High Roads News Sticky , 2016

 

( 2015 sticky archived , see the sticky category)

MANALI-LEH UPDATE , NOVEMBER 2 : Manali-Leh now show  as closed on the official Leh site , leh.nic.in , after first heavy snowfall traps Manali day tourists at the Rohtang La. Temperatures at top still dancing just above/below zero , permanent snow build up uncertain. See also this post on the October 15th rumor.

 

Manali-Leh , Manali-Kaza update , October 12th : first snow over the Rohtang & Kunzum La , night temperatures just below zero at four thousand meters.

J&K security update ( see also post below ) , October 2 : Baramulla army base under attack , two attackers and one soldier dead at first reports.

October 1st : all curfews lifted .

September 30th : partial curfew in Srinagar to prevent the announced protests at Lal Chowk. Protest schedule prolonged to October 6th.

September 17th : massive protests in Srinagar after eleven year old found shot dead.

September 16th : Reinforcements : Two more batallions arrive in Kashmir.

September 13th : two dead ( Shopian & Bandipor ) , one hundred plus wounded as Eid starts. Widespread curfews.

September 7th : Kulgam school on fire as CRPF breaks up protest rally , ninety wounded.

September 3rd : one dead , seventy wounded .

September  2 : 18 year old drowns in Jhelum river , Srinagar, while being chased by CRPF .

August 31st : one dead , 150 wounded and a parliament members house torched as remaining curfews ( but not downtown Srinagar )  are lifted . Strike extended to September 8th.

August 30 : seventy wounded in clashes over J&K.

August 29th/day 52 : curfews lifted in most of Kashmir, separatists calls for continued strike until September 1st. Ninety wounded  in clashes at the end of the day.

August 21st / day 44 : sixtyseventh fatality : teargas shell kills protester in Srinagar.

August 20th : partial restoration of phone services , mobile internet still out . Oil tankers on new strike , citing numerous attacks against vehicles and drivers ,  cutting fuel deliveries – including to security forces.

August 15th : CRPF battalion commander killed , eight soldiers wounded  in Srinagar  on Indepedence Day .

August 10th ,  reinforcements : CRPF sends in 85 more companies to J&K

August 6th : three dead , 360 wounded in clashes on Friday and Saturday.

Telluride , August 4th : World Conference on Wilderness & Mountain Medicine ( joint conference of International Society for Mountain Medicine and Wilderness Medical Society  ) ends – stand by for exciting news ..

J&K security update , August 4th : partial curfew in Srinagar, and Anantnag , Baramullah etc.

July 29th : 100+ wounded in J&K clashes.

July 27th : renewed curfew in Srinagar.

July 26th : curfew lifted all over Kashmir , except Anatnag in the south. Fourteen wounded , one dead . Protesters and police in Srinagar exchange teargas and stones.

July 20th : twelfth day of curfew . Printed newspapers re-appearing tomorrow.   Oil tankers on eight day of strike , refusing to supply the Vale and Ladakh after attacks on vehicles & drivers.

July 17th : Delhi sends reinforcements , twenty CRPF companies , i.e. 2500+ men.

July 15th : curfew extended over the weekend , now in all ten Kashmiri districts . Total casualties now 40 dead , 1500+ wounded.

July 11th : Amarnath yantra resumes under heavy security measures. Fifteen police wounded in Srinagar grenade attack.

July 10th : major unrest after the killing of militant leader. Civilians attacking police stations ( and tossing one police car in to Jhelum river , one drowned ) , police attacking ambulances , and more.  Twenty dead , and a lot more wounded.Partial curfew in Srinagar.

June 25th : second attack in a month on police/Army convoy on Jammu-Srinagar road in Pampore : eight CRPF police killed , twentytwo wounded. Armored personell carriers transfered from Chattisgarh region.

Himachal weather , June 9th : fourth day of rain , more to come the next days . Max temperatures between 31 degrees ( Dharamsala )  25 ( Shimla & Kalpa) , twenty-ish in Keylong.

Srinagar-Leh , June 8th : landslide near Sonmarg takes out the road , BRO at work clearing it.

May 23rd : Manali-Leh OPEN

May 23rd : Supreme Court decides on appeal against the NGT regulations at the Rohtang La : no changes , new hearing in two weeks . Taxi union demanded a fivefold increase in allowed traffic , with the ..odd argument that hydro electric power plants generates far more pollution (!).

Rohtang La open for day tours , May 21th

Rohtang La daytours , May 18th : traffic now allowed up to Marhi – with sad ,isolated patches of snow.

May 3rd : really , really official – leh.nic.in roadmarker now shows Srinagar-Leh as open.

 

May 1st : mangoes in Leh , in a mail from Phey school : “..trucks came too on 1 May and we’re eating mangoes in Ladakh! Hooray!”

