the end of Delhi’s office hours, and an hour left for an email to come saying an Australian visa has been granted for three Nepali athletes – Mira, Purna and Samir. Hope has faded – 16:21…
Everybody here knows how difficult it is to get visas. Nepal’s passport is ranked below Eritrea, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and just one point above Palestine’s in terms of the number of countries you can travel to freely. Australia is widely regarded as having the strictest process of all. “Much worse than US,” a friend tells me.
In this case, we ran out of time. The first application for a general visitors visa (US$170 each – as previously done for Europe and Hong Kong) was rejected. Apparently to run in a race you need a special temporary work permit. The people who manage the paperwork submission aren’t able to provide advice in the process so could not stop us making the mistake.
The second application was thus just too late. Another $190 spent each and – 16:54 – looks like that is going to waste too. Plus the $450 spent changing flights. Living here in Nepal for quite some time, I also neglected to consider that Easter would mean two days of office closure.
And today is Nepal Bandh (a full road closure enforced by threat of violence by political parties), so the local office where I was planning to go and roll around on the floor crying, was closed. I hate the strikes anyway, they’re as evil as they are stupid, and I hate them all the more for preventing me from flogging my dignity for the chance of expediting a process.
A friend in Australia says:
“Oh man. That is so annoying. I’ve been telling everyone I know about this to try and bring attention to the stupid visa issues in this country. We are meant to be a sporting country that gives everyone a fair go – which is clearly not true because you have to be rich and prosperous to even be allowed to compete in our races… So annoyed for you and embarrassed by how stupid and bigoted this country has become. Sorry.”
I am sorry for Mira, Purna and Samir who trained so hard, and were so close to running with Kangaroos, and will be bitterly disappointed. It is not just the chance to run in Australia, but the chance to win, to be recognised, and move up to greater things.
Now what to do…. change flights for another period in the year? Is it even possible to get a visa for Nepali athletes? Or cancel the flights and take the 50% refund?
Now it is 17:13 and so two minutes to end of office day in Delhi. A friend in a good mood leaves the room, noticing a little bit of tension on my face and leaves a parting shot:
“Nice to see a white man worrying about visa issues!”
17:15 Nepal time = 17:00 India time. Time to look to Europe this summer.
Nearly running for Nepal
[Update: thanks to all those who helped in this process, Sean, Marcus, Jane, Lloyd, Samir, Purna, Mira, Manen and friends!]
[Update 2: Responses from Samir: “ok thank you sir no problem”; Mira: “Okay sir. Thats not your fault..”; Purna: “Ok sir no probalem.” Stoic.]
Himalaya, literally the “Kingdom of Snows” in Sanskrit, is the highest mountain range in the world. It expand in Asia in Pakistan, Cashmere, India, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. From 250 to 500 km wide between Tibet in the North and Indo-Gangétic plain in the South, Himalaya is 3.000 km long et expand from Hindu Kuch (Afghanistan) in the West to Yun-nan (China) in the East. This mountain range is the highest, but also the youngest of the planet. It is inhabited by various people, with very old traditions and religions. Nepal is a “digest” of this ethnic and cultural variety.
10 of the 15 Himalayans summits above 8.000 meters are located in Nepal. The ones rising beyond its borders are K2 or Dapsang (8.611 m), Nanga Parbat (8.125 m), Gasherbrum I (8.068 m), Gasherbrum II (8.035 m), the four of them in Pakistan, and Shisha Pangma (8.013 m) in Tibet. Everest, called Sargarmatha by Nepalese and Chomolungma by Sherpa (8.848 m), Kanchenjunga (8.598 m), Lhoste (8.501 m), Makalu (8.475 m), Yalung Kang (8.420 m), Lhoste Shar (8.383 m), Dhaulagiri (8.167 m), Manaslu (8.156 m), Cho Oyu (8.153 m) and Annapurna (8.091 m) are the ten summits that tower above 8.000 meters in Nepal.
