Planning The Great Ladhakh Trip

Thread Starter #1
Oct 5, 2010
New Delhi
i have been thinking about making trip to ladhakh since i brought my safari but my plan always got failed .

So this time i am planing trip so thought why not ask fellow TAI member if see who else is interested in this trip

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Thread Starter #2
Oct 5, 2010
New Delhi
Re: Ladhakh Trip 2011

i am very thankful for HvKumar from another forum for allowing me to post here few tips to prepare your self for leh trip

Preparing Tyres

1. Tyres should have as much of thread as possible, if possible plan your tyre change before the trip. YOu may lose upto 10,000 kms of thread wear-out during the trip.

2. Carry spare tubes

3. Carry stepney, ensure it is filled in with air

4. Do not check air once you are on the Ladakh trail, since the cold atmosphere there will result in compression of air inside the tyre and consequently an erroneous assumption that air is less (which is not the case).

5. Be prepared for lots of cuts and gashes in your tyres during the trp.

6 .Leh has lots of tyre shops.

7. There are no puncture shops between Keylong and Leh, a distance of around 350 kms.

8. Carry along spare valves and valve pins.

9. Having an extra couple of psi will help in increasing GC of the car, but that could also affect traction on slushy and OTR terrain.

10. Changing tyres is as good as impossible in high altutudes.

Preparing Batteries & Electricals

1. Check the batteries for water levels and load test it before you leave for Ladakh. Clean the terminals. Even if there is drop in discharge during load tests, consider replacing the battery.

2. Starting the car in extreme cold weather- possible in Pangong, Padum & Tso Moriri - is going to take a lot of cranking and the best battery wins.

3. Avoid overloading your batteries during the trip with fancy music systems and any other devices that may soak up power from the batteries.

4. Check and clean all fuses and relays.

5. Carry along spare fuses and relays. And don't forget to carry a master fuse also.

6. There is no EXide or Amaron helpline in Ladakh. So if your battery dies en route, only your companion-cars can help you tow it out.

7. Push-starting a car in high altitudes is virtually impossible. Consider that you are also either up a slope or down a slope most of the time. Ad also that our brakes do not work unless the engine is started.

8. Also clean terminals in your starter motor, and ensure that your alternator is working well.

9. It may be a good idea to turn off your auto cop systems or immobilise your immobiliser for the time you are in Ladakh to avoid the risk of it malfunctioning.

10. Check if your car heater is working, you will need it extensively in Ladakh.

Preparing the Car for the cold weather

1. It can be extremely cold out there, and in some places night temperature can be sub-zero, down to (-)5/(-1)10 (places like Sarchu, Tso Moriri, Pangong, Padum, Pang, Hanle).

2. Petrol/Diesel sold in these parts already has anti-freezants added to it, so don't bother to add anything yourself.

3. water inside your windscreen washer tank will freeze, but engine coolant will not.

4. Parking for the night, observe the following precautions:
- Park it in an enclosed space (if possible), but in any case, away from the open (towards the building or tent, for instance)
- Cover the bonnet area with gunny bags (good heat insulation), such that no area around the engine or oil sump can take the cold directly. You can also use old newspapers for this purpose.
- park it in a slope if possible

5. Turn off all accessories when starting the engine in the morning, ideally after the sun is up, and is bathing the engine area.

6. Cranking up, give ignition in short bursts and avoid long cranking sessions. I have cranked the Scorpio upto 15 times to start up at 630 am in Tso Moriri and 5-10 times in Padum.

7. You will rarely have to light a fire under the engine, but you may try pouring hotel water over the engine area in case the car stubbornly refuses to start.

8. Spread out shawls on the seats for increasing the warmth inside the car.

9. Keep the windows up all the time, the cold can be killing.

10. Use the heater liberally.

Refuelling of the car

1. Petrol pumps are few and far between, so plan your refuelling stops now.

2. Petrol pumps on Manali-Leh road: Manali 0 kms, Tandi (before Keylong) 125 kms, Karu 475 kms, Leh 500 kms

3. Petrol pumps on the Leh-Srinagar road: NO problem, pumps at Khaltse, Mulbek, Kargil, Sonmarg

4. NO petrol pump in Padum, which means if you do a Kargil-Zanskar Valley trip, you have to do 500 kms+ without a petrol pump

5. There is a petrol pump in Nubra Valley at Desikit, but if you are returning to and fro Leh, no problem.

6. Complex circuits: If you do Leh-Khardung la-Nubra Valley-Wari la/Shayok-Tangtse-Pangong lake-Chang la-Karu-Leh, there are no petrol pumps till you get back to Karu, which means 500 kms+

7. If you do a Leh-Upshi-Mahe-Tso Moriri-Tso Kar-Pang-Sarchu-Keylong-Tandi-Manali circuit, no petrol pumps for almost 600 kms between Karu and Tandi.

