The Border Road Organisation (BRO) has inaugurated the new highest motorable road which is much higher than Khardung La. The road passes over Umling La in Eastern Ladakh, the mountain pass that reaches its highest altitude at 19,300 ft above sea level. It is now the highest motorable road in the world, a record previously held by a road in Bolivia at 18,953 ft en-route to volcano Uturuncu. In India, Khardung La sits at an altitude of 17,582 ft, the Siachen Glacier is at 17,700 ft.
The road stretches for 52 kilometres and drives over the Umling Pass. At 19,300 feet, the road sits higher than the base camps of Mount Everest. Temperatures in the region drop down below -40-degrees Celsius in the winters and oxygen levels are alarmingly low, 50 per cent less than at normal places. The construction of the road would have been tumultuous in the harsh terrain.
This new road now connects important regions and towns in the Chumar sector of eastern Ladakh. It will offer an alternative direct route for locals between Chisumle and Demchok from Leh. While it may help in developing the socio-economic condition and promote tourism, it will also help the army to ferry troops and supplies to camps in the region more easily.
Over the years, many adventure seekers, travellers, tourists, used the Khardung La in India as a benchmark of their ‘highest’ achievements. The road to Khardung La has been treacherous and arduous, irrespective of the tools having two, three, four, or more wheels. The roads of Ladakh take no prisoners the higher you climb. There are Motorcycle groups, overland expeditions that travel in convoy nearly every year in every season to Khardung La. Even solo travellers attempt the climb and many achieve it. It reached a point where now nearly everyone who wanted to scale to these heights, has done so. Or, like me and my friends made numerous plans over the years and never left our homes with hopeful Whatsapp group chats. Now, both sides can make even bolder plans to go as high as 19,300 ft over Umling La.