Everest: THE MOUNTAIN OF A CONTINENT
Reaching its highest point at 8 850 m, Everest is the highest summit in the world. Everest Mount is located on the border between Tibet and Népal, in the midst of Himalaya. This mountain got the name of a famous English geodesian, Sir George Everest, because people didn’t know that Tibetans already called it, for a long time, Chomolongma, i.e. « World mother Goodess ». Sagarmatha is the Sherpa name of Everest. The Everest height was calculated for the first time in 1852, by a employee of the geographical service of India – which was, in that time, a British colony. Measurements carried out in 1954 by British researchers enabled to value its height as 8 846 m. In 1999, a system of sensors using Global Positioning System (GPS), system of position measurement by satellite, placed on the Himalayan summit by an American team, set this height at 8 850 m. Moreover, these measurements have also shown that the “Roof of the World” laterally is moving from 3 to 6 mm every year to the North-East, because of the push of the Indian tectonic plate.
From the start of the XXe century, Europeans were attracted by Everest Mount: geographers, naturalists et doctors took part in expeditions organized by alpinists who tried the climb. In the second half of the XIXe century, every summit in the Alps had been climbed, and the conquest of the highest summit in the world could but attract sportsmen. As people asked George Leigh Mallory, who died in 1924 while trying the climb, about his desire for climbing the Mount, he answered : « Because it is here ! »
Everest : BEGINNINGS OF A CONQUEST
The first expeditions started from Darjeeling and went through Himalayas to reach Tibetan plateau, which they went along in the west near to Everest. In 1921, the expedition managed by colonel Howard Bury was above all a reconnaissance expedition. It discovers that the top of Everest Mount had a pyramidal shape. This top is often decorated with a cloudy plume made of snow and ice pulled up by the wind. Glaciers, cut off by seracs and crevasses, bristling with snow blocks, go down from the mountain slopes. In the North, the cut ridge of a pass stands out from the summit to join a less high peak. Firsts expeditions tried to reach the top by this way. On the West, a combe (valley), from which goes out a glacier, is dug at the bottom of the mountain: this is the way that will lead to victory.
Following this first expedition, equipment was improved. So, oxygen becoming scarce from some height, alpinists, soon as 1922, were provided with oxygen masks that eased their breathlessness. In 1922 et en 1924, alpinists climbed to 8 300 m, a altitude never reached until then. But nine porters and two alpinists – George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Irvine – died. Nobody knows if they reached the summit.
The expedition of 1933, preceded by aerial reconnaissance that was at the time a real exploit, failed, likewise those of 1936 and 1938. Hardness and length of the chosen route, the quick exhaustion of men on high altitude, wind and cold were cause of these failures.
The expeditions, broken off by the Second World War, resumed in 1951, but from Kathmandu, in Nepal, because, meanwhile, Tibet turned under Chinese rule; moreover, alpinists decided to try the climb by the West side. In 1951, an English expedition, in which New- Zealander Edmund Hillary took part, made a reconnaissance, and was stopped by a seracs fall, then by a 30 to 100 m wide crevasse.
The following year, Swiss alpinists tried venture ; among them were Lambert and the chief of Sherpas, which name was Tensing Norgay. After jumping over the crevasse thanks to a rope bridge, they saw that the combe was closed by a slope ending up to a pass – over hanged by the pyramid of the summit. From the pass, they saw, behind the South summit, 8 754 m high, the highest summit: 8 848 m. But the assault tried by Lambert and Tensing Norgay, failed at 8 600 m, and the autumn expedition, the first one began in that season, was thwarted cause of a cold of – 40 °C.
On the contrary, in 1953, the English expedition was helped by luck. Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay Sherpa ranked among members of this expedition managed by colonel John Hunt (1910 – 1998). An improved equipment had beforehand been tried in Switzerland, and alpinists had carefully studied their route ; lastly, they had carried out a training period for 3 weeks at a height of 6 000 m. A crossing was opened through the combe, the slope was climbed, and a camp was set up on the South pass. Colonel Hunt made up two assault teams, supported by help teams that accompanied them to the last camp.
