Driving the wild 303 Provincial Road
303 Provincial Road is an extreme high mountain road located in the eastern Tibet Autonomous Region of China. S303 runs entirely over the 4.200m above the sea level. The drive is simply terrible, with a notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. Most people feel altitude sickness at around 2,500-2,800 meters.
The road is mostly asphalted with a few unpaved parts. It’s 709 km long and climbs many mountain passes, including Mobla Pass (4.802m above the sea level) and Red Mud Pass (4.732m). The road tops out at 5.086m (16,686ft) above the sea level, on Zha La pass.
Due the general condition of the road, you'll need a 4x4 vehicle to complete the drive. It's in very poor conditions and includes countless hairpin turns. It’s very steep and the drive is surrounded by snowy mountains. The surface on this gravel road is often loose, especially along the sides of the road. Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. With such a high summit altitude the road can be closed anytime due to snowfalls. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. Along the road there are several muddy, rough surfaced unlit tunnels to traverse–dripping water and speeding trucks only add to the terror.
Expect more than 20 hours to complete the drive, running along several rivers. Do not travel this road in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. This track can get very muddy and slippery after rain making it challenging to get through. The road is often underwater and severely damaged by rain and landslides and can be closed anytime. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Road suggested by: Hugh Wilson