The Ultimate Trail Diary

22.10.13 – Day 28

“Renjo & Tashi open, Chola closed, Island Peak chest deep snow. Decided wait at Chukung today, basecamp tomorow and summit 24th. We are ok but tired from last 27 days of effort.”

21.10.13 – Day 27

“Wonderful speed hike from Namche to Dingboche. Now continuing to Chunkung at 4700m. Feeling great! If all conditions ok, tomorrow we move up to base camp of Island Peak at 5000m.”

“We left namche at 7 taking it pretty cool. After 8 hours we reach chunkung that is surrounded by lhotse ama dablam nuptse baruntse. We feel good on 4750m. 2morrow a short day 2 island peak bc at 5000m.”


20.10.13 – Day 26

Anna: “Philippe has landed in Lukla and is moving up directly to Namche Bazar. It’s a walk of 5-6 hours so a “rest day” for him . Tonight we finalize the plans with Pasang Gomba and tomorrow morning we are off towards Island Peak. No one has climbed the peak after the snow fall so we’ll go there to ser if at all possible. If too dangerous, we head directly towards Cho La pass that hopefully is doable. We are completely in the unknown but gotta go there to see what the conditions are.”

Update: “He is already here in Namche! 3:15 from Lukla and he feels fresh Normally that is two full trekking days. He has transformed to a Sherpa…!”

19.10.13 – Day 25

Phillipe: “We spent the day reviewing the different options. The snow roughly starts above 4300m and almost all 5000m passes are not doable at the moment. In some places, the snow reaches the second floor of the houses. It will take a long time to melt and in many places that won’t happen before spring. That’s the case of Barunste – Makalu – 3 Cols.

So here is the plan; I will try to fly to Lukla tomorrow and run/walk immediately to Namche Bazar in the Everest (Khumbu) region. I will meet with Anna, Passang Gumbu and a team of Sherpas and porters. Together we will head to Chunkung, a small village at the bottom of the Lhotse South face. Not sure how long that will take as we will have to break the trail. Then we will try to climb the Island Peak (6165m) which is normally an easy trekking peak. We will establish two camps along the way.

 

 

We hope that by the time we climb Island Peak, the snow on the 5000m passes of the Everest region will have melted a bit. Then Anna and I will get back on the GHT but on the opposite direction; from East to West. We will try to cross the Cho La and Renjo La, to reach the village of Thame. Once there, if the Tashi Lapsa (5700m) is in safe condition, we will cross it and continue the GHT toward the West, along the Rolwaling region. Again, if everything works well, I may try to cross either Tilman (again) or Ganja La from the other side and try to make the junction to Kyanjing Gumpa before going back down to Langtang and Syabru Besi for the third time.
You will have noticed, there are lots of “if”, so we will take one challenge at a time, starting tomorrow.”

18.10.13 – Day 24

Anna: “Yesterday Philippe called from the sat phone. He was devastated since he realized that after 10 hours of opening up a path in extreme conditions to Tilman Pass they had advanced only 2 km due to snow up to waist and hidden crevasses. Despite very hard efforts they simply couldn’t continue. Philippe said it had been harder than the summit day of Everest. He and the sherpa return back to the Kyangin camp and have decided to not take more risks and turn back to Katmandu to analyse what parts of ght that are still possible to realize. Another pass he was supposed to do, Tashi Labsta 5800m, is not doable now neither and the 3 cols had avalanches…

As of now I just wait for Philippe to call back from Katmandu tonight or tomorrow morning to see what to do. Meanwhile, I am on hold here in Namche Bazar.
The cyclone Phailin created 1.5-2m of snow fall and has already been responsible for numerous deaths here in Nepal, so we are not to complain over a lost project. We have to see what is already accomplished as a victory and Philippe’s solo traverse of Dolpa as a great achievement.

I will keep you informed when I know more.

 

 

Namaste, Anna

Phillipe: “Since I am back in Katmandu for 24hr, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your amazing support, that’s really help!
Here is a short summary of the attempt to cross Tilman Pass. It rained and snowed non-stop for 3 days. On the 16th, I left Kyanjing Gumpa with a Sherpa and a porter. The first challenge of that day was to cross the river at Langshisa Kharha which took us an hour. We had to use a rope and make a few crossing to carry all the loads. The second challenge was just after. The snow limit was just above 4100m. Finding a path along the moraine covered with soft snow has been painful and long and we were progressing at less than 1km/h. At 4500m, we found one of the very few spots to make a camp. It was snowing again.

