Upper Mustang in Nepal has seen a lot pass by its arid lands, from centuries of Tibetan Buddhist culture to piercing windstorms. But one thing it hasn’t seen a lot of is tourists. That is precisely, of course, the appeal of this remote, seldom visited corner of the Himalaya.
"The region has only been open to tourism since 1992, and still has an incredible air of mystery," says Hawker, who visited in 2012 as part of a team of runners racing the first trail race there. Now, the Mustang Mountain Trail Race is open to anyone with a good set of legs—and lungs. The eight-day stage race takes place in April with up to 40 runners, who trot about 124 miles of yak-worn footpaths.
Though the climbs and altitude are enough to bust the biggest of lungs, the scenery is mercifully distracting. Runners pass lush barley fields, canyons, tiny stone farming villages, and monasteries festooned with prayer flags, all while contemplating the looming ever presence of snowy Himalayan giants like Annapurna and Dhaulagiri.
"It is a beautiful, open, wild landscape, an enclave of pure Tibetan Buddhist culture," Hawker says. "A very special experience in an incredible landscape."
Plan This Trip: The Mustang Mountain Trail Race is open to all runners who wish to enter.
Here are just a few of the things Lizzy Hawker has snagged in the world of endurance running: a women’s 24-hour road running world record for distance; a speed record for running between Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu; and five wins at the North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. In her spare time, she also got her Ph.D. in polar oceanography and ticked off seven first ascents on skis in Kyrgyzstan.
- Nat Geo Expeditions