“World’s Highest Motorable Road,” proudly proclaims the board along the Khardung La Pass, around 40 km from the town of Leh, Ladakh. It says that the road lies 5,602 m (18,379 feet) above sea level, although its actual elevation is 5,359 m (17,582 feet). Still, getting to Khardung La is no easy feat for man or machine even today, 41 years after the road was first built. Those who have reached the top consider it one of their proudest moments. But now there is a new road in Ladakh to conquer, and this one actually is the world’s highest motorable road at the moment. ALSO READ: 10 best pictures of Ladakh that will seduce the traveller in you Also Read - First Confirmed Case of Coronavirus in Indian Army As Jawan in Ladakh Tests Positive for COVID-19
India’s Border Roads Organization (BRO) has just completed the highest motorable road in the world, along the Umling La pass. The road reaches an elevation of more than 5,880 meters of 19,300 feet. Connecting the remote villages of Demchok and Chisumle, this road lies around 230 km from Leh. It is the result of the BRO’s Project Himank, and the two villages lie close to the India’s eastern sector border with China. The 86 km long road doesn’t just connect these two villages, though. It is also close the the town of Hanle, home of the famed Hanle monastery and the Indian Astronomical Observatory. Also Read - Yoga Day 2020: Leh to Host This Year's Main Event; 15,000 Participants Expected to Attend
Driving or riding along this road won’t be an easy task and, clearly, neither was its construction. Brigadier D.M. Purvimath, the Chief Engineer of the project, spoke of life-threatening challenges during the construction. The temperature was 10-20 degrees at best during the peak of the summer, and would dip to -40 degrees in the winters. Oxygen levels dropped down to half the normal levels. The harsh Ladakh climate showed no mercy on the machines either. The machines operated at half their usual efficiency, according to the Brigadier, and operators had to descend every ten minutes for oxygen. Also Read - Vande Mataram From 17,000 Feet Above | Watch Video
Brigadier Purvimath talked of personnel facing severe health issues like high blood pressure, poor eyesight and even memory loss. Machine and equipment breakdowns were common, and repairing and maintaining them at such extreme altitudes was another massive challenge. But the men, and the machines, pulled through, working day in and day out to complete this vital road. Commander Pardeej Raj of the 753 Border Road Task Force(BRTF) said that the BRO personnel had to undergo a thorough training and altitude acclimatization process. The men were acclimatized at Leh, followed by Shakti and Numa, before being sent to the construction zone. NOW READ: Unexplored places to visit in Ladakh for your summer vacation
The Umling La Pass road is another feather in the cap for the BRO’s Project Himank and its brave personnel. Khardung La was also built under this project, as was the Chang La Pass road that connects Durbuk and Nubra to each other.