The first assault team failed, on May 26th , at 8 754 m. But on May 29th , Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay Sherpa, after spending night at 8 590 m, reached the summit at 11 h 30, being so the firsts men triumphing over the highest summit of our planet: Everest, Chomolongma, Sagarmatha. Three names for only one mountain, to go up Altius, Altius, Altuis…
Altius, Altius, Altuis… is the motto of Everest SKY RACE. Behind this name, a race never devised before … A mountain race at the bottom of the highest summit in the World, in the country where the Horses of Wind never finish their race…
Makalu is the fifth highest peak in the world. It is located southeast of Mount Everest on the Tibetan-Nepalese border at 8463 meters altitude. Makalu is an isolated mountain in the shape of a pyramid with four sides. Makalu has two notable side peaks: Kangchungtse or Makalu II (7678 m) and Chomo Lonzo (7804 m).
Makalu is regarded by mountaineers as one of the most technical Himalayan peaks. The first ascent was successful by Lionel Terray, Jean Couzy May 15, 1955, during a French expedition led by Jean Franco on the north side and the northeastern edge. The next day, May 16, three other members reach the top: Jean Franco, Guido Magnone, and the Sirdar Gyalzen Norbu. May 17, Jean Bouvier, Serge Coupe, Pierre Leroux and André Vialatte reach the top.
Aims of the Kathmandu Declaration
To protect effectively the mountain environment, its flora, fauna and natural resources. To reduce the negative impact of man’s activities. To respect the cultural heritage and dignity of local populations. To stimulate activities which restore and rehabilitate the mountain environment. To encourage contact between mountaineers of different countries through friendship, mutual respect and peace. To spread information and knowledge in order to improve man’s relationship with the environment. To use only resources which respect the energy needs of the environment And the elimination of waste products. To support mountain countries by way of development with a view to environmental conservation.
To expand access to mountainous regions without difficulties of a political nature.
Everest SKY RACE : race technical card
Everest SKY RACE is organized by Base Camp Voyages, Nepalese agency based at Kathmandu, Nepal. Everest SKY RACE is open to men and women over 23 years aged and fulfilling the five criteria of selection : 1. Experience of mountain running ; 2. Experience of multi-days running ; 3. Experience of “high height (4.800 m) or hypoxia test in laboratory corresponding to a height of 5.000 m ; 4. A significant result in trail, raid or mountain race ; 5. Experience of orientation race (reading of maps and handling a compass).
The thirty (30) first registered runners and fulfilling these seven criteria of selection will be selected for the unique edition of Everest SKY RACE. The competition is in stages (multi-days running) and it will be run on footpaths over a maximum distance of 300 km with 15.000 m of positive uneven and 13.000 m of negative. The race is divided into 13 stages of race in line. According to meteorological condition, natural or medical or political event, or other event, the organization, Base Camp Voyages, reserves the right to modify the route will be essential. Also do note that, if altitude would imperil a large part of the runners of Everest SKY RACE a race stage would be turned into acclimatization day.
The Technical Team is made up of 20 persons, employed and salaried by Base Camp Voyages – Nepalese agency based at Kathmandu, Nepal and organizer of Everest SKY RACE – will take care of race organization. This Technical Team is divided into several sub-teams, that will be spread over the whole itinerary. It will take care of arrival time-keepers, check-point time-keepers, reservation of the lodges (refuges, hotels) as well as the provision of breakfast and evening meals (see supplies chapter).
Competitors are solely responsible (complete autonomy) for beginning each stage, using a card marked with the departure point, arrival point and one or several control check-points. Between these points, the competitor will choose its route by respecting the instructions of the race director, the control check-points or obliged passages. Competitors are allowed to run and walk using poles/sticks but taking care not to injure anyone. At the end of the first stage, two groups will be made up: Group 1 (competitors in positions 1to 15) and Group 2 (positions 16 to 30) and two starts will be arranged on the beginning of the second stage. Do note that these groups will change throughout the race, because the daily competitor’s classification will be used to make up the two groups.
