Micro spikes recommended – 2015 update
Microspikes. They’re not really designed for deep snow or slopes, but they help a lot.
As you will certainly know, in 2014 snowfall brought by Cyclone Hudhud gave rise to a disaster in the Annapurna region of Nepal. In 2013 a similar snowfall happened and blocked many high passes. Philippe Gatta, a French endurance athlete trying to run the Great Himalaya Trail called off his attempt (video) as many passes he’d still to attempt were blocked with snow.
This year less snow fell than 2013 but still a considerable amount in a short space of time. The Larkya pass is not a dangerous one. It has negligible avalanche risk and no real dangerous sections. It’s a steady up and a steady down. Everybody passed last year without incident, but there was plenty of slipping going on, not least for the mules carrying the baggage, and this is not pleasant. We had some none-slip studs for shoes which we handed out, but what was really effective were shoe chains or microspikes. They are absolutely perfect for this pass crossing.
This year we’ve sourced a batch of micro spikes from a local supplier for those that don’t have already so you can cross the pass with limited slip.
For those trekking, if you need to buy, then you can find in Snowland Trekking which is in a small alley under Potala Hotel, close to OR2K restaurant in Thamel for around Rs 1000 – 1500 (USD 10-15) depending on the type. Absolutely worth it. Necessary for your own safety and others. Snowland is a manufacture of other trekking equipment like jackets, sleeping bags etc.
Nepal retailer of EXPED, Black Diamond Equipment, Rohner Socks, La Sportiva, Goal Zero, Cocoon, CEBE, Katadyn, Adventure Food, Suunto, Jet Boil, Adidas (Eyewear), Ortik, Koflach
There are a number of original internation global brands available in Kathmandu. Here is a map of stores which sell them.
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|EXPED (expedition equipment)||Switzerland||www.exped.com|
|Black Diamond Equipment||USA||www.blackdiamondequipment.com|
|Adventure Food||The Netherlands||www.adventurefood.com|
|Adidas (Eyewear)||Adidas Sports||www.adidas.com/eyewear|
The equipment / gear / kit list follows the simple principle that safety comes first.
- What you carrying while running: small first aid kit for blisters / cuts, sprains etc; warm clothing for after you finish running (and should you need to stop), protection from sun, wind, cold; food enough for the day and water container. We run from 800m to over 5000m so need to be prepared for all temperatures.
- What is carried for you: Sleeping stuff, fresh clothes, anything else you want to bring (respecting at strict 10kg weight limit per person).
- Trail running shoes – good grip, half to full size bigger than normal for toe movement, tried and tested.
- Socks – two pairs can be enough. I will buy many pairs of Chinese sports here in Thamel socks for ~$1 and discard a pair every day.
- Shorts – may be slightly warm for tights on the first few stages
- Running tights – will be slightly cool for shorts on the higher stages
- Wicking t-shirt – ideally has a collar to protect your neck from the sun. Merino recommended – see this.
- Thin fleece top
- Thin gloves – for early starts. Windproof gloves ideal for crossing the pass should it be windy. Uncool windproof gloves can be bought here in Thamel for $4.
- Windproof top – something light and small is ideal
- Cap or sun hat – sun is strong at altitude. I use an uncool wide brimmed hat which can be tilted to the sun’s direction to avoid applying suncream to ear’s and neck. A buff can also be useful.
Other running equipment to be carried
- Rucksack – around 10-20 litres with chest strap. Test before using! Needs to be big enough for the following items…
- Bladder or water bottles – two or three litres. Wide mouthed bottles can be easier to fill and drink from while breathing heavily. Water provided at a checkpoint each day.
- Water purification tablets for ad hoc water stops
- Survival blanket – (available in Kathmandu ~$6)
- Map (provided)
- Whistle (usually on pack)
- Suncream – sweat-proof sports suncream according to your needs.
- Energy bars / gels – bring according to your preference. A simple packed lunch will also be provided which might include a muesli bar, dried fruits, boiled egg, yak cheese, piece of fresh, seasonal fruit, Tibetan bread or chapatti. Carry enough spare calories to cover a full day moving until the evening meal. (You can also order any extra meals at the end of stage hotel as you desire and pay on ordering.)
- Post race clothing – on finishing, you will get cold between your fast finishing time and the time it takes porters/mules to arrive with your packed bag. Thus you need to run with some warm clothing with you:
- Dry t-shirt / thermal top
- Fleece jacket
- Warm hat
- Down jacket (recommended)
- Fleece pants / thermal underwear
- Dry socks, underwear
- Simple first aid kit – again everything can be found here in Kathmandu at low cost
- compression bandage
- pain killers (not Ibuprofen or NSAIDs)
- wound cleaning kit
- alcohol sanitizer gel for hands
- sling (of buff)
- Rehydration (ORS) powder (we provide)
- an energy gel
- blister kit (white tape etc)
- Money – Small bills if you need to buy drinks or food items on the way.