8. If you do Keylong-Tandi-Gramphoo-Chhatru-Kunzum la-Kaza (Spiti Valley), no petrol pumps between Tandi and Kaza. And going on to Shimla va Kinnaur Valley from Kaza, no petrol pumps for almost 300 kms till Powari (near Recong Peo).

9. Carry along at least 10 litres of spare fuel with you once you leave Manali or Srinagar (depends on which direction you come from to go to Leh).

10. If you like the idea of 20-litre metal cans, I think you must first try lifting it before you decide! First, metal cannisters (Army type) are not meant for you and me, but only weightlifters and carrying one with 20 litres of fuel in it is something you need to think about. And it is not just carrying, you have to tilt it carefully to fill up your car tanks. Ideally, carry 10 litrre (1 or more) plastic cans, they are the lightest and leak the least.

11. Fumes can be bad inside teh car, so seal the cans well. Sealing media include: Stuff a plastic (shopping bag type) bit between the first capa nd the second cap of the can, use a torn balloon (instead of the plastic) or seal the caps with vaseline.

12. Ideally, carry the can inside the car, the hot sun outside can be dangerous for exposed fuel.

13. You won't get premium fuels.

14. Petrol is often contaminated with kerosene, but don't pick up a quarrel with the attendant, he is your only hope.

15. The petrol pumps work to specific timings (open early though, at 5 or 6 am), and often run out of fuel. Often, since there is no power most of the time (and no generators), cranking the dispenser by hand can take time.

16. Some petrol pumps stock only diesel (like the one in Desikit in Nubra Valley).

17. "Balck" diesel is available surreptiously in the wayside camps at Sarchu and Pang, but don't bet on it.

18. Change your fuel filters before you leave on the trip, and ensure your fuel pumps are working well.

19. Do not rely on gauges and sensors to tell you when to refuel, keep track of litres filled/distance travelled and take the decision yourself when you reach a petrol pump even though you are only half empty. Keep refuelling whenever you see a petrol pump.

20. You should get good FE because of the rarefied atmosphere.

Accessories in the Car

1. Carry an inverter in your car. Your mobile phone will not work (keep it switched off), but your cameras will have to be charged.

2. There is power only in Leh and Kargil. Smaller towns like Tangtse and Tso Moriri get power on gensets which run between 7-11 pm only

3. Most places outside Leh may not have power points to charge, or the charge points may not working.

4. Carry spare batteries for all devices that you have.

5. An electric flask will be an useful accessory to heat up water.

Do not use Laptops

Laptops fail at heights beyond 3,500 metres. Therefore, refrain from using Laptops or any other devices (IPods) which have HDDs (unless they are solid-state). Beware, the HDDs will crash badly.

Places to avoid use of Laptops:

Sarchu, Pang, Tso Moriri, Tso Kar, Chang la, Tangtse, Pangong Tso, Wari la, Khardung la, Hanle, Chushul, Nyoma.

Checklist of things to carry with you

For those of you who have not had a chance to check out the checklist I uploaded earlier in this thread, here are some of the things:

