Road trip guide: Conquering Marsimik La

Marsimik La is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 5.590m (18,339ft) above the sea level, located in northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. It’s one of the highest roads of the country.

Marsimik La

Can you drive to Marsimik La?

Set high in the Chang-Chemno Range, the road to the summit, also known as Marsimek La and Lankar La, is mostly unpaved. The mettle road soon turns to dust and then to rubble and this is where you need to be really careful. The rocks are large enough to severely damage your undercarriage. The road is not in good enough condition to permit transit by normal vehicles. Only 4wheel vehicles with competent driver are allowed.

How long is the road to Marsimik La?

Starting at Phobrang (in the Leh District), the road is 79.7 km (49.52 miles) long running west-east from Phobrang to Gogra, on the Line of Actual Control. The track will challenge you with the steep slopes (towards the last few kms), loose soil and lots of sharp stones and big rocks all around. And with rarified air, your car will run out of breath. Nearing the top of the pass, the roads are even worse as the loose sharp stones give way to larger rocks that will make the ride a nightmare on a two-wheeler. The road to the summit is very steep. Starting at Phobrang, the elevation gain is 1.166 meters. The average gradient is 4.73%.

Is Marsimik La open?

Located about 4 km to the west of Kiu La (also called Kangseng La), the summit hosts a Hindu temple. The road is impassable in winters. If your car is not properly prepared, it will not have enough power to do the climb, and especially considering that the track is very steep, and rough. Surrounded by a hostile and barren land, make sure you leave enough time to make the journey back down in daylight. Plan about 3 hours to complete the remarkable drive without stops. No special military permit is required. However, the Protected Area Permit for foreigners does not include access to the pass so there is no way for anyone who is not an Indian citizen and resident to drive up there.

When was the road to Marsimik La built?

Located just 4 km west of Indo-China actual line of control, the track was built in 1983 under the supervision of Sonam Paljore, an Everester. Many vehicles -mostly army vehicles- cross the pass each year.
Pic: Neeti Bassi