A rescue mission during a whiteout is no fun
Hari Singh, 43, is a five-time National Rally champion. In 2000, he also became the first Indian to win the Asia Zone Rally Championship. Although he retired from rallying in 2000, Singh continues to be associated with the sport as an active official with the Raid de Himalaya.health and fitness Updated: Jan 28, 2010 20:15 IST
Hari Singh, 43, is a five-time National Rally champion. In 2000, he also became the first Indian to win the Asia Zone Rally Championship. Although he retired from rallying in 2000, Singh continues to be associated with the sport as an active official with the Raid de Himalaya.
Having made his debut in rallying at the age of 23, Singh says he got so used to courting danger that it began to seem like a normal part of life. However, he distinctly remembers one extreme Raid, as it was not his own skin alone that he was looking out to save. As an official, he was responsible for the large number of participants who had got trapped in the snow-bound, 4,890 metre -high Baralacha Pass, as a result of hostile weather.
As rally drivers we constantly push the limits — whether of the machine, our own nerves or the traction that a particular track allows. You are the only person on the road. Even if you crash the car, 99 per cent of the time, you will walk out of the car with minimal damage. However, the 2004 Raid proved to be one of my career’s most extreme moments, even though I was there as an official.
The Raid had been trapped beyond Baralacha Pass en route from Manali to Leh, due to a ferocious snowstorm, the likes of which the region had not seen in early October for over two decades. When it abated for a while, it became a race to evacuate the participants before more snow fell.
However, while the better drivers sped ahead, a number of the stragglers got trapped in the Pass even as the snowstorm threatened to get furious again. My four-wheeler was equipped with snow chains and we had a harrowing time pulling out vehicles and guiding them down to safety. Things got worse when a whiteout struck the pass. A number of times, I almost went over the side as visibility reduced to barely a meter. It took us over 15 hours of driving back and forth before we could rescue all the participants. In some cases, the vehicles had to be left behind as the storm returned with renewed vehemence.
The fact that most of the drivers — especially those in the non-extreme category — were not used to driving in the high mountains and were totally clueless about how to handle snow and ice, made the whole process all the more hazardous. I must mention that our efforts would have been quite futile had it not been for the logistical support provided by the Indian Army.