Manaslu Trail Race 2015 reviews / feedback
Stephan and Barbara Tassani-Prell
Hi Richard,We just arrived at home and we are missing you, Dhir and all the others from the organisation team, too!I think the distances of the stages are perfect, because of the high altitude. My favorite place was Sama with the impressive view to the summit of Manaslu and the finish at the Hinang gompa with the view to the Chuli Himal and the nice place there in front of the Monastary. I was very impressed by the trails. They are technical but not to hard and most runable and very different every day. For me it was really my best Trailrunning experience since more than 20 years of Trailrunning!The most difficulty for me and Barbara was crossing the Pass, because of the high altitude and the very early start, but we did it!The accommodations are very simple but most of them are very nice and the staff was great!People are so friendly in Nepal! This is not to compere with Europe!We want to come back soon! If you have more ideas, please tell me.Yours Stephan and Barbara
Tite Togni (YOGAXRUNNERS)
“Sister, take this blanket, drink a lot of tatopani (hot water) and just enjoy”. With these essential recommendations, Mira Rai who ran (and won) the race last year, left me at the onset of this 4th edition of Manaslu Mountain Trail Race 2015: 8 stages on the least beaten of all treks in Nepal, 10 times less than the close area of Annapurna.Manaslu, the ‘Mountain of Manas’, the Spirit, Man in its essence, that is not the body even if in its most athletic form, but the intelligence that lies deep inside, was the white cathedral we approached like pilgrims: barefoot, in tiptoes, with no clues of distance, elevation, profile but just following the course marks of the unique team of organisers Dhir, Richard, Lizzy & crew.Where else you can run, walk, hike, crawl for days ranging from Vertical and SkyRaces in tropical forest to freezing and frozen snow treks up to a Base Camp or through a Pass at 5160m and finally drop exhausted on a monk’s mattress?Where else you can receive a deeper lesson of humility when you think you are exhausted and you approached by the porters who are carrying on their backs two of your 10 kilo bags, flying up and down the same way in plastic sandals ?
Manaslu, the bare, fierce 8000m peak was always there to answer: you are not your body, your senses, your fears, your muscles, your lungs, but in essence you are like me, you are Man-as, Spirit, Energy in motion. Enjoy.
I’ve been thinking about this and you almost want two different perspectives. A relative newbie and a seasoned multi stager with altitude in the legs and lungs. I think the two types will say rather different things so any article could be split into these two types with some overlap. Anyway here’s a few words that may help (or not). I’ll be writing a blog on the event and then things I’d consider I’ll send that to you when it’s done.
1. The trails compared to those in West Australia could well have been on another planet. The amount of vertical ascent and the gradients seemed endless in the Himalaya compared to somewhere that has hills maybe reaching 400m on a good day. The shoes though faired better, the hard old granites of Australia trash shoes very quickly in comparison to the Himalayas. The trails are used as proper roads on the Manaslu circuit so were generally really good out of necessity and wide enough most of the time for mule/yak trains and runners (with the landslide sections the obvious exception)
2. Distances are irrelevant. The amount of time you’re on your feet is much more important and 25-30mins/km was not unusual at altitude (for me at least). Its slower than walking but the apparent effort is definitely not the same. Descending the moraine boulder fields were the biggest challenge for me around the Bimtang area having never encountered these massive moraines before my brain just couldn’t process the route down so that made it frustratingly slow, I’m also not used to running steps of which there were plenty in the first few days from Soti Khola to Lihi. The trails are technical, but with practice doable, if you live somewhere with similar terrain such as the Alps I can see it would be less of a mental and physical challenge and this was borne out by the resultant speed of the runners at the end of the day. Those of us without access to these kind of trails, while not overly technical but specific in skills, really suffered compared to our normal terrains.
3. The area is phenomenal. The mountains, glaciers, rivers- the sheer vastness of the landscape and the power of the natural forces acting in it are like nowhere I have ever been-it is breath taking where ever you look and constantly changing and challenging. In some ways I think we were lucky there were so few people on the trails this year and the isolation and distance from the rest of the world really hit home. This is a place of stark rugged beauty where incredibly tough and resilient people live and having travelled a fair amount I can think of nowhere else like it. It has certainly carved out a space inside me that’s for sure.
