Hanle is a beautiful, picturesque village in Ladakh and is home to one of the world’s highest observatory. However, as I write this, Leh Administration is considering to make Hanle off-limit for travelers. Thanks to the tenacity of those trying to visit Umling La pass, ahead of Hanle.
The Umling La Pass
Umling La is the world’s highest motorable pass at an altitude of 19,300ft and is located on the road to Demchok from Hanle. The route is under construction and isn’t open for civilians and thus no permit is issued for it by the DC Office in Leh.
However, numerous travelers (mostly motorcyclists) have visited this pass, including a motorcycle expedition by the army and it has been a hot topic for the past year.
Trouble with traveling to Umling La
As expected, when people start traveling to a place they aren’t allowed to travel to, then post it on social media, blogs, vlogs etc.. the army gets irked and rightfully so. After all, neither they nor the central government gave permission to any of the people visiting the pass (apart from the army expedition). And it is in a very sensitive area near the LAC (Line of Actual Control), the ceasefire line with China.
The final straw?
To make matters worse, a group of bikers and a local pickup driver was recently detained en route to Umling La. They had chosen to travel to the pass, even after being warned by the officials at the Loma Bend check post to not to venture on any other road, except the one leading to Hanle.
The pickup driver tried to lie his way out of this, by stating he was traveling in this area for the first time, hence got lost along with the riders. A quick check of vehicle number at Loma Bend Checkpost revealed he had lied and had recently traveled to Hanle. So he along with the bikers were detained for 4 hours, before being allowed to leave.
Now the administration is frustrated by all this and is planning to put an end to it all.
Various travel unions in Leh have asked the administration to take a firm decision on this matter since they want clarity. And now it is being anticipated that the administration might just ban tourists from visiting Hanle since Hanle permit was being misused to go to Umling La.
There are also rumors that the administration might just block access to the Chushul route and the Agham – Shyok route as well. Though there is no clarity on this, as of now. DC Office is planning to start issuing permit for Agham – Shyok route as well as for the Spangmik – Chushul, and Tangste – Chushul routes. Until now, permit wasn’t issued for Agham – Shyok route and there was no need to mention the route you were planning to take to Chushul.
In all likelihood, we will get a decision on this matter in the next few days and I will update this post when it comes.
Sadly though, it seems like a few people trying to get clicked at the new high altitude pass got the dreams of all those planning to travel to Hanle shattered, along with the livelihood of those running hotels in Hanle…
A big thanks to Otsal for input and updates from Leh.
Update: ALTOA (All Ladakh Tour Operators Association) has been holding meetings with the DC Office in order to get them to once again start issuing permit for Hanle. The DC Office has agreed to do that, provided the visitors have a recommendation letter for visiting Hanle, by the Wildlife Office at Skara. Based on that the DC Office will issue permit.
Also, a police check post is being established at Hanle, which ought to be ready in a week, after this, the DC Office will start issuing permit. In simple language, this means, if you wish to travel to Hanle, you will have to go to a registered travel agency in Ladakh. They will secure a recommendation letter from the Wildlife Department at Skara and based on that, a permit for Hanle will be issued. This added layer of bureaucracy and the checkpost at Hanle is there to ensure people do not venture into areas and route not allowed by the administration eg. Umling La, Kyun Tso etc..
Update: Hanle Permit are now being issued as usual by the permit office, without the need for anything, hopefully, the troubles are over.