Srinagar to Ladakh, 2018

An incredible journey on 2 wheels undertaken by myself with my co-riders Dipen Jain, Mihir Parmar and Amit Singh and supported by my wife Nina Shah in the support vehicle. The journey covers approximately 500+ kms from Srinagar to Khardungla pass in Ladakh. The Khardungla pass is known to be the highest motorable pass in the world with an altitude of 18380 feet.

Reached Srinagar – Our start point

After landing in Srinagar, we drove to our hotel opp dal lake. All of us assembled our bikes and then we went for a evening bike ride on the dal lake road and climbed to the botanical gardens. Dal lake in the setting sun was mesmerizing. All bikes checked and minor adjustments made.

We were now ready to start our expedition the next day.

Day 1 – Srinagar to Sonmarg.

We made a routine of early starts. Tyipcal wake up time at 5.30 AM. At 6.30 AM, we would load the van with luggage and all essentials. We start riding at 7 am on most days and earlier on some tough days.

The initial 15 kms were on the dal lake. Awesome sunrise setting across the lake.

Stopped after 32 kms at a dhaba for yummy paratha and chole breakfast. The Ride to Sonmarg had tough climbs in the final ascent. A total of 85 kms. Our Stay was at the awesome glacier hotel. We reached Sonmarg by 4 pm. Later strolled through the green mountains later and made the best of our time at Sonmarg.

 

Day’s ride in pictures:


Day 2 – Sonmarg to Drass

ladakhladakhWe started an hour early at 6 am as we had a tough climb to zozila pass on this day. All of us were very apprehensive of the challenging climb ahead of us. The Sonmarg road was so beautiful in the in the morning chill and the rising sun as were climbing up from Sonmarg town. Soon we climbed to approx 10500 ft.

When we reached the Zozila pass, it was hot. The zozila pass road was a torrid patch of rubble, stones and gravel and pretty tough gradients. Approx 7-8 kms length. Lots of traffic meant too much loose sand floating around as well. Finally we reached zero point and had a well-deserved lunch of Maggi, omelette and chai at the peak. Then it was a easier ride towards Drass. The town of Drass had limited accomodation. We stayed in a small hotel. Cost per room Rs. 650 per night. We went to the War memorial and were quite taken back by the museum and the short film shown there.

Zozila pass photos

War Memorial photos


Day 3. – Drass to Mukbet / Wakha

We started at 7 am. Almost immediately, We had an awesome descent for most of of the initial 55 kms to Kargil. Superb tarred toad. We could coast down at over 50 kmph. Then the next 40 kms were rolling upwards. We climbed an altitude of approx 2000 feet that day. Finally we reached mukbet/wakha village. Total riding of 101 kms today. Little or no hotels here. We stayed in a small guest house @ Rs. 600 per room/night. These small hotels prepare delicious food. Tasty meals of Roti, Veggies, Dal & rice.

 

 

 

Day 3 in pics


Day 4 – Wakha to Lamayaru

This was supposed to be a tough day for us as we had to climb 2 mighty passes. Right from the start, We started at the base of a long and tough climb to Namikla pass. However the road quality was extremely good and perfectly tarred for cyclists. The morning sun was easy on us.

Slowly we climbed to the namikla pass at 12100 feet. Then the descent was exhilarating for the next 20 kms. After another 20 kms of rolling roads, we climbed the mighty fatula pass at 13479 feet.

Being at the top of these passes was a big booster for us as well as relief across the team.

For me, Sipping tea at 12000 enroute up to Fatula pass was a lovely experience. After lot of celebration photos at the top, we descended down to the lovely town of lamayaru.

We stayed at the amazing hotel next to monastery. The room cost was Rs. 500/- per night with lovely Views. We hogged on Tibetan and Chinese food though it was well past lunch time.

Day’s ride in pics.


Day 5 – Lamayuru to Nimmu

For a change, We had a wholesome breakfast at hotel before we started at 8 AM. What followed was an exhilarating experience riding down the ravines and valleys from lamayaru. The best ride so far. After about 40 kms, we got some serious climbs on way to nimmu. But the reward was worth it. A straight road through a huge and gorgeous valley and then downhill to nimmu. Total of 80 kms riding done today.

Our stay at chamba view guest house with one of the most enterprising woman we have met. She prepared Green tea in the evening and then egg parathas and a lovely dinner for us.

Day’s ride in pics.


Day 6 – Nimmu to leh

The morning started with a drizzle.So we stopped for a early breakfast. Then we got a long climb to the magnetic hill.After this started one of the best road stretches thru a huge and long valley.

The final part saw a long downhill towards Leh where we reached speeds of about 65 kmph coasting down. Soon we reached leh by lunchtime. About 40 kms riding done.

 

Day’s ride in pics.


Day 7 – Khardungla climb.

This was the most crucial day. We woke up at 4.45 AM and started at 6 am. Immediately we were climbing up. Luckily we had good weather. Slowly labouring through the huge mountain ranges, We rode till southpullu at 24 kms. Here, We had Breakfast of Maggie and tea.

The final 10 kms to the top saw the road quality go down to gravel & stones. The final 5 kms was so bad that we were riding on large stones and huge craters.

Then I had a disaster. After 7 days of riding to reach the Khardungla peak at 18300 feet altitude, Just 4 kms from the top, My wife in the support car had uneasiness and breathing issues. So I had to quit riding & sit in the van to take her to the top for oxygen & medical help. I guess its is a DNF technically. But ofcourse I would hv climbed the peak on my bike otherwise. But I couldnt even think of leaving her alone to the top. So . . . . gulped down the disappointment.

At the peak, in just some time, it got so cold, it started snowing a bit. She had to be taken to the army bunker for oxygen and heat. But anyways all was fine later. We were all back to our hotel by 6 PM.

Day’s ride in pics.


SummaryThe trip was a total of approx 501 kms totally. The road quality was extremely good for most parts. This route is far more scenic and friendlier than the Manali-Khardungla route for cyclists.

The support Van was a big help as we could carry crates of water, fruits, medicines, luggage and other stuff. Nina could manage to keep the riders well hydrated and nourished by planning the supplies.

Highlights of the tour

  • Extremely good quality of tarred roads. ( few bad patches at Zozila & Khardungla pass.)
  • Srinagar / sonmarg / Lamayuru valley rides with lovely backdrops.
  • Simple fresh food all through the tour stops.
  • Waving/saluting the Indian Army soldiers hundreds of times throughout the tour.
  • Looooong downhill rides on few roads. Gives a childlike glee to the riders zooming down.

Srinagar to Ladakh -Route, 2018 – On Google Maps

click here for Expedition Photos 

Route Analysis

Srinagar to Khardungla Cycling trip 2018
Ride details Elevation (mtrs) Distance (kms)
Srinagar to Sonmarg 1513 87
Sonmarg to Drass 1258 68
Drass to Mulbekh-wakha 1742 102
Wakha to Lamayuru 2344 65
Lamayuru to Nimmu 2022 82
Nimmu to Leh 943 50
Leh to Khardungla 1850 38
Khardungla to Leh 38
Total distance 530

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