Running Nepal's 3 Passes Trail Takes You Off The Beaten Mule Path
Trail Runner|July/August 2019

Running Nepal’s 3 Passes Trail takes you off the beaten mule path.

Kim Strom

I pull myself upright after retching.

“Are you German-monking,” Dan calls from 20 yards ahead in an annoyingly chipper tone.

Some years ago, there was a popular TED talk by Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. Google it. He teaches that happiness comes from gratefulness, and gratefulness comes from recognizing that the most valuable thing that can be given to you is this moment. This one. At this moment, what we have that is so valuable is the opportunity to enjoy, or at least the opportunity to learn from, a challenge. Dan and I have latched onto this mantra, and for years, have miss-called it “German-monking” (Brother David is actually Austrian). And as much as I am trying to do the enlightened thing, my let-me-just-wallow-in-my-pain, leave-me-to rot-on-the-trailside look I shoot back at him reveals that maybe, just for a moment, I’m not German-monking. I just want to stop. Just like on the ground and call it done.

By this time, we can’t have more than five miles to go. We’re over all three passes and nearing Namche, the end of our route. We should have cruised into the finish hours ago, but I have to stop and puke again.

Running the 3 Passes Trail is what drew Dan Patitucci and me to the Khumbu. For Dan, a hardened outdoor-sports photographer, of Interlaken, Switzerland, it’s his eighth time to Nepal’s Himalaya. For me, an avid trail runner, but comparatively a puppy when it comes to big mountains, it’s my first. He often comes up with these schemes, projects, objectives, things to teach me, and I’m typically game to go along with the experience. That’s how the relationship works, and how we ended up running in Nepal.

Nepal is famously home to some of the world’s best trails. Icons like the Everest Base Camp trek and Annapurna Circuits have become crowded highways of backpacks and donkey piss. Wanting a quieter route to run, we decided on a route Dan’s had in mind for a while, the Khumbu’s 3 Passes Renjo La, Cho La, and Kongma La. The 38-mile route crosses the main traffic thoroughfares, but avoids the yak-trampled tracks and busiest villages, passing above 17,000 feet three times for spectacular views of the high peaks: Everest, Cholatse, Lhotse, Nuptse, and Ama Dablam. But first, we have to get there. After a couple of cramped flights, stopovers in Kathmandu and Namche, some extra days of running, a week-long acclimatization trek to the run start and a few more days running and resting, our goal is to run the route back to Namche in a day.

Leaving the chaos of Kathmandu and its hiker dudes with hacky sacks, hippy bars and red-robed monks with MacBooks at coffee shops, we squeeze into a helicopter. Along with two hikers, their guide, sacks of apples and a Sony flat screen television, we are tight cargo. When the propeller won’t turn, two men saunter over with ladders, lube and duct tape. They tighten some of this and tap on some of those, tinkering the way one might if the toaster isn’t working.

“Let’s try again,” the pilot proposes, this time wearing his stripes instead of a hoodie to instill confidence in his passengers.

“Try?” Dan asks. The blades spin this time, and we lift up slowly, hovering just above the trees and just below the clouds that grounded all airplane flights for the day.

Landing in Lukla, we snatch our bags and dodge through the blur of airport spectators, cows, yaks, and uneven stone steps. It’s all a jumble. I’m only watching my feet. People and animals, moving, carrying, even the air doesn’t sit still. The wind lifts the dust from the trails.

We pass through the archway that marks the entry to Sagarmatha National Park and begin our two-day walk to Namche (3,440 meters / 11,290 feet). Dan curses the reeking puddles of donkey piss every other step. Countless Himalayan expeditions have started the same way, possibly with some of the same cursing, and we follow in their footprints.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM TRAIL RUNNERView All

Lose Weight with a Shake

Being a health and nutrition correspondent means that companies frequently send me their products, and ask for my stamp of approval.

3 mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

trail runners we've lost

Reflecting on athletes, community builders and sources of inspiration who left us in the last 12 months.

10+ mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

THE DIRT DIVA

A vibrant and vivacious personality, Catra Corbett is a confident and omnipresent competitor. And she’s running for her life.

10 mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

THE DESTINATION IS THE JOURNEY

Mark Macy is battling Alzheimer’s the same way he’s tackled every grueling endurance challenge in life— by participating fully and vigorously.

10+ mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

Grounded by Legacy

MEET DINÉE DORAME, THE ONE-WOMAN HOST, CREATOR AND PRODUCER OF THE GROUNDED PODCAST, ON THE INTERSECTION OF RUNNING, CULTURE, LAND AND COMMUNITY.

4 mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

Last Runner Standing

HEED THREE MAIN INPUTS FOR EVENTS BEYOND FIVE HOURS.

4 mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

Unplanned Excursions to the Ground

LESSONS IN AVOIDING THOSE PESKY FACE PLANTS

3 mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

WEARABLES

The best watches for trail runners.

6 mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

When my passion nearly killed me

In August of 2017, ranked number one in the world Skyrunning circuit, I signed up for one of the hardest ultrarunning races in the world: the Tromsø Skyrace in Norway.

10+ mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021

Fueling for Females

Here’s how female runners can use recent research findings for performance breakthroughs

4 mins read
Trail Runner
Summer 2021
RELATED STORIES

READY FOR THE WILDS

THE SLYSTEEL SURVIVAL KUKRI IS MORE THAN JUST A BIG KNIFE

7 mins read
Knives Illustrated
December 2020

GLOBAL MISSIONS MINISTERIES: HARVEST PARTNERS AGRICULTURAL PROJECTS

Early this year, we received a call from a Harvest Partner church in Tucson wishing to assist in some short-term way to bless pastors of local churches in the nations that were not receiving regular support.

3 mins read
White Wing Messenger
August 2020

Searching for Secrets In High- Altitude DNA

Variant Bio is hunting for rare genes that its researchers hope to turn into drugs and therapies, including some Covid-relevant ones

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
June 08, 2020

Harvest Partners Projects

Our global Church family faces many challenges in their daily ministry to share the Gospel to their surrounding communities.

2 mins read
White Wing Messenger
March 2020

Into The Mountains

With its endearing culture, fascinating architecture and scenic nature, Kathmandu is a constant surprise

5 mins read
Business Traveler
November 2019

Harvest Partners Spotlight: Gopal Lama, Nepal

The Himalayan mountain range is made up of at least 52 mountains that stretch over 1,400 miles across six countries.

2 mins read
White Wing Messenger
October 2019

Montañas

Seamos alpinistas o simples admiradores, las cumbres elevan nuestro espíritu.

6 mins read
National Geographic Traveler en Español
Septiembre 2019

Corazón Himalayo

Cimas majestuosas –que incluyen el Everest– atraen a la mayoría de los visitantes a Nepal, pero una cultura rica prospera a la sombra de estas montañas.

10+ mins read
National Geographic Traveler en Español
Abril 2019

What People Really Need After a Natural Disaster

Emergency earthquake relief is vital but short-lived. The Dzi Foundation brings Nepails aid that lasts.

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 07 - 13, 2015

नेपाल मे बाबा रामदेव को झटका

पड़ोसी देश नेपाल में बाबा रामदेव को बड़ा झटका लगा है। वहां सरकार के द्वारा कोरोनिल किट के उपयोग पर प्रतिबंध लगा दिया गया है।

1 min read
Rising Indore
16 June 2021