Khardung La (la means pass in Tibetan) (elevation 5359 m) is a high mountain pass located in the Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The international spelling is used here, but it is locally spelt "Khardong La".
The pass on the Ladakh Range lies north of Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The Siachen Glacier lies partway up the latter valley. Built in 1976, it was opened to motor vehicles in 1988 and has since seen many automobile, motorbike and mountain biking expeditions. Maintained by the Indian Army's Corps, the pass is strategically important to India as it is used to carry essential supplies to the Siachen. Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Chinese 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 in the area north of the pass, mute witnesses to history. During World War II there was a futile attempt to transfer war material to China through this route.
Khardung La is situated 37 km by road from Leh. The first 24 km, as far as the South Pullu check point, are paved. From there to the North Pullu check point about 15 km beyond the pass the roadway is primarily loose rock, dirt, and occasional rivulets of snow melt. However, this pass is in better repair than many of the surrounding passes (Tanglang La, for example). From North Pullu into the Nubra Valley, the road is very well maintained (except in a very few places where washouts or falling rock occur). Hired vehicles (2 and 4-wheel-drive), heavy trucks, and motorcycles regularly travel into the Nubra Valley, though special permits may need to be arranged for travellers to make the journey.
The 5,359 m elevation given above is from a modern GPS survey by a team of researchers. It accurately matches SRTM data and Russian topographic mapping, and it is broadly consistent with several other independent travellers' GPS reports (, , , ) and an article by Bonington
Several of these sources contain assertions by local people who claim that the 5,602 m (18,380 feet) height claimed by the summit signs has been inflated for the purpose of record breaking. The even higher elevation of 5,682 m (18,640 feet) that has been claimed by Guinness World Records and the National Geographic Society is not supported by any evidence and may be rooted in a copying error from 5,602 m.
Inner line permits are required to reach Khardung-la. These can be procured at the DC's office in Leh. Make sure to have photocopies of your permits, as each checkpoint needs a copy to be deposited with them.