Popular Mountain Passes in the Indian Himalayan Region
The great Indian Himalayan range which dominates the skyline is a marvel of human civilization and a treat to anyone’s eyes. Often many people driven by the desire to conquer the lofty heights of the Himalayan range embark on a trekking tour to the Himalayan ranges, but for lack of proper information regarding the task… only a few among them can achieve. It is obvious that trekking in the Indian Himalayan region often enlightens us and fills us with with vigour and zeal but still for some it remains unattainable pipe dream. But the excitement often pulls them to trace the trailing tracks to some easy treks during the peak season.
A perfect trekking expedition in the Indian Himalayan region can be successful only if the route is hurdle free. Well… don’t always expect it to be hurdle free as after reaching a certain altitude you will have to encounter boulder ridden tracks, narrow ridges, moraines and sometimes blizzards. That turns more adventurous. To snake through a mountain we often choose the shortest route to pass and hence it is called a mountain pass. These mountain passes make way through the mountain gap, saddle or col. The passes always offer a rough track making the journey strenuous and dangerous. So… here we come across a list of some of the explored and least explored Indian mountain passes… and I’m talking about those 5thousanders that often attract explorers from all over the world.
The Borasu pass
Uttarakhand has always remained the heart of adventure activities in India. This state holds the Borasu pass, which is considered one of the most popular and best trekking mountain passes in India, at an altitude of 5,450 meters above sea level in the Garhwal vista. Basically it consist of two routes one from Osla via Manandi tal and second one from Sankri covering Seema , Har-ki-Dun valley. It consumes around 7 to 14 days to final destination that ends at Chitkul, Himachal Pradesh.
Dhamdhar kandi pass
If Borasu pass of Gharwal region of Uttarakhand is the best mountain pass for trekking, then the majestic Dhumdhar Kandi pass is considered as one of the challenging treks in the Garhwal region. This pass consists of many topography disorders. This trek starts from Jhala and then following a steep section which runs along the Sian Gaad River to Durai Gaad. This pass is located at 5,300 meters above sea level. The highest point of the pass offers us the panoramic view of the Gangotri mountain ranges and Banderpoonch glacier.
At an altitude of 5,500 meters, Parang La, best known for connecting Himachal Pradesh with Leh Ladakh, offers a thrilling trek during the peak summer days in India. It consumes around 10-12 days to complete the trail, which leads off at Karzok via Tso Moriri. Atop the pass one can capture the view of Changthang valley and glimpse of Spiti valley.
The silk route of India famous worldwide is located at an elevation of 5,540 meters. This pass has been always remarked as one of the most difficult mountain pass of India. One can find the truth behind its trekking difficulty through the view of scattered skeletons and skulls all over. Apart from the negative aspect, one of the most significant parts of this pass is the prominent trade facility offered to the traders of India and the neighboring country, China. The trekking trails from Sasoma then leads to Tulumputi La and Jhingmoche after the hard rough climb.
When India has got silk routes it has got pass of Golden sands as well. Set at an elevation of 5,540 meters Saser La is an ancient summer caravan route from Leh in Ladakh to Yarkand in the Tarim Basin. The trek begins from Nubra valley in Ladakh via Sasoma and stretches for approximately 14 – 15 days. The trekking route is same as of the Karakoram pass.
Ladakh… as we all know that it is an abode of high mountain passes and with another pass called the Phirtse La, at an altitude of 5,450 meters, the region boost the mind of adventurers from all over the world. The actual trek begins from Darcha village, which is an ideal place for camping and then continues the expedition through Baralacha La, Phirtse La and Padum valley…..gosh the passes gives me a feel of Chinese accent.
At an elevation of 5,947 meters, Kalindikhal Pass is the highest trekkable mountain passes in India and the trek commences from Gangotri – Chirbasa – Bhojwassa and moves through the meadows of Tapovan and Nandanvan followed by Khara Pathar, Sweta Glacier and Kalindi Bhamak. The Kalindikhal Pass Trek is one of the difficult treks in the Garhwal region… not because of the altitude but for the fatal risk covering throughout the trek. The journey, after crossing Nandanvan becomes strenuous as it turns and climbs up to the deadly glaciated tracks.
One of the least explored mountain passes in the Indian Himalayan region, which is perched at an elevation of 5,335 meters, the Monirang Pass in Himachal Pradesh acts as a bridge between Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti region. The trek to Monirang Pass commences from Puh that is tucked on the Hindustan Tibet Road and thereafter the trail follows through the villages of Ropa, Rusklang, Giabong and Rankali. If you want explore beyond Monirang Pass… the Ghunsarng Pass via Sopona awaits for you!!!
