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Nepal is famous for its mountains and the treks that you can do among them. But despite the tens of thousands who come to Nepal to trek every year, it seems few explore the possibility of increasing the pace and changing a walk into a jog.

Rob Cousins from the UK wrote an article about this last year. In essence it says that if you travel ultra light, you can move fast and do a trek much faster than the guidebook time. Rob calls it Trail Rekking, which is a close relative of fastpacking, which has more of an emphasis on walking than running. But both are similar in the philosophy of travel light, move fast.

And Nepal is perfect for this method of travel with its trekking infrastructure. At least in the popular areas, there are warm lodges every few kilometres where you can buy food and get water, and normally there are thick blankets available to top up the warmth of a light sleeping bag.

After this year’s Annapurna 100, Lizzy Hawker fastpacked the Annapurna Circuit. Billed as an 18 day trek, she walked it in five. Lizzy says:

For me the journey of 2011 started ‘on the run’ — literally! The 1st January 2011 I made the Annapurna 100 — an incredibly beautiful 100km trail race in Nepal. Taking advantage of a few extra days in Nepal I ‘fast-packed’ myself around the Annapurna Circuit in 5 days. It is a wonderful journey that takes you through incredible contrasts of landscape, cultures, religion and people. Being in the ‘off-season’ with far fewer trekkers made the journey doubly special for me. There was solitude, a time to think and a time just to be in the moment.

Others headed to Annapurna basecamp. Normally an 8-10 day trek, Hiroshi, Nitish and Pranjal managed, like Rob, in four.

For 2012 there are similar plans. Sylvain Bazin is organising a post-race trek and we’re encouraging others to do the same. The Manaslu circuit also looks like a tempting run. Normally 18 days, it’s possible to manage maybe in half? Then there is a possible short trip back in time to the ancient villages of Nar and Phu and crossing the Kang La.

Looking to Phu village form the main Gompa

Phu. Can you imagine running here?

(Thanks to Jamie McGuinness for the picture – click image for more excellent images.)

Of course it is important to be aware of altitude and while it is easy to talk of covering these distances quickly, altitude safety must take come first, and this means having a plan-B route or some flexibility in the schedule to acclimatise further.

So if you are thinking of running the Annapurna 100 next year, think about adding a short expedition into the mountains too – an amazing new year’s day, a fabulous race and an inspiring, cultural trek all in the first week of the year? It’s a possibility for 2012!

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