The weather improved during the night and we when woke up it was cold but clear. As planned, the porter when back down with the tent, stove and I continued with the Sherpa. The snow was frozen on the surface but still soft underneath. Everything went rather well until we left the moraine to cross the glacier where the snow became softer and deeper. The Sherpa found the conditions too difficult and decided to turn back. I continued alone, breaking the trail in waist deep snow. At some point I used the poles horizontally, crawling and ramping on top of the snow.
I reached 5000m at 10h30, progressing at less than 100m/hr. As the slope was stepper I couldn’t “crawl” anymore and had to break the trail in chest deep snow. The snow condition and heat worried me, plus I was wearing trail running shoes, I was pretty wet, without tent and stove, just 24h of food and still 60km to cover. But that’s not what stopped me, I stopped because I realized that even if I could cross Tilman, I would not be able to cross the Tashi Labsta which is 400m higher and has a longer glacier. Turning back was a pain but the return was even worse. The frozen layer of snow had melted and I had 10km of deep and soft snow to cross to get below 4100m.

I found the route we used on the way up too long and exposed, so I decided to follow the glacier/river instead. My route was in fact even more exposed; I crossed 10 avalanches, countless landslides and was exposed to rock falls of Himalayan size. Fed up to move so slowing in deep snow and since I was already wet, i walked in the river for a while just to avoid the snow. The river was freezing cold but it was good to have the feeling to move a bit faster. I ultimately reached Lagshisha before dark and crossed the big river alone and without rope. I called Anna to tell her i was fine and that I just had 2h walk in the dark to reach the comfort of Kyanjing lodges.

I was so disappointed by these 13hr of intense efforts and risk taken for nothing. I read all you comments and you are right, safety first. When we are in the action though and even if we are totally lucid, the priorities and our vision of things is just different. During these last two days I keep thinking that the limit between determination and stupidity is very thin, as thin as the difference between success and failure, and life or death.

 

 

I should join Anna in the Everest region in a day or two. We will see what we can do depending on the snow conditions on the high passes but not more snow crawling. Renjo La and Cho La should be ok but the 3 Cols are not doable at the moment, plus we were relaying Baruntse and Makalu expeditions for the logistics but they both left the mountain so we have another problem to solve. One thing is sure, despite the cyclone, 50% of bad weather since the start, the snow, mud, land slides, big rivers, rock falls, inexistent trail… I am still motivated at 100%. We will be safe and the adventure continues…”

17.10.13 – Day 23

A tale of bandits, rats and running. We’ve got the 1st video footage from Philippe on The Ultimate Trail. 🙂

Sounds crazy!

16.10.13 – Day 22

“On the move again after bad weather… “

 

“I’m now heading up towards the Tilman pass in snowy conditions. Weather improved greatly and hopefully tomorrow (after a very cold night) will be a clear day for crossing.”

15.10.13 – Day 21

AM -“Still raining. All white around. Ganja La not option bcs cant reach Last Resort after. Must wait for sun & snow to melt to cross Tilman. I will be late but I wont stop GHT. Antibiotica stopped diarrea + eating/sleeping well = feel good!”

PM – “Syaphru Bensi at the foot of Langtang. No rain, and blue sky visible among light cloud from here. Seems the worst has passed.”

14.10.13 – Day 20

Anna reports: “Everything is at a pause in Nepal due to the weather. Philippe will wait one day in Kyanging so nothing moves today. I bet he’ll spend the day emptying the food storage in the lodge! Myself, I just had a double breakfast here in Katmandu. We both loose a little too much weight and need to feed on calories!
Due to the canceled flights and tourists being stuck here in Katmandu I couldn’t get my normal room/hotel and got upgraded – to a suite in Thamel with hot water from gas! A luxury pause before heading back to the mountains hopefully tomorrow.”

Philippe at the Pansan Pass 3838m after a non-stop 2000m elevation climb above Tipling towards Somdang.

13.10.13 – Day 19

Philippe reports: “Rich & I arrived at Kyanging at 5pm, all the way up Langtang. No problem except constant rain. I was not too tired despite the horrible day I had yesterday, the worst in years. Still have diarrea, taking antibiotic. I already miss Anna, she’s been really impressive these last 8 days and helped me get to Syabru yesterday. It’s snowing just higher but we’re in nice lodge around nice fire stove. Not sure about the Tilman pass (5300m) tomorrow. Thanks everyone for messages & support.” Philippe & Rich (photographer).

