The Zozila (also know as Zojila or Zoji La) is one of the important mountain passes in India. At an elevation of 11,575 ft (3,528 meters) above the sea level, the pass links Amid Leh in the Western Himalayan Mountain Ranges and Srinagar. This strip of rock is not the place for a Sunday drive. It’s 9km long, about 3,500m above sea level and provides an important link between Ladakh and Kashmir.
The pass is often closed during winter, 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. To drive this trail, you must have supreme confidence in your vehicle and your driving skills. The pass is traversed by the Indian National Highway 1D, the Uri-Srinagar-Leh Highway.
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. Lying at an elevation of 3,528 meters, 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 xperiences 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.
Portions of the road may be temporarily closed due to road work or inclement weather. Zojila 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. The pass remains closed half of the year because of intense snowfall and opens in the latter part of the spring season.
There is little room for error on this road. It's normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos. It’s incredibly disorienting to look over the edge, or even just to see the valleys a couple thousand feet below you. It’s a mind numbing vertical drop of hundreds of meters so you might want to give it a miss on a windy day.
Pic: Krishnamoorthy R