Route Recce Experience of Great Himalayan Ultra – World’s Highest RAAM Qualifier

As soon as this Race was announced ultracyclists were excited by the challenge of racing in the Himalayas! Race Director Divya Tate requested one of India’s Ultracyclists, Amit Samarth to test ride the route to give a feedback that would help future participants. This also was to serve the purpose of Amit’s Training for his upcoming Trans Siberian Extreme 9000 km Race in July-Aug 2018. This is a detailed feedback from him about his route experience. He made an unfortunate decision to race The Great Himalayan 1st edition a few weeks after the Trans Siberian. What transpired is described in the Race Report – 

“I was training in super hot weather conditions of Nagpur for Trans Siberian Extreme. Along came a call from Divya Tate and opportunity to do some training and route recce for Great Himalayan Ultra in Ladakh. So there was no thinking twice, I immediately agreed.

Warning – The Great Himalayan Ultra Route is addictive, killer and every section of the route is like a dream and a picture frame etched into your mind forever.

On 5th June – We did a 70 kms ride. on Leh to Manali road. This is the most easiest section of the race. It was down hill from Leh for about 9 kms and then rolling hills and on the return it was again rolling hills back till 10 kms from Leh, where one has to climb a torturous 10 km climb upto the Leh city. There will be always more traffic as you come closer to the road. On the route we saw some amazing landscapes and monasteries, we took lot of pictures so the ride was slow. Next day we were going to ride on the main section of the race route so I was looking forward to see some amazing Ladakh landscape and of course lots of climbing. Road quality is superb on this section.

Strava Data –

On 6th June –
We started early in the morning at around 5.40 AM. The ride was from Leh to Drass around 270 kms on Leh – Srinagar road. It was very bright in the morning. You will need shades after 6 AM in Ladakh. The route will go along the airport and many Indian Army camps in and around Leh. it was just amazing to see the might and presence of Indian army. Taking pictures and videos is prohibited along all the military camps on this route so don’t try to stop and take pictures during the race. Best is to pass by as quickly as possible. On the section Leh to Khaltse (around 100 kms) there are many climbs. The road many times appears to be flat but if you look at the grade it will be around 4% to 8% with head wind. We were riding along the river Indus all the time in this section and witness to the magnanimity of the Great Himalayas. This section is all dry with no vegetation. All you see is rocks, mud and mountains.

So after reaching Khaltse starts the 30 kms climb to Fotu La Top. This is the killer climb, I was climbing all the time for 30 kms with grade ranging from 4% to 16%. The last 6 kms are even more tougher. It was mentally draining. In the race the racers will be climbing this section in full sun. At the end of the climb we reached Fotula Top which is 4100 meters above sea level, took some pictures. The beauty of Moon land is worth experiencing in this section. But can you enjoy it while climbing this monster climb is the question?

After another 20 kms, comes another massive climb of 10 kms to Namik La. After crossing Namik La, the route is mostly downhill with few climbs here and there. There is another big climb just near to Kargil and a massive 6 kms downhill climb and I was in Kargill. After riding for 220 kms, we decided to stop the ride and use the time to visit Kargil War Memorial. As you reach Kargil and Drass section, one is very near to line of control. The landscape dramatically changes around 30 kms before Kargil and i was in Kashmir. During my ride came across many motorcycle riders groups. it was great feeling to get appreciation from them during all my climbs. I was only cyclist in those mountains for two days.

The road in between Kargil to Drass is all rolling hills. You will be climbing up and down all the time to reach Drass. Drass is nice and cold and very beautiful. And we took a small moment to visit the Kargil War Memorial.

During Race – The racers will be turning back from Drass and now after climbing so much throughout the day. Turn back and climb more back to Leh.

Strava Data –


On 7th June – Started my ride from Drass. It was cold around 7 degrees in Drass. The route in between Drass to Kargil is super beautiful and green and it goes along the river Suru. After reaching Kargil, starts the most difficult section of the race. I was climbing for next 90 kms all the way from Kargil to the Fotu La Top again. There are three major climbs all the way upto Fotu La Top. After climbing back again to Fotu La we took a small break and pictures. Next 6 kms is steep down hill up to Lamayaru. The road is very rough in this section. Don’t try to push speed in this section.

After reaching at the base of Fotu La at Khaltse, I was again riding rolling hills all the way up to a place called Sasphol. We stopped our ride here. After Sasphol, it is not over, there are three major climbs all the way back up to Leh.

Strava Data –

Summary for Racers and Teams
1. This is all climb route. If you hate climbing this race is not meant for you. There are many Nandi hills and father of Kalahatti climb and Mahabaleshwar on this route.
2. You will need lots of patience to ride in these mountains. It is not a game of speed. It is a game of patience. Do you have it? the race will test the strength of your mind.
3. The total amount of climbing in 600 kms is more than 10,500 meters. That is more than climbing Mount Everest.
4. Use shades all the time during day.
5. Use sunscreen. Best is to wear full sleeve t-shirts and full length cycling shorts.
6. You will need warm clothes as the temperature will dramatically drop after sunset
7. Speeds will slow down after sunset. Don’t force speed on this route on downhill, you might end up at the bottom of the valley. There is no rescue in this terrain.
8. Watch for rolling rocks and stones coming down from mountains
9. Mobile phones don’t work on the route. The crew should never leave their racer. Punctures can happen any time.
10. Nutrition and hydration will keep you going. You will need lots of calories and strength to climb those mountains. Warning – these are not hills. These are Mighty Himalayas.
11. If you like to experience real pain in your lungs and legs and want to push yourself to the limit in the most spectacular landscape on the planet – this race is for you.
12. Undergo acclimatization to have the best performance. This is high altitude race with massive climbs in Himalayas
13. Road quality is excellent except in few places where the road is little rough. Be aware of the bridges which are built over river crossings.

In the End – Pain will be gone. Wonderful memories will remain forever and amazing fulfillment of racing in Himalayas. Mighty Himalayas will humble you and you will understand that you are pretty much insignificant on this planet.

All the Best for Great Himalayan Ultra.

I would like to thank Divya Tate, Race Director of Great Himalayan Ultra, Deepak SaveGreeshma Soley, Wasim, Aditya for supporting me during this ride. They kept patience with me.Thanks to Greeshma Soley for hosting us at Rover’s Den in Leh.

It was very good training for Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme. Thanks to Team Inspire India. I was a privilege to ride on the Route of Great Himalayan Ultra – World’s highest and toughest RAAM Qualifier.”

Amit Samarth
As posted in Original post on Facebook –