Conquer the Treacherous Zoji La Pass in India's Himalayas

Zoji La is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3,536m (11,601ft) above sea level, located on the boundary between Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, in India. This strip of rock is not the place for a Sunday drive. It’s said to be one of the most treacherous drives in the world.

Zoji La

Can you drive to Zoji La Pass?

The road to the summit is mostly unpaved but navigable by most passenger vehicles in good weather. It’s called Srinagar-Leh Highway or National Highway 1D. It’s a spectacular mountain road pass, with stunning views and heart-stopping moments. It is considered one of the riskiest passes in this area. The long and winding road offers a hell of an experience that challenges you and puts your riding skills to the test. The pass overlooks snow-covered summits and a dense strip of jungles.

How long is Zojila Pass?

The pass, also known as Zojila or Zoji La, is 193 km (119 miles) long, running west-east from Srinagar (the largest city and the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, in the Kashmir Valley) to Kargil (a joint capital of the union territory of Ladakh, in the Kargil district). It’s so narrow that a car can fit through, and heavy vehicles find it difficult to maneuver due to incline and narrow road width. The drive is a bit nerve-wracking. Not an easy drive. The pass is an important link between Ladakh and Kashmir.

Is Zoji La Pass dangerous?

The road through the pass is termed as the gateway to majestic Ladakh. It’s the lifeline that keeps the people of Ladakh in touch with the rest of the world. If you look at the sharp mountain edges to find a road, you will see only a thin line. That’s the ‘road’. It’s nothing more than a one-lane crumbling dirt trail that hugs some of the tallest mountains in the world, with imminent death waiting for those who show up unprepared. Needless to say, conquering this beast requires relentless driver attention, along with a reliable set of wheels. In 2018, the Government of India approved the Zoji La tunnel project. It’s a 14.2 km long road tunnel that will further reduce the time to cross the pass from more than 3 hours to just 15 minutes.

Is Zojila Pass open?

Set high in the Himalayas mountain range, the pass remains closed half of the year due to intense snowfalls and opens in the latter part of the spring season, though the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is working to extend traffic to most parts of the year. It’s known as the “Mountain Pass of Blizzards”. The zone experiences high winds and heavy snowfall, which render it impassable for much of the winter. Even when the sun is shining, the road is narrow, the drops are steep, and there's no barrier between you and the abyss. The Beacon Force unit of the BRO is responsible for clearing and maintenance of the road during winter. The Border Roads Organization takes two months to clean the National Highway in the Zozila Pass Area. On certain occasions, they complete their job before time. Arid climate makes their work simple, due to which the highway opens earlier than expected.
Pic: Krishnamoorthy R