…15 participants including 5 Bhutanese to compete

YK Poudel

Bhutan’s fragile ecosystem makes it highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change  calamities such as landslides, unpredictable weather changes and a rapidly changing ecosystem.

To advocate this globally, Bhutan will host the second edition of the Snowman Race (SMR) between October 24 and 28 this year. It starts on the second day of the Royal Highland Festival in Laya and ends in Chamkhar town in Bumthang.

The SMR will be hosted by the Snowman Race Secretariat (SMRS)—highlighting the real effects of global warming, particularly on the planet’s most threatened ecosystems, such as in the high Himalayas.

The SMRS and the relevant agencies convened its technical meeting on May 6—the consultation meeting was to ensure a well-coordinated and informed programme.

Covering a distance of over 200 Kilometres at an elevation of 5,470 metres above sea level, 10 international and 5 national athletes are competing.

The race draws inspiration from the prescient wisdom of His Majesty The King on conservation of natural and cultural heritage. It aspires to bring the world’s attention to climate change, one of the defining issues of the era, and its impacts, particularly on the lives of people living in fragile mountain ecosystems.

As per the recent discussion , international athletes will individually fund their travel to Bhutan, except for a few revered runners who may receive support. The Secretariat will provide SDF waivers, visas, and logistic support within Bhutan.

Key agencies involved have shown their interest and support towards the programme—the safety of athletes was the top priority during the discussion and facilities such as a first aid team, emergency helicopter services, night camps, and GPS facility; which are crucial, were discussed.

The Secretariat expressed the race as a pivotal move to advocate Climate Action in which Bhutan champions.

As per the Secretariat each agency is to develop its own specific standard operating procedures (SOP) for Snowman Race 2024, seeking guidance from past focal persons within their agency. “A focal person shall coordinate the work within the agency and plan accordingly.”

The Race is considered to be one of the toughest races in the world and this has been attested to by the international athletes that participated in the first edition.

The athletes who took part in the first edition of the race noted that the race course provides snapshots of the effects of climate change, which are starkly felt in Bhutan as evident in the receding glaciers, ecosystem disruption and socio-economic impact on people including the remotest places of the country.