Going high in the Himalayas at La Ultra

Going high in the Himalayas at La Ultra

Passing through three of the highest passes in the world (Khardung La, Wari La and Taglang La), La Ultra takes steel-nerved athletes through unforgiving and harsh conditions in the high Himalayas at an average altitude of 15,000 ft with hardly a breath to catch.

La Ultra – The High, now in its sixth year, is arguably one of the toughest ultras in the world. It takes place in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir in the Himalayas. An invitation only race, the world’s best runners look forward for this race in the dry and cold region of Ladakh. It was the brainchild of Dr. Rajat Chauhan who started this race in 2010 who has a passion of ultra running and a desire to put India on ultra-marathons map in the world. Scheduled for August 16, 2015, this year’s race will see 16 shortlisted iron-willed participants from 09 countries who will test their stamina in three categories as they gear up to beat the inhumane terrain of Ladakh valley where temperature vary from 35-40 degree Celsius in the morning and drop as low as -10 degrees in the night.


The three categories are 111 kms, 222 kms and 333 kms with time limit being 24 hrs, 48 hrs and 72 hrs. Athletes may run, relax, grab a nap, attend nature’s call, etc at their own convenience but the clock keeps ticking. This merciless marathon pulls in athletes over and over again but no runner has bagged the podium twice in any category so far in the last five editions of La Ultra.

In 2014 edition, out of 18 runners in three categories chosen from the best of the lot, only one runner, Kim Rasmussen from Denmark in 333 kms category could finish the race within stipulated time limit. Now this should give an idea of the severity of the race that athletes deal with. Mark Woolley from UK/Spain fell 16 kms short of finish line in 333 kms category last year and could not finish the race. He has again been shortlisted to try his luck, or legs in 2015.


Numerous runners register with the desire to participate in this race but a strict qualification criteria filters only few for the final list of the confirmed participants. The Outdoor Journal caught up with one of the participants who would be running in 111 kms category this year, Sukrit Gupta, 27-yr old, from Dehradun, India and his blogpost on the preparations for the ultra can be read here.

Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and steep gorges and running at an altitude varying from 11,000 ft to 17,700 ft where oxygen level is 40% of sea-level, direct sunlight during the day and numbing cold in the night, athletes have to cope with gazillions of other stark conditions in this marathon like high altitude sickness.

This year’s race will flag off from Diskit Village in Nubra Valley, 63 kms North of Khardung La and will end at Spituk for 111 kms category, after 1 km from Serthi village for 222 kms category and in picturesque Morey Plains for 333 kms after crossing Taglang La (17,582 ft). “Failing is not a crime; Lack of effort is” is the motivational slogan of La Ultra – The High.


Images © La Ultra