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The Last Run: A Marathon over Ladakh’s Frozen Pangong Lake to Draw Attention to Melting Himalayan Glaciers

By: Mufti Islah

News18.com

Last Updated: August 08, 2022, 17:38 IST

Srinagar, India

Youngsters of the Kargyain village in Eastern Ladakh are holding a 22-km run over the stunning salt water lake on February 20 next year. They are calling this the last run implying Pangong lake won’t freeze in the coming years because of climate change.  (Video grab)

Youngsters of the Kargyain village in Eastern Ladakh are holding a 22-km run over the stunning salt water lake on February 20 next year. They are calling this the last run implying Pangong lake won’t freeze in the coming years because of climate change. (Video grab)

The 700-square-km lake, which is situated at an altitude of 14,000 feet and spreads across the border of India and China, freezes with thick layers upto several feet from November to March, with the temperature touching -30 degrees Celsius

To draw the attention of the world to the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers, a village near the volatile Sino-India border is urging adventure lovers to be part of a marathon over the frozen Pangong lake early next year.

Called the ‘Last Run’ over the frozen lake, youngsters of the Kargyain village in Eastern Ladakh are holding a 22-km run over the stunning salt water lake on February 20 next year.

The 700-square-km lake, which is situated at an altitude of 14,000 feet and spreads across the border of India and China, freezes with thick layers upto several feet from November to March, with the temperature touching -30 degrees Celsius.

India controls one-third of the lake, while China holds the bigger two-thirds chunk.

FRAGILE ENVIRONMENT

Hundreds of glaciers in the Himalayas melt to fill up Ladakh’s main Indus river and several of its tributaries. The youth from Lokung and Kargyain want to throw light on fragile environment in the Himalayas.

“Everyone knows the Pangong lake, but not many know that the glaciers over the mountains are rapidly melting,” Chamba Tsetan, a local resident who is spearheading the campaign to save the environment in the region told News 18 from Kargyan.

Tsetan, who is part of the Indian Ice hockey team, is the brain and motivation behind the campaign. “We are calling this the last run implying Pangong lake won’t freeze in the coming years because of the global climate change. The next generation will miss the spectacle if we don’t intervene today,” he rued.

Tsetan had put out a video and graphics on the social media spaces to put governments across the world on notice about the changes around the lake.

The video set against the arid hills surrounding the frozen lake shows Tsetan and his friends running over its hard wintry surface.

“If you are really an environment enthusiast or an adventure lover, this event is for you,” he lets out an appeal.

“We are also attempting the Guinness World record for the world’s highest frozen lake marathon.”

He says initially they are looking to take 100 to 150 participants and those who are keen should register with the website of the Adventure Sports Foundation of Ladakh.

His team is trying to rope in model-actor and fitness guru Milind Soman for media traction. The Ladakh administration, army and the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council – a popular political body in the region – is supporting this initiative.

Konchok Stanzin, a member of LAHDC and councillor of Chusul (the lake falls in this area), says the February marathon can be used to boost tourism and livelihood opportunities for the locals.

Stanzin has suggested starting events such as racing, cycling and skating over the lake in the winters. “This will help in extending the Ladakh tourism calander to eight months instead of four and help people earn through homestays,” he said.

As a kid, Stanzin and his friends would start from the Lokung village and ride their cycles over the frozen lake. “It used to be fun. Over the years, a few who have an eye for adventure visit the lake, but more people should turn up in winters to help build the economy in the villages,” he says.

THE STRAIN

Relations between India and China have deteriorated ever since the People’s Liberation Army reportedly grabbed some chunks of land on the Indian side.

New Delhi has since mobilised and maintained additional troops on the border to stop the dragon and stall further misadventures.

A bloody clash in 2020 left 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops dead in the Galwan valley. The situation has pinned down the facing armies in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, even as several rounds of talks had been held by the military leadership of the two countries.

The youngsters are hoping the issue of retreating glaciers would one day bring the countries together.

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first published:August 08, 2022, 17:22 IST
last updated:August 08, 2022, 17:38 IST