The Leh-Manali Highway is a high mountain road situated in India. It spans over a length of 479 km (298 mi) among the Himalayan mountain range. It passes through some of the world’s highest mountain passes in the world, with a mean altitude in between 2 to 3 miles above sea level.Uncertain weather, high altitude, no roads, extreme cold and no civilization for miles make this a very treacherous track.
This dirt gravel road connects Leh in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir state and Manali in Himachal Pradesh state. The journey from Manali to Leh takes about one full day by jeep or two days by bus. It’s accessible for cars and trucks during several months in summer only and its highest elevation is 5,328 m (17,480 ft) at Taglang La mountain pass. Because of the important position of Ladakh between China and Pakistan this Highway plays an important strategic role for India, which results in the maintenance of the road by the Indian army itself. In addition to the spectacular landscape the life on and next to the road is diversified because of a wide variety of people frequenting it. Construction workers from other parts of India are working for better road conditions during the summer.
This road is usually open for only about four and a half months in a year in summer between May or June, when the snow is cleared by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) of Indian army, and mid-October when snowfall again blocks it. Avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh. Road closures can be frequent, so check conditions before traveling to this area. Tourists from all over the world, as well as a growing number of Indian tourists use this road for the scenic impressions of the mountains. Truck drivers transport their cargo to Leh and back to other parts of India.
Road sign give advance information about road conditions ahead but on this highway you can see totally different road sign which some-how tells you that how precious your life is.
Leh is set to become an all-weather destination after completion of an 8.8 km-long tunnel highest in the country at an altitude of 10,000 metres to bypass the formidable Rohtang Pass.
The Rs 1,410-crore project, which is under way to connect Lahaul valley and make Leh accessible throughout the year, has many firsts. Work is on to make the country's first snow gallery to protect the tunnel from avalanches that are a major threat to infrastructure.
"There are 40 avalanche sites en route the tunnel. The snow gallery will reduce the risk to a more manageable 18," said Col R K Patial, officiating chief engineer, Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Shimla.
Modelled on snow galleries in the Alps, Switzerland, the gallery is a concrete conduit built as a roof to protect the road beneath it from avalanches which would pass over it.
"A snow gallery in the Himalayas is much more challenging than those in the Alps because of the sheer attitudes and difficult terrain," said D N Sethi, joint director, Snow and Avalanche Study Centre, Chandigarh.
The horseshoe-shaped tunnel will reduce the distance from Manali to Leh by 46 km, besides making it an all-weather route. At present crossing Rohtang Pass is the only way to approach Lahaul valley which remains closed for nearly five months after the season's first snowfall around November.
The mouth of the tunnel is 16 kms from Manali on the Rohtang route, while the other end will hit Nimu. The Central government is spending Rs 286 crore on making a double lane approach road to Leh from Nimu and Rs 180 crore on a similar road from Manali.
It is capable of supporting the heaviest of army vehicles.
It is flanked by mountain ranges on both sides featuring some stunning sand and rock natural formations.
The highway crosses many small streams of ice-cold water from snow-capped mountains and glacial melts without a bridge and it requires driving skill to negotiate fast-flowing streams. The landscape changes immediately after getting past Rohtang Pass and entering into Chandra river valley in Lahaul region that lies in rainshadow. The greenery on the southern side of the mountain pass disappears and the mountain slopes on the leeward side become brown and arid. However, the mountain peaks are covered in snow and shine brightly in sun.
Leh-Manali highway is generally two lanes wide (one lane in either direction) without a road-divider but has only one or one and a half lanes at some stretches. It has over a dozen bailey bridges and most of them are in dilapidated condition. The highway has many damaged stretches and under-maintenance portions where even a little rainfall can trigger landslide making it very dangerous to cross that stretch of the road. The riding quality is not good at many places and fast speeds can cause discomfort.
The total length of the highway is about 490 km (300 mi). The distance in Himachal Pradesh state between Manali and Sarchu is 230 km (140 mi)and the distance in Ladakh region from Sarchu to Leh is 260 km (160 mi).
At Sarchu, Lahaul region ends at the Himachal Pradesh state border and Zanskar region starts in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir state.
Manali – Rohtang Jot - Gramphu - Kokhsar - Tandi - Keylong - Jispa - Darcha – Zingzingbar - Baralacha La - Bharatpur - Sarchu (state border) - Gata Loops - Nakee La - Lachulung La - Pang - More Plains - Tanglang La - Gya - Upshi - Karu - Leh
The distance from Lachalang La pass to the Tanglang La pass is 87 km (54 mi) via Pang.
Owing to the rarefied atmosphere (low air pressure) at high altitude, less oxygen is breathed in and many travellers experience altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness. Before beginning the journey on the highway towards Leh, it is advisable to stay at the starting point Manali (altitude 1,950 m (6,400 ft)) one night and minimum one night at either Keylong, Jispa or Darcha to cope with the high passes and plains after Darcha. It is strongly advised not to sleep in Sarchu or Pang on the upward journey (towards Leh) as it can cause acute mountain sickness: headache, nausea, dizziness and vomiting. There have been deaths from AMS as well. The safe option is to camp at Leh or higher altitude after getting acclimated to lower oxygen levels. It is also advisable to carry chocolates, glucose or other high energy food on the journey and spend only a little time at the high mountain passes.
Ladakh is a cold semi-arid desert. It is cold along the highway even in summer (June onwards); the days are warm in bright sunshine but the nights are very cold. The water from glacial melts is ice-cold and one should avoid getting wet in water-crossings on the highway. Light woollens are required during the day and thick woollens at night. There is no rainfall between Rohtang pass and Leh even during the monsoon season in July–September as the entire region lies in rain-shadow. The greenery on the southern side of Rohtang disappears and the mountain slopes on the northern side become brown and arid. However, the mountain peaks are covered in snow and glare brightly in sun.
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