Cape Town - South Africans brave sub-zero temperatures, frost bite, exhaustion and starvation to set a new Grand Himalaya Trail FKT in 25 days, 4 hours 24 minutes.
On March 1, South African trail runners Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel bravely set out to establish a new FKT along compatriot Andrew Porter's roughly 1504km GHT Route across the Himalayas from Hilsa to Pashupatinagar in Nepal, combining the Great Himalaya Trails High Route and Lower Cultural Route.
With the previous FKT on this route standing at 28 days, 13 hours and 56 mins the two smashed the record - with four days to spare.
"This has been the biggest adventure of my life, but incredibly challenging at the same time, especially mentally to just keep going day in and day out for so long,” exclaimed Sandes at the final checkpoint.
"Traversing any of The Great Himalaya Trails has always been a dream of mine There were so many ups and downs along the route that we could never have anticipated but I’m so stoked we pushed on and made it through. Alongside my win at Western States 100 last year, this has to be one of my biggest sporting accomplishments to date!”
The attempt saw Sandes and Griesel traverse heavily snow-covered mountains and experience some incredibly extreme weather conditions that were unusual for this time of the year along the way.
They suffered frost-bitten fingers, serious tummy bugs, breathing difficulties and a couple of near death experiences.
A constant on the route, however, was the incredibly welcoming spirit of the Nepalese people who truly embody the spirit of Namaste, and welcomed the both of them into their homes.
"We were the first people to cross the Dolpa region since the start of winter, which made the going very difficult to navigate and very slow,” commented Griesel.
"I had to keep taking my gloves off to read the maps and managed to get terrible frost bite on my fingers, which has been painful. One of the villages on our map in that region, a spot where we had hoped to get accommodation, was completely deserted. I honestly believe that if we hadn’t come across a monk and monastery that night we would have frozen to death outside.”
Sandes echoed Griesel’s sentiment: “The Nepalese people were amazing! We knocked on their doors late at night, two filthy dirty South Africans, who speak very little Nepalese, and they not only welcomed us into their homes without hesitation, but they have also gave us their beds and gone to sleep at neighbours so that we have accommodation!” says Sandes.
“It has been humbling to meet these incredible people. I doubt anyone back home would have opened their homes to strangers as easily as the Nepalse citizens we met along the way have to us.”
The pair were thrown another curveball when the route they had plotted prior to leaving for the attempt, in fact turned out to be almost 200km longer than they had previously anticipated.
"The maps on the computer tend to flatten out the track quite a bit as it obviously doesn’t drop a point every single meter, so the distance you work out on the computer is actually a lot shorter than what it is really measured at,” noted Griesel.
"What we experienced on the ground was far more brutal that what we had plotted out on the computer, but it was all part of the adventure.”
“We would like to thank the trail running community for their incredible support in the lead up to and throughout our FKT record attempt,” said Sandes.
"It has been great to read all of the messages of encouragement and support. And to the Nepalese people, we can never say thank you enough for your incredible hospitality and friendliness, there is definitely no other place on earth like Nepal."
Sandes and Griesel return to South Africa on Tuesday, 27 March 2018.