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( The Tribune , May 1st – Amin War )

SRINAGAR-LEH OPENS ON APRIL 30 : it’s official in todays ( April 28th ) news , and the weather forecast looks good.

SRINAGAR-LEH UPDATE , APRIL 25th : Zoji La cleared , BRO expects to have the road fully open ” within a few days ” .

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(  Zoji La inspection , April 25th – from Ladakh News Service group , Facebook )

MANALI-LEH UPDATE , APRIL 24th : snowfall over the Rohtang , both sides : five centimeters of snow down in Keylong. 350 persons trapped for eight hours near the pass on Sunday , until BRO managed to clear it agagain.

Srinagar , April 15th : fifth civilian death on Friday in the widepread protests in the Vale. Srinagar under partial curfew , including shutdown of internet .

April 10th : 6.8 earthquake in Afghanistan rocks Srinagar, Shimla , Kullu… no word on casualties yet.

MANALI-LEH UPDATE , APRIL 7th : Rohtang La  cleared but not open for traffic yet ,according to BRO. Mixed clouds and snowfall in the weekend  in the weather forecast.

SRINAGAR-LEH UPDATE , APRIL 1st : BRO has cleared the road up to ten kilometers from the Zoji La pass. Nights  still ( barely) subzero at the pass & in Leh.

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KASHMIR WEATHER UPDATE  , MARCH 17th : heavy rains over the Pir Panjal , roads blocked. Thirty centimeters of snow in Sonmarg . More snow over the Zoji la on the Srinagar-Leh road.

 

HIMACHAL WEATHER UPDATE , MARCH 17th : 45 centimeters of snow in Pangi Valley.        More snow over the Rohtang . Daytime temperatures barely above zero daytime in Keylong , below zero both night and  daytime above four thousand ( i.e. The Rohtang La before Keylong , and nearly all the way  between Keylong and Leh ) . More snow coming in this weekends weather forecast .

HIMACHAL WEATHER UPDATE , MARCH 7th : heavy snowfalls and avalanche warnings in the high passes : 90 cm at the Rohtang La , 35 cm down in Keylong . Snow turning in to sleet and rain in the lower reaches.

HIMACHAL WEATHER UPDATE , MARCH 7th : heavy snowfall over the Rohtang & Kunzum La , 30 cm in Keylong .

Srinagar-Leh update , March 1st : BRO  at work from Sonmarg towards the Zoji La , snow levels between one and three meters. First guess from BRO : work completed up to Leh by the end of the month – this would be nearly two weeks earlier than the record in 2013 . NB : they have been wrong before , many times .

Himachal weather update, February 20th : heavy snowfall above 3000 meters , half meter over the Rohtang La , Kunzum La and Saach pass . Twentyfive cm in Keylong.

Himachal weather update , February : moderate to heavy snowfall in Shimla and over the Rohtang La on the 8 & 14th.

Himachal weather update , January 7th : 30 centimeters of snow at the Rohtang La , 15 centimeters in Keylong , also breaking the long warm spell in Shimla.

January 30th : BRO starts clearing the road from Manali towards the Rohtang , earliest ever.

January  4th :

LADAKH :  SNOWLOCKED  since December 21st , 2015 : Srinagar-Leh closed , and from the Manali end BRO retreats from Marhi ( south side of the Rohtang La ) and Koksar (north) . No fresh veggies in Leh for a couple of months..

NEPAL FUEL CRISIS/EMBARGO : you can get in by land , the usual route via Gorakhpur and Sunauli. Flights run with the airlines that can refuel before landing in Ktm . Little drama for tourists , apart from some price raises.

NEPAL-TIBET : Friendship Highway between Kathmandu and Lhasa still not open after the 2015 earthquakes.

PAKISTAN-XINJIANG/CHINA : Karakoram Highway closed as usual , opening ( earliest ) 1st week April.

SIKKIM-CHINA  : Nathu La closed for the winter , and still not an option either for Indian nationals or angrezis.

 

 

2016 Rumor Mill : The “Official” Closure of Manali-Leh Road

A news story nearly a week ago in The Times Of India claims that Manali-Leh has closed officially for the winter . And that it does so every year on October 15th.

A few reality check questions :

1. Every year , October 15th : this is easily debunked by reading what Times of India has written themselves earlier  . Prime example from 2011 :

MANALI: The Border Roads Organization (BRO) has decided to keep the strategically-important Manali-Leh highway open till November 30 this year. Earlier, the highway used to be closed officially after October 31 every year.

2. Official source : the first hand source here would be the Border Roads Organisation , which is responsible for keeping the road open. BRO isn’t mentioned , and their website doesn’t do updates on road status. The official Leh site has a roadmarker , and it shows both roads as open. The source quoted in the TOI story is a police official saying that the Sarchu check post has been abandoned . This is à bit odd , since it’s a Lahauli policeman talking about Sarchu : not only a different district , but a different state ( Himachal Pradesh vs Jammu & Kashmir ) .

