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Snowman Race Bhutan 2022

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

The Kingdom of Bhutan

The Bhutanese ideal of gross national happiness leads immediately to concern for climate change. Here we were ever so lucky to be given insights from a great new friend. This is Tashi, who took part in the international snowman trail race in September, organised by the King to add a new voice to the demands for action on climate risk.

The snowman trail is one of the toughest treks in the high mountains of the Himalayas in Bhutan, typically taking more than 20 days at a walking pace. Tashi and her fellow Bhutanese athletes ran it alongside international champions. Most of the foreigners fell by the wayside; the Bhutanese won and Tashi was one of the first women to complete.

Here is a little teaser from my interview with Tashi about her Snowman Race experience in September 2022.

As the name suggests, the snowman trail typically ran through snow. There is none left.

Snow?, photo by Lukas Kroulik.

But aren't these the Bhutan Himalayas capped with snow, which extends down valleys in long glacier tongues? No, this is a plastic mountain hand collected by the Bhutanese female runners on their daily training route.

Tashi adores the beautiful, unspoiled environment of Bhutan and she awakened in us a love of the surroundings.

Trees, lichen, leaves and flowers, photos by Lukas Kroulik.

She encouraged us to stay close to nature – here is my partner enjoying a traditional hot stone bath in a mountain meadow. Stones are heated until they are red-hot in the ashes of a fire and then plunged into the bath water. Please do not try this one at home!

We were struck by the harmony in which Bhutanese people live. But it could also be seen as conformity. Men and women are required to wear a set form of national dress, with that rule recently relaxed for leisure time.

It struck us as a very controlled society. The fortresses through which the country was and remains directed are places of power and spirituality combined: there are monasteries within them.

Fortresses (dzongs), photo by Lukas Kroulik.

We learnt that in the 1990s and early 2000’s many immigrants from Nepal and Assam who did not integrate with Bhutanese culture were expelled and are still refugees.

Does national happiness depend on everyone being the same? And does it require tough leadership?

Police officer controlling the traffic, photo by Lukas Kroulik.

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