Gateway To The Cold Desert
Zoji La is a famous pass over the main Himalayan range on the Srinagar -Leh highway. As a matter of fact, this pass has often been termed as the gateway to Ladakh . On one side of this pass is the Kashmir Valley, while on the other side it leads to the Drass Valley of Ladakh. There is a panoramic view of snow-clad peaks from the top of this pass.
Beauty Of The Remote Regions
The pass is a low flat plain but beyond here the country seems bereft of any form of life. The mountains soar as bare rock and rubble while the river valleys are simply gravel and mud. Yet the clarity of the air and the nature of the countryside compel one to have a closer look and see the life, which is everywhere. There are herbs growing on almost every slope, even the smallest trickle of snow melt will have an accompanying flash of green and off in the distance one will see herds of goats that blend perfectly into the colour of the mountainside, tended by herders in black robes.
Across the passes in the distance one will see laden black Dzo plodding steadily onwards. It is as if the countryside, stripped of all its finery and lushness, becomes more visible not less. In a land where there are no trees, the merest twig becomes important. The road will lead one down from the great Himalayas to a land of great peace and tranquility.
Living In Isolation
From the heights of the Zoji la pass, the road passes through the region where the Drass River has its source and along the river's valley. The first settlement after the pass is the town of Matayan on the Gumbar River, inhabited by Kashmiris, Dards and Baltis. The people speak Urdu, Dardi, Kashmiri and Balti. The further settlements are mostly on the mountainsides above the road, which passes through the villages of Prandrass and Murad Bagh before reaching Drass in a 15-sq-kms valley.
Closed In Winters
The Zoji La pass is closed due to heavy snowfall at the beginning of the cold season. It is opened in late spring. It is one of the most dangerous passes in the Himalayas. After being closed by snow for half the year and being impassable in winter, 10m of snow (33 ft) has to be cleared each year entirely by human effort to allow traffic to pass.