We caught up with Richard Ball, founder of Trail Running Nepal, to talk about adventure, mountains and, of course, his thoughts on wearing Merino for the very first time during a 200+km race through the Himalayas.
A: I came here to climb a mountain in a remote area of Dolpa in 1999. Seems long ago - the date from another century feels like something written in a history book, and back then we navigated on a partially completed hand-made map with large blank sections. Many aspects of Nepal have changed radically since then, but much is the same too.
I returned in 2007 when at a career hiatus and stayed for 5 months of ‘thinking time’. It worked temporarily but I had to do more thinking at the end of 2008 and I have largely been here since. It is a fast changing place and there are lots of opportunities to do, start, be involved in things I could not possibly do back in the UK.
Trail Running Nepal came out of meeting Roger Kenke, a keen runner and director of the renowned Summit Hotel in Kathmandu. He was trying to turn the Annapurna 100, a 100km race which ran mainly on roads from Pokhara to Poon hill and back, into a respectable trail race. We did a lot of running together and we tried to collect that information on a website to share it with others.
A: I help organize the Manaslu Mountain Trail Race and Mustang Trail Race, both long multi-stage races in the mountains of Nepal.
I also work with some local friends in Kathmandu to develop some single day races (from 10km to 80km) to try and help develop the trail running scene. It’s working slowly.
It’s a difficult question, or a simple question with a complicated answer. The weather’s pretty good for a start. Essentially I like interacting in a culture that is very different to my own, with often very different values.
A: Great. To be honest it was the first time I’d worn Merino and I wore it factory fresh for, I think, 12 days straight, just to see if it was true what you say about it not smelling. I was won over basically and didn’t consider changing it the whole time. It was just very easy to wear, very comfortable, no smell to draw your attention, good in cool evenings and under hot sun. I go to the Manaslu Race in November and again would happily wear it for the 12 days from Kathmandu to Kathmandu. I do know how to change my clothes, my Mum brought me up properly of course. It’s just a really good way to travel uber light and simple.
A: I’ve worn other base layers in some pretty expensive hi-tech fabrics, some of which are immensely comfortable. But for one reason or another, I always feel aware that I am wearing it. The ioMerino was great as it was just wear and forget, and for those like me who go into the mountains for a long time, no armpit whiff to remind you.
A: I am not someone who likes to talk too much about ‘stuff’. I don’t really upgrade. If I find something that works for me then I keep it until it falls apart then try to get the same again. I like simple in preference to hi-tech. For instance in the monsoon rain here I wear a $4 poncho rather than a several hundred dollar hi-tech jacket.
A: For the moment I want to spend time getting more people running here in Kathmandu, organizing more small events for people to partake in. Also a few people here are working on a project to get girls running, from the confidence boosting side for those new to running, to enabling talented runners to flourish. Early days yet but this is sounding like it’s also going to be a pretty cool adventure.
Next year I hope to do a high traverse across around eight 5000m passes through Dolpa on the Great Himalaya Trail.
You can find out more about Richard’s events and the Girls Running Fund at;
Like a lot of people, Stevi-Lee wasn’t convinced our clothes were good value. So naturally we figured she would be the perfect person to reviewer them. If we could convert her, perhaps other customers would believe her rather than the usual claims all companies make about how good their products are. Did we change this ioMerino sceptic into a believer?