Winter Cycling - Leh Pangong Khardungla Leh -Dec 2018


DAY 6 : Khardun-La DAY : That was The day to cross Mighty Khardun-La to reach Leh - 70KM of cycling with 32 KM to KardungLa and then 38KM to Leh, 1600mt ascent and 2200mt decant. It was expected to be a similar climb as Changla.

Thank you, Sun J , Weather was wonderful with blue sky till North Pullu. Everything was on schedule till noon , after that , weather started to turn bad, the sun disappeared and the weather turned cold. After all, my trip had to be made memorableJ J.

At this stage , the fatigue of the last 5 days , low temperature, altitude and pressure to cross Khardung-La (K-TOP) in time ( not later than 3pm) were adding up… But I was excited to reach K-TOP from Nubra side. (I had been to K-TOP multiple times from Leh side in summers)

After crossing North Pullu, road to K-TOP turned icy and started to be windy, still 15Km to K-TOP. It was becoming tough with every KM due to drop in temperature and no sun but less windy than ChangLa, fatigue was catching up fast. Due icy roads, it was getting difficult to ride up. Thanks to the BRO , they were sprinkling rough soil on ice patches to maintain the traction. All military vehicle had chains on the wheels , which were making surface rough enough for my cycle to get a grip.

I reached K-TOP after 4PM. Temp was below -20C ,(on standard mercury temperature reader it was -24C, my electronic reader was stuck at -16C J), whatever it was , it was damn cold. Another worry was frostbite due to low temperature & headwinds. I think I barely escaped that, though, I started to experience severe pain in my finger and toe.

At K-TOP, Thanks to our Army, they offered hot tea /water and biscuits and very warm place. In 10-15 minutes , It gave me enough energy to start downhill.

Downhill was tough, very slippery icy road. Slipped a few times, luckily nothing serious, thanks to helmet and cycle disk brakes. Icy roads continued till South Pullu. It was a bit scary to ride. In few patches, I decided to walk, similar to what I did in ChangLa downhill.

It took a long time to get down to South pullu , it was nearly dark but the full moon seemed like another sun to me. It was cloudy but moon light was enough to navigate with a head lamp.
At South Pullu , temp. was around -16C and no ice on road which was a great relief, and trust me -16 C felt like 20 C J.

Finally managed to reach Leh (-10KM) safely by 7PM in one piece J.
Took one short video while cycling downhill but after that no picture…

I can’t recall much of the last night I spent in Leh, just remembered packing my cycle with my eyes a little wet. I was thanking ‘my cycle’ to have done this journey with me and not only carried me but also all the things I needed throughout and the help I got from everyone when needed including weather ..

Is it the first time anyone covered this route solo, self-supported in December?
Well the jury is still out on that :)

On 27th Dec. took morning flight to Delhi ….And missing Ladakh since ….

If you are not already in love with this place….. you surely will be :)

Special thanks to my daughter, Sara for editing this article to add life to it ….. otherwise it was filled with numbers and facts ……

Thank you for reading


View after Khardung Village , going up to K-TOP



Towards South Pullu , First View of K-TOP between those white mountains

Left side of K-TOP


1KM from South Pullu and 14KM to K-TOP,K-TOP getting closer and visible ... Road starts to be icy and clouds are gathering

Sun is still shining


Getting cloudy and time to keep moving , no more pictures or selfies :)


K-TOP getting closer and clouds getting darker... surely no more pictures till K-TOP


Finally at K-TOP :)


Cycle is in good shape and ready for down-hill to Leh


But I am not in good shape :):) , frozen breath .. tired , cold ... ( Pic from Video)


Might KhardungLa is surely MIGHTY , takes best out of you .... ( Pic from Video)


Down towards Leh


Looking up to K-Top from leh side ( Pic from Video), very slippery road , like ice sheet with dumps ...


My digital temperature meter stuck at -16 from south pullu. Temp at K-TOP was lower ... below -23C,


Finally reached Leh , thanks to Mr. Tashi for wonderful stay and food...


