Monsoons have arrived in North, so are the queries on making a trip to Ladakh in monsoons have increased day by day. In today’s article, I will try to outline some basic tips which may help you make your trip to Ladakh in monsoons, somewhat comforting. Well, you must know that Ladakh falls under trans-Himalayas which is a rain shadow region, meaning, that the rains does not reach up there in plenty because of the range of mountains protecting it from winds bearing the rains. However, the definition of the rain shadow region for Ladakh is changing now with change in climate in past few years and we have started getting rains in Ladakh too or at least over cast conditions with drizzles every now and then. So, be ready for surprises even in rain shadow region of Ladakh though they may not be much unless you have a very bad luck as I had in ugly flash floods of 2010… I do feel lucky and indebted to god’s grace for being alive 🙂 🙂 …
Planning a Trip to Ladakh in Monsoons?
Though I have already written about Best Time to Travel Ladakh & Zanskar Valley, in this article I will try to outline few important tips for all those of you who want to make use of the maximum holidays in August in order to make a long trip to Ladakh in monsoons. These tips will help you mitigate few risks to an extent and minimise impact of few which may occur when you are up there in Ladakh. So, let’s begin…
1. Be prepared for monsoon hassles in lower hills
It is monsoon time in general up here in North India and at some parts of Manali – Leh Highway (like before Baralacha La pass) and Srinagar – Leh Highway (like before Kargil) you may need to face monsoon hassles but once you get closer to Ladakh, then Ladakh being rain shadow region is least affected by monsoon rains. Please note that landslides, road blocks will be common in the lower hills due to heavy rains and especially troublesome between Manali to Keylong, around Darcha, sections of Jammu to Srinagar and Sonamarg to Zojila Pass.
2. Be prepared for driving in slush on roads in Ladakh in Monsoons
There will be slush on the roads especially from Rohtang Pass to Gramphu, some sections towards Keylong, near Darcha and around Zojila Pass. Be prepared, to drive with care in slush and do know the whereabouts of the engine chamber of your car if self driving. There could be stones below in slush which can damage your engine sump/chamber leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere. DO NOT push through too much in case you get stuck, try the back-n-forth tactic to come out or use push or wooden plank/rubber mat. Otherwise, you may end up with burned clutch plates.
3. Be prepared for tackling furious water crossings
Since, most rivers will be flowing in spate and so does the water crossings as well. Many of the water crossings have been passed through using pipes or making bridges on Manali – Leh Highway. However, some of those who aren’t yet, may become the reason for spending a night in the middle of nowhere OR puncturing your engine sump while crossing it. If riding a motorcycle, gumboots will help you dodge overflowing water crossings and help you keep your other boots dry to ride further. Do carry a pair of them, they don’t cost much.
4. Be alert for shooting stones
The shooting stones along with small landslides are common during rains. When driving or riding or even sitting in car, you must always be alert to see over a shooting stone from the side of the mountains. Be very careful on stretches which have loose gravel or mud, like the ones you can spot between Khardung village to Hunder in Nubra Valley. Such, stretches are more common for shooting stones. Even a small stone can pierce through the windshield and your trip can be screwed, so be alert and keep a watch on the movement in such mountains vulnerable to shooting stones.
5. Carry water resistant clothes and boots
Always carry a rain cut jacket, water proof shoes or sandals at least along with a water repellant lower or lower with quick dry material. This will help you in many ways when there is rain. It may end up saving your electronic equipment too. So, do not forget to carry these at the very least. As said above, gum boots are always handy for people riding bikes and tacking water crossings in spate.
6. Carry tarpaulins & few water proof bags
Apart from the rain proof clothing, carrying small tarpaulins or water proof bags which will protect your clothes, luggage or electronic gear if the need arise. Also, if you are planning to place the luggage on the top of car, it is a must.
7. Carry an extra pair of car windshield wipers
Well, though this looks to be too much but I have seen people getting stuck just because they did not have the pair of wipers for their cars. It can be an unlucky day for those but if you have an old car which you are taking up there in Himalayas, do prefer to carry an extra pair of wipers. If they break and you cannot find a pair for your car, you can’t drive in blind conditions even in lower hills.
8. Always leave early in the day
As always in Himalayas, “Sleep Early and Leave Early” shall be the mantra of your entire trip. It becomes more important in rainy season as you are already expecting delays due to landslide, road blocks, slow speed of cars in rain. So, always try to follow this principle.
9. Always have couple of buffer days
It is not at all wise to run from point A to point B in all sought of tensions of missing the flight or train if you can’t make it. You should expect rains in monsoons, which may delay your daily plans or make you stuck behind a landslide for a day or two sometimes. If you are running on a neck to neck schedule, well, delay of one day somewhere will trigger tensions in mind which will not help you enjoying the sightseeing or journey but worrying about missing a flight or train. So, always better to plan your trip with couple of buffer days when traveling in monsoons.
10. Protect your camera from moisture
Needless to say, it is monsoon time rain and moisture will be all around you when traveling. Please ensure you protect your camera so that it does not expose to moisture or water. Also, if you use CPLs on lenses, make sure you are making right use of it in right light conditions. On an overcast or rainy day, CPLs may not make much sense depending on what you are shooting. I am just mentioning because I have ruined many times many pictures just because I forgot to take it off in those light conditions 🙂 🙂 … Though I am just a newbie, pros do take care of it, I am sure.
I hope above tips may help you make a successful trip to Ladakh in monsoons. If you have any other tips to share or experience of monsoon trip to Ladakh, I will be glad to hear them in comments section or in DoW Community. Feel free to share it with your friends or family who you know will be going on a trip to Ladakh in monsoons.