A plethora of prayer flags surmount a height of almost 17, 582 ft; it is here that the world’s highest motorable road is located, or so is the claim. Gateway to Nubra Valley and nestled in the Karakoram range, Khardung La is 40 kms away from the mainland of Leh. The pass is also a gateway to the Siachen glacier. While you are on your Leh Ladakh tour package, you will come across many locals claiming that Khardung La is the worlds's highest motorable road, but is it?
Is Khardung La really the highest motorable road in the world?
While locals swear by the fact that there can’t be any other pass higher than this, there are theories that suggest otherwise. They will lure with boastful stories of how this highest motorable road was carved -- helicopters lifting jeeps, tar, coal and cans, men working day in and day out and the years of wait to see the legendary pass. The much-photographed signboard at Khardung La pass falsely claims that it is 18,380 ft, while in reality it is almost a foot shorter.
Answer: The Wiki test
As per Wikipedia, a well-graded Indian military road reaches 18,406 ft at Mana Pass on the Indo-Tibet border. Marsimik La is at an elevation of 18,314 ft - it is a high mountain pass in the northern part of India, 96 km east of Leh, though much more by road. There are higher motorable passes at Suge La (17,815 feet), west of Lhasa, and Semo La (18,258 feet), between Raka and Coqen in Central Tibet.
Significance of Khardung La
Historically, the pass has been significant from the trade point of view. It lies on the Silk Road between Leh and Kashgar, China. Around 10,000 horses and camels ferried the route carrying the much coveted silk. You can still see a small population of Bactrian camels at Hunder, in the area north to the pass. Bactrian Camels are unique double-humped camels, found nowhere else in India. During the World War II, there was an attempt to smuggle war material to China through this route.
Author: Winnie Karnik