Tough ride in Spiti awaits mountain bikers

First edition of MTB Spiti 2013 event in lesser Himalaya in Himachal Pradesh will take a pack of 50 riders over 550 km in 10 days

Tough ride in Spiti awaits mountain bikers
Every year, as approaching au­tumn lowers the after-dark temp­eratures and thrusts a knife-edge nip into the early-morning air, a section of the ranges of the lesser Himalaya in Himachal Pradesh plays host to an assorted gaggle of Indian as well as foreign mountain bikers. They come from all over to ride in one of the toughest adventure sport events the country holds — the MTB Himalaya.

So gruelling is the challenge that some motorcycle rallying enthusiasts part­icipate in it as part of their training and preparation, both mental and phy­s­ical, ahead of India’s most prestigious off-road motorsport event — the Raid de Himalaya, which is also the world’s highest rally event.

This year, for the first time, a similar — and, happily, nearly as difficult — mountain biking event is being held in the middle of summer. Hosted by the same organisers, Himalayan Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Ass­oc­ia­tion (HASTPA), in alliance with Hima­chal Tourism, the event is being called the self-explanatory MTB Spiti 2013. The pack of riders will ride along a route that will explore the high-altitude valleys and slopes of the Spiti region in Himachal Pradesh.

That the level of difficulty will be almost as high as in the case of the MTB Himalaya is fulfilling for hardcore adventure sport enthu­siasts who look to upgrade their skill and endurance by successfully comple­ting a challenge of a sufficiently high standard.

Being mid-summer (the event will run over July 13-24), the tempera­tures after sundown and during the early-morning starts will be more comfortable than they are during MTB Himalaya, though still a bit chilly because of the altitude of Spiti. The route will cover a total of 550 km and the event will run for 10 days. The pack of riders will cross two Himalayan passes with the highest point of the entire trip being 4,551 metres.

Throughout, the landscape will be a mix of stark, barren slopes similar to the cold desert scenery of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, but intersp­ersed with green patches owing to the availability of water from the Spiti river. The villages showcase Buddhist culture, and 1,000-year-old monast­eries, including the famous Kyi mo­nastery, are also to be seen, uncha­nged for centuries. The riders will camp on the bank of one of Himachal Pradesh’s most famous and beautiful lakes, which is revered among tre­kkers – the crescent-shaped Cha­ndra Tal.

It is vital to register early because the event can accommodate only 50 riders. Riders aged 18 and above (as of July 16, 2013) can participate. There are four categories — Open Men Solo, Open Women Solo, Open Masters Solo (age 40 and above) and Team of Two.

For each category to be co­mpetitive, a minimum of five co­ntestants or teams will be needed. The total prize money on offer amounts to Rs 2 lakh.

Entry fees range from Rs 49,900 for Solo riders to Rs 99,800 for teams. The cost for a supporter or a tripper is Rs 49,900.

There are also a number of dis­counts, including for students and for groups of riders — with the per­centage of discount going up as the size of the group increases.

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