Update On The Great Himalaya Trail Run: Storm Threatens Expedition

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A few weeks back I wrote a story about Philippe Gatta, who was preparing to set out to run the length of the Great Himalaya Trail. The ultrarunner is hoping to complete the entire length of the 1700 km (1056 mile) trail in just 40 days, becoming the first person to ever achieve that feat and setting the speed record in the process. As the first few weeks have passed, this has not been an easy run for the frenchman as he has battled changing weather, brutal trails and plenty of altitude. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that things will improve any time soon, as the entire region is about to be hit by a nasty cyclone. 

Philippe and his support team have been posting regular updates to the expedition’s Facebook page, keeping followers abreast of his progress. As of now, he is about a third of the way through his journey, which has taken a bit longer than he had expected. An update from yesterday sums things up nicely. It reads:

“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.”

Judging from that, it sounds like conditions are absolutely miserable, at least at the moment. This is in no small part due to the fact that much of the GHT is still being developed and parts of it are very remote. This isn’t like the Khumbu Valley which leads to Everest, which would be a veritable highway compared to some of the places that Philippe is currently visiting.

As with all things in life, the situation can always get worse. Looming out in the Indian Ocean, Cyclone Phailin is already massive in size, growing in strength and speeding towards the land. It appears that the storm is going to hit India in the next day or two and will then spill over into the Himalaya. Philippe’s team is already calling this a “show-stopper” and they are monitoring the storm very closely. If it looks like it’ll have an impact on the runner’s safety then they will most likely abandon the expedition altogether or at least hole-up in a village and wait for things to blow over.

The storm is likely to have an impact on mountaineering expeditions in the Himalaya as well. We’ll have to wait to see just how powerful it is when it makes landfall, but it is definitely not looking good at the moment. Keep your fingers crossed that everyone stays safe.

Read more about Philippe’s run in the Ultimate Trail Diary hosted on the Berghaus blog. Lots of good updates posted there.

Kraig Becker