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Dangerous Heights: Taking On The Everest Trail Race

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Six days. Six months of training. One hundred and sixty kilometres. More than 25,000 metres in altitude change. The Everest Trail Race is not for the faint of heart or feet.

The world’s most elite athletes aren’t content with trips to the gym. If we had to guess, we’d say they shave with power tools, brush their teeth with steel wool and pour whiskey over their breakfast cereal. And when it comes to performing feats of physicality, only extremes will do.

The Everest Trail Race is one of the toughest high-elevation ultra-marathons on the planet. Participants face not only the usual physical and mental challenges of a marathon, but also a uniquely taxing terrain, unpredictable weather and relentless ascents at brutal altitudes.

In other words, badasses only need apply.

The Daunting Course

The Everest Trail Race is a multi-stage ultra-marathon run over six days in November in the remote Solukhumbu region of the Himalayas. Runners are treated to unforgettable views of the world’s highest mountains, including Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga. But when the total difference between positive and negative elevation clocks in at more than 29,000m, scenery isn’t the only thing that takes your breath away.

The exact course changes each year. The route combines dirt path and steps sections with high mountain terrain. Typical daily distances for the six stages fall between 20 km and 30 km, while ascents can range from a few hundred metres per day to a few thousand. In total, runners cover a distance of 160 km.

RELATED: 10 Running Trails Worth Travelling The World For

Before beginning the adventure of a lifetime, participants in the Everest Trail Race receive a road book that outlines the details of each stage. The race director provides any other necessary information each morning before the day’s racing starts.

Entry Requirements

As you’ve already guessed, the Everest Trail Race isn’t for everyone. It takes an extraordinary level of physical fitness, an intense amount of willpower and a heaping spoonful of insanity.

The race is open to anyone, male or female, who is over the age of 18 and meets the medical requirements. All participants must submit general medical records and the results of an at-rest electrocardiogram. A stress test is also highly recommended by the ETR Organisation.

Competitors may enter as either individuals or teams. Teams consist of three or more members of any gender. To remain in the race, at least two members of a team must complete the full course. Entrants pay an additional registration fee to be part of a team.

Entry costs vary each year. In addition to the entry fee, a participant’s payment includes:

  • Domestic and international flights
  • All local transportation
  • Accomodations
  • All meals before and after the event, as well as food during the race
  • Medical assistance at campsites and along the race course
  • Individual rankings, plus team rankings for registered teams
  • A medal and t-shirt for those that complete the course

After the initial registration fee of £500, payment in full is required by the 1st of September leading up to the event. The total cost of entry for 2014 was £2,800.

Equipment And Camping

No marathon is easy, but any marathon run under the watchful eye of Everest is its own animal entirely. This isn’t a cushy urban race, where you’re cheered on by spectators with funny signs, end with a pint a local dive and pass out afterwards in the comfort of your own bed.

Competitors in the Everest Trail Race haul all their gear on their backs and spend the night in campsites. The race organisation requires each runner to carry a pack containing a selection of mandatory supplies, including a sleeping bag, head torch, compass, lighter, watch, whistle and basic first aid materials. Failure to carry any of the mandatory materials incurs a penalty or disqualification.

Nights are spent in two-person tents erected at preselected sites. Runners can request their tent mate during registration, otherwise they will be pared based on gender and nationality. In addition to the sleeping tents, each camp consists of toilet tents, a dining tent, a medical services tent, a head camp tent and an organisation area.

Though the laughter is weary, and the evenings’ aches and pains are loud, some of the ETR’s most memorable moments are found in these makeshift villages.

Race Day

After six months of preparation, the big day finally arrives. Each of the six stages begins as a group. Participants check in with the start-line controllers, receive a few energy bars for the road, then take off on the route outlined in the road book. Water is distributed at designated locations throughout the day.

Each stage must be completed within a maximum time allotment, determined according to the path’s difficulty. Runners who do not pass the checkpoints or the end line before the limit time can continue the race, but will not score for the general final ranking.

The Everest Trail Race tests everything. Your muscles. Your mental fortitude. Your self-sufficiency. Your fearlessness. And yes, your friends will think you’re crazy for entering.

But while they consider attending a pilates class with a girlfriend to be a risky athletic exploit, you will have joined the world’s most elite athletes on an adventure like no other. Lifetime of bragging rights, guaranteed.

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