At an elevation of 5,600 meters in Himachal Pradesh, Ghunsarng Pass is yet another thrilling option for trekkers to explore the unbeaten tracks of Himachal Pradesh. The trek to Ghunsarng Pass follows the same route as of the Monirang Pass and thereafter the trail dips down to Sopona followed by a steep climb to Ghunsarng Pass. Further, one can trek to Larsa Way Pass via Sopona followed by Mane, Khar and Tiling. Another trekking expedition in Himachal Pradesh that commences from Puh is the Charang Ghati trek. The journey moves through some of the remote villages like Labrang, Morang and Kannu.
Yet another ancient trade route between India and Tibet that is perched at an elevation of 5,495 meters in the Kumaon Himalayan region, Sin La is every trekker dream. Trek to Sin La is one of the moderate to difficult treks in the Kumaon region that begins from Pithoragarh and continues through Pangu, Sosa, Narayan Ashram, Sirkha, Gala, Budi, Gunji, Kutti and Jolinkong.
One of the highest motorable mountain passes in the Indian Himalayan region is Marsimik La at 5,679 meters that lies North East of Khardung La. It is one of the adventurous and challenging routes for bikers that snake through several jolting levels, rocky and sandy tracks and steep incline. Obviously one has to obtain entry permits from district authorities of Leh as Marsimik La is an inner line route.
Also known as Dungri La and perched at an elevation of 5,608 meters, Mana Pass within the periphery of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is another high altitude motorable mountain passes in India. BUT unfortunately access to civilians is not permitted as it is only used by the Army and ITBP for carrying supplies to border posts.
One of the notable motorable high altitude mountain passes in the Ladakh region is Khardung La at an elevation of 5,359 meters. Several mountain biking expeditions has taken place through Khardung La and the major route is from Manali that drives through several other mountain passes like Rohtang, Baralacha, Nakila, Lachung and Tanglang la on the Manali – Leh Highway. Beyond Khardungla… one can explore the breathtaking vicinity of Nubra Valley. On the other hand many bikers, from Khardung La, heads to Kargil.
The gateway to Pangong Lake, Chang La at an elevation of 5,320 meters is yet another busy drivable route in the Ladakh region during the peak season. Some of the nearby attractions from Chang La are Hemis Monastery, where you can witness the unique culture of the Indo – Tibetans; Chemrey, a Buddhist Gompa; Sakti, one of the remote villages in the region.
Claims to be the world’s second highest motorable mountain passes, Taglang at an elevation of 5,328 meters lies on the Manali – Leh Highway.
One of the least explored mountain passes in the Ladakh region is Omasi La that is at an elevation of 5,400 meters. The trek to Omasi La follows a gentle climb along a glacial river and one can also visit the Zongkul Monastery. Although the journey acquaints with the barren and beaten landscape, you can still explore the wilderness and can sight animals like tzo, yaks and horses. Further, the remote shepherd villages tucked in the mountains turns out to be the unique attractions. Omasi La trek commences from Atholi and leads to Kunal Bridge followed by Marchel and Zardung Gup. From Omasi La the trail dips to Gawara and thereafter leads off at Padum.
At an elevation of 5,470 meters, Kanji La is yet another least explored route in the Ladakh region that connects the remote village of Kanji at 3,850 meters with Rangdum. Some of the major attractions on the Kanji La trek are the Rangdum Monastery and spectacular Kanji valley. Further, the journey traversing through mountain passes like Pensi La at 4,450 meters and Yogma La at 4,700 meters; Kanji Gorge; gurgling rivers like Kong and Shilakong; and villages like Karsha and Shilla.. simply excites the trail.
The ancient territory of Zanskar has always been a grapevine to travellers but no doubt the region also attracts countless adventurers from different parts of the world. Poad La at an elevation of 5,490 meters is one of the least explored places in the region and connects the Trans – Himalaya with Zansskar region. The trek to Poad La starts from Tiyul, which is few hours of drive from Padum. Thereafter, the trail follows Tsokmitsik, Chimichenmo and Kanjur. Trekkers can further head up to Sersang La via Pananser and Danga. Some of the major attractions on this trail are Bardan and Mune Monastery.
If you want to travel through the Trans – Himalaya and maneuver to the Zanskar region, Sersang La at an elevation of 5,100 meters is one of the galvanizing routes. The trek to Sersang La commences from Atholi and thereafter leads to Sho and Bistaun along the River Chenab and turns to Ganmas from Dharwas. Other route to Sersang La starts from Raoli and passes through Purthi, Sach and Gosti before reaching Dharwas. Nonetheless Sersang La is also accessible by foot from Tiyul via Poad La.
One of the remote places in the Zanskar region is Kang La, which lies at an altitude of 5,490 meters and is only accessible by foot. The expedition starts from Tiyul, which is a drivable distance from Padum and thereafter the trail leads to Chemochekore where from the trail crosses a small stream. Some of the major attractions on this trail are Bardan and Mune Monastery. The other route commences from Urgus, which is drivable from Manali. From Urgus the trek ascends to Khanjar followed by Gumba Nala and Phalpu.
