When monsoon arrives in North India in August, the queries on making a trip to Ladakh in monsoons also increase on my blog In today’s article, I will outline some basic tips which will help you make your trip to Ladakh in monsoons, somewhat comforting.
The article will help you make a wise decision about if you should travel to Ladakh in August or monsoons.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Ladakh – A Rain Shadow Region
Well, you must know that Ladakh falls under trans-Himalayas which is a rain shadow region. What it means is that the rains do not reach up to Ladakh in plenty because of the range of mountains protecting it from winds bearing the rains.
However, the definition of the rain shadow region about Ladakh is changing now with the change in climate in past few years. Nowadays, Ladakh has started getting rains as well or at least overcast conditions with drizzles every now and then are common in Ladakh in August.
So, be ready for surprises even in the 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?
I have already written about the best time to travel to Ladakh. In this article, I will introduce some important tips which will help all those of you who want to make use of the maximum holidays in August month. It will help you in order to make a long trip to Ladakh in monsoons. These tips will help you mitigate few risks to an extent and minimize the impact of few which may occur when you are up there in Ladakh in monsoons.
So, let’s begin…
1. Be prepared for monsoon hassles in lower hills
August is peak monsoon time in general up in North India. At some parts of Manali – Leh Highway like before Baralacha La pass) you will surely face monsoon hassles until you reach around Sarchu. The Baralacha La mainly marks the boundary of rain shadow region from Manali side.
Similarly, Srinagar – Leh Highway will be in mess before Drass and Kargil belts. You will face monsoon rains and slush especially till the moment you cross Zojila pass from Srinagar side. Beware, with rains Zojila Pass will be a nightmare.
But once you start getting closer to Leh Ladakh, then being rain shadow region it is less affected by monsoon rains. Please note that, when traveling to Leh Ladakh in August, the landslides or roadblocks will be quite common in the lower hills due to heavy rains.
Especially the route on troublesome between Manali to Keylong, around Darcha, sections of Jammu to Srinagar and Sonamarg to Zojila Pass. Even reaching Manali from Delhi becomes challenge where many sections of roads are washed away by swollen rivers near Mandi – Pandoh area.
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 on Manali Leh Highway. Similarly, there will be slush and around Zojila Pass on Srinagar Leh Highway. You must be prepared, to drive with extra care in slush and do know the whereabouts of the engine chamber of your car if self-driving.
There could be stones hidden 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.
Do learn some tips and tricks about driving in slush and do not forget to carry must-have essentials when self-driving to Ladakh.
3. Be prepared for tackling furious water crossings
When you travel to Ladakh in monsoons, you will notice that most rivers will be flowing in spate and so does the water crossings on Manali Leh Highway.
Many of the water crossings have been passed through using pipes or making bridges on Manali – Leh Highway by BRO. However, some of the water crossings are still troublesome on Manali Leh Highway, especially between Jispa – Zingzing Bar – Sarchu.
If you reach late at such water crossings in the day, they 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
When you travel in a monsoon in the hills, the landslides are common and so does the shooting stones. When driving or riding or even sitting in the car, you must always be alert to see over a shooting stone from the side of the mountains. Hence, be a vigilant driver and passenger when traveling to Ladakh in August or monsoons.
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 will be screwed. So be alert and keep a watch on the movement when traversing such mountains which are vulnerable to shooting stones.
5. Carry water resistant clothes and boots
Always carry a rain cut jacket, waterproof shoes or sandals at least along with a water repellant lower or lower with a 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 in the article before, gumboots are always handy for people riding bikes and tackling water crossings which are in spate in August. You may refer some tips on carrying clothes to Ladakh.
6. Carry tarpaulins & few water proof bags
Apart from the rainproof clothing, carrying small tarpaulins or waterproof bags which will protect your clothes, luggage or electronic gear if the need arises. It will also help you protect your luggage which you may plan to put on top of your car.
It is one of the cheap yet effective essential equipment for a trip to Ladakh in monsoons.
7. Carry an extra pair of car windshield wipers
Well, though this looks to be too much, but, believe me when I say that 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 to Ladakh in August, do prefer to carry an extra pair of wipers. If the currently installed wipers on your car break and you cannot find a pair for your car, you can’t drive in blind conditions even in lower hills.
Hence, do not risk your entire trip over a simple thing as wipers.
8. Always leave early in the day
As always in the 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 landslides, roadblocks, slow speed of cars in rain.
So, always try to follow this principle as it will allow you to give extra time on your day trip. It will also help you crossing the water crossings when water is less in the early hours of the day. So, a very simple but very important tip when making a Ladakh trip in monsoons.
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. After all, you planned this trip to Ladakh, not to sprint or worry about the next things on the cards.
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 enjoy the sightseeing in Ladakh or the journey. You will continuously keep worrying about missing a flight or train.
So, always better to plan your trip with a 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 that you protect your camera and other gears so that it does not expose to moisture or water.
Also, if you use CPLs on lenses, make sure you are making the 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 the comments section or in DoW Community.
Feel free to share this article with your friends or family who you know will be going on a trip to Ladakh in monsoons soon.
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