Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel braved frostbite and high altitude to beat the speed record on the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) by three days.
One month ago, ultrarunners Ryan Sandes, 36, and Ryno Griesel, 38, embarked on a supported fastest known time (FKT) of the GHT in Nepal from Hilsa to Pashupatinagar. The route traverses 870 miles, including 230,000 feet of climbing, across the stunning Himalayas.
On March 26, the duo finished the GHT in 25 days, 3 hours, and 24 minutes. They bested the previous record of 28 days, 13 hours, and 56 minutes set by Andrew Porter.
The exact route of the FKT is a variation on the GHT. It combines upper and middle paths, known as the Great Himalayan Trail High and Cultural routes. They chose this route because the previous record holder took the same path.
The route was tough due to extreme weather conditions in the freezing mountain range. In spite of this, the runners said they were continuously amazed at the generosity of Nepalese citizens willing to open their homes and assist in the journey.
“This has been the biggest adventure of my life but incredibly challenging, especially mentally to just keep going day in and day out for so long,” remarked Sandes about the traverse.
“It has been humbling to meet these incredible people. I doubt anyone back home would have opened their homes to strangers as easily as the Nepalese citizens we met along the way.”
Ryan Sandes, Ryno Griesel Set FKT on GHT
According to a Red Bull release about the feat, the runners encountered sub-zero temperatures, frostbite, and starvation.
The trail winds through the northern part of the country, with views of the world’s tallest mountains. Sections of the High Route reach 20,000 feet in altitude and pass near the Kanchenjunga Base Camp, the world’s third-tallest mountain. In this region, the temperature can fluctuate dramatically.
“I had to keep taking my gloves off to read the maps and managed to get terrible frostbite on my fingers, which has been painful,” said Griesel.
“One of the villages, a spot where we had hoped to get accommodation, was completely deserted. I honestly believe that if we hadn’t come across a monk and monastery that night, we would have frozen to death.”
Great Himalaya Trail: New Speed Record
For accuracy, the pair tracked their progress live on Red Bull. Griesel and Sandes followed the 10 checkpoints set by Porter in the previous record. The runners also followed the same FKT and support guidelines.
They carried gear themselves and stayed in lodges or locals’ homes, so they didn’t need to bring sleeping equipment. For food, they carried supplies as they ran and exchanged kits occasionally throughout the journey.
And if you’re curious about the apparel they wore, read our report about the FKT when they were halfway through.
The ambitious and unorthodox trail has a new speed record thanks to Griesel and Sandes. Congratulations go out to the pair for otherworldy endurance accomplishment.