In Nepal the only way to move is walking and consequently there is a local population, and runners are allowed to ask them for assistance during the race. Some areas are however deprived of village and human life. So, the competitor will have to trust in its view of orientation and only rely on its own analysis of the route. The route of Everest SKY RACE is not marked out, so a good reading of the maps will be primordial.
Each competitor of Everest SKY RACE has to be in possession of certain compulsory items from the beginning to the end of the race. Bag checks will be made during the race. Any compulsory item missing in a competitor’s backpack will incur a two-hours penalty, and the requirement of having a complete pack to be allowed to continue.
List of compulsory equipment : backpack, sleeping bag (-15° extreme), survival blanket, headlamp with spare batteries, whistle, mirror, rocket of distress, first-aid kit containing a bandage, personal drugs (each competitor will be able to take a good care of him, so he will have got drugs against usual infections in Asia and in mountain), one-litre flask, snap hook, a pair of cramps, a three (3) meters rope, compass and survival rations (2.000 Calories). Sticks are advised.
For remaining personal equipment, the competitor is free to carry what he wants.
Each competitor will be equipped with two tissue numbers (bring pins). One (20 by 20 cm) will inevitably be worn on the chest, i.e. on the upper body, the other has to be fixed to the backpack. The competitor’s number and the sponsors of Everest SKY RACE must be always visible: any infraction of this rule will be punished by a two-hour penalty.
According to obligations about the organisation’s numbers, the competitor may use any remaining space on the T-shirt (excluding the chest), on the backpack or on other equipment (sleeves, shorts, tights, headgear, flask, socks, etc) for other sponsorship. Note that competitors may be original in order to gain maximum sponsorship value, providing that clothing and behaviour respect the philosophies of Annapurna natives and the spirit of the race. Please bear in mind all these points. Remember the dimensions of the numbers for Everest SKY RACE are 20 by 20 cm.
During the race the competitor is independent and must manage his own food and water. He/she may prepare supplies before departure or stock-up during the race. Except certain sections and certain stages of the race, a village is passed approximately every thirty minutes. As snacks, one will find biscuits, chocolate bars and chocolate tablets or even a “dal-bat” (lentils and rice) between 10 am and 12 noon.
Water is not a problem. It can be found in every village and consider also streams, brooks and rivers. Water is available at least every fifteen minutes. However, water has to be treated with Micropur (purifying agent) before consumption (one tablet for a litre of water). Because of this, there is a one-hour waiting period before it can be drunk without risk. So a twin-bottle-belt is ideal. While one is being purified, the other is drinkable. It is also possible to buy bottled water but it cost 30 – 120 rupees (0,5-2 €) per litre depending on the altitude.
During the ten days of Everest SKY RACE, the organisation take care of accommodation, breakfast and dinner. Lunch is the competitor’s responsibility. Anticipate 300 rupees (3 €) per day. Do note that, except for tea, all other drinks consumed by the runner (bottled water, soft drinks, beer) are at his/her own cost.
RunneRs’ solidaRity ChaRteR
Throughout Everest SKY RACE, a solidarity charter is in place requiring competitors to help other runners who are in trouble. Non-compliance risks elimination.
In the event of mountain sickness, heart/breathing problems, after-effects of a fall or hypothermia, the runner in difficulty must warn the nearest person. If this is another competitor, he/she must stay with the injured party and administer first aid, providing he/she is capable. To restart, the runner must wait for the arrival of a member of the organisation. Any time lost will be deducted.
If another runner arrives on the scene, he/she must contact the technical team. The time lost during this return journey will be deducted from his/her finishing time and he/she will also receive a one-minute bonus for every five minutes spent during this aid-run. The runner will be responsible for measuring time lost whilst helping the injured/sick competitor. The race directors will trust this assessment.
Any breach or deliberate misinterpretation of the content of this charter will be penalised by immediate disqualification without appeal. The disqualified runner will be excluded from the race and will have to return to Kathmandu by his/her own means.
