How to Visit Siachen Glacier and Base Camp?

by Vargis.Khan

Go back a decade or more and you hardly hear anyone talking about Ladakh. It was not even considered a place worth visiting; forget about being a tourist spot. It was just a name we heard once in a while; a land far away somewhere in our country. Fast forward to times like today and everyone now wants to visit Ladakh; all thanks to Bollywood. So much is the craze these days that people now have started to think of remote areas even in this remotest part of our country.  Everyone wants to come to Ladakh and explore the unexplored; go to areas that no one has been to; areas that are less traveled or visited. One of the queries that I have started to receive about Ladakh trip quite often now is on how to visit Siachen; either the glacier itself or at least the Base Camp.

If you too have been planning a trip to Ladakh; and wondering how to go about adding Siachen to your itinerary; then read on to find out.

how to visit siachenImage Credit: Wiki

What is Siachen

First of all, let me begin with some information on what exactly Siachen is. The Siachen Glacier is a glacier located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayas, just northeast of the point NJ9842 where the Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends. At 76 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second longest in the world’s non-polar areas.




More importantly however, at an altitude of 5,753 meters (18,875 ft) it is now the world’s highest battleground. It is an active battle zone where Indian and Pakistani forces remain engaged in conflict all 12 months. The entire Siachen Glacier, with all major passes, is currently under the administration of India since 1984.

Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh

It however is not really the matter of the constant battle out here. More soldiers have died at Siachen from the harsh weather conditions in the region than from combat.  A total of 869 Army personnel have lost their lives on the Siachen glacier; due to climatic conditions and environmental and other factors till date; since Indian Army deployed posts at Siachen in 1984.

So that is Siachen for you. It is not an adventurous place, not a tourist spot or an area where tourists are allowed. It is not a place where you go just for a challenge or to explore. Siachen is where you run a great risk of dying if you were careful, prepared, escorted and trained for it.

Source: Wiki

Siachen Base Camp

Siachen Base Camp is the base came or in layman terms, the army base from where Indian Indian Army mans the Glacier operations. This is where the road ends and treks to various army posts at Siachen glacier begin.

Where is Siachen Base Camp

Siachen Base Camp is located in Nubra Valley of Ladakh region. From the town of Leh, you will cross Khardung La to enter the valley; and drive through Panamik and Warshi villages to reach the base camp. Civilians as of now are only allowed till Warshi Village.

How to go to Siachen Base Camp

So unless you were into trekking and mountaineering professionally, Siachen Base Camp is as far as you go.  This is also where the road ends so you cannot really drive or ride any further. The trip from Leh town will easily take you about 10 hours to reach the base camp depending upon your speed. It is however the permission to go there which is hard to get. Your regular ILP in Ladakh will only get you as far as Warshi Village in Nubra valley.

Also read: How to Handle Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh

Siachen Base Camp Permission

The DC office Leh is not authorized and cannot issue any permits for visiting Base Camp. For this, you will have to get a permit from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with a very clear explanation on why you want to visit here. So in short, to get Siachen Base Camp permission, you really need to have good bureaucratic contacts in ministries and Indian Army.

There is however another way around this which is really the unofficial one. If you know an Indian Army official of high rank posted in Ladakh; or maybe a junior rank officer who can talk to the high rank on our behalf; you can get a permit issued to visit the base camp. For this, you will have to go to Partapur Army Camp, the brigade HQ of North Ladakh and try your luck. It is around 7 kilometers from Hunder.

Please note though that either way, it will be a day trip. You will first have to reach any of the towns in Nubra valley from Leh and stay there for the night. On Day 2, you will make a day trip to Siachen Base camp and return back to Nubra valley. On 3rd day you will return to Leh. There is no accommodation anywhere near the base camp and you will also not be allowed to stay there unless you were part of an conducted by Indian Army in which case they will make arrangements of your stay. Army conducts such kind of events or day trips to Siachen Base Camp and if you were lucky enough to become a part of such group, your trip to the camp will be organized by Army itself.

How to visit Siachen Glacier

Visiting Siachen Glacier however is an entirely different ball game than visiting Siachen Base Camp. For Base camp you can just drive all the way but for the glacier, you will have to trek 60 kilometers across the harsh terrain, through moraines, glaciers and deep crevasses. Not only you need to be physically fit for this, you also need to have ample of trekking and mountaineering experience. You also will need to have a medical check up done and a doctor to declare you fit for the task. Even the soldiers who get posted at Siachen Glacier spend several days at the base camp first before they go up to the glacier. Not far from the base camp is the Siachen Battle School where the soldiers train for several weeks before they are inducted at the glacier. So you can image the difficulty of the task.

Also read: A Comprehensive List of All Tourist Attractions in Ladakh

Siachen Glacier Permit

Almost impossible to get is what describes it the best. First of all, Siachen Glacier is not really a place where you can just get a permit and start trekking towards it. The only way to get here it to be a part of a trekking expedition and go with the entire group. These trekking expeditions get organized by Indian army most. Some other trekking expeditions too get organized after approval from government and Indian army but mostly it is the Army itself that arranges the trek.