Other Details


Logistics :

Cycle : MTB Cannondale Trail 6 , 12KG


  • Down-feather jackets -- 2 ( but used one at a Time, one was enough)
  • Warm flees Jacket -- 1
  • Sweater wool (thin) - 1
  • Thick Cotton full sleeves T-shirts - 3
  • Standard Running T –Shirts (Decathlon) -3
  • Warm Pair of Socks (Decathlon) -4
  • Leg warmer (Decathlon) -1
  • Jeans -1
  • Neck Warmer (Decathlon)
  • High Quality warm Cap – 2
  • Balaclava -- 2 ( but not used)
  • Basic woolen Gloves -2
  • Warm Gloves ( rated -20C) – 1 ( worn along basic gloves for layering )
  • Trekking shoes (rated -20C) (Decathlon – 4 Star warmth) -1
  • DSLR Camera --1
  • Medical Kit
Above all : Weight : 5-6 KG

Tent : Weight 1.2KG ( Backup, not used)

Water bottle:
  • Insulated water Bottel - 2KG ( with 1lt water)
  • Plastic water bottle – 1KG ( with 1lt water )
Sleeping Bag : Down feather (-20C) – 1.2 KG
Home-Made Energy Food :Mix of Carb+protein+butteroil +nuts +fats, aka Mithai. 100g=600-700 cal , Total 2KG

Carrying weight 12-13KG.

Trip Statistic:
Route: Leh-Sakti-ChangLa- Durbuk- PangongLake , Phobrang-Shyok-Khalsar-Diskit-KhardungLA-Leh
Total Distance covered : 457KM,
Total Ascent : 8100mt
Total Decent :8100mt

Highest elevation :5400mt ( KhardungLa is debatable 5680mt)
No. Of days :6 ( 21-26th Dec 2018 cycling , 20-27th Total Duration)

Temperature Experienced : Day -3C to -22C ( Cycling), Night -10C to -21C(sleeping at warm place @ 10C)

Mobile Connectivity :
Airtel 4G at Leh, Karu, Sakti.
BSNL at Durbuk, Tangtse, Khalsar.

Luckily no problem with cycle during this trip.

What is different in Winters:

Landscape :

- All landscape is either brown or white, not a blade of green grass.
- If there is water, it is frozen like rock.
- If you are flying from Delhi , you feel and see freshness from AQI of 350 at Delhi to 0 at Leh.

Leh and around:

- Life looks normal at Leh and around but very few tourist and locals.
- 90% shops/hotels are closed compared to July-August.
- Food options are very limited, but you relish almost everything, if you do what I did everyday


- You need to make sure that you book your stay (guest house) and talk to the person for facilities.
- Very basic facilities are available, except one or two expensive hotels.
- Going beyond Leh , make sure that you have confirmed your stay , nearly all guesthouse and hotels are closed.

Taxi :

- Available

Challenges compared to Summer cycling

- Body need to overwork to maintain body temperature in addition to peddling
- Very cold air to breath which is very painful (may lead frostbites). Covering face reduces air flow which in turn reduces oxygen volume , which is already at 70%-50%.
- Inhaling cold air makes your inner body cold, body need extra effort to maintain body temp.
- Risk of frostbites at hand and foot when there is no sun, at passes or downhill with wind-chill factor.
- Roads are icy near passes, which are some time impossible to cycle or walk , need crampons .
- In case of emergency , help may be delayed due to less/no traffic during winter time .
- Days are very short max. 9-10 hr day light, compared to 14hr in summer. You plan you stays very carefully and delays can be very very risky..

In return :

- Different and beautiful Landscape.
- If you love solitude, it is a lot there, hardly any tourists and very few locals.
- No traffic on roads , you can be on your own whole day
- Lots of Adreline
- Know locals better and wonderful experience to know them better to learn a lot about there simplicity, kind, helpful and loving nature.
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Surface of quilts and blankets remain cold from outside, but inside is warm with our body heat and multiple layers. As soon as your feet or hand peek out from blankets and quilts while sleeping, you realise the bittering cold.
Am not sure about kind of quilts maybe they have yak wool.
I noticed that these were standard cotton filled quilts. I was relying on my sleeping bag. Did not experienced a cold night during trip, Bukhari helps a lot . It bring up room temp to 10-15C.


Wow! Superb. After numerous summer and winter trips I was imagining each and every place route you were describing. Awesome!
Post more pics please and some more description.
Did you carry camera gear or mobile pics?
What was your clothing strategy.
Thanks :)

No Camera gear , Mobile and a DSLR.

