My mate, Roger, lives in Kathmandu. Not only is he a mad mountain runner, but he’s an increasing promoter of mountain races in Nepal. Now, having read my book on the Wicklow Round, his thoughts have turned to the possibility of a similar Round around Kathmandu’s mountain rim.
As Roger himself has recently penned, “Races are crucial to develop a sport. But as anyone who regularly hits the trails knows, there is more to trail running than competition. I was very acutely reminded of that when I read Moire O’Sullivan’s Mud, Sweat and Tears. Her book focuses on an Irish challenge that she was the first to complete, the Wicklow Round, a long distance run covering 26 peaks totaling over 100K and over 6,000M climb inside 24 hours. It inspired me to think about “something similar” for Kathmandu Valley. But, thinking about that something quickly boils down to a plethora of choices… and I am very bad at choices!”
Roger’s dilemma is the format of the route. Which mountains to chose? His current thinking that he uses a maximum number of rim peaks, including peaks that are beyond the regular well known summits of Shivapuri, Pulchowki, Nagarjun, and Champadevi. He is also looking at using the Valley sites, maybe listing a number of Kathmandu’s world heritage sites on the itinerary such as temples, bahals, old newar town centres, or places like Dakshinkali or Bhaktapur.
In terms of time, should it be a 12 hour challenge, something to be done in the day time without the associated security risks of running at night in Kathmandu? Or should it copy other Rounds with the completion time of 24 hours? Or should it be something to just complete, no matter how long it takes?
Should the route be stipulated so that road running is minimised? Given the speed of infrastructural development in and around Kathmandu valley, this could move to be a major challenge. Unpaved roads with hardly any traffic are rapidly turning into paved highways; rural valley landscapes are become Nepal’s version of suburbia; centuries old, well maintained trails are disappearing into the undergrowth because local usage shrinks to the occasional fodder collector or wood cutter looking for a shortcut. The idea of it being a mountain challenge could be taken away from if direct connecting roads link all the summit tops (which cannot be ruled out).
Roger’s plan is to go out over the next few months to check out a viable Kathmandu Round route (Check out his latest recce here). He wants to lay down something that tests a runner’s resolve, requires good preparation, is difficult to accomplish, but does not require you to be an elite athlete, just a committed one. Will keep you posted if/when a definitive route is laid down.
Want to read more about Ireland’s Wicklow Round? Check out my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears” with its many mountain running tales.