In case of withdrawal, specific instructions will be given at each stage, because conditions to reach departure, arrival or a leaving point will be different every day. In case of withdrawal, the competitor will have to wait for the following pack, which will accompany him to the arrival of the current stage. At this point, he/she will no longer be involved in Everest SKY RACE and will be required to return his/her race numbers to the race director before returning under his/her own steam to Kathmandu. It should be noted that in the event of withdrawal, the competitor will not be able to use the “helicopter rescue” insurance, except in case of medically serious reasons: fracture, broken limb, heart/respiratory problems, and acute mountain sickness.
Remove from the race
The Nepalese hospitals doctors and the race doctors are authorised to remove a competitor from the race if they consider him/her to be unfit to continue the race. Their decision will be final and without appeal. If he/she is affected by mountain sickness, in a state of advanced fatigue or psychologically too weak, he/she will not be allowed to continue in the race.
Every year the mountains in Nepal kill simple hikers who have failed to respect the rules of walking at altitude. Runners of Everest SKY RACE will be moving two or three times faster than a hiker, and will quickly reach the critical altitude for mountain sickness (3.500 m). Each problem will be judged. According the place where the competitor is removed from the course, if it is impossible to wait for the rescuers, the rescue will take place by the nearest road or airfield, either on foot, by mule or by being carried. Helicopter evacuation may only be quickly possible, according to the place of the incident.
Penalties and disqualification
Any breach or deliberate misinterpretation of the content of the “Runners’ Solidarity Charter” will result in immediate disqualification without the right of appeal. The disqualified runner will be excluded from the race and will have to return to Kathmandu by his/her own means.
Seven (7) other situations can lead to time penalties, also leading to disqualification in case of a second offence. These are: absence of any compulsory piece of equipment for Everest SKY RACE (two-hour penalty for each missing object with the requirement of having a full complement of equipment to be allowed to continue); any concealment of the official Everest SKY RACE sponsorship on the numbers (two hours); missing or no checking at every check points (four hours); breach of course director’s instructions (four hours); land-based assistance (six hours) except that provided by a competitor; non-respect of the environment or the local population (immediate disqualification) – see chapter “Aims of the Kathmandu Declaration”. And finally, non-respect of conditions imposed during the linked stage (immediate disqualification). No time limit will be imposed on competitors. In case of late arrival, no penalty will be imposed and the competitor will be allowed to continue the following morning – providing his physical state is acceptable
Apart from this, the runner is considered as a responsible and adult sportsperson
Each competitor has got insurance for helicopter mountain rescue abroad. It was subscribed by the competitor before its departure for Nepal. The decision to call out the helicopter in the event of a physical incapacity to completing the race, (fracture, broken limb, etc) or acute mountain sickness, is took by the race doctor. Until assistance arrives, the organisation assures the competitors safety.
Each runner must produce a medical certificate specifying that he/she is able to participate to Everest SKY RACE. He has to produce a fist certificate with registration form, and a second one a month before race departure. If he/she has no experience of mountain races above 4.000m, he/she is strongly advised to pass a hypoxia test in order to determine whether or not his/her body is able to cope with the requirements of high altitude.
This file, complete with photo, contains the following information: name, surname, age, sex, blood group, vaccinations, current medication, previous operations/surgery, serious illnesses, emergency contact including telephone number in case of an emergency, name and telephone number of the insurance company as well as the number of the repatriation insurance policy taken out. The competitor must contact his/her GP to find out about necessary vaccinations for a journey to Nepal as well as whether or not an anti- malaria treatment is recommended.
This file, complete with photo, contains the following information: name, surname, age, sex, blood group, vaccinations, current medication, previous operations/surgery, serious illnesses, emergency contact including telephone number in case of an emergency, name and telephone number of the insurance company as well as the number of the repatriation insurance policy taken out. This file is for the use of the organisation in Nepal.