On clothing ,
on Climbs : I was using 4 layers - Running T-Shirt, Cotton full Sleeve, wool sweater, a jacket. -- Warmer and jeans

Down hill , adding one more layer , Down-feather jacket.
Double gloves : Base layer and warmer.


Bedding Looks quite colourful.
Was iust wondering what kind of quilts they provide and how cold or cosy these in early morning hours.
Does bed retains warmth whole night in such sub zero conditios.
It was very cosy , room temp around 10C , by morning around 5C... but sleeping bag was a good support.


New Member
DAY ZERO : On 20th Dec. took early morning flight from Delhi to Leh, flying over beautiful snow covered peaks and landscape, from smog to green , Green to White and the brown… looking over Rohtag, Moore Plains and frozen Tso Kar.

I landed in Leh at -12C with fresh air and made myself comfortable in a very friendly guest house. I loved the innovative ideas of keeping the house warm. But then I didn’t want to get too comfortable J…..

After breakfast, I had to collect my permit from the DC office , so decided to walk from my guest house to DC office ( totally 5KM). Route was through the famous and happening Changspa Road, but this time of the year , not a soul there , no locals, tourists, all shops closed. That was first realization that it was not going to be that easy as I thought J…. Second realization was at the permit office. The Permit officer was surprised on my request for inner-line permit during this time of the year. When I told the officer that mode of transport is cycle , He suggested to rethink about this trip with a concern and suggested to do in summer. I understood his concern and thanked him. He said that it was a first; in winter that he is (probably) issuing permit for cycle for that specific route. That was exciting to hear but scary too…

Finally all set for exciting Journey in the obliviousView attachment 763057

Packed for the Airport
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Beautiful View
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View of Frozen Tso Kar and Moore Plains on right
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View of Hemis ...
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Empty Streets of Leh
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Ready for the Journey/Adventure.....

DAY1: , Leh to Sakti (50KM), was a good start with reasonable distance with 700meters of altitude gain. It was a beautiful sunny day with max temp -3C to min -12C. Leh to Karu ~ 35 was a smooth ride along Indus river, which had just started to freeze, offering breathtaking view. From Karu to Sakti was continuous climb with unmatchable views of WariLa and Monasteries along the way. The day was only 6 hrs long. (9am-3pm) with Lunch at Karu. I had an opportunity to stay with a family in Sakti. They not only offered me home made food but also gave me a place to sleep, a very warm place to sleep. Most of the places I stayed were kept warm without support without of electricity. Though I was looking ahead at one of the tough days of my trip, I slept like a log.

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All packed and ready
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Leh Morning Temp.
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On the way .....
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My Night Stay at Sakti

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Impressive warm Kitchen and delicious food

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Just before getting Dark in Sakti

Day 2 : It was ChangLa Day, world’s second highest motor-able pass at altitude of 5358 meters. Again, Sun God was smiling down upon me, gifting me blue skies without wind for as long as 60KM to Durbuk. Wouldn’t have been able to make the 1800mt ascent otherwise J. Despite of this gift, It was a tough day, min temperature -16C at ChangLA at noon without chill factor, ice jammed cycle’s disk brakes disks, icy & slipper roads. There was nothing I could do to prepare myself for this. I had to work twice as hard as I was not only trying to peddle at steep elevation but also struggling to keep my body warm in the extreme weather.
During my summer trips, I used to be delighted on the sights of downhill. My smiles soon faded away this time when I realized that in winters they are tougher than climbing. I was on the edge throughout the downhill, ChangLa to Durbuk, due to icy & slippery roads, head winds, no Sun (North face), temperature dropping to -20C +windchill. It was a long day 7am to 5:30pm. I managed to reach Durbuk before it got dark and high winds.
Crossing ChangLa was one of the biggest challenge of the trip and was risky. Another factor were the Wild Dogs on this route, who can be very dangerous, luckily, I had no such encounter.
But the day was rewarding and fulfilling in all aspects. The scenes that I captured, the feeling that I experienced, and the fact that there is life that goes on everyday in that area, was something to die for, and no exaggeration. Again , I was welcomed to delicious home cooked food at Durbuk and a warm place to sleep.

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Sakti Village at back , Going towards ChangLa

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Temp. on the way...
Beautifully written with great detailed insight! I was almost transported there while reading Great pictures too
Beautifully written with excellent photographs. Courageous trip indeed. BTW have you carried spare tubes/tyres in case of any puncture?