Often acts as a col between Lamayuru and Alchi, Tar La at an elevation of 5,250 meters is yet another precipitous mountain passes in the Ladakh region that captures the attention of several trekkers from different corners of the world. The trek through Tar La commences from Lamayuru and heads to Wanla followed by Urshi. The trail from Tar La descends gradually to Tar village wherefrom the expedition Mang Gyu and leads off at Alchi via Gera.
Another least explored trekkable mountain passes in the Ladakh region is the Shapodok La at an elevation of 5,680 meters. The trek to Shapodok La stretches over days and can be accessible from Stongde, which is motorable from Padum. The trek from Stongde heads to Stara Doksa and gradually climbs to Stongde La at 4,850 meters. Thereafter, the trail leads to Mola Sumdo followed by Niri and Niri Sumdo. Well… one can trail back to Padum following the same route OR if you want to explore more the thrilling expedition continues to Yar La at 4,950 meters passing through some of the remote places namely Lartsa, La Barpa, Tantse Sumdo, Dat, Dango and Oldong along the River Khamak Chu. From Yar La further the trail leads to Zara wherefrom you can either drive to Leh or Manali.
The bridge between the villages of Wanla and Henaskut, Nygutse La at an elevation of 5,000 meters is one of the major trekkable routes in the Ladakh region. The route to Nygutse La diverts from Kanji village and heads to Yokma La at 4,700 meters. From Nygutse La the trail either leads off at Wanla passing through Hanupata, Sumdo and Phanjila OR one can head to Honya via Sirsir La at 4,805 meters followed by Photoksar, Bumitse La, Sengge La at 5,000 meters, Takti La at 4,610 meters and Namtse La at 4,430 meters. From Honya the journey leads off at Padum after a drive via Stongde.
One of the breathtaking trekkable mountain passes in the Ladakh region that you can come across on the way to Alchi from Chilling is the Stakspi La, which is at an elevation of 5,200 meters. The journey en route Stakspi La follows through the village of Sumdha Do and thereafter, Sumdha Chungun where you can pay a visit to one of the ancient gompas of the Indo – Tibetans. From Stakspi La the trek gradually follows a downhill trail to Alchi.
Another least explored trekkable route in the Ladakh region that heads to Tso Moriri is through the Kyamayuri La, which is at an elevation of 5,410 meters. The trek to Tso Moriri via Kyamayuri La starts from Riyul and moves through a remote village of Nuruchan and thereafter climbs up to Horlam Kongka at 4,900 meters. From Rajung Karu the trail gradually follows a steep climb to Kyamayuri La and the dips down to Gyama Barma before turning to Kartse La. From Gyama the trek again follows a gradual climb to Yalung Nyau La at 5,440 meters and thence leads off at Korzok.
Yalung Nyau La
If you are planning to pick the route off ramp to Tso Moriri, from Riyul, passing through Yalung Nyau La at 5,440 meters will surely make your trekking tour in Ladakh region one of the thrilling ones. The trek via Yalung Nyau La from Riyul follows the same track as that of the route via Kyamayuri La to Tso Moriri.
If you are seeking to explore the picturesque Rupshu and Markha valley… the journey through Morang La, which lies at an altitude of 5,135 meters, will definitely be a part of an adventure tour. The entire trail through barren high landscape, mountain passes, beautiful gorges, green pastures and shepherd villages will leave you like wanderlust. Further, the journey also encounters several wild animals like marmots, Bharal, Kiang, Snow leopard and many varieties of birds.
One of the notable mountain passes in the Garhwal Himalayan region that falls on the Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama is the Charang Ghati, which is at an elevation of 5,242 meters. The trek through Charang Ghati from Kalpa to Chitkul involves a treacherous walk BUT it occupies a picturesque horizon where one can capture some of the prominent peaks in the Kinnaur Kailash range that include the Jorkaden Peak at 6,474 meters, Kinnaur Kailash Peak at 6,500 meters, Phawarang Peak at 6,349 meters and Saro Peak at 6,080 meters. On the other hand, the pleasing and colourful Sangla Valley… the spectrum of its bountiful nature, lush green meadows, streams, mountains and cattle farms remains another attraction on the trail.
The bridge connecting Darcha in Lahual Valley with Miyar Valley, Tarsalamu Pass at an elevation of 5,358 meters is one of the remote mountain passes in the Indian Himalayan region that enraptures the seasoned trekkers. The trek via Tarsalamu Pass starts from Darcha and thereafter along the Jankaar Nala the trail leads to Jankar Sumdo after crossing Dakbajan. From Jankar Sumdo the trek climbs up to Tarsalamu Pass, which is the most difficult part of the route, followed by a steep descent to Khanjar. Followed by Karpat and Chamrat, the trek leads off at Udaipur, where from one can drive either to Manaali via Keylong OR towards Pangi Valley.
