When we last checked in on Philippe Gatta, the ultrarunner attempting to run the length of the Great Himalaya Trail, a distance of 1700 km (1056 miles), in just 40 days, he was waiting out the weather. Philippe had gotten caught in the mountains just as Cyclone Phailin was hitting the mainland. That storm ended up dumping an unbelievable amount of snow across the region, burying portions of the trail in waist deep powder. It has gotten so bad in fact, that the Frenchman said that the snow was actually reaching the second story of some of the taller buildings in villages that he was passing through. When he returned to the GHT late last week, he found some of the higher passes blocked and impassable. Those conditions have caused him to reassess the expedition and come at it from a different direction – quite literally.
On Saturday, Philippe posted a note on his Facebook page that said that all the passes above 5000 meters (16,404 ft) are closed and would not reopen for sometime. Possibly not until spring. So, he decided to abandon his run where he was at and return to Kathmandu temporarily and then head back out to the trail, launching the next portion of his run from Lukla in the Khumbu Valley. That’s the starting point for climbers and trekkers heading to Everest of course. His plan was to run from Lukla to Namche Bazaar and from there head to Island Peak, a 6165 meter (20,226 ft) mountain in the Khumbu region with the intention of climbing to the top. Island Peak is a trekking peak without any technical climbing involved, but considering how much snow it is currently buried under, it will still be a real challenge at the moment.
Another update came yesterday that indicated that Gatta had arrived in Namche after running just 3 hours and 15 minutes to get there. Anyone who has made that trek will tell you that is an impressive time considering it usually takes the better part of two days to walk there. That includes hiking up the famous Namche Hill, which includes some substantial gains in altitude. He’ll likely spend a day there resting before beginning the hike to Island Peak.
So, while the objective the run has changes, Philippe is still pushing ahead with his adventure none the less. It appears an attempt to run the entire GHT is done for now, but he’ll continue to apply his unique skills to explore the Khumbu Valley. It should be interesting to see how the trek to the mountain goes and if he finds success on Island Peak.
Good luck Philippe!
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