Recently, a few images have been going viral among travel and adventure enthusiasts; of a new highest motorable road in the world. It is, once completed, speculated to cross over Umling La at 19,300 feet, thus making it the new highest motorable road in the world; and Umling La as the new highest motorable pass. The road will connect the villages of Chisumle and Demchok in southern Ladakh; running a total length of 21 – 24 kilometers. The entire stretch is currently under construction; but it seems a board has already been put up at the top by BRO. Images that I found over the web are as below.
No one as of now is sure of the exact location of the pass; but it would seem that it is somewhere close to Hanle and Koyul, further ahead of Photi La Pass; extremely close to Indo-China border. Demchok, also known as Demjok; is an army establishment but the village of Chisumle; which is the other end of the road, seems to be a mystery. I couldn’t find it anywhere on the map but if this road is connecting to Demchok, then you can imagine how close it would to the border.
Umling La Road Map
Based on what I have learned so far; below is a road map of how to reach Umling La. Please note that I have not been on the pass yet myself; have not met anyone who has been; and the map below is merely based on my findings. I am not really claiming it to be absolutely correct. Click on the map to view it in full resolution. Thank you Rohit Mishra and team for the information that this map is based upon.
How to reach Umling La
Looking at the map above, you will first need to reach Hanle from Leh. From Hanle, you will take the road towards Photi La pass, cross it and then reach the BRO camp. From the second bridge, you take the road towards Umling La; which is partially tarred and rest still under construction.
It seems no special permit is needed to visit the pass for now. Your Inner Line Permit for Hanle will work for Umling La as well.
Umling La – The New World’s Highest Motorable Road and Pass
Khardung La for a long time wore the crown of being called the highest motorable road in the world. This claim however always remained disputed as other passes at an even higher altitude came in to light. Whether or not these other passes were motorable was a big question though. Later on, even the actual altitude of Khardung La came in to dispute. The signs at the summit claimed it to be at a height of 18,379 feet; however the actual highest elevation of the road was at 17,582 ft. It is believed that the original mule track across the pass was at the claimed height of 18,379 ft but the metaled road never rises above 17,582 feet.
There were several other competing claims for this title after Khardung La lost the battle. Semo La at in Tibet has an asphalted road at a height of 18,258 feet which is used by trucks and buses regularly. All the other claimants were all gravel roads but were in use by by Army trucks, and thus motorable. Marismik La at a height of 18,314 feet for a long time remained to be a prime competitor. Later, Mana Pass in Uttarakhand came to the front with its highest elevation of 18,192 but the road before the pass rising to even an higher altitude of 18,406 feet. In the end however, it was Shipki La in Spiti that stole the glory with 18,698 feet.
Now as it would seem, the time of Shipki La too is over; as the new road across Umling La Pass will rise to an astounding height of 19,300 feet; exceeding all other passes by a huge difference. The road is expected to be completed soon as it has all the approvals needed. However, whether or not tourists will be allowed here remains to be in question. Getting permits for Chushul and Hanle sometimes can become a problem. Area around Demchok is almost China by a small margin.
People who feel that they have been to Ladakh several times and have seen it all; this pass is definitely something to look forward to. For now, this is all the information that I gather but if you have any other knowledge, please do share either in the comments section below or at our Community Forum.