4. For me the greatest difficulty was getting over stage 1! Your guinea pig stage with stunning views of Ganesh Himal made me seriously doubt my suitability for the event. 2kms up and down in 21kms on ridiculously steep terrain made me think that if every day after that was similar I really wasn’t ready at all and should just go home there and then! In truth it was maybe day 4 before I got over this shock. While I was slow in the high terrain I enjoyed the high altitude days. I was surprised at how difficult I found some of the descents to be (again lack of familiarity with the terrain and a deep seated self-preservation need not to break an ankle miles away from anywhere). So my greatest difficulty was me and my perceived weaknesses. You are only ever at odds with yourself in an event like this and you find out if you really are strong enough. I certainly didn’t have confidence going in (a mistake) but feel a better about my abilities now its over.
5. Things I wouldn’t do without if planning on taking part. (i) Poles! On the steep sections they gave aching legs a real break and gave a focus to the rhythm of walking.
(ii) A damn good down jacket. I took two, one lighter weight and one heavy for evenings. Both were invaluable but I live somewhere hot and feel the cold
(iii) If you’re a protein lover recovery protein drinks are a low weight high value item. The diet is very carb-rich as it needs to be but the carnivores were obsessing about meat by the middle of the event. Nearly everyone lost between 2-4kgs, mostly just keeping warm so you need to be able to eat.
(iv) if you do live near mountains, or are planning on racing, time spent running the biggest mountains you can find at the highest altitudes you can find would be invaluable if that’s an option for you. I think without these you won’t be racing just taking part. (Not a problem for me as that was the plan)
(v) if you don’t like being in the dark the 4am walk across the pass could do with a really good head torch for the first hour and a half!(vi) wet wipes. Obviously hot water isn’t something you’ll encounter for a while and some days you can’t face glacial melt water the get a quick wash. Wet wipes gave the illusion of cleanliness!(vii) on advisement we took some greens powder with us. The diet is good but a bit of back up from a lightweight product full on nutrients you won’t be getting could just help you stay physically together that little bit longer
Nothing else stands out that isn’t already on your equipment list.
Hope this helps a little.
Thanks again-hope you’ve caught up on sleep and that things are improving in Kathmandu (but I guess they aren’t).
- How did you find the trails compared to where you run at home?
Obviously a lot more vertical, but not very technical.
- The distances seem relatively short, but how did they feel with altitude and the nature of the trail underfoot?
Distance is a very abstract concept in Nepal…
- What impressions did you have of the manaslu area? Along side the running, what did you enjoy?Impression: It is an area of many transitions. From jungle and hindu culture, it takes only a few days of passing through forest, steppe and finally high alpine, while the look of people, their clothes and architecture gradually changes into that of Tibet.
Enjoyed: The good company of runners and staff. Tibetan culture.
- What was the greatest difficulty you faced?
Personally it was being sick, but that’s bad advertisement, so let’s say…
- Any recommendations for others who might go next year?
Race, but also view it as a travel through amazing environments. Take your time to look up from the trail every noe and then. Stop. Be amazed.
- Feel free to make up a question and answer it yourself!
There has been a lot of news buzz after the earthquake. What’s your impression?
Many trails and some buildings were damaged. The locals have put in tremendous amounts of work, and by the time of the race, both trails and accommodation had been repaired to working condition. The decline in tourists was, however, noticeable. To local economy needs people who stay in the lodges, buying food and drinks!
Andrea Mondini – Italy
Ciao, with italian slow time but you get a feedback;-)! Thanks again to you and your staff for you amazing job, until you’re not in Nepal you cannot understand how hard it is to organize such races, but since I did and it all worked perfect, confratualtion again for the great effort!!So here my answers:1. Trails were actually perfect since they are the only way to move and used daily from the local populations they had nothing to be jelaous of our trails in the Alps!2. The great effort I think was a mixture between altitude but also getting used to different food habits and eventual associate health problems, no food, no fuel ;-)!! personally for me the acclimatation time worked perfeckt, just had a little headache coming down form Manaslu Base Camp and Tibetan border, felt great at Larke La3. I enjoyed every single step I made, even if painful, landscape was just stunning all around us, and was great to see how local peolple still live, and what I admired most is their happiness to live, always smiling even while carrying 30 or more kg on their backs, never complaining, just a lesson for life! and also in Kathmandu people are really poor but they are nice, never felt in trouble walking alone even in the darkness, much safe then in lots of our “civilized cities”4. I should say losing my bag…but actually it was part of the adventure. I think the greatest difficult is the envorinement in which you have to live, just cold water so hard to wash, not really clean rooms and beds, but as always when you are, let’s say, in trouble it helps to get closer with your adventure fellows and so did we, great international group with great mood and so everything looks nice or at least difficulties are soustainable or softer!5. No prejudice, just enjoy every minute and bring a positive attitude!