Travel responsibly. Take nothing but pictures. Conserve.
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Location: Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, INDIA.
Khardung La is a high mountain pass (elevation 5602 m) situated 37 km by road North of Leh.
It is the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valleys.
There are two police check posts on either side of the pass, South Pullu and North Pullu. You will need an Inner line permit to cross or visit Khardung La. The permits can be procured from the District Commisioners office in Leh. Make sure to have photocopies of your permits (at least 6), as each checkpoint needs a copy to be deposited with them.
The ideal method to get to Khardung-la is by taxi or bike although several buses and trucks also ply the route. The buses are mostly used by locals. I have also seen a cyclist or two riding up to the pass from Leh.
Vehicles are allowed only in one direction at a time, from 9am - 1pm in the Leh - Khardongla Direction, and from 1 pm - 5 pm in the Nubra - Khardongla - Leh Direction.
Weather is pretty volatile here, build up of snow will leave the pass unusable from several hours to days.
Due to its sheer height, the pass gives you jaw dropping views of deep valleys and narrow twisting roads and high altitude traffic jams.
Make sure to have a cup of high altitude tea at South or North pullu and a bowl of hot tasty Maggi two minute noodles at North Pullu.
Well, it has been raining the previous day. We are going to Nubra Valley. To get there we have to cross the Khardung La Pass. Rigzen our driver is concerned. He says that if its raining in Leh, it will be snowing on the passes. The pass could be closed. We decide to try our luck anyway.
We leave early in order to be in Nubra Valley by lunch. Far ahead on the hill top is Shanti Stupa. A little to the right is Leh Palace. A little more to the right on the hill top is Sankar Gompa.
View of town from a little over 1000 feet from Leh
As we climb higher the landscape is blanketed in snow.
Meera obliges for a picture out in the cold.
This is South Pullu, the police checkpost and an army camp. They arent letting vehicles to pass through. We were told that there was a heavy build up of snow way up in the pass. So we wait and check out the refreshment tent and chat up with the friendly army men stationed there.
Please dont exert too much, well, a little sprint shouldnt hurt too much.
With no choice but to wait we have all the time to check out our surroundings. The rocks and the plants and the surrounding mountain scape. How everything is frozen... including our schedule.
how isolated we really are ....
and how really interesting this algae is ...
The army men are preparing to leave somewhere which got our hopes up which means we get to go too. But they headed back into town.
If you see vehicles coming down this mountain, it means the pass is through and we get to go soon. But apparently these were vehicles that got stranded the previous day. They are making their way downhill now. Our chances of crossing the pass are slim.
After several uneventful hours of waiting we decided to head back.
After a quite day in Leh we are back on the pass the next day. It hadnt rained the previous day so there is a lot of hope.
We passed South Pullu. They are letting vehicles pass through. Since we hung around for so long the previous day the police guys recognize us and let us through with a broad smile. The patch of green that you see below is Leh town. The white speck on the hillock is Shanti Stupa. The tallest peak is Mt Nun. The straight line in green cutting across the plateau is River Indus.
The Khardung La glacier comes into view. The glacial stream that you see flows right into Leh. There is also a bottling plant somewhere on its course.
Glacial Water anyone ?
This rock formation is lovingly called India Gate.
Our first traffic halt. Reason unknown. All vehicles have just stopped. Not really a great place to get stuck considering the rarefied air and high altitude.
The guy ahead has no number plate on. All vehicles slowly inch their way across the pass revving their engines hard. Our driver Rigzen is already feeling a little stressed. Its definitely not one easy drive to say the least. These roads are not paved and with the frozen mix of ice and dirt for a road it makes one slippery and narrow trail with very deep valleys right next to you.
Another stop. Meera steps out to check out the views.
Its taking too long to go up the pass. In all we have spent an hour and a half in waiting beyond South Pullu.
Traffic is moving again and Khardung La top a.k.a K-TOP is just around the corner.
Its a long way down. The sheer scale of things in the Himalaya is mind blowing. No picture can truly capture what one sees. What you see is more than a kilometer of vertical drop. Khardungla Top is 17,582 feet in elevation and South Pullu is a little over 13,000 feet. The valley bottom that you see here can be seen from South Pullu at eye level before it descends further down into Leh.
An army truck approaching in the opposite direction was causing all the delay.
We have stopped again for no reason. Rigzen makes himself useful in the little way that he can by throwing dirt on the path.
K TOP. We have made it.
Khardung La, supposedly the highest motor able road in the world.
There is a permanent army post here.
We start our descent from K Top. Nubra Valley on the other side awaits us.
Far ahead is North Pullu checkpost and beyond that Nubra Valley. This is also the road to Siachen.
The remains of a vehicle that rolled off the pass.
Its getting a little dry and warmer ... relatively.
Another vehicle that rolled off.
This is North Pullu. You get fantastic Tea and Hot Maggi two minute noodles here although it takes a lot more than two minutes to make noodles or simply boil water at this altitude. Its one very tasty meal that you should try if you pass this way.
Me and Rigzen.
Meera with Rigzens Toyota Qualis Stallion. The faithful machine that took us everywhere in Ladakh.