Umling La is a high mountain pass at 5.882m (19,300ft) above the sea level, located on the east of the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, in India. At this elevation it’s one of the highest motorable roads in the world. The drive features a real risk of AMS (altitude-mountain-sickness) and death due to Pulmonary Edema and Cerebral Edema.
Set high close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the road to the summit is totally paved. It’s 52km (32 miles) long, running from Chisumle to Demchok, 230km far from Leh in southern Ladakh. The road is navigable by all passenger vehicles. This strategic road was constructed as a part of Indian Army ‘s drive to provide faster connectivity to the sensitive Demchok zone and assumes great strategic significance in consideration with recent disputes with Chinese military and advances being made by them along Indo-Chinese border. Built under ‘Project Himank’, the road allows quick movement of troops and equipment. In the initial days, when this pass came to public knowledge, a lot of people traveled to it in 2017 and early 2018. But due to its extremely close proximity to India China border, access to this area is now severely restricted. Civilians are no longer allowed to travel to the pass. Infrastructure development in such harsh and tough terrain is extremely challenging with temperatures dipping to -40 degrees during winters and oxygen level is almost 50% less than at normal places. This makes the road at Umling La Pass a remarkable feat of engineering carried out by the Border Roads Organisation.
The road was totally paved in 2021. The breathtaking scenery ranks as some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet. It's one of the highest roads of the country. The area around the pass is just an endless expanse of barren terrain with no trace of civilization. If you do choose this route please check up to date information. The road to the summit is managed by the BRO (Border Roads Organization). It's a windy place and it's one of those places where you can feel hard winds coming from two directions at the same time. Getting permits for Chushul and Hanle sometimes can become a problem. It requires permission from Leh DC office. As it is a sensitive area, the visits from tourists may be limited and restricted by the Army.
Pic&video: Autocar India
Road suggested by: Hugh Wilson