The Everest Sky Race is a race over several days and competitors must be prepared to deal with daytime temperatures of between –5 and +30 degrees and as low as –20 at night. However, it is possible to take part in this mountain trail with a daily weight of equipment, which does not exceed 10 kilos. An example including backpack weight and in “summer” racewear would be 9 kg…. not including water!
Shorts (1), running suit (1), pants (2) : (200g) Race socks (2), Carline rest socks (1) : (200g) Carline short, Carline long : (300g) Running tights (1), Carline tights (1) : (400g) Silk gloves, windcheater gloves, hat or mountain cap : (400g) Food complements and energy bars : (1200g)
Compulsory first aid kit and survival blanket : (700g) Personal medication : (200g) Toiletries : (300g) “Snow” glasses (1) : (100g)
Permitted racing poles (2) : (500g) Water bottle-belt with two empty bottles (1) : (700g) Headlamp (1) : (400g) Card-holder, card, stopwatch : (300g)
Each competitor of Everest SKY RACE has to be in possession of certain compulsory items from the beginning to the end of the race. Bag checks will be made during the race. Any compulsory item missing in a competitor’s backpack will incur a two-hours penalty, and the requirement of having a complete pack to be allowed to continue.
List of compulsory equipment : backpack, sleeping bag (-15° extreme), survival blanket, headlamp with spare batteries, whistle, mirror, rocket of distress, first-aid kit containing a bandage, personal drugs (each competitor will be able to take a good care of him, so he will have got drugs against usual infections in Asia and in mountain), one-litre flask, snap hook, a pair of cramps, a three (3) meters rope, compass and survival rations (2.000 Calories). Sticks are advised.
For remaining personal equipment, the competitor is free to carry what he wants.
Day 1 (30-10). Day 2 (31-10).
Day 3 (01-11).
Day 4 (02-11). Day 5 (03-11). Day 6 (04-11).
Day 7 (05-11).
Day 8 (06-11).
Day 9 (07-11). Day 10 (08-11). Day 11 (09-11).
Day 12 (10-11). Day 13 (11-11).
Day 14 (12-11). Day 15 (13-11).
Day 16 (14-11). Day 17 (15-11). Day 18 (16-11). Day 19 (17-11).
Katmandu (1350 m) – Tumlingtar (520 m) by plane.
Stage 1. Start ESR 2015. Tumlingtar (520 m) – Bhote Bash (1725 m).
Stage 2. Bhote Bash (1725 m) – Num (1560 m) – Arun River (620 m) – Seduwa (1480 m).
Stage 3. Seduwa (1480 m) – Tashi Gaon (2070 m) – Unshisha (3180m).
Stage 4. Unshisha (3180m) – Kauma (3560 m) – Keke La (4127 m) – Shipton Pass (4216 m) – Tutu La (4075 m) – Yangre Kharka (3645 m).
Stage 5. Yangre Kharka (3645 m) – Yak Kharka (4570 m) – Shershon (4720 m) – Makalu Base Camp (4823 m) – Yak Kharka (4570 m). Walking junction.
Stage 6. Yak Kharka (4570 m) – Yangre Kharka (3645 m) – Tutu La (4075 m) – Shipton Pass (4216 m) – Keke La (4127 m) – Tashi Gaon (2070 m).
Stage 7. Tashi Gaon (2070 m) – Seduwa (1480 m) – Kartiki Ghat (315 m). Stage 8. Kartiki Ghat (315 m) – Gothe Bazar (685 m) – Salpa Phedi (1520 m).
Stage 9. Salpa Phedi (1520 m) – Salpa Bhanjyang (3414 m) – Gudel (1965 m) – Hongu Khola Bridge (1350 m) – Bung (1620 m).
Stage 10. Bung (1620 m) – Surke La (3170 m) – Gai Kharka (2399 m) – Pankongma La (3178 m) – Bupsa (2360 m).
Stage 11. Bupsa (2360 m) – Khari La (2860 m) – Chutok La (2945 m) – Phakding (2610 m) – Namche Bazar (3440 m).
