No confirmation from Leh yet , but news today speaks of Manali-Leh opening tomorrow , quoting the Deputy Commissioner in Kullu. The ride up to the Rothang might even go under five hours soon , with a number of deodars having been cut for the double laning of the road.
UPDATE : More details , from the crew clearing the Rothang : the road over the pass is still single lane only , with twenty to thirty feet of snow on the sides : first priority for the moment is widening the road , and creating parking and turn around points at Rohtang. Road open for traffic up to Marhi , i.e. around 3000 meters.
“BRO officials said tourists will be allowed to reach Rohtang only after a week as sudden surge in traffic flow could cause havoc there. ‘Tourists would be able to enjoy the stunning views of Rohtang soon”
UPDATE , MAY 25th : Single lane now cleared up to Keylong, barrier erected at Kothi to bar heavy traffic , manned by police and Home Guard , waiting for the road to open.
UPDATE, MAY 26th :
“The snow-clearing operation is over and road connectivity with the Lahaul Valley has been restored”
A K Dikshit , GREF officer in charge.
Connectivity means state buses , for now :
“..the road is still slippery. Till May 31, only a few public transport buses will be allowed to ply between Manali and Keylong”
BRO aims for an opening of the entire Manali-Leh road by first week in June. Official Lahul site still shows Manali-Keylong and Manali-Kaza roads closed.
UPDATE , MAY 29th : now shown as open on the official Lahul-Spiti site.
Todays news quote engineers from the BRO saying that the work on clearing the Manali-Leh highway has started. There are already guesstimates for the road opening as well : mid-April for clearing the Rohtang , and mid-May for the whole road. The word from he BRO is that there are up to fifteen feet of snow near the Rohtang : hardly surprising with the news of heavy snowfall and disrupted traffic in Lahaul in February , affecting also helicopter transport of patients to HP hospitals.
Tribune photograph from Keylong , February 1st
Fullfilling the guesstimates on the road opening will depend a lot on the amount of late snowfall . Ironically enough weather forecast talks of heavy snowfall over the Rohtang in the next three days.
The gleam in the Himachali politicians eyes have have started grow a little more intense : a definite proposal for a Manali-Leh train has been kicked to national level by the Railway Ministry.
Details are still scarce , but the cited distance for Bilaspur-Manali-Leh , 489 kilometers , is nearly identical to the present Manali-Leh road. This should mean that they are aiming for westerly shortcut from Darcha , same as being underway for the Manali-Leh highway.
Some question marks : the Rothang tunnel work that has started is a dual lane road only , no data on if it has been planned with a third railway track in mind. The sale pitch is that this will be an all year round open route once the Rothang has been bypassed : some Ladakhi politicians have been less convinced that this will work out , and have pushed for a a route over Tso Moriri ( ouch ! ) to Spiti and the NH 22/ Hindustan-Tibet road as a more practical solution.
Indias border policy has involved a certain conscious under-development of roads and railways , with the idea that poor roads slowing down the enemy would be a strategic asset : Spiti at least should perhaps be seen as a resounding success in this strategy…
The current road and railway work in Tibet and adjoining areas ( railway to Lhasa , construction/planning of tracks to Shigatse and Nyingtri , highways to Yadong and work on re-opening the Stillwell /Ledo / road thru Burma) has been used a lot over the last years as arguments for abandoning this policy.
Meanwhile , in practical terms : expect very little change in the coming years. We are still waiting for the completion of the railway to Srinagar , soon a decade over the schedule , and there is still no formal decision or any money allocated in this years railway budget.
Tribune today : Two feet of snow , hundreds of vehicles stranded in Rothang and a number of other locations in Himachal. Unsurprising , given how it looked here from Leh yesterday – will post picture later.
Arrived yesterday in Leh from Manali – on the original route. Snow was not an issue , but cold was : after making excellent time ( three hours ) up to fifty meters below the Rothang , we ascended another thirty in the next four because of stranded vehicles from the night before. First one breaks down , then all fuel lines freeze – enter the classical scene with truckers making up small fires under their vehicles. Another similar stop just after the Baralacha La.
Brilliant weather all the way , road just after Gondhla : “regret the inconvenience” . Excellent road after the Tanglang La ( one meter of snow , but well cleared ) just until twenty klicks before Lato , then good.
Andrea Espin , a fellow traveller to Leh bring these pics from his first aborted trip over the Rothang La on the 24th. Many tried towalk back to Manali on the same day , under severe conditions and with even worse clothing. Andreas group picked up a couple with a child in their minibus : tragically the news later tells us of a Bengali woman perishing the same day.
Arrived in Manali yesterday , with a half meter of snow being dumped on the Rothang La during my bus ride from Delhi. News talk of a number of vehicles ( figures strating from sixty ) being trapped in the pass , and snow cutters now working their way up. Had some fresh snow thrown at me from Gulaba , the highest open point this morning ( i.e. 3000 meters ) .
Also mentioned in the news : Srinagar-Leh also closing the same day (!) , snowfall in Kalpa (13 cm ) and Keylong ( 18 cm) , Saach Pass ( more than a meter ) and over the Kunzum La , closing the Manali-Kaza route on a second point.
UPDATE : BRO talks of having the road cleared within two days , according to a official quoted by Himvani.
UPDATE , OCTOBER 26th : Srinagar-Leh has been posted as open today , and I’m heading for Leh tomorrow morning from Manali.