Please send us any questions you may have, we would be happy to answer them! Note that some questions are answered further below by past participants. We also have a gear list much further below. Enjoy!
Do I need to have run an ultra to get into this event?
Not at all. But we are looking for applicants who like to be active and push themselves. And most of our members come to us from a trail running background. In theory you can power hike every day and have a great time to boot. We will speed/power hike a lot, especially when we are gaining elevation toward the pass and above 3,000m. We usually run all flats and downhills, there are some great runnable sections on the circuit.
Will I get picked up at the airport?
Absolutely. We may even make a goofy sign. The event fee also covers an airport drop off when the event is over.
Do I need mountaineering experience?
No – you don’t. We will be on hiking trails during this run. Thorung Pass will be our highest point and it can get icy and slippery there. We highly recommend you bring trekking poles. Past experience at high altitude is helpful, but not required.
Is this event safe?
Venturing into the Himalaya is never without risk. However, we take several steps beyond ‘the normal’ to ensure safety including checking weather reports by satellite phone, carrying satellite trackers, requiring helicopter evacuation insurance, using experienced guides etc. We will also not race over the pass, but instead will walk together and only if conditions are good. It is our opinion that many other activities (crossing the street in many countries, being in a jeep, etc) are higher risk.
I’ve heard the Annapurna Circuit has been ruined by road building. Why go there?
Because it is still an incredible place in the world and there are alternatives to the jeep track that many are upset about. We scouted the ‘New Annapurna Trekking Trails’ (NATT) as part of the fastpack in 2014 and found that we spent very little time on jeep track. The events in 2015 and 2016 were similar and we scouted even more trails off the beaten route. This is also a great time just before the peak of trekking season. We will have a lot of trails to ourselves and should still have some great views.
Is this fully supported?
Yes and no. We will handle all of the logistics but you will need to carry a small pack. We don’t believe in running all day while someone else is carrying our gear (so we will not be hiring porters or mules). We will stay in lodges with blankets and food every day – so all you need is a small pack (see gear below).
What other costs are there?
In general – the $1,500 (USD) fee covers most everything ‘on the ground’ including hotel in Kathmandu, transport to/from trail head, all you can eat breakfast/dinner, shared room (often private – depends on what village we are in), permits, guide/support coverage. What is not covered are: alcoholic drinks + soda or bottled water, snacks and lunch-like stuff while on the move (budget about $100 USD for this, $150 if you like beer). Other costs are helicopter insurance (see below $20-$100 USD) and your visa (usually about $40 USD).
What? Helicopter Evacuation Insurance?
This is required by the Nepal government and we think it is a great idea. Please buy a policy covering at least $5,000 USD for medical evacuation and travel to 6,000 meters. We recommend www.worldnomads.com – coverage with medical insurance might run you around $100 USD and is well worth it. Also note that membership in the American Alpine Club and other mountaineering association also offer helicopter evacuation insurance and can be less expensive ($75 USD) – but does not also include medical insurance.
Where will I sleep?
We will be in ‘lodges’ each night, these historically have been called ‘tea houses’ but are now quite a bit more sophisticated. That said, you can expect a simple room with two plywood twin beds. When we get to a lodge with enough rooms we try to get one for anyone who wants a private room. Rooms costs are low, the lodges make their money on the food (which we cover). Conditions can be rustic but are often comfortable. There is usually a bathroom down the hall or outside. Occasionally attached to your room. Many toilets are squat in design but some are western. Showers are often, but not always, available. And there is always a water tap outside the lodge for washing/filling.
Because this event falls just before the peak season of October, we expect to have most of the lodges to ourselves and quite often those who want single rooms can have single rooms. We will eat together in a common room.We will ‘go big’ on nice hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara where the comfort will be important.
What kind of pack?
