Long-Distance Hiking Roundup

Around the world, several significant long-distance hikes are in progress. One man is retracing the pathways of ancient human migration. Another put in over 17,000km around coastal Britain. Meanwhile, some women are out to prove that age is merely a number. Many trekkers have struggled with both COVID restrictions and politics.

Rosie Swale Pope: UK to Nepal

In 2018, Rosie Pope began running from the UK to Kathmandu, Nepal. The 73-year-old made it through 18 countries before running into the COVID lockdown in Turkey. After months in Turkey, she decided to come home but was still determined to complete her 8,500km run. To keep up her fitness, she ran the length of Britain from Lands End to John O’Groats, pulling a cart behind her.

As the pandemic dragged on, she had little hope of making it back to Turkey in a timely fashion Instead, she decided to restart her challenge from the beginning. This time, she ran from the UK to Norway, with a short ferry ride across the North Sea. Then she planned to run east toward Siberia and on to Nepal.

She restarted in June 2021, and by August she had made it to Norway. From there, she began making her way toward Russia. Once again, her plans were thwarted. In December 2021, she had to return to the UK and apply for a new visa. Her new visa would allow her back into Norway on February 19, but then the plan changed again.

Photo: Facebook/@RosieSwalePope

 

While at home in the UK, Pope was diagnosed with Lyme disease. For weeks, she received daily antibiotic treatments to get the condition under control. It stemmed from a tick bite and had spread to her nervous system. After months of recovery, she has decided to continue with her challenge, but in a modified way. With her new diagnosis keeping her closer to home, she is going to complete the distance by continually running the length of the UK until she hits 8,500km. She is currently in Scotland and making her way to the northern point of Britain.

Paul Salopek: Out of Eden

Since 2013, Paul Salopek has been walking the original migration route of humans from Africa to the tip of South America. He is taking part in the ultimate slow journalism story. He estimates that the 34,000km journey will take him 15 years.

Photo: @OutofEdenWalk

 

After nine years of walking, Salopek has reached China. It will take him about 18 months to traverse the country. As with all long-distance hikes, Salopek’s journey stalled because of the pandemic. In 2020 he was on hold for a year in Myanmar. He was able to complete short excursions in Myanmar but could not progress with his project.

Eventually, restrictions were lifted, but problems arose when it came to crossing borders on foot. For the first time since starting his walk, he had to fly because it was unsafe to continue on foot. He also struggled with leaving his friends so soon after a military coup.

“It is a terrible thing to abandon your friends in such situations,” he wrote. “You can walk away from a lot of things in life. Grief and shame aren’t among them.”

 

Once in China, he had to isolate in Shanghai before he was able to continue. “I stand hesitating under the white sun of Yusan,” he wrote on his blog. “I have not walked in 20 months.”

His route through China will be a long one and will cover 5,800km through 10 provinces. So far, he has walked across Yunnan province and has spent the last two months trekking through the high-altitude Hengduan Mountains of Sichuan. Since he began walking in China he has been trying to follow the Tea Horse Road, a subsidiary of the famous Silk Road.

Eventually, he will cross into southern Siberia. Who knows how difficult that will be for him with the current political situation?

Fit@50+: Women’s Trans-Himalayan Expedition

In March, 12 women — all over 50 years old — began a five-month trek across the Himalaya. Sixty-eight-year-old Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to summit Mount Everest, is leading them. All the women have previous mountaineering experience.

Crossing the Himalaya from east to west, they will crest 37 mountain passes. They began in Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India and have made it through the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal, and Sikkim. The 650km journey across the four states took just over five weeks.

Photo: @wthe.2022

 

Along the way, several other women have joined them for sections of the walk. Among them was Premlata Agrawal, the first Indian woman to complete the Seven Summits. Together they walked to Sandakphu, on the border between India and Nepal. From here, they could see Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga, and Lhotse.

At first, they stayed mostly in lodges, but as they ventured deeper into the Himalaya, that has become more difficult. They are camping regularly now.

Photo: @wthe.2022

 

The women are now making their way along the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal. They are currently at the Thorang La Pass, one of the biggest challenges on the Annapurna Circuit. At 5,416m, it is one of the highest mountain passes in the world.

Chris Howard, the coast walker

In March, Chris Howard completed a 17,700km walk around the coastline of mainland Britain. He came up with the idea in July 2020. Three weeks later, he set off. He began in Norfolk and walked clockwise around the island. Twenty months later, he arrived at his endpoint in Cambridge.

When he started walking, he was uncertain whether he could do it. His plan was to cover the distance of a marathon each day. COVID restrictions meant that before leaving, he had only been able to leave the house to train for an hour a day. He was amazed by how quickly his body adapted to his new routine.

Photo: @Chris Howard

 

Howard admitted that he had not planned a specific route. His only plan was to continue walking and stick as close to the coast as possible. The changing lockdown conditions made it hard to plan in advance. At one point, he ended up in lockdown for four-and-a-half months in Wales.

This forced him to talk through the Scottish Highlands in winter, something he had hoped to avoid. Still, he later told UK Hill Walking, “I learned to love the Scottish winter because it’s a proper winter.” It meant, at least, that he avoided rural Scotland’s midges.

Howard is now planning his next adventure, the GB Row Challenge, a 3,200km race around mainland Britain. All crews start at Tower Bridge, London and row clockwise until they return to the start line.

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.

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