Stage 12. Namche Bazar (3440 m) – Tengboche (3860 m) – Dughla (4620 m). Stage 13. Arrival. Dughla (4620 m) – Gorak Shep (5170 m) – Everest Base Camp (5364 m). Walking junction. Everest Base Camp (5364 m) – Kala Patthar (5450 m) – Pheriche (4240 m).
Pheriche (4240 m) – Namche Bazar (3440 m). Marche de liaison – Walking junction. Namche Bazar (3440 m) – Lukla (2840 m). Marche de liaison – Walking junction. Lukla (2840 m) – Kathmandu (1350 m) by plane. Kathmandu (1350). Fly to….
You may have heard of Mira Rai via this mailing list and elsewhere no doubt. It’s now March and fast approaching the 4th Himalayan Outdoor Festival 2015 of which the 50km West Kathmandu Valley Rim trail race is a part.
Mira joking with Sadhus at dakshinkali
This race last year was the first ultra trail race that Mira Rai had ever run.
By chance, out running one morning, she says she met other runners who told her to join the run. If you haven’t heard already, here’s a summary. After midday her friends began to worry and called the authorities thinking she was missing. Meanwhile Mira was still running away in a cotton t-shirt through a hail storm which washed away the course markers. Not easy. She finished after eight hours of running over those big hills (with an hour spent sheltering from the falling ice).
I met her for the first time at the presentation where she received first prize with abundant delight. “Sir, they spelled my name wrong on the certificate. It’s Mira Rai, M.I.R.A. I not EE.”
Beginning the end of March 2014, some 20 people contributed cash for a fund to support female runners, which then helped Mira stay in Kathmandu, train and compete in running competitions. It was because of Mira’s simple desire to run and compete that this fund was started, and coupled with the fact that there are almost no female trail runners in Nepal, meeting Mira was a special occasion. Mira took to trails like a fish to water, she raced hard, and began to study hard to improve her English.
One year later you can see the incredible return on this investment: one incredibly gifted runner and a fine goodwill ambassador for Nepal, and much more.
There is much spectacular talent still to be found across Nepal and young runners no doubt waiting for the tiniest opportunity. Like Mira, some will never have heard that trail running is an actual sport, and will be working hard at the track when their real competitive talent lies in running trails.
Right now a short film is being made which focuses on Mira and her year’s journey to rise up to an elite level. Lloyd Belcher, well known in Asia for his sports film and photography, decided it was a story worth telling visually. You can see some behind the scenes shots onInstagram, (including the government minder acting as sound man.)
Why this film is important?
Beyond the wonderful story it obviously is, and the way it is being told visually by Lloyd with the aid of Nepal’s unique landscapes as the backdrop, this film will be a powerful inspiration for other young girls in Nepal.
Growing up in Nepal’s hills and trying to find opportunities is already difficult, but for girls it’s much more so. So beyond her dream of running and competing in races and working hard to be the best she can, Mira is now starting on her next wish, to inspire others.
In the future I want to set up a club and open the door to other women who show an ability to be runners. I can inspire them and be a role model. – Mira Rai
So please click below and read a little more about the rise of Mira Rai and support the making of this film at http://www.miraraifilm.com/. Lloyd is giving probably four weeks of his time for free to this project and we’re hoping to recover the expected $5000 expenses by 14th March if possible. The film will be released early June. Anything collected beyond this amount will support Mira to race against the very best mountain runners in the world in Europe this summer.
For this varied audience just a note about what Skyrunning is. The name is gives a big clue, and as another has put it, “Skyrunning is the brave and burly cousin of trail running.” There are rules about what makes a Skyrunning course, but essentially it means running on trails at high altitudes with a whole lot of climb and descent expected. At some points, the runner might leave the trails entirely and end up using hands as well as feet to cross more difficult sections. It is about as far from a road marathon as you can imagine, taking you to beautiful places and is a lot more fun.
The International Skyrunning Federation coordinates a series of events around the world, and it works much like a tennis or cricket series. With relatively big prize money for this sport, and funds to get the best athletes to races, it is attracting a lot of attention, elevating the level of the sport. For Nepali runners, there is some opportunity here. There are the kinds of Skyrunning events which are explained at the bottom of the page.
