Mountain Passes in India | Download PDF

What is a Mountain Pass?

A mountain pass is a route through a mountain range or over a ridge. If following the lowest possible route, a pass is locally the highest point on that route. Mountain passes in Jammu and Kashmir. Since many of the world’s mountain ranges have presented formidable barriers to travel, passes have been important since before recorded history, and have played a key role in trade, war, and migration. At lower elevations, it may be called a hill pass.

The Himalayan mountain system is the highest in the world and is home to the world’s highest peaks. There are 14 Himalayan peaks with elevation over 8,000 metres. Important mountain passes/Himalayan passes make few routes through the mountains possible. Read here about Mountain Passes in India – A Complete List.

Mountain passes make use of a gap, col (also sometimes a notch, the low point in a ridge). On a topographic map, passes are characterized by contour lines, with an hourglass shape, which indicates a low spot between two higher points. There are 14 Himalayan peaks with elevation over 8,000 meters (26,000 ft).

As well as offering relatively easy travel between valleys, passes also provide a route between two mountain tops with a minimum of descent. As a result, it is common for tracks to meet at a pass; this often makes them convenient routes even when travelling between a summit and the valley floor. Passes traditionally were places for trade routes, communications, cultural exchange, military expeditions etc. A typical example is the Brenner pass in the Alps.

Some mountain passes above the tree line have problems with snow drift in the winter. This might be alleviated by building the road a few meters above the ground, which will make snow blow off the road.

“The jewels of India”, a term that truly describes the Top 10 highest mountain peaks of India. These snow-capped mountains attract thousands of visitors from across the globe for various exploration and expedition projects. Since time immemorial the Himalayas have attracted millions of tourist because of its mountain peaks and snowy glaciers. The two major mountain ranges of North and North East India are Karakoram Range and Himalayan Range. These two ranges are home to few of India’s highest peaks which are also the part of top 100 highest peaks of the world.

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List of Important Mountain Passes in India: 

Mana Pass

This mountain pass, connecting Uttarakhand with Tibet, is situated at an elevation of 5545 m above sea level in Greater Himalayas at some places it reaches  5611 m. During the winter season, it remains snow-covered for about six months.

Thang La

This mountain pass, the second highest motorable mountain pass in India after Khardung La, is situated at an elevation of 5359 m above sea level. This mountain pass is in Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir).

Chang-La (Ladakh with Tibet)

This is a high mountain pass. It is situated at an elevation of over 5360 m above sea level. This pass has been named after Chang La Baba and has a temple dedicated to him. The road, leading to the small town of Tangtse, after Chang La, is extremely steep. It remains closed, because of being snow-covered, during the winter season.

Debsa Pass

This high mountain pass, between the Kullu and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh in Greater Himalayas, is located at an elevation of 5360 m above sea level. This pass is popularly known for providing an easier and shorter alternative to the traditional Pin-Parbati Pass route between Kullu and Spiti.

Khardung La

This mountain pass, connecting Leh with Siachin glacier, is the highest motorable pass in the country. It is situated at an elevation of more than 5359 m above sea level. During the winter season the road, however, remains closed.

Qara Tagh Pass

This mountain pass, an offshoot of the Great Silk Road, is situated at an elevation of more than 6000 m above the sea level in the Karakoram Mountains. During the winter season, it remains covered with snow.

Aghil Pass (Karakoram-Lodak)

This mountain pass, connecting Ladakh with Xinjiang (Sinkiang) province of China, is located to the north of K2 in the Karakoram at an elevation of about 4805 m above the sea level. During the winter season, it remains closed from November to the first week of May.

Lanak La:

Connecting Ladakh with Lhasa this mountain pass is located at an elevation of 5466 metres in Aksai-China (Ladakh). The Chinese have constructed a road to have connectivity between Xinjiang (Sinkiang) Province of China and Tibet.

Pangsang Pass (Arunachal Pradesh):

Connecting Arunachal Pradesh with Mandalay (Myanmar), this mountain pass is located at an altitude of more than four than metres above Sea level.

Mangsha Dhura Pass:

Connecting Uttrakhand with Tibet, this mountain pass is located at an altitude of 5490 metres in the district of Pithoragarh. Landslides create great problems for pilgrims and tourists who cross this pass to reach Mansarovar.

Traill’s Pass

Located at the end of Pindari Glacier, linking Pindari Valley to Milam Valley in the Pithoragarh and Bageshwar districts of Uttrakhand, this mountain pass is situated at an elevation of 5212 m above sea level. This pass is very difficult to cross because of its steepness and ruggedness

Shipki La

Connecting Himachal Pradesh with Tibet, this mountain pass, through which river Satluj enters India from Tibet, is situated at an altitude of more than 5669 M above Sea level through the Satluj George. The pass, representing Indian National Highway, is India’s third border post for trade with China next to Nathula in Sikkim and Lipulekh in Uttrakhand. During the winter season, it remains covered with snow.

