The shifty landscapes from Gulaba check-post to Rohtang top has always been one of the highlights for every traveler, taking Manali-Sarchu-Leh, Manali-Spiti or Manali-Zanskar routes
The ride-up would invariably expose multiple skies and moods … Some welcoming and some could often be extremely grim. Rohtang La or otherwise ‘the death pass’ was usually associated with ridiculous stories filled with gutt-wrenching accidents, death defying rescue operations, landslide blockages lasting for many nights in bone-chilling-hypothermia inducing conditions. Add to the list of troubles! the road conditions made sure that every rider questioned the very decision of embarking on this route, in the very first place – at least once, while at it. Many riders would have experienced such emotions & come across similar situations pre 2014; the treacherous Rohtang stretch got metaled soon after & it transcended to a more welcoming, celebratory ride-through. As one crawled up to the top, one would realise the ultimate wrath or ‘the challenge of Rohtang’.
At the highest point of the pass, it continues to rain unpredictably, hail blindingly or even snow scarily…sometimes all of it at once …although almost every time the weather changed into a welcoming HDR type blue sky right after crossing the first gompa (Buddhist religious structure) en-route Khoksar.
Rohtang La has been a highly emotional romantic-indulgence for most of us eversince we crossed it the very first time and I dearly wish to keep the flames alight for the longest. I don’t think I’d trade this kaleidoscopic transit for a blitzy 9km wormhole dash through cement and concrete, even if it comes at the cost of a few extra hours or even a day to make it to the other side.
As I hear about the scheme of things in lieu of the newly opened (Atal) tunnel, I am reminded of a line someone once optimistically exclaimed; it said, ‘some affairs of the heart never change’. I reckon Rohtang is one such affair of the heart. We dreaded Rohtang La through the first half of our acquaintance, primarily for the furyful kinda extreme unpredictability, then we learnt to make-it-through without burning the clutch and after all that we came around to enjoy the stretch as almost every rough edge got smoothened out (by the Border Road Organisation) for a zippy, nippy exhilarating ride. You can’t help but develop a solid relationship with so many emotions (and memories) involved. Rohtang La will always be special, very special.