Ultrarunner sets new Everest to Kathmandu speed record

Ultrarunner sets speed record between Everest BC and KathmanduLast week, British ultrarunner Lizzie Hawker set a new speed record for running from base camp on Mt. Everest to Kathmandu, Nepal, besting her own previous record in the process. The 35-year old endurance athlete covered the 200 mile distance in just 2 days, 23 hours, and 25 minutes.

Hawker, who is considered one of the top long distance runners in the world, first made this run back in 2007, when she completed the course in 3 days, 2 hours, and 39 minutes. She had high hopes of shattering that record by a significant margin this time out, but heavy rains and cool temperatures forced her to take shelter in the village of Bupsa. That delay cost her 8 hours of time, which put her chances at the record in serious jeopardy, but she was able to find her rhythm and still managed to beat the previous time.

Covering 200 miles nearly non-stop is an impressive feat in and of itself, but when you consider the conditions that Hawker was running through, you gain a whole new appreciation for her accomplishment. The trail from Everest to Kathmandu is not a paved road, but is instead a rough, uneven path that wanders up and down the Himalayas. In addition to the rigors of the trail, Hawker had to deal with altitude as well, as base camp sits at 17,600 feet. The record run also came after Hawker participated in the 125 mile, nine-day Everest Sky Race, during which she also contracted a respiratory infection.

I’m going to try to keep all of those challenges in mind when I whine about my 3 mile run later today. It’ll help keep things in perspective.

82-year old plans to climb Everest

An 82-year old man will attempt to climb Everest this spring82-year old Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya of Nepal is planning to climb Mt. Everest this spring in an attempt to show that even octogenarians can still be physically fit enough to accomplish such goals. If successful, he’ll become the oldest person to reach the summit of the highest mountain on the planet.

Earlier this week, Upadhayaya set out from Kathmandu on the trek to Everest Base Camp. He is expected to arrive there next week, where he’ll begin the acclimatization process that will prepare him for his high altitude adventure. Once that process is completed, he hopes to make his attempt on the summit sometime in late May or early June, depending on the weather conditions on the mountain. Adding to the challenge is the fact that Upadhayaya, who is a former Nepali Foreign Minister, has little climbing experience

The current record for the oldest person to summit Everest is held by another Nepalese man by the name of Min Bahadur Sherchan. He conquered the mountain back in 2008 at the age of 76. If he is successful, Upadhayaya would best that mark by six years.

Climbing Everest is no easy task at 42, let alone 82. To attempt it with little to no experience seems to be asking for trouble. While it would be a great story to see him make it to the summit, hopefully he will know when to call it quits if things aren’t going well and conditions aren’t right. That said, I hope I’m still as active and adventurous as he is when I reach that age.

Legendary Sherpa to attempt 21st summit of Everest

Apa Sherpa will attempt his 21st successful summit of EverestLegendary Himalayan mountain guide Apa Sherpa has returned to his home country of Nepal once again this year, where he’ll be attempting his 21st summit of Mt. Everest. If successful, he will extend his existing record as the man to accomplish that feat most often.

Apa, who now lives in Utah, left his friends and family last Friday, and set off for the Nepali capital of Kathmandu. That city serves as the gateway to the Himalaya, and most mountaineering expeditions to the region begin and end there. Apa says that he knows that climbing the tallest mountain on the planet is risky, but he feels compelled to go back once again in an effort to help his homeland. The mountain guide’s Apa Sherpa Foundation raises funds to improve educational facilities of children living in the Himalaya.

The beginning of April traditionally marks the beginning of the spring climbing season in Nepal, Tibet, and other Himalayan countries. Over the past week, climbers and trekkers have been arriving in Kathmandu and setting out for Everest, Annapurna, and a dozen other high peaks. Climbing these giant mountains is no simple affair, and most will spend six to eight weeks attempting to reach the summit of their choice.

For Apa, this is all old hat. He has been making the journey to Everest every year since the late 1980′s, achieving his first successful summit in 1990. For the past three years, he has been a part of the Eco Everest Team, which is made up of a group of very experienced Sherpas who work together to clean up trash from the mountain. The team has been directly responsible for removing tons of discarded gear, empty oxygen bottles, and other waste products from the slopes of Everest.

If all goes as planned, Apa should be making his record-breaking 21st summit bid sometime in mid-May.

Mountain biker set to ride up Everest

Mountain biker Bob In the world of high altitude mountaineering, there are few challenges bigger than Mt. Everest. Standing 29,029 feet in height, it is the tallest peak on the planet, remaining unclimbed until 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay finally reached the summit. Since then, literally hundreds of climbers have stood on top of the mountain, but not a single mountain biker has ever managed to conquer it. One man hopes to change all that this year.

Bob “Gnarly” Goldstein has been riding mountain bikes for years. The 45-year old copier salesman from Topeka, Kansas says he just prefers them over other kinds of bikes, saying they are simply more comfortable to ride and “they can go anywhere!” Bob has taken his trusty Huffy Cyclone on a number of local trails and on vacation with him to Colorado, where it not only helped him to get around Boulder, but allowed him to enjoy the mountain scenery as well. Soon, he’ll turn his sights on the biggest mountain of them all.

With April now upon us, mountaineers and trekkers are descending on the capital of NepalKathmandu. The city is the last stop before heading into the Himalaya and Bob, and his trusty bike arrived there just yesterday. Soon he’ll begin his tune-up ride to Everest Base Camp, located at 17,600 feet. Once there, the real challenge will begin, as he intends to pedal all the way to the summit.

