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Photo credit: Dean Leslie / The Wandering Fever

Sandes and Griesel attempt FKT for the Great Himalaya Trail


By Alice Morrison

Ultra runners Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel are attempting to run the Great Himalaya Trail in the fastest known time (FKT)—a total of 1406km in 28 days.

South African, Ryan Sandes, has won ultras on every continent and has also got the distinction of winning all four races in the 4Deserts event. Ryno Griesel, another SA citizen, is a very experienced mountaineer, having climbed various mountains in Africa, Europe and Nepal and is also a top flight adventure racer.


The dynamic duo already hold the record for the Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg in 41 hours 49 minutes. 

The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) of Nepal is not a single trail but rather a combination of various trails in either the upper (GHT High Route) or middle (GHT Cultural route) districts of Nepal, stretching from the west to the east (or vice versa) end of the country.

The pair will traverse the estimated 1,400km route which includes 70,000m of elevation gain and loss over the Himalayan Mountain range by combining the High GHT and Cultural GHT.

They want to beat the current recognised FKT of 28 days 13 hours and 56 minutes set by fellow South African, Andrew Porter in October 2016. They will self-navigate in an attempt to find the best possible route to link up the 12 required checkpoints as set by Andrew.

Those CPs are:

  • CP1: Start in the village of Hilsa on the Western Nepal/ Tibetan border and cross the following points (villages and passes)
  • CP2: Simikot at roughly 77km
  • CP3: Gamgadhi at roughly 150km
  • CP4: Jumla at roughly 193km
  • CP5: Juphal at 280km, or Dunai at roughly 290km
  • CP6: Chharka Bhot at roughly 380km
  • CP7: Kagbeni at roughly 444km
  • CP8: Thorang La Pass at roughly 463km
  • CP9: Larkye La Pass at roughly 561km
  • CP10: Jiri at roughly 928km
  • CP11: Tumlingtar at roughly 1,075km
  • CP12: Finishing on the eastern Nepal/Indian border at Pashupatinagar

A small handful of people have taken on the GHT with a speed/record intention. The main ones are:

  • Sean Burch (UK): 2010 – 49d 6h 8m (2,000km – east to west, combination of High and Cultural GHT).
  • Lizzy Hawker (UK): 2016 – 42d, 2017 – 35d (approx. 1,600km east to west, mostly the High GHT route, without technical climbing requirements).
  • Andrew Porter (RSA): 2016 – 28d 13h 56m (1,406km, west to east, combination of High and Cultural GHT).

The latest news from the attempt was from the tracker which showed the men had veered off course but the organisers said that was to be expected. They are in the Dolpa region with new ice axes and rope to face the most difficult section of the entire trail.

“We’ve realised if we don’t have the gear that we could get to a 10-metre section that stops our whole event,” Ryno explained.

Adding to the stress of the next few days, the specific pass they need to go through has not been crossed yet this season, which means there’s a huge unknown factor. As a result, Red Bull said that, “The team is expecting challenging steep, snowy conditions which will slow down their movements as they navigate one of the most remote regions in Nepal.”

Before going into the region, Ryan said, “I’m a little bit nervous too – these will be the biggest mountains I’ve gone into, so I’m stoked to have someone like Ryno with me who’s super clued up on big mountains like this.”

It is an epic adventure and one that, thanks to Red Bull, has plenty of resource behind it. All the action is being brought live, or as near live as possible on this micro site

This is definitely one to watch live! Follow it here.

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