Anna says: “Here in Katmandu it pours down rain and flights are canceled due to the weather coming in from India. I am stuck here since flights to Lukla only goes in good weather… Hope I don’t miss Philippe when he passes Thame! Only one day of rest and I am already eager to go back to “hell” with him :-)”

12.10.13 – Day 18

“Hi guys, this is Anna from Syabru Besi. Philippe and I arrived a few hours ago after a terrible long walk from Somdang. Only 21 km, but Philippe got stomach sick last night and lost all food and was really weak. He is now sleeping and will hopefully recover quickly. At large – the last 8 days I have spent with Philippe – through Annapurna, Manaslu and Ganesh Himal – has been some of the hardest days of my life. I know realize the scope of what he is doing… He has now done 17 days of traversing half of Nepal. And all days are more or less 10-14 hours long. You wake up at 4:45, prepare your pack, get some breakfast, run and walk from sunrise to sunset, find a sleeping place take care of your feet, eat, sleep… and so on. This is amazingly hard since the terrain never gives you some rest. But we are happy to live this together. To take care of each other when you have lows and enjoy when you have ups. Thanks for all kind messages and lot’s of love to our families!”

11.10.13 – Day 17

“The night at Lapagoan was good, and we have now reached Somdang, so a few hours from Syabru Besi and the road there. Today was rough walking – no running possible – around 2100m ascent, but we are in a good lodge, so warm and happy.” Philippe & Anna

10.10.13 – Day 16

“We are in Lapagaon after a 14h30 epic day. Trails are miserable; bad, hard to find, can’t run, leeches, mud, rock, and got lost 2 times. No pleasure, just hard work. Low chance to reach Syabru Besi tomorrow, we will improvise. I long for the Khumbu that I love [Everest region].” Philippe & Anna

09.10.13 – Day 15

“We knew it would be a long day and it was. We did +50km and still didn’t reach Kerauja. Instead we slept in a “rat hole” in Tatopani and will keep going tomorow, leaving the Manaslu region for Ganesh. Tipling is too far so we will see where we end up. Tough, no time to do anything but move/eat/sleep but morale is good.” Philippe & Anna

08.10.13 – Day 14

“What a day! Great weather, amazing, best so far but insane long,+12h. Anna impressive but exhausted & many blisters. I felt better than yesterday. Milestone: Larkya La was my 8th of 16 passes over 5000m. I’m finding it hard to get enough food, especially protein. Never quite enough time to rest & take care of us. Tomorrow insane distance & ascent, not sure we can make it, we’ll see.” Philippe & Anna

07.10.13 – Day 13

“A day taking ‘easy’, only 35 km on mud, loose rock, and sometimes steep. Phil is quite tired, with diarrhea and hungry! Anna coughing and has a bit of a cold. Dal bhaat stop at noon [rice and lentil soup, national dish of Nepal]. Wonderful views Manaslu, nicest stage and paradise in Bimtang, eating and happy. Tomorrow crazy 55 km and Larkya La 5000m pass,hope reach namrung.” Philippe & Anna.

06.10.13 – Day 12

“We spent the night spent hunting a mouse. Heavy snow fall so waking up to magic scenery at 4100m. On the trail Anna was stung by 2 wasps and ran like hell to avoid the swarm.

Today we made 50kms of easy trail and are sleeping (? we hope) at a lodge near Lata Marang. We feel tired but great. AG&PG at 2800m – lowland here!”

05.10.13 – Day 11

Verbal update from Philippe this morning and a photo of him and Anna in fresh kit starting their 2600m climb to Thorung La in what turned out to be appalling, miserable weather!:

“I woke up at 4am and left without breakfast in the dark and it was snowy and everything was wet, the sleeping bag and everything. I walked for about an hour, just stopped for a small bar, and reached the pass, the Jungben La (5500m). It was pretty cold but it was nice and these was some snow, but sunlight coming through (the clouds). Very very nice, beautiful col. I went down to the other side and up again to the next 5000m pass and it was fine, but on the other side, it was very very steep rocky terrain, very muddy and not pleasant at all down to the river – some landslides and some very scary parts. I didn’t know how to cross the river, and I messed up for an hour trying to find a way. Finally I could see a trail, but it was broken by landslides. In the end I had to follow the trail across the landslides. It was pouring down all day. I went to sangda, didn’t find any water, and then there was a last pass where I really started to descent and descended below the clouds, and I could see Kagbeni and was so happy, because i was not sure I would be here before very late.

I am very happy to be here and very happy to continue now be with Anna. Hopefully we have better conditions, better trails, and run a little more than I did in the last 10 days.

 

Today I am sorry for Anna! It is going to be a challenging day – doing the Thorung La starting from Kagbeni! It’s not the best way to do it, it’s 2600m! (Laughs) It’s completely stupid actually. We should not get lost  and it should be about 30km and tomorrow we’ll have a little bit more.

I think yesterday’s was about 60km. All my GPS was optimised – in straight lines – so it was way, way above 40km.

