Trail running in the Himalayas: Everything you need to know about the earth’s highest playground
Heading towards the Lakya-La pass marks the crux of the trail running expedition, a lofty 5,160m above sea level which represents 50% less Oxygen that you find sitting at home in your armchair.
It’s hard work, but we look at how ordinary people with little training are capable of achieving this extraordinary trail running adventure.
The Himalayas need no introduction – Everest? Yes, of course, you’ve heard of it. Annapurna? Highly likely. But what about Manaslu? The majesty of the landscapes that surround the world’s eighth highest mountain is almost certain to have evaded your attention.
Located centrally between the Annapurna and Everest ranges of the Nepal Himalaya, and only 8 hours drive from your hotel in Kathmandu brings you to the foothills of the Manaslu region of Nepal.
Without question this part of the Himalayas is an untouched paradise, a diamond in the rough begging to be found.
The wide and gentle trail begins at 700m, meandering their way gently uphill through lush forests of rhododendron that characterise the entry valleys. Before long the first-snow capped peaks spike out of the horizon, sweeping along the escarpment of great canyons and travelling the ancient villages.
It’s a spectacle very few of us will get to experience, but from tips and advice on how you can make this possible for yourself, read on:
It’s THE most beautiful journey on the planet
What you will find is that the countryside is outstanding. As we set out on our very first day through the lush and warm entry valleys you will find the scenery quickly changes.
The terrain unsurprisingly becomes more mountainous the higher we go, picking our way through large boulder fields and dry plains where gigantic mountains surround us on all side. The whole time the trail remains obvious.
Our hardest day is notably going over the Lakya-la pass (5,160m) – we set this day aside as a hiking day only.
Each night we relax in the most idyllic locations and in cosy tea houses offering tasty hot food and comfortable beds.
Expect to walk more than run
We have 130km ahead of us which is spread out over 12 days. On average we travel between 3 – 6 hours a day, taking our time and enjoying a slow pace which is an essential process to acclimatise.
We use the term ‘run’ loosely, the expedition is not a race and our main focus is that each member of the team maximises enjoyment from the experience. Run as fast or as slow as you feel, jog or walk…it is entirely up to you. We will manage the group carefully, so nobody feels pressured.
Everything is taken care of, so you can just focus on the journey
A typical day on the expedition will see our pack mules leaving the teahouse’s each morning around 05:00, transporting your soft luggage to our final destination that day.
With the mules taking our heavier luggage means we can set out with only light running packs, carrying everything we need.
We set to make stops for drinks and to use local facilities as and when we need to, with a scheduled stop for lunch around midday day. We also cater with provisions of western nutrition.
Each team member will also be allocated their own walkie-talkie with training provided before we start the expedition. This also us to keep in touch with one another as the day goes by, as well as being an additional safety measure in the unlikely event it is required.
Delicious tasty food, as much as you want
We can have our fill of all the local cuisine, topping up on the calories that we have burnt that day. All meals are included on the trip and with a wide-ranging menu in even the most remote of places you are spoilt for choice.
Expect lots of Dhal Bhat – the national dish of Nepal – a wholesome, thali-style meal with rice, dhal lentils and local vegetables. It’s also served as much as you can eat and you will continually be asked if you would like more of anything once your plate is empty.
Macaroni, noodle soups and even pizzas are also found on the menu. For vegetarians, the mountains are perfect with fresh vegetables in abundance.
Pack trail shoes rather than clunky walking boots
The dry and hardpacked nature of the trails are perfect for trail shoe footwear. Go for a pair for good grip, as well as being airy to let your feet breath in the heat of the sun.
We help you with training
All of our trips come with bespoke training programmes designed by professional running guides to help you prepare for the journey. Regardless of your fitness and running background, we can get you prepared for this trail running expedition around Manaslu.
Remember, it’s mostly walking or light running with the emphasis definitely on enjoying the exceptional scenery.
Bringing poles with you are a great idea
Our route crosses boulders, rivers and rocky sections. Having a pair of walking poles (preferably foldable) with you is a very good idea to help support your stance while you are running. They are a great help.
Bring the right gear
We provide a full expedition kit list well in advance of the trip which gives you enough time to get your stuff together.
Warm and hot days are to be expected for large parts of the trip, but pre-sunrise in the valley’s temperatures will plunge to minus figures. A down jacket is essential, as well as warm walking trousers and a rainproof jacket. In the day breathable base layer t-shirts and shorts will do you fine. A cap to protect you from the sun and a warm hat for the evenings are also a must.
Most importantly, enjoy it
Take a look around you, the surrounding scenery is incredible and the pace nice and easy. Making a partial circumnavigation of the eight highest mountain the planet is unlike anything else on earth and besides, the cold beer waiting for you at the end will taste even sweeter once you arrive back in Kathmandu.