A dangerous dirt track to Kunzum Pass in India

Kunzum La is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4.556m (14,947ft) above the sea level, located in the Lahaul and Spiti district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It's the highest point on the Spiti Valley Road.

Kunzum La

How do I get to Kunzum Pass?

The road to the summit is 31 km (19 miles) long, running from Losar to Batal. It’s called NH505 (aka Spiti Valley Road). The road through the pass, also known as Kunjum La, is not a road. Just a dirt track leading up to the top of the mountain. It is the only motorable route connecting Lahaul Valley on the western side of the pass with Spiti Valley on the eastern side. It’s also known as Gramphu-Batal-Kaza road and 80% of the route has no pavement.

Is the road to Kunzum Pass difficult?

Located on the northern part of the country, along the road you will have to forge streams, perhaps even small rivers, negotiate melting glaciers and drive over piles of sand, rocks and snow. The roads are at the mercy of mother nature here (floods, landslides, snowfall, falling rocks, etc.). It’s a narrow road barely good enough to drive reminds that they are still connected with the world, and also gives them access to the terrain that almost feels uncharted. Condition of the road deteriorates quickly on entering Lahaul. Soil is loose and keeps shifting, ensuring that freshly laid tarmac doesn’t even last for a year. Driving involves wading through streams originating from melting snow, which run across the road in a bid to meet Chandra River far below in the valley. Sections of the road are narrow enough to barely let a jeep pass, and any error in judgment would only mean tumbling down the valley and into the fast flowing river. Yet, there are hardly any accidents, thanks to little traffic and the drivers who are used to these roads. The road is steep, hitting a 15% of maximum gradient through fifteen sharp hairpin turns.

Is Kunzum La open?

Set high in the eastern Kunzum Range of the Himalayas, the road is only accessible between May and October. It remains frozen for the rest of the year. Any SUV will probably be the best car: it doesn't matter if it is a 2 wheel drive or 4×4 but the good ground clearance an SUV offers will be of great help while traveling through Spiti.

Is Kunzum La scenic?

The drive is pretty scenic as most of the road runs above 11000 feet above the sea level, with beautiful glaciers and snow-clad peaks. The top of the pass offers spectacular 360-degree views of Bara-Shigri Glacier (the second longest glacier in the world). Also visible from the top of the pass are the Chandra-Bhaga mountains and Spiti Valley. Besides the panoramic view of the region, Kunzum Pass has got a temple of Goddess Durga at its top most point. It’s said to be a heaven for photographers.
Pic: ankush kumar