I’m just back from an incredible 7 day mountain running trip to Langtang Mountains in north Nepal. Originally, I had hoped to enter the Himalayan 100 race in north India. But despite contacting the organisers months in advance, they told me that the race was full.
Not wanting to be put off and still wanting to get some mountain running in before leaving Nepal, I decided instead to spend a week mountain running in the Himalayas without the pressures and costs associated with an organised race.
After some discussions with my mountain running friends and some consultations of the Lonely Planet Guide, I came up with the following itinerary:
Day 1: 9 hour bus ride north from Kathmandu to Thulo Bharkhu
Day 2: Run from Thulo Bharku (1860m) to Langtang village (3330m) – 33km, 2721m ascent, 1362m descent
Day 3: Run from Langtang village up Kanjin Ri Mountain (4600m) and back – 19km, 1323m ascent and descent
Day 4: Run from Langtang village to Langshisha Kharka (4160m) and back – 36km, 1100m ascent and descent
Day 5: Run from Langtang village back along Valley to Chyolangpati (3584m) – 29km, 2105m ascent, 1963m descent
Day 6: Run from Laurebina Yak, to Gosainkund, over Lauribinayak Pass (4610m) to Tharepati (3510m) – 20km, 1984m ascent, 1932m descent
Day 7: Run from Tharepati to Sundarijal, Kathmandu – 36km, 1260m ascent, 3690m descent
The difficulty in knowing what route to do was that guides on Nepal are written mainly for trekkers. They give hours between destinations rather than the distances and heights. This makes it difficult to work out what is doable in a day when planning a running route. In the end, what I planned to cover in 6 days is normally meant to take 14-15 days when trekking. Instead I did 2-3 trekking days per day and covered the distances and ascents comfortably.
The other issue when going for a mountain running holiday in Nepal was to find someone to go with. People have gone missing in those mountains. Weather can turn bad. It was important therefore for me to not to run the route alone but to have someone to go along with.
Fortunately a friend put me in contact with a Nepali runner named Upendra who turned out to be bionic man in disguise. He was well able to run up and down everything and anything, and was good company as well (despite his limited English and my non-existent Nepali).
It was really fun just packing a small rucksack with lightweight mountain marathon gear and running 5-6 hours per day. We’d start at 7am every morning, when the weather was clear and the views were at their most spectacular. We’d stop off at teahouses on the way to have huge mugs of tea, pancakes, apple pie, lentils and rice, mixed macaroni with unmeltable yak cheese, or whatever was on the carbo-loaded teahouse menu. And then around 2 or 3pm, we’d stop for the night at a teahouse hotel, have a hot bucket shower, rock up beside the log burning stove, and meet the other random tourists who were on the trails as well. By 7pm I’d be in bed, snuggled up in my sleeping bag to keep warm and to rest my legs for the next day’s mountain run.
During our 6 days on the trail, we didn’t meet a single other mountain runner. Despite having the best mountains in the world, mountain running is still a very young sport in Nepal. But there is no reason that Nepal cannot become a mountain running destination for those who want to see some incredible scenery at double or triple walking speed. I suppose many mountain runners prefer to go to a foreign destination for a race rather than just run along trails for the fun of it. Having said that, it was only thanks to my mountain running friends in Kathmandu that I was able to work out a possible itinerary and find a suitable guide.
In the next few weeks, I’ll post about the two sections of my trip. The first will be Day 1 to Day 4 which was the run in and out of Langtang Valley. The second will be Day 5 to Day 7 which was the run from Langtang back to Kathmandu. Wait ‘til you see the incredible views that I was privilege to snap during my week long mountain running trip.