Raid de Himalaya: Where has the snow gone?

Leh, Oct 11 (IANS) Raid de Himalaya has become synonymous with motorists going up against the intimidating snowclad mountains in the region. However, in a surprising turn of events this year, the sun has shone brighter and stronger than ever, leading to a mishap free rally.

After starting in Shimla Sunday, the Maruti Suzuki Raid de Himalaya moved to the icy desert of Leh Thursday and here also it was greeted with sunny weather.

To the surprise of the organisers and participants, the sun refused to relent even in Kaza, a place notorious for its cold weather and heavy snow.

"I am in shock that the weather is like this. Last year it was snowing heavily here. Even the locals don't understand this weather," a Maruti Suzuki official told IANS.

"This year there hasn't been snow anywhere and the rallyists have had it a little easy than the previous editions. Yes, without snow it is obviously less dangerous and the participants can really attack the mountains," the official added.

As the rally moved into Jammu and Kashmir, there was talk of finally seeing some snow. However, even at Pang, situated at 4,600 metres above sea level, the sun shone bright.

Rally officials confidently said the temperatures would reach -15 degrees Celsius, and, yet again they got it wrong.

At Pang, Kumsun Sang (43), a shop owner, said that this is the warmest weather she has seen here. Every year, she moves to Pang from Leh for five months.

"I have been coming here for the last 15 years and I have not seen Pang so warm. There has been no snow here and by this time, generally, there is a lot of snow. I was waiting for the Raid to pass and then shut shop and return to Leh but now looking at this weather I am hoping some more tourists pass by in the next two days," Sang told IANS.

Usually, the army removes all the bridges by Oct 15, making travel in the region next to impossible but now it might delay the removal looking at the weather.

Some have blamed global warming for this freak weather while some have thanked god for the clear conditions.

Rally leader, Suresh Rana, too was left a little bemused with the weather.

"There has been snow in every rally I have participated but this is a bit surprising. But all this doesn't make any difference to me, I still have to drive in one of the harshest terrain in the world. Snow or no snow, I have to be at my best," Rana said.


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