Endurance Athlete Running the Great Himalaya Trail

Photo Courtesy Philippe Gatta

by Kraig Becker

The Great Himalaya Trail is a long distance trekking route located in the mountains of Nepal. Divided into 10 distinct segments, the GHT runs for more than 1700 km (1056 miles) across that country with much of route falling at high altitude. Each of those segments takes approximately two to three weeks to hike from end-to-end, which means backpacking the entire length of the trail is a significant undertaking that requires upwards of six months to complete. But one ultrarunner is hoping to to become the first to run the entire length of the trail while setting a speed record in the process. 

Last week, French endurance athlete Philippe Gatta launched his bid to run the GHT. Setting off from the remote village of Simikot he will now push his body to its limits as he attempts to cover the entire trail – end-to-end – in just 40 days. That won’t be easy of course, because in order to finish up in that time frame, he’ll need to average 42.5 km (26.4 miles), or roughly a marathon, each and every day. That would be tough enough under normal conditions but on the GHT Gatta will have to contend with extremely rough terrain, unpredictable weather and the thin air that comes with altitude. Over the course of the run, he’ll face temperatures ranging from -25ºC (-13ºF) up to 35ºC (95ºF) while he passes through alpine deserts, forests, jungles and glaciers. The route will drops as low as 880 meters (2887 ft) and climbs above 7000 meters (22,965 ft). He’ll also contend with a staggering 90,000 meters (295,275 ft) of vertical gain, which equates to 90 km (56 miles) of climbing along the way.

Judging from the updates being posted on the expedition’s Facebook page the first week of the run has been far from easy. Philippe has been running along one of the more isolated sections of the trail with four days separating two of the villages along the way. He’s also been dealing with inclement weather that has included rain, snow and high winds. He’s even had to deal with insects and wild animals with a wolf invading his camp at one point. Still, he seems to be making good time so far and is hitting the daily distances that he had hoped for. Considering he still has over a month to go however, it is still too early to tell if he will be able to run the length of the GHT in his projected 40-day time frame.

To follow Philippe’s progress over the course of the run be sure to “Like” his page on Facebook and watch for daily updates.