1. Spare Spectacles
2. Passport Photos
3. Photo ID
4. Mediclaim ID Card
5. Mediclaim Latest Policy Paper
6. Sun Block Cream
7. Cold Cream
8. Chap sticks
9. Anti-Fungal Powder
10. Goggles
11. Car Service Book
12. Car Owners Manual
13. Updated PUC Certificate
14. Original Car RC Book
15. Original Car Insurance
16. Original Driving License
17. Spare Car Keys
18. Spare Gear Lock Keys
19. Waist Pouch
20. Photocopies of ID Card, Car documents, credit cards
21. Post Paid mobile connection
22.Addresses/Phone numbers of people en route
23. Maps
24. Hotel Directory
25. Woollen Socks
26. Woollen Cap
27. Woollen gloves
28. Thermals
29. Jacket
30. Sweater
31. Shawls
32. Scarfs
33. Cotton Wool
34. Knee Caps (if required)
35. No rigid suitcases, carry only soft haveracks
36. Shopping bags to store used clothing
37. Dry Tissue
38. Wet Tissue
39. Plastic Shopping Bags
40. Torches
41. Car Inverter
42. Liquid Soap
43. Double Side tape
44. Razor Blade
45. Lighter
46. Swiss Knife
47. Knife
48. Fire Extinguisher
49. Scribbling Pad/Pens
50. Loose change for Toll Charges
51. Electral
52. Glucose
53. 20-litre Water
54. Maggi Noodles
55. Biscuits
56. Chocolates
57. Hard boiled sweets
58. Dry Fruits/Pista/Badam
59. Dry Fruits/Cashewnut
60. Hot water Flask (works off car adapter)
Thread Starter #3
Oct 5, 2010
New Delhi
Re: Ladhakh Trip 2011

Some Quick Tips

1. Carry at least 2-3 days of food & water provisions in the car, to save yourselves in case of a breakdown or dislocation in roads. Even if you are stuck in a dhaaba halt like Sarchu or Pang, they will soon run out of stocks.

2. Carry your full trip cost estimate in CASH. No one accepts Credit Cards. The only ATMs are in Manali, Leh. They often run out of cash.

3. No drinking hard liquour, dehydrates the body and dulls out reflexes in high altitudes.

4. You won;t get bottled water easily, hence carry your own stocks.

5. Carry essential medicines, ensure that what the driver takes is free of side-effects. Check out my medical chest for ideas on what to carry.

6. To avoid AMS, pop in a Diamaox tablet daily from the time you leave Delhi. And have 1 daly till you come out of Ladakh.

7. To avoid AMS, keep drinking water and munching on high-calorie chocolates, dry fruits.

8. There are hardly any toilets on the trail. Women, start looking at the sun and stars.

9. Trying out exotic cuisine is fine, but be restrained. A stomach upset can ruin not only yours, but everyone else's holidays. Fill up only 60% of your stomach capacity, don't over-stuff yourselves. The trail is bumpy, rough, twisty and hilly.

10. Doing OTR in Ladakh? I suppose you have your families and jobs to go back to? Don't try anything foolish, you are there to see what a beautiful place it is, not to test your driving skills or the mettle of the car. If you have suffered one breakdown even 10 kms away from somewhere, you know what I am talking of.

11. No night driving. All high passes to be ideally avoided after 4 pm.

12. Familiarise yourself with the route and all facilities. Even that 1 army hut can be your saviour in an emergency.

13. Mobile networks don't exist. You should get some connectivity in Manali, Keylong, Leh & Kargil.

Mountain Driving in Ladakh

Let me add to what anubhavt has said about mountain driving, especially for Ladakh.

1. Army movements are very high on all roads leading to Ladakh. Army convoys can be 30-50 trucks long and they may take upto 15 minutes or so to cross a point. The protocol to be observed on the narrow roads of Ladakh are to pull over to the side, then let them go by. Please do not come in their path. If they are going ahead of you, wait for an opportunity to overtake them after having flashed headlights and honked. They will themsleves see you beforehand and wait for an appropriate opportunity to let you overtake them. Do not be impatient.

2. You will encounter heavy truck movements. Please respect them, their vehicles are struggling up the toughest roads in the world, and the drivers are also patient, cheerful and conscious of other cars and good driving protocols.

3. Do not go too close behind another vehicle on slopes, especially a truck. They can slide back easily. And you may not have enough room to manouevre.

4. There are places where there could be snow or ice on the road. Please watch out for such sections - they may suddenly come on you - skirt such sections.

5. If you are driving on ice or snow, remember there will be little or no traction. Do not stop, do not brake, stick to the side farthest from the edge of the road. And be extra careful on curves. Stick to first gear driving.

6. If you fail to climb up a steep slope, do the following:
- offload your passengers
- reverse back to a level ground, even if it means going back half a km. Then try again
- do not over-exert and burn up your clutch plate. The damage can be done in under 2 minutes

7. If you have to cross stony paths or water, ensure that someone reccees (ideally you, the driver) the entire stretch before driivng on it

8. Snow melt on hot days causes overflowing streams and water bodies after noon. Hence, many spots have to be ideally taken before noon. You may find it impossible to cross them after 3 pm. Examples: at Khoksar, Stingri, Kangl jal, Pagal Nullah. This can be different during different months. Normally, Sep-Oct is the safest month, insulated from all such hydro activity.

