Ever since Umling La first came into existence in 2017, it has been a craze in motorcycle enthusiasts and adventure junkies. Almost everyone who is into motorcycles or mountains wants to conquer this pass and add another feather in their hat. Each year, thousands of people visit Ladakh on their bikes and almost everyone wants to keep Umling La as a part of their respective itineraries. But before you plan to do so, you got to ask if it is even allowed to go that way? And that is the question I wanted to answer in this post. Is it possible to visit Umling La Pass in 2020?
Umling La Pass
Umling La is located a little ahead of the village of Hanle and Photi La Pass. Hanle is pretty much the last village on that side of the India border and after Hanle, it is miles and miles of nothing. The only sign of civilization will be the posts of the Indian Army. The pass is extremely close to the border because of which, civilian movement here is not allowed, except for the locals.
Towards the end of 2017, when the pass was opened, a handful of people found out about its location. Since a trip to Umling La was not allowed, there were no permits being issued for it as well. The only permit provide was for Hanle. So tourists (especially bikers) obtained the permit for Hanle, cleared the check post at Loma and went to Hanle for the night. Next day from Hanle, they visited Umling La. Surprisingly, at that time, there were no check posts as well between Hanle and Umling La. The only army posts were of BRO and they did not stop anyone from going.
After this, the word spread like fire and in 2018, everyone was geared up to visit Hanle. They all assumed that it was allowed and permissible since people already went their in 2017.
As soon as the tourist season started, motorcyclists started venturing in that direction; but by then, Indian Army too was prepared to stop people going that way. A group of motorcyclists was arrested while trying to attempt the pass but was released later. After this, the Army issued strict instructions that no one will be allowed to go toward Umling La Pass. In fact, even permits for Hanle for some time were not issued to stop people from going in that direction.
Can you visit or not?
So the answer to the question is that no, you cannot visit Umling La Pass in 2020. It is strictly off the limits for tourists and the farthest you can go is Hanle. Umling La Pass is a highly sensitive area and is extremely close to the border. There is no permit issued for it and the regular Inner Line Permit does not even have the option of applying a permit for Umling La.
You must not also try to skip the check post; or try to take a detour or short cut towards the pass. If found doing so or caught, you will be arrested and there will be legal action taken against you. If a travel group says they will take you to the pass then it is safe to assume that they are just trying to fool you. Do not fall for it.