Siachen Trekking Expedition

How to be a part of such trekking expedition? Well first of all the number of expeditions is severely limited, just 1 per year. That is correct, it is an annual thing. And then the number of people in the expedition is limited on top of it. A large number of people apply for these expeditions and I am really talking about people with plenty of trekking experience and high level contacts. Only the lucky ones get picked for the trek in the end.

The Army takes around 40 people, including its experts, two journalists, defense scientists, school cadets and civilian volunteers for this expedition. Of the civilian volunteers, a medical check up gets done at Leh and only people who pass this test are allowed to go to Siachen Base Camp. Then at the camp, these people get trained or about a week before they go to the glacier.

Organizations associated with defense forces, media persons, Rashtriya Indian Military College and Rashtriya Military School cadets participate in the trek every year. So for civilians and people like you and I, getting a permit for Siachen Glacier is almost impossible. If you would however still want to try your luck, then please visit the link below to read the entire procedure on how to apply for the expedition.

Also Read: How to Apply for Siachen Trekking Expedition

 Can Foreigners visit Siachen Glacier or Base Camp?

Not at all. If you are not an Indian citizen, you will not be allowed to go any further than Warshi village. That is the last point in Nubra valley that a foreign national can visit. Even for Siachen Base Camp, being an Indian citizen is the first qualifying condition.

Conclusion

I hope the information above on how to visit Siachen was of help. If you have any further questions; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.

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8 comments

Avatar
Venkatesh rao April 22, 2020 - 9:43 am

Hii bhaiya…i m planning to make a solo trip to ladakh with my TVS Radeon 110cc bike …can u help mei bhaiya….wat was the procedure to this trip and how much cost will it take….can you explain mei fully detail…..because its my first & Last dream of my life..so pls help mei.f possible bhaiya pls provide urs contact no

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Avatar
Mohandas September 20, 2018 - 6:25 pm

Hi Vargis bhai, your posts were so informative on our recent trip to ladakh. I’ve a small doubt in this article – is Karakoram range part of Himalayas ? As far as I’m aware , it’s not. Those are two different mountain ranges. Now Im also got confused. If possible, please explain about the location of different ranges in ladakh ( ladakh range, himalayan range, karakoram range, hindukush range ). ie about different passes in ladakh and each of those passes lies in which range .

Reply
Wafar
Wafar September 14, 2018 - 3:11 am

Dear Mr. Khan and fellow travellers,

Initially it was a dream for me, since 30 years, to drive a car or ride a bike from Jammu to Leh. On second thought, I felt that it would be a real challenge if I could ride a low-powered two wheeler rather than a bike like a Bullet. I was following for many years the posts of Mr. Gautam who rode a geared scooter to Leh and of Mr. Khan who was confident that a 110 CC bike also could make this trip. These led to my decision to ride a non-geared scooter to Leh. Two other reasons that helped me in this decision – non-availability of geared scooters now in India and my inexperience in riding a bike!

The original plan was to undertake a ride from Jammu to Leh. If this was successful, then add a trip to Khardung La and if this also turned out to be doable, then why not return by Leh-Manali route?
My preparations were minimum. The scooter (TVS Jupiter) had 22000 km on the counter but was serviced 3 weeks before leaving. I had only windcheaters but bought a jacket, on the insistence of a friend, from Chandigarh. I carried a puncture kit and a tool kit, besides medicines for emergency. My luggage was no more than 10 kg and even this was carried from Jammu onwards in an Enfield Classic ridden by my nephew who accompanied me in the last minute. Mr. Khan wrote in his post to have a test run done in a hill station before leaving. I did that in the Jammu-Srinagar section! It was a dream run, despite bad roads between Udampur and Banihal.

The ride between Srinagar and Leh was also smooth, in two days’ time, with a break at Kargil. The difficult part was a 40 km stretch between Sonmarg and Zoji La where there was practically no road. After reaching Leh, I had an overnight rest before attempting Khardung La. The ride was smooth until South Pullu, then the road was in a bad shape for close to 18 km. Still, the scooter continued its climb, though the pulling was greatly reduced. It was a tough negotiation for the last two km but, at last, I and my scooter, were at the highest motorable road in the world!

I reasoned that, if the scooter can climb Khardung La, then it can also climb Taglang La, Lachulung La and Baralacha La, all above 5000 m on the Manali route. And I was not hit by mountain sickness at any time since leaving Srinagar. So, I decided to try Manali route.

I did this in two days’ time. On the first day, I rode from Leh till Kerchu where I slept the night. By next evening I was in Rohtang Pass. The ride was, understandably, more tougher, with cold, persistent winds, roads flooded and washed out with glacial-melt waters, fear of skidding….In fact, I skidded and fell twice, once near Kargil and once near Pang, and in both instances, escaped with minor scratches.

Well, this is my adventure story. This should be read in the context of my age (69 years) and health (diabetic and BP patient) and physical standards (65 kg). Perhaps, the light weight was a plus point!
My message for all those who still waver between dream and reality. You can do it. You only need to be optimistic, take some precautions and have lots of patience.