We can say that Debsa Pass at an altitude of 5,361 meters is one of the least explored mountain passes in the entire Indian Himalayan region. After several expeditions the route through Debsa Pass from Manikaran to Kaja, passing through the remote regions of Kach, Bara Dwari Thach and Parahio Valley… was finally discovered in the year 1995.
Pin Parvati Pass
The Pin Parvati Pass at an elevation of 5,319 meters is one of the popular high altitude mountain passes in the Himachal Pradesh Himalaya region that often attract trekkers during the peak trekking season. The Pin Parvati Pass is the bridge between the greenscape of Kullu Valley with the wilderness of Pin Valley. The journey through Pin Parvati Pass starts from Manikaran and passes through Khirganga, Thaakur Kuan and Mantalai and thereafter from Pin Parvati Pass the trek descends to Mud along the Pin River, followed by Sangam and Gulina.
Sara Umga Pass
Connecting the Kullu Valley with Lahaul and Spiti Valley, Sara Umga Pass at an elevation of 5,019 meters is yet another unexplored trekkable route in Himachal Pradesh. One can capture the mighty peaks of Deo Tibba at 6,001 meters and Indrasan at 6,290 meters atop the Sara Umga Pass.
Close to the Siachen Glacier and connecting Pakistani-controlled Kondus Glacier, Sia La at 5,589 meters is although one of the trekkable mountain passes in the Himalayan region, but is only permitted to military. Sia La along with the nearby passes Bilafond La and Gyong La and area encircling has witnessed a lot of border conflicts and hence trekking in this region for normal citizens is not permitted.
One of the major mountain passes in the Kumaon Himalayan region, the Lipulekh Pass at an elevation of 5,334 meters connects the Pithoragarh district in India with the old trading town of Taklakot (Purang) in Tibet. The popular Kailash Mansarovar Yatra traverses this pass and hence is one of the most diligent passes during the peak season that attracts lot f Hindu pilgrims. The trek through Lipulekh Pass starts from Tawaghat followed by several small villages like Pangu, Gala, Malpa, Gunji, Kalapani and Navidhang.
Connecting the Rudugaira valley and Bhilangna valley, the Auden’s Col at an elevation of 5,490 meters is yet another dicey and tricky high altitude mountain passes in the Garhwal Himalayan region. The trek through Auden’s Col is an ultimate wanderlust for seasoned trekkers and moreover the trail connects two most notable pilgrimages, Gangotri and Kedarnath… hence fetching lot of pilgrims as well.
A bridge between Badrinath and Kedarnath, two notable Hindu pilgrimage sites on the Char Dham Yatra, Panpatiya Col at an altitude of 5,260 meters is a legendary gateway fetching several pilgrims from different corner of the country. The major attractions on the route are the Panpatiya glacier as well as several peaks encircling it. The trek through Panpatiya Col from Badrinath passes through several small villages and temples and negotiates with rocky tracks and deadly moraines… making the journey one of the toughest treks in the Garhwal Himalayan region.
One of the least explored mountain passes in the Garhwal Himalayan region, Kankul Pass at an altitude of 5,230 meters is the gateway to Kagbhushandi Taal. The journey commences from Joshimath and leads to the village of Bhyunder wherefrom the trail follows to Dang Kharak Glacier camp after crossing Semartoli Bugyal. Thereafter, the a steep climb leads to Kankul Pass and later descends to Vishnu Prayag via Barmai Pass at 4,513 meters.
The Lamkhaga Pass at an elevation of 5,235 meters is a bridge connecting the Garhwal region with Himachal Pradesh and the trek at times follows treacherous journey involving steep climbs, sharp turns and walking over deadly moraines. The trek often encounters several small streams, gorges and lush green valleys. The trek through Lamkhaga Pass starts from Harsil and follows through Kyarkoti and Sukha Tal before approaching the pass. From Lamkhaga Pass… the trail heads to Shimla via Dumti, Ranikanda, Chitkul and Sangla.
Dongkha La or Donkia Pass standing at an elevation of 5,486 meters is one of the major mountain passes in the Sikkim Himalayan region that connects Sikkim in India with Tibet. Atop the mountain pass one can capture the picturesque Tibetan plateau and further one can trek up to the Tso Lhamo Lake and Gurudongmar Lake.
A scenic mountain pass located on the Pir Panjal Range, the Kugti Pass at an altitude of 5,050 meters is the bridge connecting the Bharmour region in Chamba district with Keylong in Lahaul valley. Filled with wilderness and adventure, the trek through Kugti Pass is no doubt a lifetime experience for every trekker.