Highest Car Route of the World Taken
Vitoldas Milius, whose biography is coloured by numerous record-beating and rather extreme journeys, this time chose a route quite unexpected. Driving a Mahindra Scorpio, he reached the Himalayan Khardung La passage, one of the highest peaks in the world, reachable by car, which rises 5 602 m above the sea level.
The well-known traveller, journalist and automotive expert, whose journeys would often connect “the northernmost and southernmost, the easternmost and westernmost points of continents”; join together world capitals; beat speed, economy or other records, this time chose the challenge of taking a route up. Khardung La passage, located in the world’s highest Himalayan mountain chain, became his new purpose.
Vitoldas Milius started the trip on 5 June, 2012, in the Indian capital, Delhi. On his first day, he covered 532 km and reached Manali city, accompanied by the photo-editor of Auto Bild India, Suresh Narayanan.
From then on, the road got continually steeper as the West-Himalayan sub-mountain serpentines went up, and a 600 km trip from Manali to Leh city took two more days. Leh city lies 3 500 km above the sea level, but even before reaching it, V. Milius and his fellow traveller had to cross several very high passages and undergo the symptoms of altitude sickness. One of the passages was the second-highest in the Indian Himalaya, Taglang La passage, giving in to the highest Khardung La passage only by 300 metres.
“That part of the trip was the toughest. The greater part of the Manali-Leh road winds high in the mountains, which makes it a challenge both to people and to technology. The lack of oxygen is rather severe; it is very dangerous to lose focus and make a driving mistake – that road would never give you a second chance…” says Vitoldas Milius.
On 9 July, only 43 km were left till Khardung La passage. However, the passage lies 5 602 m above the sea level, so the travellers had to go whole 2 km up in a very short period of time.
Vitoldas Milius is the first Lithuanian known to have reached the place by car.
Khardung La is a mountain passage, having served the locals as a communication path between separate parts of Asia, for hundreds of years. One of the paths of the historical Silk Road passed it, and merchants’ caravans would cross it. During WWII, military cargos were carried via the passage, too.
The traffic in the Khardung La passage intensified in 1976, when an automobile road was constructed. The passage is strategically vital; therefore, an Indian Army unit is supervising it.
Travellers are allowed there from June to October. The reason is unexpected weather conditions; big storms and landslides are frequent there even in summer, especially in times of heavy rainfall.
V. Milius covered the route by a Mahindra Scorpio four-wheel drive. Vehicle engine capacity is 2 179 ccm; it develops 120 hp. The standard vehicle was not specially prepared for the trip. Two cameras and a SeeMe GPS fleet management and vehicle tracking system, helping to see the location of a car, were installed inside.
Apart from everything else, the travellers also suffered significant temperature changes. In Delhi, they experienced a +45° C heat, while the passage met them with mere +5° C.
Khardung La is one of the highest mountain passages in the world, situated in the world’s-highest Himalaya mountain chain. It belongs to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and is located in the Ladakh region, the capital of which is Leh. The official language of the region is Urdu; the majority of locals are Buddhists.