I plan to return to Ladakh again next year. I don’t know yet where to – may be Lahul and Spiti or Nubra valley and onto Siachen base camp. I hope I will meet some of you, new adventurers, on the way! And I hope to get encouragements and help from Mr. Khan and Mr. Gautam!

Mr. Khan, could you please send me ([email protected]) an email ID so that I can send you some pics? I am not bale to insert them here in this comment.

Reply
Wafar
Wafar September 14, 2018 - 3:07 am

Dear Mr. Khan and fellow travellers,

Initially it was a dream for me, since 30 years, to drive a car or ride a bike from Jammu to Leh. On second thought, I felt that it would be a real challenge if I could ride a low-powered two wheeler rather than a bike like a Bullet. I was following for many years the posts of Mr. Gautam who rode a geared scooter to Leh and of Mr. Khan who was confident that a 110 CC bike also could make this trip. These led to my decision to ride a non-geared scooter to Leh. Two other reasons that helped me in this decision – non-availability of geared scooters now in India and my inexperience in riding a bike!

The original plan was to undertake a ride from Jammu to Leh. If this was successful, then add a trip to Khardung La and if this also turned out to be doable, then why not return by Leh-Manali route?

My preparations were minimum. The scooter (TVS Jupiter) had 22000 km on the counter but was serviced 3 weeks before leaving. I had only windcheaters but bought a jacket, on the insistence of a friend, from Chandigarh. I carried a puncture kit and a tool kit, besides medicines for emergency. My luggage was no more than 10 kg and even this was carried from Jammu onwards in an Enfield Classic ridden by my nephew who accompanied me in the last minute. Mr. Khan wrote in his post to have a test run done in a hill station before leaving. I did that in the Jammu-Srinagar section! It was a dream run, despite bad roads between Udampur and Banihal.

The ride between Srinagar and Leh was also smooth, in two days’ time, with a break at Kargil. The difficult part was a 40 km stretch between Sonmarg and Zoji La where there was practically no road. After reaching Leh, I had an overnight rest before attempting Khardung La. The ride was smooth until South Pullu, then the road was in a bad shape for close to 18 km. Still, the scooter continued its climb, though the pulling was greatly reduced. It was a tough negotiation for the last two km but, at last, I and my scooter, were at the highest motorable road in the world!

I reasoned that, if the scooter can climb Khardung La, then it can also climb Taglang La, Lachulung La and Baralacha La, all above 5000 m on the Manali route. And I was not hit by mountain sickness at any time since leaving Srinagar. So, I decided to try Manali route.

I did this in two days’ time. On the first day, I rode from Leh till Kerchu where I slept the night. By next evening I was in Rohtang Pass. The ride was, understandably, more tougher, with cold, persistent winds, roads flooded and washed out with glacial-melt waters, fear of skidding….In fact, I skidded and fell twice, once near Kargil and once near Pang, and in both instances, escaped with minor scratches.

Well, this is my adventure story. This should be read in the context of my age (69 years) and health (diabetic and BP patient) and physical standards (65 kg). Perhaps, the light weight was a plus point!

My message for all those who still waver between dream and reality. You can do it. You only need to be optimistic, take some precautions and have lots of patience.

I plan to return to Ladakh again next year. I don’t know yet where to – may be Lahul and Spiti or Nubra valley and onto Siachen base camp. I hope I will meet some of you, new adventurers, on the way! And I hope to get encouragements and help from Mr. Khan and Mr. Gautam!

PS: I am not able to upload photos with this comment. how do I send the pics? by email to Mr. Khan? If so, please send me your email ID to [email protected]. Thanks

Wafar

Reply
Dr. M. Wafar
Dr. M. Wafar September 7, 2018 - 1:55 pm

Dear Mr. Khan,

I have following your posts for quite sometime. They were helpful in my trip to Khardung La. In the last week of August. I rode solo my TVS Jupiter 110 CC non-geared two wheeler from Jammu to Khardung La. Then I rode from Leh to Manali in two days time by the same scooter, with a night halt at Kerchu. My DOB is 4th July 1949 and I think I could be the oldest person to have ridden a non-geared low-powered two wheeler to Kahrdung La.

I hope my success will be a motivation for others.

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Avatar
Vargis.Khan September 7, 2018 - 6:54 pm

Hello Dr. Wafar,

I am glad that the information posted here was of help. And I completely agree to the part that your journey must stand as a motivation to all others. Sir may I please request, if you would be kind enough to share some pictures and little details of your trip? I would be glad to post an article here sharing your trip with others. It will be an honor.

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Avatar
Malik May 3, 2018 - 5:46 pm

Vargis bhaiya …i m planning for ladakh n spiti this year… I m planning it with my new apache 160 4v (recently launched) . So will this bike work or not..??

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Avatar
Vargis.Khan May 3, 2018 - 5:48 pm

Hi Malik – Yes the bike will be fine for Ladakh. Just go Solo and if possible, get a carrier installed to carry your luggage.

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