Himal Race 2013 – Everest Sky Race 2013
In Pursuit of Wind Horses…
From Annapurnas to the limits of Rolwaling Valley, Himal Race participants experienced a unique and amazing journey, disrupted by cyclone Phailin, which reached Himalaya and led to winter conditions earlier than usually. The route originally planned had to be changed twice and could not reach the Khumbu region. The race then finished at Tso Rolpa, at the bottom of Tashi Lapsa pass. In 21 days, runners still travel 745 km (+34,100 m, -36,300 m). The Nepalese Upendra Sunuwar and the French Virginie Duterme were the fastest. On « Everest Sky Race » part, Upendra Sunuwar kept his first position. New Zealander Anna Frost ruled the female race.
After five days into the longest mountain running race in the world, among prayers flags one can find at each pass or sacred place in the Himalayas, bodies and minds are already tired… Three days before the group had to turn back on its way to Mesokantu La (5,099 m) because of a massive snow strom. The pass was not far though but the next step would have been an unmarked plateau with one meter of powder snow. These winter conditions experienced earlier than usually were due to cyclone Phailin and made the race more difficult until the end.
During this fifth day, Himalaya’s Racers could pass Thorong La (5,416 m) and reached Manang. They won’t reach Nar though, as initially planned, because Kang La (5,322 m) is covered with snow and an avalanche cut the path. Two days later, the runners managed to go through Larkya La (5,215 m) in spite of snow, hail, rain, wind and cold. Finally, Himal Race remained “a line on the world map, instead of a point” as Belgian Wouter Hamelinck, who finished second like in 2010, said. A 745 km long line that can be seen from the Moon…
The “line” of Himal Race was white as well as green. From high passes of Annapurnas, Manaslu, and Langtang, to the forest and fields of Ganesh, Helambu, Bigu Gompa, and Rowaling. “I discovered a very green Nepal, with a lot of vegetation” says Virginie Duterme. “As compared to 2010 with Tibet, Humla and Dolpo, the race was totally different, less difficult and less isolated and with a different spirit, but still interesting. We crossed forests, paddy fields, terrace fields, small village where we were more in contact of Nepalese”. Vincent Minier, winner of the sportsmanship challenge, adds: “these changes allow the race to breathe, to avoid boredom”.
Winter conditions and route changes did not prevent the runners to move forward consistently. “As far as I’m concerned, Himal Race was a travel through images. Since each day was different, I wanted to go further each day also” says Dominique Faidy. “When I look on the map, I realize how much we did… Before the start my friend Cathy told me: “Remember each day how lucky you are to be able to do this”. Now I can tell how lucky I was and I’m proud to have completed Himal Race. I will miss this race… When you look at it on paper though, it doesn’t look that easy. But the landscapes gave me a lot of energy, and the day-to-day life with a strong group, constantly helping each other, was also humanly enriching. For all this I’m proud to be now a Knight of the Wind!”
“We have to move forward”. Beyond this sentence, repeated at each briefing meeting, Himal Race 2013 was a community race where decisions were taken by the group and where participants constantly helped each other. While Dominique Faidy said to be “proud” to be a Knight of the Wind, Stéphane Etienne speaks about a “brotherhood”. “There is a specific mindset. It feels very special to have been part of this experience. After so many kilometers, in moving forward together, we became friends. Every one was proud of the other before being proud of herself or himself. When we all shared a small room, at night, around the stove, it was good to chat, to exchange, to listen to the others’ experience. It was about the simple joy of being here together.”
Christophe Bruyas and Virginie Duterme were often together. With Wouter Hamelinck, they were the only ones to travel all the way by foot(1). “Since I was neither sick nor injured, it made sense to me to walk all the way, even the link stages” explains Virginie. “We were not competing anymore and it was a nice parenthesis, as it was to walk after the race to Annapurna South Base Camp with François and Vincent. I had the impression to close the loop.” And Christophe says: “I was there to walk or run as far as I could. I was happy therefore to go from Jiri to Khumbu with Wouter and Anna (as well as Stéphane and Laurent). Moving by foot, just like Nepalese, allows a better perception of the country, as well as carrying one’s own bag. It also gives a feeling of independence and freedom.”
Kala Pattar should have been the finish of Himal Race, but it turned out to be the bottom of Tashi Lapsa (5,755 m), due to cold and snow conditions. This change didn’t make Jean-Marc Wojcik unhappy. He was running Himal Race for the fourth time. “Just as the three previous Himal Races, it was intense and different, a story within the Story” he said, with his usual impish eyes. One starts for a race, and it turns out to be a journey towards one’s self, one’s limits and weaknesses. It’s about just walking, reaching the finish line, even when there is no path anymore. Himal Race is about picking this time!” This shows that Jean-Marc read “The Hundred Thousand Songs” of Milarepa, developing the thought “effort overcomes ignorance”. “It is a shift in your knowledge… far from the modern society, with a backpack of 10 kg and a pair of running shoes, you discover that you need the other to travel and that the path is within yourself…”
2002, 2007, 2010, 2013… Some know where Jean-Marc will be in 2017. On a trail between Kanchenjunga Base Camp (5,143 m), Kathmandu (1,350 m) and himself. And always in pursuit of Wind Horses…
(1) Wouter, Virginie, and Christophe chose to walk the two link stages (A and B) instead of taking a bus. Vincent and Bruno walked the first one (A). Upendra, Bhim, and Anna walked the second one (B).
A : Trisuli – Dunche : 45 km (+1400 m, – 300 m). B : Melamchi – Karkhali : 55 km (+2900 m, – 1850 m).