Zoji-La

Connecting Srinagar with Kargil and Leh, this mountain pass is situated at an altitude of 3528m above the sea level. From December to mid-May it remains closed because of heavy snowfall. Beacon Force of Border Road Organisation (BRO) that is responsible for cleaning and maintenance of the road during the winter season; try to keep the road open for the most part of the year. In 2013, the centre had declared the Srinagar-Zoli-La Road a National Highway (NH-ID).

Rohtang Pass

Connecting the Kullu, the Lahul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh, this mountain pass is situated at an altitude of 3979m above sea level. Here Border Road Organisation has constructed an excellent accessible road. Heavy movement of military vehicles, buses, taxis; trucks and goods trains cause traffic jams that are common occurrences.

Pensi La

Connecting the Valley of Kashmir with Kargil (Ladakh) this mountain pass is situated at an elevation of more than 4400 m above sea level in the Greater Himalayas. From November to Mid-May it remains covered with snow.

Niti Pass

Connecting Uttrakhand with Tibet this mountain pass is located at an altitude of 5068 m above sea level. During the winter season, between November and mid-May, it remains covered with snow.

Nathu La (Sikkim)

Located on the Indo- China border, this mountain pass, forming part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road, is at an altitude of 4310m above sea level. Nathu–La, one of the three trading border posts between India and China, was responded in 2006 after the 1962 war.

Lakhani (Arunachal Pradesh)

Connecting Arunachal Pradesh with Myanmar this mountain pass is located at an altitude of more than four thousand metres above sea level. It remains open throughout the year trade and transport.

Malinga La (Uttrakhand)

Connecting Uttrakhand with Tibet, this seasonal mountain pass is situated north of Gangotri. During the winter season, it remains covered with snow.

Shencottah Gap

Connecting Madurai city of Tamil Nadu with Kottayam city of Kerala this mountain pass is situated in the Western Ghats. Shencottah is a small town also near this pass in Tamil Nadu.

Lipu Lekh (Uttrakhand)

Connecting Uttrakhand with Tibet this mountain pass, one of India’s important border post for trade with China, is situated in the Pithoragarh district. The pilgrims travel through this pass to reach Mansarovar. However, Landslides in the rainy season and avalanches in winter cause great problems for movements and transportation. The elevation is 5334 m.

Pir-Panjal Pass

Connecting Jammu with Srinagar this traditional pass lies on the Mughal Road. The mountain pass was closed down after the partition of the sub-continent. It facilitates the easiest and shortest metalled road access from Jammu to the Valley of Kashmir.

Imis La

The pass, providing an easy access between Ladakh and Tibet (China), is located at an altitude of over 4,500m above sea level. It remains closed during the winter season and has a difficult terrain and steep slopes.

Brazil Pass (Srinagar with Kishan-Ganga Valley)

Connecting Kashmir Valley with Deosai Plains of Ladakh this mountain pass is located at an altitude of 4100 m above sea level. During the winter season, it remains closed for trade and transport because of being covered with snow.

Dihang Pass

Connecting Arunachal Pradesh with Mandalay this mountain pass is situated at an altitude of about 4000m in the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Bomdila Pass (Arunachal Pradesh)

Connecting Arunachal Pradesh with Lhasa (the capital of Tibet), this mountain pass is situated to the east of Bhutan in the Greater Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh at an elevation of about 2217 m above sea level. Owing to the snowfall and adverse weather in the winter season it remains closed.

Diphu Pass

This traditional mountain pass between India and Myanmar, situated in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh, provides an easy and shortest access to Mandalay (Myanmar). It remains open throughout the year for transportation and trade. Elevation of this pass is at 4587 m.

Banihal Pass (Jawahar Tunnel)

Connecting Jammu with Srinagar this mountain pass is situated at an altitude of 2832 m above sea level in the Pir-Panjal. Named after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Jawahar Tunnel, constructed for round-the-year surface transport, was inaugurated in December 1956 because the pass remains closed during the winter season because of the snow cover.

Kunjerab Pass (Karakoram)

Connecting Ladakh and the Xinjiang Province of China, this traditional mountain pass is situated at an altitude of 4693 m above sea level in the Karakoram Mountains. During the winter season from November to mid-May it remains covered with snow.

Bara Lacha

Situated on the National Highway and connecting Manali and Leh, this mountain pass is located at an altitude of a 4890 m above sea level in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Because it is a high Mountain pass, it remains covered with snow from November to mid-May.

Jelep La

Connecting Sikkim with Lhasa this mountain pass that passes through the Chumbi Valley, is located at an altitude of 4270 m above sea level.

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