3. Is the road actually blocked ? Neither the policeman or the journalist suggest this. They talk of possible imminent snowfall.

4. The Rohtang La pass receives the brunt of the snowfall , closes first, and is still  very much open . First light snowfall was on the 12th , now long gone : nights barely below zero at the top , and nearly ten degrees plus daytime. Open road both to Keylong and ( over the Kunzum La ) Kaza according to Keylong admin.

In in one or two years there will be a different dynamic after the opening of the Rohtang tunnel , bypassing the actual pass.

Updates in the news sticky on top ( http://korta.nu/sticky )

 

 

 

 

Srinagar, day 41

Thursday , August 18th : yet another ambulance arrives at SMHS  , Srinagars main hospital. Last in line to the emergency room is the ambulance driver , who has managed to complete the run with shotgun wounds in his hand from a roadblock. The frustration of the docs  in Srinagar has now reached the point where they have started to leak X-ray pics to the press , pics that are gruesome enough to make laymen pause.

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The theory behind CPRFs armament and strategy is  that their pellet shotguns  are non-lethal when aimed below the knees. In actual practice they have had a devastating effect all too often from the abdomen and up , shown on a near daily basis on the front page pictures since July 8th. Punctured lungs , abdominal bleedings and , the icon of 2016 : the permanently blinded. Last estimate was 400+ with severe eye injuries to one or both eyes.

Little reason to believe in any immediate changes for the better , with announced plans for continued strikes and protest marches over the weekend.

The tourist perspective checklist :

* flights to Srinagar : airlines offered full refunds for tickets at least up to the 16th.

* Jammu-Srinagar road is  open again, out first two weeks

* travel insurances are basically void during curfews etc – check the  official travel advisory back home.

* Srinagar-Leh road is open , see the updates at http://korta.nu/sticky

 

 

 

 

Third Highest Airport

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End of my 2015 tour in Kham , driving past worlds third highest airport serving Kangding @ 4280 meters . Looks like a interesting landing , with the four thousand meter long runway ending as a ramp . Think cutting of the top of a cone , and flipping it to extend the flat surface.

 

Kangding town  is forty  klicks away and seventeen hundred meters lower : flat real estate is scarce in these parts.

Handkerchief Parachutes

“I guess this is a horrible thing to say , but I felt better when I heard the guy in the next room also vomiting . I didn’t feel alone anymore.”

Wang is one of the now – being a weekend – two handfuls of Chinese who are visiting the Larung Gar institute hotel ,image in mid-December. She has spiky Laurie Anderson-y hair and her head rests on a wide triangle : chin down on the narrow breakfast table between us , fingers propped up against her temples.

” -I didn’t expect it to be this bad .. I got this headache right when we got here , and then I started to vomit ..

– Yes , I would expect that . ”

Cold is the known and working deterrent here . It is cold , every last inch of the water pipes are covered in arm thick insulation , and the electric blankets in the beds are a neccessity , not a luxury.

Altitude obviously isn’t . Had I heard or seen Wang the other night I wouldn’t have been calm or nice , now I find myself being curiously detached : yes , that could have ended badly. But now … well , she made it down to breakfast , and has actually eaten . And kept it down. On the mend.

” I thought there would be a small pharmacy or something…”

Not really . What is to be had is one of the never proven Chinese herbal remedies , and disposable oxygen cans. I usually refer to these as handkerchief parachutes ( right idea , totally wrong scale ) but these are the biggest ones I’ve seen so far . Not exactly table cloth parachutes – lets stretch it to shopping bags. The English specs say it contains fourteen liters – a few minutes worth for example for post op patients who aren’t fully awake yet.

“You slept where last night ?!”

I didn’t see this coming – Wang and all the others ( or at least the ones I could speak with , mostly indirectly ) all had made the same journey : from Chengdu ( 800-ish meters ) to Sertar …at 4000+ meters. Nonstop . One day. I continue my callous streak by mentioning my pet AMS trivia : two percent of soldiers flying in to Lhasa start to develop pulmonary edema. And that’s nearly four hundred meters lower than the Sertar hotel. There is the known option of sleeping down in the village – Wang mentions this – that would make it to a first night around Lhasa altitude instead. The other option , valid enough for a first night at Lhasas altitude would be to medicate preventively , and this is virtually unknown in China. After the great Yushu earthquake China sent in thousands of rescue workers higher than Lhasa , unmedicated and rushing straight to the front . This became a minor catastrophe in itself , as local rescuers had to shift focus to rescue their colleagues , and have them flown out after less than a day.

The others around me were not far off from Wang : the two other Chinese in my four bed dorm obviously would have benefited from going down. One said he spent the first four days in bed , the second still had splitting headaches after the second night.

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Working out at 4000+ meters : stair  excercise with yaks up to the top ridge with the institute hotel and the mandala , and photo op break during the kora around the mandala.

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