I am going to bust a serious myth here! It has been frequently referred that Khardungla Pass is the highest motorable pass at 5,359 m (17,582 ft), but there have been reports which claim that an Indian military road at 5,883 metres (19,301 ft) on the India-Tibet border exists. Yes, World’s highest motorable road now in Ladakh.
It is situated in Ladakh andThe Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has constructed this world’s highest motorable road. The road is higher than Khardung La (17,582ft) and passes through Umling La Top, at an elevation of over 19,301ft. Before the creation of this road, Bolivia is believed to have held the record for its road to the dormant volcano Uturuncu at 18,953ft.
BRO’s Project Himank completed this 86km long road. Located about 230km from Leh it connects Chismule and Demchok villages, both close to the Indo-China border. Demchok is a military camp that has the Line of Actual Control (LAC) pass through the southeast section of the village.
Construction of the road itself has been quite an achievement. Fundamental logistics were a great challenge as their equipment faced multiple breakdowns and construction workforce had to be acclimatised at three stages—in Leh, Shakti and then Numa before being inducted into the site. In the past, Project Himank has the experience of constructing roads such as Khardung La and Changla Pass in Leh.
In 2017, BRO has constructed and opened the world’s highest road over Umlingla. Umling La pass is approximately 105 KMs from Hanle Village and about 235 KMs from Leh. There is a lot of uncertainty about this route like Demchok, Fukche and other places will require painstaking special permits(In written duly signed by District Magistrate Leh) in order to enter. Only few people managed to travel on this route because the chance of getting permit is very less. You will be accompanied by army man and can be turned from any check post if there is any tension.
The road you can take is Hanle to Photi La Pass to Photile Village. Then follow the route from Photile Village to Umlinga La pass for at an altitude of 19301 feet. In Umling La, there is a real risk of AMS (altitude-mountain-sickness) and death due to Pulmonary Edema and Cerebral Edema if not properly acclimatized. The road to the summit is generally gravel (70%) with some concrete sections. Do not take this drive if you have respiratory problems or any type of cardiac problems. The breathing is very difficult as the summit has about 40% less oxygen than at sea level. The high elevation with its risk of altitude sickness, weather concerns, steep road grade, and on the whole inaccessibility make the pass dangerous.
The road over the pass is 86-km-long. Don’t fill up your belly too much. Eventually, you might feel vomiting tendency while climbing spiral roads at higher altitudes. The road is in horrible condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. Therefore a small error can take your life. The breathtaking scenery on the way certainly wins your heart.
The area around the pass is just an endless expanse of barren terrain with no trace of people. If you choose this route to cover please check up to date information. The road to the summit is managed by the Border Roads Organization. It’s a windy place and hard winds coming from two directions at the same time. Getting permits for Chushul and Hanle sometimes can become very problematic. It requires permission from Leh DC office.