Zoji La is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.528m (11,575ft) above the sea level, located in the Kargil district of 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 passes in the world.
The road to the summit is unpaved. It’s called National Highway 1 (NH1). It’s a spectacular mountain road pass, with stunning views and heart-stopping moments. Located within the Himalayas mountain range, the long and winding road offers hell of an experience which challenges you and puts your riding skills to test.
How long is Zojila Pass?
The pass, also known as Zojila or Zoji La, sits on the way from Baltal and Matayen. The winding road is 25.8 km long. It’s so narrow that a car can fit through and heavy vehicles find difficult to manoeuvre due to incline and narrow road width. The drive is a bit nerve wrecking. Not an easy drive. The pass links Amid Leh in the Western Himalayan Mountain Ranges and Srinagar and provides an important link between Ladakh and Kashmir.
As always, check road conditions before departing. In any case, driving 4WD is recommended due to uneven surface. The Zozila Pass is frequently named as the entrance to Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. The pass is situated in the principal Himalayan Mountain Range on the Srinagar-Leh Highway or National Highway 1D. The Zozila Pass is considered as one of the riskiest passes in this area. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle and can easily get muddy if it rains making it challenging to get through. The zone experiences high winds and heavy snowfall, which render it impassable for much of the winter. Even when the sun is shining, the roads are narrow, the drops are steep and there's no barrier between you and the abyss.
The road over the pass is termed as the gateway to the 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 there 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. The pass has a remarkable position, bordered by the Kashmir basin on one side and Drass basin on the other side. It overlooks snow-covered summits and dense strip of jungles. In 2018, the Government of India approved the Zoji La tunnel project. It’s a 14.2 km long road tunnel which will further reduce the time to cross the pass from more than 3 hours to just 15 minutes.
Is Zojila Pass open?
The pass remains closed half of the year because of intense snowfall 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. 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