Khardungla Pass is at an altitude of 5,359 meters and is 39.7 km from Leh. Journey from Leh to Khardungla was a painful 3 hours drive up on a winding road, interrupted by minor landslides and avalanches. Higher up, the mountains were still covered with sheet of snow that melts slowly into slush of mud. The army maintains this road through out the day.
Khardungla Pass is an important gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valley. The pass is another important gateway to Siachen Glacier. Construction work for the pass began in 1976 and was first opened in 1988. Today, it is a two way road. Though motorable road came late, it has long been navigated by traders. A caravan of about 10,000 horses and camels navigated this road annually on their way to Kashgar in Central Asia. The pass is strategically important because of the tense Indo-China relation.
Hundreds of bikers take this road daily. Some more adventurous travellers drive up to Khardungla and paddle back on their bicycles. The idea of conquering the highest motorable road seems to be on many people’s agenda while traversing this pass.
Sadly, Khardungla Pass being the highest motorable road is questionable. Well built roads have been known to exist at higher altitudes in India and Tibet, namely, Mana Pass (5,454 m), Semo La (5,565 m), Suge La (5,430 m), etc. Perhaps, Khardungla Pass has an advantage because it is open year round. The strategic importance and the recurring tension with neighbouring country China makes this an important pass for India. It is also the most popular and frequently travelled road among all of these high altitude passes.
The pass has an Indian Army post and a temple. Travellers often stop to have their photo taken along with the signboard that proclaims Khardungla Pass to be the highest motorable pass in the world. The pass cuts through the mountain peak and so it offers amazing view of Leh and mountains surrounding the valley.