Running Through Ancient Mustang
Planned for the 12th to 24th of April 2014, the eight-stage Mustang Trail Race takes competitors through some spectacular and unique terrain in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal. Runners will cover around 190km at altitudes varying between 2,900 and 4,300 meters, along an ancient trade route between Nepal and Tibet, with Dhaulagiri and Annapurna as a backdrop. Cut off from the outside world for centuries, and only opened to tourism in 1992, this region has retained its ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture and traditions. Runners will come across stark cliffs, caves, monasteries, villages, settlements and cultivated fields.
Arriving in Kathmandu on April 12th, competitors will fly to Pokhara the following day and from Pokhara to Jomsom on Monday. From Jomsom, runners will hike to Kagbeni in preparation for Stage 1 on Tuesday which covers ground from Kagbeni to Tsaile. Villages along the way include Tangbe, Tetang and Chuksang before tackling a short, but steep, climb to Tsaile (also known as Chele). Competitors will overnight at three tea-houses in the village of Tsaile. Stage 2 travels from Tsaile at 3070m to Ghemi at 3500m, with Nyi La being the highest altitude point of the day at 4010m. This stage of the race runs along a Pilgrim’s Route and includes the intriguing Chungsi Monastery Cave, where it is tradition to throw stick a silk scarf on the ceiling of the cave.
Setting off from Ghemi on 17th April, runners will come across Nepal’s longest prayer wall before making their way through a natural craggy labyrinth and down to Tsarang’s cultivated fields. From there it is uphill to Ghar Gompa, an 8th century monastery, and on to the walled city of Lo Manthang to spend the night and the following day as a rest period. Lo Manthang has superbly restored Buddhist artworks in its three monasteries which visitors can view. In the afternoon, visitors can meet and greet the King of Mustang in his palace. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Mustang’s ancient culture.
The route for Stage 4 is a loop from Lo Manthang to Konchok Ling (4100m), Nyiphu, Garphu, Nyamdo, Tinggar, Namgyal and back to Lo Manthang. The route crosses rivers, passes through villages and includes caves with paintings in the Tibetan Buddhist style. Stage 5 from Lo Manthang to Yara starts with climbing two small mountain passes before heading down a picturesque canyon to Dhi village and then on to Yara and Luri Gompa – a 13th century cave monastery. Stage 6 from Yara to Tanggye includes crossing a river and running through an area rich in ammonite fossils. Stage 7 travels from Tanggye to Chuksang, with the trail running along an exposed ridge top offering breathtaking views of the surroundings. The final stage of the Mustang Trail Race takes runners through the wood and mud village of Tangbe before descending rapidly to the end of the trail at Muktinath. Runners can take the option of running back to Jomsom, which will take around 2 to 3 hours, or to travel by taxi. The Mustang Trail Race website notes that so far, up to 90% of runners have chosen the taxi option. No doubt, a well-deserved opportunity to relax after completing one of the world’s more challenging trail races.