Thinley Namgay

Karma Yangden, 30,  from Laya, Gasa was recently  busy going around the riverside clothing shops opposite to the Centenary Farmers Market in Thimphu. 

She was getting ready to go back to Laya with the gift of winter clothes for her three children and parents.   

Laya is located at an elevation of 3,840 metres  (2,631feet) above sea level; two days’ journey from Gasa.   

For Karma, getting time to visit the capital is rare as she has to look after 30 yaks in her native home. She has 16 milking yaks and has to churn the milk daily. 

It’s been almost two months since Karma left her village to participate in the first ever  Snowman Race with 28 participants from 11 countries. 

She ran courageously and stood first among the women participants  by completing the five-day run from Gasa to Bumthang in 48 hours. It was her first visit to Bumthang. 

Unlike other participants, she had limited experience and training.  Her achievement in this international race was because of her raw talent and determination. 

Karma Yangden underwent training for more than two months in Thimphu. Busy with household chores, she didn’t practice while in the village.   

Karma Yangden said: “I didn’t expect to win. I just hoped to complete the race. I was able to participate in this race because of the support of my family and the Snowman Race secretariat. For a village girl like us, such an opportunity is rare.”  

She said that she was honoured to bag the first position and was glad to receive an audience with His Majesty The King and Prime Minister in Thimphu. “I will be grateful for the rest of my life. It’s a big moment for me and my family.”

Although Karma lives in the mountains, she has never been on a snowman race trail before.  

She said the journey of the Snowman Race was amazing. 

However what she witnessed along the way worried her.  

Karma saw plastics along the trails, scars  of landslides and depleting vegetation. “In the past, mountains used to be covered with thick snow.”   

She said climate change is happening in the highland communities and it is a global issue which requires everyone’s effort to address. 

 In this regard, she said, “our personal behaviour must change first before talking about combating climate change.”

 “One should take care of the waste and not cut down the trees.” she added. 

Karma said Laya does not get timely snowfall anymore. “In winter, we used to come down to Punakha due to the cold, but not anymore now.”   

Landslides are frequent, she said.  “We lost some people to mishaps last year. Now, water is everywhere due to melting glaciers,” she said.

According to Karma Yangden, cordyceps, which is the primary source of income for highlanders, is decreasing every year. “It could be due to global warming.”