- Personal documents – Insurance details, credit card copy, phone numbers in case of emergency
- Camera + spare battery
- Toilet paper – toilet paper is seldom used in Nepal so carry what you need in a plastic bag. A small bar of soap (like from a hotel) in a plastic bag is also useful to carry.
As soon as possible after waking, you’ll need to pack your bags so that the porters can get moving. We’ve mentioned a limit of 10kg for this carried bag. The reason for this is simply to make the task of getting your equipment carried from point to point as quick as possible.
- Sleeping bag – we recommend a “3 season” sleeping bag as accommodation is not well insulated and part of our group will sleep in a tent for one night. Better to be warm than cold. Good sleeping bags and be bought or rented cheaply in Kathmandu. For the coldest nights, you can also use down jacket / hat / thermals / emergency blanket should you feel cold. Please also bring a ‘stuff sack’ or ‘compression sack’ to make the sleeping bag as small as possible.
- Earplugs – optional, in case others snore.
- Hand sanitizer, alcohol gel – very important – to minimise risk of catching colds / coughs / stomach problems etc. We provide as much as you need.
- Bag – we give you a strong kit bag for the trail which is big enough for everything you need.
- Bagage label – you can leave your own bag in the hotel in Kathmandu with a label on.
- Sandals / flipflops – for post run. In Kathmandu you can buy Croc lookalikes for a few dollars. They’re not beautiful, but super lightweight and good with socks.
- Quick drying towel (if you plan to wash)
- Wash kit – including flannel or facecloth for simple body cleaning.
- Reading book – optional, lightweight preferably!
- Camera’s battery / charger. – There is not power available at every stop, so bring a charged spare battery and carry it with you.
- Other first aid / medication – the doctor has a full medical kit for all eventualities.
- anti-histamine, eye-drops, pain killers etc
- Cotton wool for cleaning cuts / wounds + iodine gel
- Your personal medication
- Wet wipes – generally useful for quick, easy personal hygienge
- Nalgene bottle – or similar (1 litre) for holding hot water
- Vaseline – for prevention of chaffing and blisters
- Put soap in a plastic bag
- Bring some of your favorite tea-bags / infusions with you
- If you have an insulated cup / mug, this is nice for keeping drinks warm
Equipment that you can buy in Kathmandu
Several people have been asking what is possible to buy in Kathmandu. There is a minor manufacturing industry here now for outdoor equipment. Much is copied, using quality materials from China or Korea. Several companies make their own items for export. Famously Sherpa Adventure Gear is made in Kathmandu, so fine quality items are made here, if expensive.
On the cheaper side of this, a friend Uday has a small factory nearby and produces a range of equipment that certainly does the job at low cost. Is the quality as high as you can buy at home? Probably not, but it is not bad either – the down is of good quality, the fabrics are standard. I would not buy a waterproof jacket here, and sometimes fit can be an issue, and of course you’d have trouble taking it back to shop if you had problems 6 months on, but then you’ll just have to figure out how to use a needle and thread. Obviously you want to be well equipped for the race, but we’re not going to the moon. If you are about to invest in something you don’t see yourself using much in future, shopping around Thamel could be an option. And if that doesn’t work, then many international brands (Sherpa, Mountain Hardwear, North Face, Salewa etc) have stores here.
If you are looking for jackets in quantity, try Raiko here.
Some further cost guidelines. Rs 1000 is very roughly US$10 dollars
- Sheet sleeping bag– always useful for keeping the sleeping bag clean and as your own sheet in hot, less sanitary places as a clean bed sheet:
- Silk – Rs 1800 (XL 2000)
- Cotton / silk mix – 750
- Cotton – Rs 500 (XL 600)
- Fleece – Rs 950 (XL 1100)
- Space blanket – Rs 500 / 600
- Windproof gloves – Rs 350 to 1200
- Compression sack – Rs 350
- Iodine tablets – Rs 600 makes 50 litres
Several people have asked for equipment recommendations and I am going to include shoes in these recommendations. Shoes are tricky to recommend as everybody’s feet and running styles are different.
I bought the shoe below on the recommendation of Lizzy Hawker. It was my first specialized low-drop trail running shoe after years of wearing “running shoes”. Over the last two years I change my running style slightly to strick on the mid-foot just by thinking about pushing my chest out by 1cm. Since then I have been pretty much injury free since the plantar fasciitis said a last goodbye.
I have crossed glaciers and moraines, completed a 100km on road, worn in bars and run though monsoon mud with no blisters. I bought a UK size 11 which is about half a size bigger than I normally wear. I wear them a little loose and let my foot do the work.
The only down side of these shoes is the slightly weak upper – the glacial moraine’s sharp rocks wore a couple of holes on the sides. Perhaps later versions have improved on this. The next shoes I buy will be Innov-8 as I have no reason to experiment with something else.