A 22-30 liter pack is usually fine. Many people bring Osprey packs but we see a variety. We like the fact that porters are not carrying all of our stuff and struggling to keep up with us and at the same time – we give back to the porter industry through fundraising efforts for www.wideopenvistas.org. Be sure you train with your pack! See the gear list on our parent website www.himalayanadventurelabs.com
What will we eat each day?
Lots of carbs! Seriously, most days we will eat hearty food prepared by kitchen staff in whatever lodge we are staying in – think of fried eggs, toast, coffee. For dinner the national dish dal bhat is common, as is vegetable friend noodles and curry options. Apple pie is easily found on the circuit because it is a big export – so we will enjoy apples in all of their incarnations from apple juice to apple brandy and apply pie. There will be no problem accommodating vegetarian diets. If you have food intolerance/allergies – we recommend that you bring your own dehydrated dinners. We often try to coordinate what we order so that it is easier/faster for the kitchen. You are welccome to order seconds. You can buy snacks in small shops along the way – chinese cookies, candy bars (snickers), chips (pringles), peanuts, tuna, apples, and assorted junk food are common items on the shelf.
How many people will be in the 2017 event?
The minimum we need is 4, the most we will bring on board for the race is 10 so that we can provide a high quality event.
What will the weather by like?
Good question! The last half of September is usually the very beginning of the post-monsoon season. There may still be some remnants of the monsoon, but this usually comes in a somewhat predictable window of time, lasting about an hour during which one can usually duck into a lodge and grab a cup of tea. In October the skies are more clear and the rain less. So why aren’t we going in October? Chiefly because that is the peak of trekking season and we would rather deal with a little rain and some clouds than streams of trekkers. Other than locals, and a couple key choke points like before and after the pass, we should have most of the trails to ourselves which is pretty priceless. And while we may not have the best visibility every day, there will still be plenty of views as you can see in our pictures.
You expect to spend most days in shorts except near the pass. The first few days will be at a relatively low altitude and it can be very hot and humid until Tal village. As we climb up the humidity will drop a lot but it can still be quite hot. Nights can get a little chilly after the second and third night in Chame and you will often want to wear some thermals and a puffy jacket. When we are above Manang before the pass (2-3 nights) it will be the coldest and most people are wearing all of their layers. The dining rooms have heated stoves and card games will be won. After we are over the pass and descending things will warm up quite fast.
We also receive custom reports from Michael Fagin just before we go over Thorung La via a satellite communicator. We take the weather and safety seriously, Micheal predicts weather for teams climbing Everest. Some helpful links below:
- Current forecast for Manang (before the pass)
- Current forecast for Thorung La
- Good notes on the seasons in Nepal
- Historical 12 year averages for temp, rain, etc for Kathmandu, very numerical. Also in more graphical format and with days of sunshine.
Will we all be coordinating our flights?
People will be arriving in Kathmandu from many different locations so it is not possible to get everyone on the same flights. But we try to coordinate having people arrive the same day (though we also support/encourage you to arrive earlier if possible to see more of the sights etc. We can offer some advice on plane tickets, contact information for our favorite agent, and we will encourage participants to share their flight details with one another. If you have time, we recommend you consider a ticket routed through someplace fun like Hongkong, Bangkok, or New Delhi. Many airlines will give you a free, or low priced, stopover and you can piggyback another cultural experience onto your Nepal trip. Please do not route your ticket through India if you have family connections to Muslim countries as this has been a problem for travelers in the past. The cheapest tickets are often through Guangzhou using China Southern Airlines – however the connections and service is a bit sub par and you may want to look at Korean Airlines (KAL) which has much better service. Please do plan on landing in Nepal on the arrival date or prior. We will be there to pick you up and will handle all of the logistics from there on out…
I’m really hoping to spend a lot of time in the high desert and mountains, how many days are in the jungle and city versus the mountains?
Most of the trip is in the high mountains, once we get over Thorung Pass (roughly half way) the landscape because high desert. We are bordered by Mustang and Dolpo. I can say you would feel that you spent a lot of time in the mountains and high desert at the end of the trip.