 

I would like to thank the Berghaus team for all the kit, it really worked perfectly well. I’d like to thank everybody for all the support and kindness I got. It’s very important. Thank you.”

04.10.13 – Day 10

Philippe safely in Kagbeni. Anna rather happy. They will run the next stage together! Here’s a picture of their reunion 🙂

03.10.13 – Day 9

What a day again, snow & sun at same time, amazing light & views, I wish I had a big camera and more time to enjoy it. I am bivvying on my second 5000m pass of the day. Very cold & windy. Tomorrow is 50km to Muktinath and a 5500m pass.” Philippe

Follow Philippe on the live tracker here

02.10.13 – Day 8

Last night was cold & windy, couldn’t cook, but a great sky full of stars. Good day today, 50km. Bought Chinese biscuits from a Tibetan, they are heavy as a brick but lot calories. Got a massive dinner too with dried food. Tomorrow I should cross the Mola Pass, Chharka village and bivy at Niwas pass at 5000m, a long day! Then I hope Muktinath day after but 50km will be tough… I miss you all.” Philippe

Tonight he is bivying at Ghajyan Sumna, and is still clocking up more than a marathon a day!

01.10.13 – Day 7

Philippe camped in a small village called Khoma last night,  I bet he was glad to reach there. Now he is running real trails with the occasional village and so less stress, less chance of getting lost. The section between Mugu and Dolpo (days 4-6) is feared by everyone, but he made it and perhaps in record time too. Go Philippe!

30.09.13 – Day 6

Last night we didn’t get a message from Philippe, but he is moving along fine on the Spot tracker so there is no reason to worry. Today he will stay very high, around 4700m for the whole day. He will also start seeing more villages on his path. On her side, Anna went up to 4550m above Muktinath towards Thorong La and ran back to acclimatize.

Update: “Bad start today, snow and dangerous climb of Nyingma Gyanzen La. Got lost and took forever to Pho. People surprised to see someone, and alone. I looked so tired, they offer tea (but no food available). First people i saw in 4 days. Sun came, wonderful gorge [see photo]. Tonight an exposed bivy, hope no rain. Dolpo is tough.” Philippe

29.09.13 – Day 5

“Scary first 5km then the rest was ok. Some snow but no rain, and warmth dried out the route. 10cm snow on the Yala pass though. I am now in a nice valley, saw 2 white wolves, beautiful. Found a cave below Nyingma Gyanzen La, nice shelter and view. Food and altitude OK” – PG

For lunch today Philippe ate a 5414m pass, the Yala La. Doing amazingly well in desolate mountains. A very difficult pass coming up tomorrow, at 5563m – an utterly breathless altitude to be at – before descending to the first village in Dolpa called Pho.

28.09.13 – Day 4

“Yesterday was hell. Wolf at camp [prophetic below!]. Rain-snow all day, all wet, can’t charge [no sun= no solar]. Mud slides, no trail, river crossing, fell 5 times, 14 hours for 25km. Will go slow today, don’t know what to do if keep raining. I am OK.” PG

27.09.13 – Day 3

“Great day, beautiful valley to Silanchora but long, 52km. It’s raining now, bivy under rock. I feel good, will try first 5000m pass tomorrow if weather is ok.”

Yesterday Philippe entered Dolpa and started his 7-8 long solo run to after that, meet up with Anna in Muktinath. It is very hard, he has rain every day, but the views are now starting to be the ones of the higher mountains and solitude. Vast spaces and not a single person. Unfortunately the distance seem longer than planned, yesterday should have been 44.5 km but was 52 km!

Today, if the weather permits, Philippe will have to climb his first pass over 5000m, Chyargola La (5150m). He will cover around 33-38 km with 3000-4000m elevation gain (yes, google earth and reality differs a lot so all is a wild guess). He will start moving up the river, climb the pass and continue down the canyon towards east. The path he is taking is obvious if you look at the spot messenger Live page: http://bit.ly/15T3WGT. It is not always registering, but it marked his camp after the third day.

26.09.13 – Day 2

“I’m ok. Day started ok, good trail but very hot and humid. The 2000m climb to the first pass was tough. Also hard in last forest, gps unstable, map crap, many small trails, got lost, saw a fox. I found an abandoned village, sleeping out there. Tomorrow 5km to Melcham then +40km to gamgadi. All good, no worries.” PG

25.09.13 – Day 1

“Today we took the first steps of the Great Himalaya Trail. Anna joined me from Simikot for a few hours down to the large river before climbing back up to Simikot. I then started a week long solo run through Dolpo before meeting up with Anna again in Annapurna. This is his first big challenge in the GHT adventure!”

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