Goldstein knows that his task won’t be an easy one. He’ll have to navigate through the dreaded Khumbu Icefall, riding his Huffy across ladders precariously placed over crevasses in the glacier. Once on the other side, he’ll start the long, slow, grueling climb up the South Col and eventually to the top. “I’m pretty sure I’ll only be using the first three gears,” he says.While most climbers carry backpacks stuffed with layers of warm clothing, crampons, carabiners, and other climbing gear, Bob will have a few other items in his pack. He’ll be carrying spare inner tubes, a small tire pump, and special tools for changing a flat on the slopes. When asked by an incredulous Sherpa where he intended to carry his oxygen bottles, Goldstein replied “Duh! I have two bottle cages right on my bike dude!”

Bob says that he has been training his whole life for this opportunity. He regularly tackles some of the bigger hills in his home town, and his recent rides have gotten him off the pavement and onto the dirt trails as well. He’s even been practicing changing flat tires as quickly as possible, as the biting winds and sub-zero temperatures on Everest can turn those kinds of activities into brutal endeavors. Goldstein says he has no intention of losing a finger or toe due to frostbite, brought on by fixing a flat.

And after he suffers through all the pain and challenges of getting to the summit, Bob will be in for the ride of his life. He says he’s looking forward to “bombing” back down the mountain, and “catching big air” off the Hillary Step. “Which reminds me,” he adds hesitantly, “I need to go check my breaks.”

Good luck Bob! We’re cheering for you.

48 Hours in Kathmandu

Few city names roll off the tongue quite like Kathmandu. Maybe it’s the unusual spelling, the exotic string of vowels or the simple fact that it’s located on the far side of the planet at the base of the Himalayas. Whatever it is, the mere mention of Nepal’s legendary capital is enough to make you want to pack your bags and jump on the next flight.

Kathmandu is one of the famed stops on the 1960s overland ‘Hippie Trail,’ which stretched from London to Sydney via North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This journey gave rise to Lonely Planet – and indeed the modern backpacking phenomenon – though it ended abruptly in the 1970s in response to increasing regional instability.

Since then, Kathmandu has weathered its fair share of uprising and civil strife, but things are starting to look much calmer. And so, in honor of one of the greatest cities in Central Asia, Gadling is proud to present 48 hours in Kathmandu.Whether you’re stopping by Kathmandu en route to China or India, or using the city as a jumping off-point for Himalayan trekking circuits, Kathmandu demands at least a day or two of your time. Not sure what to do? Try this list for starters.

1) Shop and eat out on the cheap in Thamel. The original backpacker ghetto of tea shops and tour operators is now a proper destination in its own right. Bargain hunters can stock up on bulk tea, Buddhist prayer flags, carved wooden boxes, mountaineering equipment, dodgy antiques and all manners of Nepali kitsch.

And then there’s the food.

Nepal is home to a large Tibetan refugee population, which means that momo are on all the menus. If you’ve never indulged in this truly Himalayan delicacy, then you’re missing out on fried or steamed flour dumplings stuffed full of chicken, water buffalo, onions, shallots, coriander and/or cilantro. Add a spicy dipping sauce and you’re good to go.

2) Visit Nepal’s version of the burning ghats. Somewhat akin to Varanasi in India, Pashupatinath on the banks of the Bagmati River is the one of the world’s largest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. In accordance with Hindu faith, it is also the site of public cremations on funerary pyres.

To be very clear, a visit to Pashupatinath is not for the faint of heart as the sights, sounds and smells of burning human flesh is an intensely visceral experience. But it’s also a deeply sacred experience, and a potent reminder of the beauty and frailty of human life.

3) Survey the city from the heights of the Monkey Temple. Swayambhunath is a Buddhist stupa perched at the top of a hill in the western end of Kathmandu valley. It’s also inhabited by mischievous roaming troops of monkeys.

Although they’re considered to be holy denizens, they also tend to be holy pains in the rear. Watch your bags if you’re carrying any food. Even if you’re not, don’t be surprised if they snatch at your purse or satchel out of habit. Clever little beasts.

4) Visit Kathmandu’s holiest Buddhist sight. Although it’s completely sheltered from the main road by a row of buildings, Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in the world. While walking counterclockwise around the base, run your fingers across the prayer wheels while silently mediating. Contemplative bliss never came easier.

Once you’ve completed the circuit, you can ascend the staircase to the apex of the stupa, which is completely strung up with prayer flags and blanketed by a cloud of incense. Add chanting monks and ringing bells to the mix, and you’ll see why Boudhanath is revered as Kathmandu’s top tourist sight.

5) Day-trip to the ancient city of Bhaktapur. If you’ve got a second day to spare, a visit to this once great medieval kingdom is akin to stepping back to the glory days of the Silk Road. Lying at the crossroads of India and China, Bhaktapur grew wealthy on the caravan trade, which resulted in the construction of an elaborate pagoda-filled skyline.

One insider tip: don’t miss the chance to sample Ju-Ju Dhau, commonly referred to as the king of yoghurts. This delectable treat is served in handmade clay bowls, and is unlike any of the pasteurized blends you’ll find at your local grocery store. On the contrary, it’s made fresh and best finished in one helping.

Kathmandu might not have the urban chic of Beijing and New Delhi. But what it lacks in flashiness, it more than makes up for in personality. Where else can you bask in the shadows of the Himalayas while retracing centuries-old trade routes and paying homage to some of the most sacred sites in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Namaste. Kathmandu awaits.

** All images are original photographs produced by this blogger **