Leh Ladakh – Land of “La” the High Mountain Passes
Leh Ladakh is one of the most thrilling road adventures in India as well as around the world that involves passing through some of the most highest motorable mountain passes in the world. The average elevation of the terrain is around 12,500 feet. Ladakh road trip offers spectacular view of barren mountain ranges of Great Himalayas and Karakoram ranges with exquisite panorama. Ladakh is a place of many passes which are natural doors between mountains and peaks. These passes are used by traders for many years and are so high that temples were built on these passes along with prayer flags for good luck. These passes test your endurance and perseverance where you learn a different aspect of life. On our road trip of Ladakh which we entered via Srinagar – Leh Highway and exited via Leh – Manali highway we covered most of the high passes. Successful completion of this trip gave us a sense of satisfaction and pride.
Here we proudly present the passes in chronological order that we crossed on our sojourn:
Zoji La – Altitude 3,528 m (11,649 ft)
This was the first pass that we encountered and approached the same very cautiously. Although this is not the highest pass on Srinagar – Leh Highway but was the toughest pass on this highway. By crossing this we knew that we have entered the gateway to Ladakh with an affirmation of changed topography i.e. mountains becoming more brown and bald.
Namika La – Altitude 3,718 m (12,198 ft)
Namikala pass is located at the Zanskar range, which connects Srinagar – Leh highway. This pass is also known as pillar of the sky passes. This pass is on the way to Mulbek valley, where we saw the Maitreya Buddha’s (future Buddha) rock craving. The pass was beautifully decorated by prayer flags which were fluttering in strong wind. The terrain all around this place was mostly barren but still beautiful.
Fotu La – Altitude 4,108 m (13,479 ft)
Fotu La – the highest point on NH-1D is also on the Zanskar Range. Once again a similar topography like Namika La with very high velocity of wind and breathtaking views. Again the pass was beautifully decorated with prayer flags. From a distant we could see the Lamayuru Monastery on a hill and were mesmerized by its beauty.
Chang La – Altitude 5,360 m (17,688 ft)
Chang La connects Leh with the beautiful Pangong Lake and is claimed to be the third highest motorable pass in the world as displayed on the milestone over there. It did take some time to absorb the fact that we have scaled this pass and felt delighted. The climate was quite cold at the pass and we could feel the scarcity of oxygen as well. This was our first real test of endurance with an altitude of above 5000 meters and tough driving conditions. The snow-capped peak that was alluring us from a distance has been scaled by grit and determination. A small temple is also there at the pass known as Chang La Temple. It’s advisable not to expose yourself to harsh conditions for too long and keep moving after taking a halt of 5 – 10 minutes to avoid any health issues.
Khardung La – Altitude 5,602 m (18,380 ft)
The doorway to Shyok and Nubra valleys and the world’s topmost motorable pass according to BRO. We enjoyed the moment of scaling the highest motorable road in the world even though the claim is not accurate. Believe us it was the toughest pass that we have scaled and felt really proud after doing it. Scarcity of oxygen was quite evident there and road conditions were really very tough.
Taglang La – Altitude 5,328 m (17,582 ft)
Taglangla pass is located in the Zanskar range on the Leh Manali highway and is the highest pass on this highway. This pass is the resting point for the herdsmen for fodder and easily approachable. The road conditions at Tanglang La was amazing and we did not even realised that we have scaled an altitude of 1,800 m while approaching from Leh. This is also considered amongst the highest motorable passes in the world.
Lachulung La – Altitude 5,065 m (16,616 ft)
Lachulung La pass is the second highest pass on the Leh Manali highway, and is near Sarchu. It is located some 54 km from Sarchu and 24 km from Pang on the Leh–Manali Highway.
Nakee La – Altitude 4,739 m (15,547 ft)
After traversing through Lachulung La we crossed Nakee La and the 21 hairpin bends of Gata Loops before reaching Sarchu.
Baralacha La – Altitude 4,890 m (16,040 ft)
Baralacha La is a high mountain pass in Zanskar Range connecting Lahual district in Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir. Both the Bhaga river and the Chandra river originate from melting snow at opposite sides of Baralacha La, the former flowing southwest and the latter flowing first southeast and then northwest to merge at Tandi.
Rohtang La – Altitude 3,978 m (13,050 ft)
Rohtang La is a high mountain pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas around 51 km from Manali. It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh. Once again we were greeted by treacherous terrain and believe us it was not an easy passage with numerous hairpin bends and loops with water stream, rocky terrains, and slush at places. Approach road to Rohtang La was equally difficult and ascent was steep.