So to the race.
There were two main running events here, 28km Skyrunner SKY and 50km Skyrunner ULTRA.
Nepal took first places in both 50km events. Samir Tamang and Mira Rai (both unsponsored**), beat a field of very talented runners. (Santosh Tamang lost the way and a lot of time but completed the course.)
In the 50km women’s, Mira Rai from Nepal wins the championship, finishing in 05:39:31. “I just heard that I was ahead of many strong men, I am very happy. I am happy with my result and thanks Michael Maddess of Action Asia Events, the organizer that invited me. I really enjoyed my experience and loved this MSIG Sai Kung 50 course,” said Rai. (KI)
The course was beautiful, but hard, a lot of short steep climbs and descents on some difficult, loose trails. Mixed in were sections of road (around the dam) and white sandy beach. It challenged all of the runners. Some from Europe contrasted this course with some European trail courses which have fewer much longer ascents and wider, more defined trails. Some called this “a true Skyrunning event”.
Samir arrived in Hong Kong with great confidence. A journalist asked him what his strategy was, “To win,” he replied, looking as if was a dumb question, and followed up by mentioning his target time of 4:30 or thereabouts. The second place competitor Yan Long-Fei of China (Salomon) is nothing short of awesome, with a 2:15 marathon time to give perspective. He lost the way at one point and a few minutes, and perhaps has tired legs from the Vibram HK 100 some weeks back, but this does not detract from the fact that this was Samir’s race. Congratulations to him.
Mira Rai has not yet finished her first year of trail running. She completed her first 50km on March 21st 2014.
“A chance is like a leaf on a stream, you have to grab it quick, or it’s gone forever.”
This is Mira’s statement, and she has consistently put everything she has into every opportunity. Within 11 months she’s listened, watched, learned, trained and succeeded. Luke Nelson of the Patagonia team described her as “a beast” which is a big noun for a petite 50kg woman. She finished 8 min ahead of him. Others praised her descending skill, and yet others her ascending power. Photographers commented on her relaxed style, clearly enjoying the running. We thought she’d made her mark last December in the race with Stevie Kremer, but evidently it has taken another great performance, this time with much wider media attention, to make an impression on the international trail running community.
Marcus Warner of ultra168.com says of Mira, “What an incredible athlete and a real privilege to share the trails with her over the weekend in hong Kong. She is going to shake up the global trail running community with her climbing speed!”
If you have 5 minutes, read this. Roger explains why helping support runners like Mira is important. If you have less time, read just the fourth paragraph.
Thanks must go to all the people who’ve supported Mira and Samir and other Nepalese runners. We hope you will continue your support and enjoy their continued successes in future. Thanks to AAE / Michael Maddess and MSIG for putting on a great event.
Hills everywhere, but gorgeous beach too. An incredibly diverse course!
* There are three categories of Skyrunning races:
the Vertical Kilometer, or VK, during which competitors gain 1,000 metres of elevation over the distance of five kilometers;
the Sky Distance or SkyMarathon races, which feature distances approximately between half-marathon (21.1 km) and marathon (42.2 km);
and finally Ultra SkyMarathon, which encompasses all races longer than 50 km.
** only Dawa Dachhiri Sherpa (to my knowledge) has had that opportunity.
Click for more Kathmandu Instagram from Jase McBride
Trail running in Kathmandu is coming to life with now 4 x 50km races, an 80km course (UTMB 2 points) and several upcoming 10-30km fun Saturday events sprinkled throughout the year.This is email is just so you know!
So far we don’t have any inflatable start banners, nor finish banners. Timing is still pencil, paper and a $10 Casio watch.
Instead we do have nice courses which only Kathmandu can offer – checkpoints positioned at Monastery gates, run by local tea-houses, and some starts and finishes in temple area.
Should you be planning a trek or otherwise passing through Kathmandu, keep the race calendar in mind and see if you can join in.