Pensi-la (Pensi Pass) is a mountain pass in the Ladakh region
of Jammu and Kashmir, which is known as the Gateway to
Zanskar. Pensi La is 4,400 m (14,436 ft) above sea level and
connects the Suru Valley region to the Zanskar Valley region.
The summit at this end of the Suru Valley is the only peak
which can be seen, is 7,012 m (23,005 ft) high, while the
mountain to the north is 6,873 m (22,549 ft). The pass is
about 25 km from Rangdum Monastery.
To the west of Pensi La division flows the Suru River which is
an important tributary of the Indus which meets at Kargil. The
Drang Drung Glacier to the eastern flank of Pensi La is the
source of Stod or Doda River which flows into the Padum Valley
and joins with Tsarap Chu to form the wonderful Zanskar River.
"The descent from the Pensi La into the Stod Valley in Zanskar
is steeper than the climb up from Rangdum Gompa but not too
difficult. The road winds about with many hairpin turns which
can be cut across on foot to the river below. Wild rhubarb can
be seen growing on the slopes. The generally used trekking
route follows the road on the left bank of the Stod (or Doda).
. . . The grass at the foot of the Pensi La provides a good
pasturage and this is a fine camping spot."
Pensi-La is also the gateway to the Padum which is the
headquarters of Zanskar sub-division of Kargil district. A 240
km metalled road connecting Kargil town to Padum, through the
Pensi La remains open for about 5 months between May and
October. Before the modern road was built the pass apparently,
used to be open only three months of the year because of heavy
The summit at this end of the Suru Valley, the only peak which
can be seen, is 7,012 m (23,005 ft) high, while the mountain
to the north is 6,873 m (22,549 ft). The pass is about 25 km
from Rangdum Monastery.
Location of Pensi La
La is located between Padum (3,600m, 80km) and Rangdum (4,020m,
31km) and the GPS Co-ords are 33.873 N, 76.350 E. The scenery on
this road in Zanskar is amazing and there is very little
traffic. The surface isn't always great but this fact keeps the
Penzi La Pass in Zansker Valley is the highest point on Kargil
Padam Road.This road is generally open throughout the summer but
during winter months it can be closed when the access is not
cleared of snow. In winter, floods and heavy snowfalls can
sometimes block some sections of the road and can be very
dangerous in winter due to frequent patches of ice.
This infamous road is tightly hair pinned and bumped with a
beautiful winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and
hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. The
road includes some steep sections, without market central lines,
is very narrow, just wide enough for 2 cars at the same time and
it doesnot have any protections or guardrails. The surface of
the road is gravel and sand and chains or snow tyres can be
Due to its climb in elevation over thousands of feet and pass
through remote areas, it is important when driving in these
conditions to be prepared. Check weather forecasts before
leaving home, and remember that it becomes cooler and often more
prone to storms at higher elevations. Be prepared with jackets,
water, and emergency kit in your car.
Some road sections may require a high clearance 4 WD vehicle, in
four-wheel-drive, driven by a driver experienced in 4 WD drive
techniques to drive the road without getting stuck. The road bad
conditions, with extremely large pot holes could potentially pop
a tire, crack a rim, or screw up your cars alignment.