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Khardung La
About Khardung La

Khardung La is a high mountain pass situated in Ladakh region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Khardong La is historically significant as it lies on the major caravan way from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 camels and horses used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass. During World War II there was an attempt to transfer war material to China through this route.

The pass on the Ladakh Range lies north of Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubravalleys. The Siachen Glacier lies partway up the latter valley. Built in 1976, it was opened to motor vehicles in 1988 and has since seen many , motorbike ,automobile and mountain biking expeditions. Maintained by the Border Roads Organisation, the pass is strategically significant for India as it is used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier.

Local summit signs claim that its elevation is 5,602 m (18,379 ft) metres high and that it is the world's highest motorable pass. But these claims are disputed by multiple modern measurements, which all agree that its true height is much nearer to 5,359 m (17,582 ft) measured using DGPS and imply that there are numerous higher motorable passes.

Khardung La Pass is the only road access to the Nubra Valley and is considered as the highest motorable road in the world. The pass is at height of 18,380 ft above sea level and is situated 37 km north of Leh. Khardung La Pass, also known as K-Top, is a gateway to the Nubra and Shyok valleys. Maintained by the Border Roads Organisation for most of the year, the pass remains frozen in the summer.To visit Khardung-la foreigners need to obtain special (inner line) permit in Leh.

 
Location of Khardung La

Khardung La is located 39 km by road from Leh. The first 24 km, as far as the South Pullu check point, are smooth. From there to the North Pullu check point about 15 km beyond the pass the roadway is primarily loose rock, dirt, and occasional rivulets of snow melt. However, this pass is in better repair than many of the surrounding passes. From North Pullu into the Nubra Valley, the road is very well maintained (except in a very few places where washouts or falling rock occur). Hired vehicles (2 and 4-wheel-drive), heavy trucks, and motorcycles regularly travel into the Nubra Valley, though special permits may need to be arranged for travellers to make the journey.

Khardung La is widely, but incorrectly, believed to be the highest vehicle-accessible pass in the world. A well-graded Indian military road reaches 5,610 metres (18,406 ft) 250 meters west of the 5,545 metres (18,192 ft) Mana Pass on the India - Tibet border. It links with an equally well-constructed, slightly lower Chinese military road based on SRTM data at posting intervals of 30 meters. There are also higher motorable passes at Suge La, west of Lhasa, 5,430 m (17,815 feet), and Semo La 5,565 m (18,258 feet), between Raka and Coqen in Central Tibet. Both these elevations are supported by GPS and SRTM evidence and the latter was also measured by the Catalans and supported by the Cartographic Institute of Catalonia. Vehicles have been driven over the 5,582 metres (18,314 ft) Marsimik La, in the Indian Karakoram to the north-east of Khardung La.

 
Access

The nearest town is Leh, the capital of Ladakh. Leh is linked by road from Manali and Srinagar, and daily flights are operated from Delhi. From Leh, a daily bus service to Nubra Valley passes over Khardungla. The ideal method to get to Khardung-la is by taxi or bike.The two bases on either side of Khardong-la are South Pullu and North Pullu. Inner Line Permit (ILP) is not needed to reach Khardung La peak, however Inner Line Permit is needed to cross North Pullu to reach Nubra Valley. Inner line permit can be procured at the DC's office in Leh. Altitude sickness is a serious health concern for travellers not previously acclimatized to high altitudes. Prophylactic altitude-sickness medication like acetazolamide may be necessary for some travellers as there are no emergency medical facilities to treat altitude sickness along the route. The road is closed annually from October to May due to snow and one should anticipate potential long travel delays due to traffic congestion on narrow one-lane sections, washouts, landslides and road accidents.

Weather Conditions and The Beauty of Khardung La Pass

Weather conditions on the pass:
During winters temperatures drop to -40 degrees Celsius with almost 10 feet of snowfall. During the summer temperatures float around 20 degrees Celsius but the freaky weather could suddenly turn worse and it may be bitterly cold.

The beauty of Khardung La Pass:
With the Ladakh range spreading towards the south and the Karakoram range to the north the views are simply wonderful with the white snow-capped mountain peaks all around at almost touching distance. Just have a leisurely walk with the cool refreshing mountain air caressing your face. You will feel re-energized. The excitement of visiting the highest pass in the world will stir up your emotions. But its better to be safe than sorry and hence do not expose yourself too much and for too long at such high altitudes.

 

 


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