The Everest Mailrun is the cross-country route linking Everest Base Camp in Nepal to the capital Kathmandu - a distance of 320 kilometres (about 200 miles).
In the earliest days of surveying and climbing attempts at Everest, and well before an airport was built at Lukla in 1964, Sherpas used to carry letters bearing news of how expeditions were going to Jiri (roughly halfway). From there, they were sent to Kathmandu and the wider world. Naturally, the route became known as the Everest Mailrun.
The overall route of the Mailrun is known for its extreme physical challenge due to its combination of high altitude and considerable variations in gradient. Everest Base Camp sits at an altitude of 5,360 metres, where the thin air contains only about 50% of the oxygen compared to sea level. The route drops down to Kathmandu at 1,400 metres, but it includes more than 10,000 metres of punishing climbing and 14,000 metres of descent over the whole journey.
Few people have attempted the whole route in one go. The fastest known time for the overland journey set by a Nepali was recorded by Kumar Limbu in 2000 at 79 hours and 10 mins. English ultra-runner Lizzy Hawker then set a new record in 2007 at 74 hours and 36 minutes, before reducing that time again in 2011, to 71 hours and 25 minutes. Her last attempt, backed by North Face, was in 2013 and Lizzy slashed the record for the fastest known time over the Everest Mailrun down to 63 hours and eight minutes*.
The Everest Mailrun is an epic journey full of extreme demands, from the roof of the world down to hustle of Kathmandu. Two worlds apart, once tied by the Mailrun.
On May 30, 1953, a runner left Base Camp and covered the upper 40 kilometres of the Mailrun down to Namche Bazaar. He carried a coded message that was then transmitted to Katmandu and then on to London, revealing to the world that Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary had become the first to reach the summit of Everest. That event was probably the last major news item to be delivered to the world by a runner.
The overall ascent across the Mailrun is the equivalent of climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris more than 30 times, while the distance is about the same as London to Brussels, or New York to Washington DC.