sábado, 2 de abril de 2016

khardung La – The natural frontier from Himalaya to Karakorum

The road to Khardung La crosses the Ladakh granite batholith range, the western equivalent of the 2.000 km long Trans-himalayan batholith, immersed between the two suture zones dividing between Himalaya and Karakorum; the natural frontier between the two mountain ranges. South suture zone runs along the Indus valley, while North suture zone extends along the Shyok – Nubra valley…

North of Leh (Left), the Khardung La road climbs from the Indus river valley to cross the Ladakh range. Karakorum is seen in the distance, beyond the Nubra valley. Amazing dejection cones extend at the foot of the Ladakh range, as a testimonial of highly active earth dynamics (Right).
Citius, altius, fortius…, the latin words are as fashionable as ever.
In modern times, society is keen for the taller, the smarter, the most beautiful. No wonder if at school, at work, at sports, at fashion and showbiz, we collectively keep looking for the record… the Queen bee.
Nature has got itself its own records too, of course. Everybody knows about Everest, the highest mountain on earth, although not the most beautiful… the longest river, the most arid desert, the fastest flying creature, the longest living tree …
Then, sometime, not that long ago, I had the opportunity to be in the highest mountain pass road in the world. A place that claims a world record. A place that people crosses for this pure and simple fact… but which is far beyond its fame.

Road to Khardung La as seen soon after leaving Leh. South of the Indus valley extend the high picks of the Himachal Pradesh Himalayas.
All along the way, here and there are found Buddhist “Gompas”, amazing monasteries hooked to the rock slopes…

Khardung La (Khardung Pass, la meaning pass in Tibetan) is a high mountain pass located in the Ladakh region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It lies north of Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The elevation of Khardung La is 5,359 m, though local summit signs and dozens of stores selling shirts in Leh incorrectly claim that its elevation is in the vicinity of 5,602 m metres and that it is the world's highest motorable pass.
Curve after curve, meter after meter, road endures a franc climb to gain the 2.000 meters elevation over Leh.
Extraordinary result shape of an extreme land, this glacier valley can be seen not long before reaching the pass.   
The road, built in 1976 is strategically important to India as it is used to carry supplies to the military units  in the Siachen Glacier. It is historically important though, as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass. During World War II there was an attempt to transfer war material to China through this route.
Khardung La pass, that’s it… Some snow, a modest cafeteria and plenty of colorful prayer flags… Then a lack of air, some dizzy feeling and a mind loosing walk to take this picture…
Geology and significance
Ladakh batholith granites near Khardung La pass. Highness and wind give way to a deep blue sky where colors and contrasts are dramatically beautiful.
Thick volcanics and volcano-clastics follow north of the Ladakh batholith, ranging from basalts to trachytes, together with rhyolites showing ignimbritic flow features.
As a product of the Indian collision with Asian plate, immense molasses deposits where formed as the himalayan range was rising and the Ladakh batholith was subsequently being eroded, as well as the volcanic materials associated with the alpine edge.
Not only geology… a Yak and a herder on the first pastures way down to the Nubra valley.                                                               Then, I can tell, yak milk is sweet, creamy and tasty…lovely…
The big surprising high Nubra valley, after some 6 hour drive… Azure blue waters braiding among snow white sand bars, patched here and there with greenery.
 Though a fairy landscape, heart cannot but be overwhelmed with a somehow oppressing feeling of remoteness and solitude. An unavoidable encounter with only oneself and whatever beliefs…
A Gompa in a Nubra Valley slope… Some human communion, a landscape sharing. A place to wonder about how some people are full with just a minimum, while we need so much to sometimes be quite empty…
Buddhist lamas give happy life to Gompas in the Nubra Valley as elsewhere.
Along a sharp thrust, gneisses and granites of the Karakorum overly the volcanics, followed by a conspicuous row of hot springs. Valley down, the Shyok river will eventually enter Pakistan, preventing any other valley access then the Khardung La pass.
Khardung La is widely, but incorrectly, believed to be the highest vehicle-accessible pass in the world. A well-graded Indian military road reaches 5,610 metres on the India - Tibet border. There are also higher motorable passes at Suge La, west of Lhasa, 5,430 m, and Semo La, 5,565 m, between Raka and Coqen in Central Tibet. Vehicles have also been driven over the 5,582 metres Marsimik La, in the Indian Karakoram to the north-east of Khardung La.  

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