Khardung La, or K-Top as it is affectionately known, is situated on an ancient trade route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia, and it is also the gateway to the beautiful Nubra Valley.
Maintained by the Border Roads Organisation, the pass is strategically important to India as it is used to carry essential supplies to the Siachen. Building of the road across the Khardungla Pass in Ladakh at 18,380 feet in 1972-73 was no mean feat. Nothing is easy in the harsh conditions and terrain of such altitudes. The 201 Engineer Regiment, Madras Sappers of the Indian Army commenced work on it on August 17, 1972; not much progress was made initially, and the challenge rose manifold in the winters with the danger of frostbite setting in besides other risks. Work finally started in full swing in April 1973 and the road was opened to traffic on August 27, 1973. An earlier attempt to build this road by the state’s Public Works Department in 1963 had failed. It was quite a task building this road, resulting in the deaths of many engineers. Helicopters lifted jeeps, coal tar cans and other supplies to the site as there was no other way to do so.
The views from this pass are no doubt breathtaking – with the Ladakh range to the south and Karakoram to the north. And snow capped peaks at almost touching distance all around. The pass experiences up to 10 feet of snow in winters, with temperatures dropping to 40 degrees Celsius below zero. Even though temperatures in summers average 20 degrees Celsius, the weather can turn for the worse suddenly.
Vehicles travelling to and from Khardung La are allowed only in one direction at a time: from 9am - 1pm in the Leh – Khardug La direction, and from 1 pm - 5 pm from the Nubra Valley via Khardung La towards Leh. Sometimes it is one direction one day and the other direction the next day. Inner line permits are required to reach Khardung-la. These can be procured at the DC's office in Leh. Make sure to have photocopies of your permits, as each checkpoint needs a copy to be deposited with them.
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