We were heading from Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass and were aware of overnight snowfall and before starting the journey itself we could see fresh snow on Mountain tops.
We were briefed that road approaching Changla Pass was not great and with overnight snowfall there is always chance of slipping, so be careful!! It was like a build up before you head for exam where everybody shares a story to make you more and more nervous. We had already been through some tough terrain, so curiosity was building up on what was lying ahead.
Changla pass is 3rd highest motorable road in the world at the height of 17590 feet.
We had an early breakfast and started by 9am and road is quite normal in the initial half but as height increased the concrete gave way to broken patches of roads and rocks. There were places where those broken patches were wet as well. It was also getting cold as height was increasing and this is where good warm gloves were required which i didn’t had, things were quite manageable though.
As we went high further, i experienced something which i hadn’t before in the journey. I realised that at steep climbs, sometimes motorbike was not picking up even at first gear despite giving full throttle [Now don’t give full throttle at such height because it might suddenly make bike go crazy] and here i am talking of 500cc bike. This is risky at slope especially at turns on a curvy road where you might fall if bike doesn’t pick up. One of the reason this happens is because there is less oxygen at high altitude so engine is not able to burn enough fuel.
Slowly and steadily we were approaching Changla pass but about a Kilometer before we felt mild snow fall and it was getting bitterly cold and by the time we made it Changla Pass, it had build up into a snow storm.
It was very cold with very limited visibility and sitting in the cafeteria i was sipping coffee and was waiting for storm to subside but then came the sermon from our tour guide …Lets go!! Probably the idea was that we don’t know when storm will stop and it might block the roads.
Problem with snow is that it settles on your Goggles and blocks your view, if you try to rub, it spreads more, if you stop and try to clean Goggles then you are left behind from your group which you cannot afford in this storm. Instructions were clear, group will stay together and drive slowly. With hardly anything visible, i was simply following the bike ahead of me. It was a slow ride downwards on broken mountain roads. As the height started decreasing the snowfall started slowing down but was replaced by rain.
My trousers were waterproof but weather conditions were too much for the fabric and it developed wet patches. My gloves were not waterproof and had already soaked in water. My legs were literally shivering and i just wanted to rush to lower height to enter into dry weather. And reaching dry weather felt like heaven!!
This journey was like a big test and these are the unpredictable situations for which you prepare by purchasing proper safety gear. I dearly missed proper cold weather biking gloves on this ride.
It was a wonderful experience of driving through a storm. I don’t know if i will again be able to get such an experience again but memories will stay forever.