The Srinagar – Leh Highway has been cleared of snow in record time, with an ambulance crossing Zoji La on Saturday (24th March 2018) and 30 vehicles being allowed to cross yesterday (26th March 2018.) Kargil – Zanskar Highway too has been cleared of snow and was officially reopened on the 25th of March 2018 (Saturday.)
BRO expects to officially reopen the Srinagar – Leh Highway within a few days for light vehicles eg. two-wheelers and cars with the traffic initially being one way, with the traffic from Kargil being allowed in the wee hours of the morning and traffic from Sonamarg being allowed to cross around noon.
What does it mean?
To speak in layman’s terms, essential vehicles along with that of locals have been allowed to cross as of now. Tourist vehicles will have to wait another few days, until the road is declared open, officially.
Why has this happened so early?
Snowfall has been quite less this year, with just 10 ft of snow at Zoji La and around 5 ft at Rohtang Jot and Baralacha La. Lack of snowfall has made it possible for the BRO to clear the road in record time.
However, it also means that the hills, as well as plains, will suffer from low water levels in rivers, which are fed by the melting snow from glaciers and snow accumulated on mountain peaks. It will also likely lead to a higher temperature in summer and frequent power cuts since paucity of snowfall has been throughout the Indian Himalayas.
Will it lead to greater or lesser tourist numbers in Ladakh?
This is unlikely to have an effect on the tourist numbers in Ladakh, apart from April receiving more tourists than usual, thanks to the Srinagar – Leh Highway being open.
Even though tourists will be disappointed by lack of snow this year, especially during the peak tourist season of May and June, this is unlikely to affect the tourism in hills, except maybe at Manali, which sees tourists coming from the plains, mainly to witness the snow at Rohtang Pass.
So when should I travel by road?
Even though the Srinagar – Leh Highway will open officially by next week, it is best to wait until the end of May, if you want to do the complete circuit i.e. Srinagar – Leh and Leh – Manali. Since the Manali – Leh Highway is only expected to open in May.
Add to that, initially, the roads are in bad condition and close down due to heavy snowfall or avalanches. Hence it is best to avoid traveling initially unless you’re ready to deal with bad roads, the possibility of temporary road closures and long wait at passes.
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