Location: Leh, India
Average gradient: 5%
Here is a link to the Strava segment here:
The Khardung Pass in located in the Ladakh region of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir in India and is a climbing junkies paradise. It is claimed to be one of the world’s highest drivable roads taking you up to almost 5,500 metres above sea level. Given that altitude sickness can commonly occur after 2,400 metres even a seasoned Pro would struggle to get up this one.
What to expect
This is a high altitude climb which starts about 3,500 metres above sea level and will take you all the way up to 5,359 meters above sea level. The first 24 km, to the South Pullu check point are paved. From there to the North Pullu check point about 15 km beyond the pass the roadway is primarily loose rock, dirt, and occasional rivulets of melted snow. The climb is very long at close to 40 km in length, but has a very steady gradient.
Extreme levels of fitness would be required to even attempt this climb. Altitude sickness is very common up at these levels.
Due to the proximity of the Pakistani and Chinese borders, this road is used frequently by the Military and Army truck convoys are a regular hazard. An Inner Line Permit (ILP) is required for foreign tourists and can be acquired at the DC’s office in Leh. You would be required to check in en route and must provide photocopies of the permits to be deposited at each checkpoint.
There are tours based out of Leh, but from the sounds of things aren’t climbing tours. They will take you to the top of the pass and provide you with a Mountain Bike to enjoy the 40km descent back into town. Personally I don’t understand why anyone would want to bypass the fun part of the ride.
Altitude sickness is a serious health concern for travellers not previously acclimatized to high altitudes. Prophylactic altitude-sickness medication may be necessary for some travellers as there are no emergency medical facilities to treat altitude sickness along the route.
The road is closed annually from approximately October to May due to snow and is often subject to long travel delays due to traffic congestion on narrow one-lane sections, washouts, landslides and road accidents.