Time in city: Very minimal – we only have an arrival day and a departure day in the itinerary. We hope people budget extra time so they can see some of the sites, but our itinerary is designed for getting out into the mountains fast.
Time in jungle: Approximately 3 days during the ~10.5 days on trail I would call jungle but we are in a huge valley gorge surrounded by mountains so it isn’t like you are totally closed in – plus we are often walking alongside rice fields. It is more of a temperate jungle too, versus the Amazon. Two of these days are at the beginning as we move from 2,000m to above 3,000m.
What participants in 2015 had to say
What gear did you bring that you wish you hadn’t brought? Conversely – what do you wish you had brought?
-I think I was good, other than not having the maps and book. I followed your packing list almost exactly. John Mackenzie, USA, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
– The water bladder was totally unnecessary. Your filtration system and the fact that so much water is available (with tablets) everywhere made it a waste of weight. I didn’t really need my coat either, although I probably would have brought it anyway…. just in case. Conversely – what do you wish you had brought? Can’t think of anything. -Karen Carrington, China, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
B) How much do you think you spent on the trail?
-Less than $300 USD (that was all I took and I think I spend almost all of it, but I started buying souvenirs after the pass) -John Mackenzie, USA, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
-I would think that I spent $5 a day???? -Karen Carrington, China, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
C) What was your favorite village? Favorite section of trail? Favorite aspect of the event?
-The one before Jomson was great to see, and the section of the trail there with the fossils. Then of course the pass! -John Mackenzie, USA, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
Very difficult. Each had their own appeal. Manang, Marpha, Tal, Yak Kharka, Muktinath, Ghasa, Tatopani, and Ghorepani particularly stand out in my memory …. but that is most of them so that probably doesn’t help! Favorite section of trail? I liked going up to the pass (hated the down part) since the surrounding mountains/view were so beautiful. I also liked all the greenery on the last few days of the trail. Favorite aspect of the event? Everything!
-Karen Carrington, China, 2015, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
D) What was your least favorite stopping point/trail/aspect?
-Hmm, I would say the first or second village we stayed at. As for the least favorite part of of the trail was Jomson itself and the trail leading out when we were on the road. -John Mackenzie, USA, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
-That I wasn’t any faster …. 🙂 Sorry, otherwise I really enjoyed it. Karen Carrington, China, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
E) What could we do different next year to make this better?
-I liked the stopping for lunch, but then we were not running hard through towns and stopping was convenient. I also felt the school was a highlight and I don’t think that Karen got to see that. -John Mackenzie, USA, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
-It was great like it was. Improvement depends on whom you want to attract. For people who had never really been to Nepal or participated in staged races, I think it was perfect. They couldn’t get lost – everybody was friendly and the time together was great – etc…… If you are looking for more experienced people, you probably want to start timing people and letting them go off more on their own. One person could just sweep up the stragglers and hopefully anyone who lost their way. It seemed fairly well marked though so I don’t know that you would have to actually mark things. Just be specific on the map briefings. I think even I could have gotten there with only a few blunders. -Karen Carrington, China, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
F) What would you say to someone considering the next fastpack?
-DO IT! I’ve already told a couple of people;) -John Mackenzie, USA, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
Do it! You won’t regret it for a moment. The trail, the people, the camaraderie are all 1st rate.
-Karen Carrington, China, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
-I highly recommend doing this race!! It’s such an amazing experience and the people putting it on make it that much better! The loving culture, food and people make Nepal that much more beautiful! Sign up!! Just do it! You won’t regret it!! Promise!
Amy Markovich, USA, Annapurna Fastpack 2015
-Do it!!!!! It’s an incredibly beautiful place and is sure to be a wonderful experience. -Trisha Steidl, USA, Annapurna Fastpack 2014
What should I bring?
Please see the gear list on Himalayan Adventure Labs