Bhutan’s Snowman Race Empowers Trail Runners To Be Climate Action Leaders

The Kingdom of Bhutan is launching one of the world’s toughest high altitude ultramarathons, the Snowman Race which will take place along the historic Snowman trekking route in the Eastern Himalayas on October 13, 2022. This 138 mile (222 kilometer) point-to-point route through remote Himalayan wilderness sits at an average elevation of 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) and has been completed by fewer individuals than Mount Everest. The event was postponed for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic and there has been much anticipation for this inaugural competition in 2022.

In addition to providing participants with a beautiful and challenging race environment, the Snowman Race is designed with the specific purpose of bringing attention to impacts of climate change on the Kingdom of Bhutan. His Majesty the King of Bhutan said about the impacts of climate change, “Glaciers are melting, polar ice caps are thinning and coral reefs are dying. Climate Change threatens the well being of all mankind.”

Photo: Snowman Race.

Snowman Race participants will experience directly the impacts of climate change on the receding glaciers and melting snow in Bhutan’s fragile high altitude ecosystems. Bhutan is only one of three “carbon negative” countries in the world, yet it is still in immediate danger because of unsustainable environmental practices around the world contributing to climate change. The Bhutan Climate Action Summit will be held in conjunction with the race to encourage positive transformative action across the kingdom.

The athletes competing in the inaugural Snowman Race will be running not just for themselves, but with the mission of raising awareness about climate change in their communities across the world. Athletes were selected by the race committee of His Majesty the King of Bhutan for their exceptional trail running talents and voices in their communities as climate action leaders.

Photo: Snowman Race.

Twenty-two athletes were selected from eleven different countries (including eight Americans), as well as seven local Bhutanese runners. Race committee member and ATRA advisory board member Luis Escobar said about the mission of this event, “The primary goal is for these athletes to experience the mountains, witness what’s happening and come out of those mountains a messenger. Bhutan could have chosen a team of scientists for this project but they specifically chose distance runners. I find that extremely exciting, humbling and quite an honor.”

Athletes will be tracked live during the event with the use of Spot tracking devices. The event has also partnered with Capture, an app designed to track CO2 emissions from participants and organizers associated with travel to the event. The calculated emissions will then be offset with the aid of race partner organizations through carbon offset programs.

Photo: Snowman Race.

Comments from athletes competing in the inaugural Snowman Race:

“This will be the most difficult race in my life, it is a lethal combination of mileage and elevation! But none as deadly as the effects of climate change on small countries like Bhutan or Singapore where I come from. I hope the Snowman Race will help raise awareness internationally for the sake of our future generations.”Kashin Leow (Singapore)

“I am starting to realize how big this adventure will be, and feel empowered by my mission to spread my thoughts on climate change and how to deal with it. There are no stupid ideas, even small initiatives matter. I do not pretend to know the solution to climate change but I’m really happy now to act as a messenger sharing my small ideas on how we can all behave in a more responsible manner. Everybody’s actions count and even more at the level of governments and leaders of international companies.”Yoann Gilbart (France)

“The event came to my attention about two years ago. I knew immediately that it was something I wanted to be involved in so I contacted the Snowman Race organization and two years later I’m about to board a plane for Asia. I am humbled and feel privileged to represent the world’s trail running community at this inaugural event and have/and will continue to spread the word about Bhutan’s efforts to combat global warming. I expect the Bhutanese runners to take up all podium positions, followed closely by the “FKT-ers” and the Leadville Trail 100 Champ, then it’s anybody’s guess where the rest of us adventure junkies will end up finishing. I’m just hoping that all runners stay safe, healthy and make it to the finish line regardless of the sequence.”Holly Zimmermann (Germany)

Photo: Snowman Race.

“​​I love geography—both the cultural and physical aspects of it—and I am looking forward to experiencing fascinating new cultures and getting to know wildly massive mountains. Having the opportunity to challenge myself in such a unique and positive event feels like a once in a lifetime chance and I am so grateful for it.”Gabe Joyes (United States)

“My race came about as I was originally part of the race production team working with Luis Escobar to plan the race but later I made the case that in addition to Elite Runners, a spot for the representation of the Middle-of-the-Pack (e.g. Common Person) runner should be allotted. I was selected in that spirit. My goals are to finish the race and also demonstrate that in regards to making a difference with the Global Climate Crisis, it’s not just the Elites of the World (e.g. Countries, Corporations, Wealthy/Famous Individuals) that can make a difference but also the individual contributions and decisions of the billions of everyday people of the world matter and can make an even more significant impact.”Gabe Garcia (United States)

Want to take a closer look at the course? Watch Chris Clemens Survey Trek of the Snowman Race route from August 2022:

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