For the last several years, I have been going to Leh from Manali and after visiting so many times this place has never bored me. Every time this place has made me feel new. Even this time I had a similar feeling, so friends here is my experience of Leh from Manali.
This time again I got a chance to go with "The Hell Race's" annual event The Hell Ultra 480 km. This is an annual race in which the runner has to cover 480 km in 120 hours by foot. The race starts from Manali and ends in Leh.
My work was to do photography at this event. The first day was spent in car, we drives about 600 km in 14 hours. While the temperature in Delhi was 48 degrees, we reached the temperature of 8 degrees. This time there is a lot of change in the weather under which only 4000 meters snowfall is happening across the entire Himalayas.
On the second day, we made preparations for the vertical kilometre, this race itself is the only vertical race in entire India. 20 runners Participated in the race, I did the route marking and photography work.
On the third day all of us reached the Manali Mall Road to start the Hell Ultra 480 km, the race started at 10 pm, in which 7 runners participated. There were 7 support vehicles with two Volunteers in every car . At 7 a.m., the runner crossed the first mountain pass on the Manali-Leh highway, which is named Rohtang Pass (3950 meters). It was very difficult to reach, rain continued all the way, and when rain stopped, snowfall started. Seven runners were shivering from the cold, due to bad weather, a runner quit at Rohtang Pass.
The rays of sun rising in the morning resurrected all, now only six runners were left in the race and all were moving fast towards their respective cut-offs. Under the first time frame, all have to cover a distance of 135 km that too in just 22 hours. By observing the beauty of Lahaul Valley, all the runners reached Keylong before the cut off. Two runners took two hours break here, the other three runner went ahead.
Our car was running with lead runner. Lead runner took 2 hours rest at the Jispa. All the runner's medical check-up took place in which all was found good. Now everyone was moving towards the second mountain pass again in the light of day.
Baralacha pass (4950m) was more scary this time, there was continuous snowfall and there were about 40 feet of high walls of snow which kept the temperature at minus 10 degrees. Here Runner arrived at noon. Crossing this pass between bad weather was a great achievement for all. The next station was the Sarchu, where everyone had to reach. The second cut off was on Sarchu, under the second cut off, the runner should cover the distance of 242 km in 50 hours. By the end of the night at 11 o'clock, all the runner reached Sarchu, where they decided to take two hours nap after eating food. All of them start running at 1 a.m., not sure how one can run for 50 hours continuously, at the same height where the oxygen level is only 40-50%.
The third day begins with a strong sun rays and strong wind. Runner who left at night now reached on third mountain pass. Its name is Nakee La, whose height is 15547 ft above sea level. Most volunteers went to "whiskey nallah", where all had lunch. Runner also came here gradually and started walking back after having a hot meal, now the next challenge in front of the runners was standing. This means the fourth mountain pass of Manali-Leh Highway, which is named Lachungla. By the evening, only two runner crossed the fourth pass. The height of Lachung La is 166616 ft.
With the rest of the Volunteer I reached the next station Pang (4500m), we are going to stay here tonight but runner are not. At 2 o'clock last runner crossed the pang. The last runner decided to not move forward after reaching the More Planes. The runner of Indian origin had ankle swelling, due to which he had to quit. Everyone respected his decision.
350 kilometres have been completed, now only 130 kilometres of race is left. Only 4 out of 7 runners are progressing slowly. We were also going to cross the last pass of this highway with the runners.
The weather was very bad for the past two days, even today when runner reached nearby, snow started with a sharp storm. At 5 o'clock in the evening, 2 runners crossed the Tanglung La Pass. This altitude of this pass is 17582 feet from the sea level, this mountain pass is considered to be the world's second motor-able pass. It was 11 of the night and there was still snowfall on the pass, two runners were stranded between the 7-hour snowfall, after which both of them had crossed the pass and decided not to proceed further. The temperature was at -12 degree at night, the oxygen level was very low and two runner quit.
Seven runners had started running from Manali, after 380 kilometres, five runners had to stop. Now only 2 runners were in the race. Both were slowly moving towards the finish line. Now the race was just 50 km left and time was only 10 hours left. By now it was decided that at least 2 finishes will be there this time. The last 3 editions have only one finisher in this event.
After putting everything on hold, finally the first runner reached Shanti Stupa at 3 p.m. The runner of this Indian origin took 113 hours 36 minutes and 50 seconds to complete 480 kilometres. The second runner took 118 hours.
So, the 2019 edition was finished with 2 finishers.