9. Do not cross high passes after 4 pm, weather deteriorates and there could be snowfall, water crossings, poor visbility and even landlsides. Besides, if you break down, you can freeze to death in your car.

10. If you do break down, sit tight inside your car with windows closed with some inlet for ventilation. Pull over to the side away from oncoming path of other vehicles. Use chocks/stones to prevent car from sliding back even if you have hand brakes/gears on.

11. Follow the universal principle of allowing the vehicle climbing up to go past first. If you are coming down the slope, pull over and wait.

12. Refrain from abusive behaviour and calling names of other vehicles - remember, everyone is as stressed out as you are, and most probably as careful as you are.

13. Jeep taxis can be dangeorus drivers. Watch out for them and let them past. After all, they earn only 3-4 months a year on this circuit and are in a hurry to drop off their passengers and start off on the next trip, so let them be and do not try to dare them or pontificate to them.

14. Keep your headlights on all the time in case of low visibility.

15. Most of the roads in Ladakh are narrow, have steep falls on one side and ditches on the other. Keep an eye out for vehciles coming round the curve. Look out in advance for vehicles coming afar wherever you get a good sighting of the road topography (this is the most valuable job a co-pax can do for the driver).

16. I turn off the music system on hilly roads, no distractions and also to listen to honking from other vehicles round corners.

17. DO NOT distract the driver, his is a very stressful job.

18. Carry chocks/boulders inside your car, and one co-pax should always be ready to get out at second's notice to restrain the car from sliding back.

19. Co-pax should always be ready for any eventuality and be the listening and watching posts for the driver.

20. I carry along rock salt to spread over and melt black ice.

21. Do not think snow is harmless. Do not let snow go into the underbody, I have ruptured the engine oil sump by going over patches with snow heaped up and abrasing the car's undersides.

22. Check underbody every now and then for damages, leaks and any loose wires. Especially the suspension.

23. The car brakes are going to take a beating. If possible, have the brakes checked and cleaned out of dust and grime on arrival at Leh.

24. Mountain passes are closed during certain days and times on the Ladakh route. I will brief you also - in case you do not already know - in subsequent mails.

25. Keep sedate speeds of 40-60 kmph at all times.

26. You will find loss of power because of the rarefied atmosphere, don't be worried.

27. Diesel vehicles will emit huge clouds of black smoke, don;y worry, that is because of inefficient combustion thanks to the rarefied atmosphere.

28. mpfi engines automatically adjust to the change in altitude and inputs (air/fuel), but their programming may not be equipped for such high altitudes. My mpfi Matiz adjusted beautifully to the higher altitudes. When I took my non-crde (non-ECU) Scorpio to Ladakh in 2009, mine surprisingly was the best performer, unlike the crde (and ECU-controlled) newer Scorpios which faced considerable difficulties. I later ascertained from M&M that Scorpio ECUs are calibrated to recognise altitudes upto 4000 metres only and hence, the vehicles were finding it difficult to cope up with sudden drop in air intake.

29. Carburated engines may have to adjust their air screws once they get into higher altitudes.

30. Use of K&N Filters may help.
Oct 18, 2010
Re: Ladhakh Trip 2011

Superb writeup mastersquall, Please correct me if i'm wrong - I think stock Air filter would perform better reason being K&N filters sucks more air and as you know roads from Manali-Leh are filled with dust and mud. K&N filters couldn't perform better, this we experienced when we rode to Leh on our MACHIMO 500 with K&N air filters.
Apr 17, 2011
Re: Ladhakh Trip 2011

What a detailed write up. Keep up the good work. I can only dream of driving to ladakh. Don't when will it happen.But someday..!
Thread Starter #10
Oct 5, 2010
New Delhi
Re: Ladhakh Trip 2011

you can rent SUV safari 4X4 rent is 2000 per day and bit expensive one has 2500 per day like pajero and endeavour
Sep 22, 2009
Thread Starter #14
Oct 5, 2010
New Delhi


Core Team
Aug 10, 2009
New Delhi
Re: Ladhakh Trip 2011

We might plan for something as a rally. I’d love to be a part of it too – but remember, what we see now is only the number of interested members, as the right time approaches; we’ll start deciding with the other details which will provide us a fair idea of those who’ll be in.

Drive Safe,

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