Sarchu to Leh

Final of three days travelling to Leh on the Leh-Manali Highway. A real roller coaster of a day with snow, sunshine, road closures, uncertainty whether we would even make it, and some spectacular scenery.

Just before waking the heavy overnight rain turned into snow as the temperature dropped to freezing, not unusual at 4,200m above sea level, but not expected at this time of year.

It was all very scenic, particularly down by the nearby canyon I visited yesterday, but rockfall and snow meant that the road was closed in both directions.

On our first attempt to leave we didn’t make it far before turning around, on our second attempt we got to the border between the states of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Here the checkpoint had closed the road though most of the snow had melted by then and the sun was out. After waiting for an hour and a half we returned to camp for some lunch in the sunshine.

On the short drive back was a reminder of why not to speed.

The camp and landscape looked completely different within a couple of hours as the snow melted.

Finally at 2pm the road was reopened, we had eight hours on the road ahead but the snow capped scenery was wonderful, easily the best seen during my three days on the Leh-Manali Highway, and up there with the very best I’ve seen anywhere.

Crossing into Ladakh the roads were immediately much better, they even had yellow border lines and passing bays!

They’ll be even better once the vast number of new bridges under construction are completed. I saw so many half finished bridges, most new in the past year but the big red one below had a sign saying that work started in 2011 and was due to be completed in 2013…

It was a rare pleasure after ten days in India not to be stuck behind trucks on narrow and steep road, a bonus of the road closure.

There was a bit of rockfall to navigate carefully but nothing major thankfully.

We headed up the 4,740m pass at Nakeela La via 22 hairpin turns.

Another half an hour of driving took us over the snow covered 5,019m pass at Lachuglang La.

From here we dropped into a rather surreal canyon, not easy to photograph (as with the whole drive) from a fast moving car on bumpy roads, but you hopefully get the impression.

After some climbing we reached the most incredible lookout of the whole trip, and had about one minute there before dashing on, downside of the weather induced late departure.

The Moray Plains were home to one of the very few stretches of relatively straight road on the whole 475km drive from Manali to Leh, and lovely views with sun and cloud.

To end the post at one of the highest driveable passes in the world, the 5,360m high Tanglang La, which unexpectedly was by far the easiest and least twisty to get up. As expected there was a fair bit of snow still there, and we thankfully got there shortly before losing the sun for the day.

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