Are You Up for the Khardung La Challenge?

Devika Khosla

Last updated: Apr 3, 2017

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It isn’t called the ultra marathon for nothing. It happens to be one of the toughest sporting events, one which will prove to be a test of endurance and strength, challenging physical limits and abilities. Of course the event takes place amidst a breathtakingly beautiful landscape – the pristine mountain passes of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir – but rest assured, that doesn’t make the Khardung La Challenge any easier. This annual event is not for the weak hearted.

What is the Khardung La Challenge?

The main event, The Ladakh Marathon, is a one of its kind opportunity for people from Ladakh and even those beyond Indian borders, to explore the stunning landscapes of Ladakh while participating in what can easily prove to be a very challenging physical exercise. This year the event takes place on 13th September. There are basically four racing events – the 7 kilometre race, the 21 kilometre half marathon, the 42 kilometre full marathon and finally the most difficult of them all, the Khardung La Challenge. This last one is known as an Elite Endurance Race and is for men and women who don’t mind pushing the limits of their physical endurance.

Photo Credit: Etta Talwar Dutta


What makes Khardung La such a challenge?

Khardung La located in Ladakh happens to be one of the highest mountain passes in the world. At a height of 17,852 feet, it is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys, the latter of which is also home to the famous Siachen glacier. At this height, it is easy to understand why running can be such a challenge – the atmosphere is rarified, the temperatures can drop to sub-zero and below, the weather is highly unpredictable - sudden snowfalls are not ruled out, and there is no food, drinking water or medical aid available for love or money. Those participating in the Khardung La Challenge therefore have to not only brave a treacherous mountainous terrain but may also be subjected to capricious weather and other limiting conditions. This ultra marathon could well prove to be one of your most adventurous trips to Ladakh!

Who can participate?

The Khardung La Challenge is open to all citizens of India as well as any international athletes interested in participating. The participation fee is usually Rs. 3000 for Ladakhis, Rs. 5000 for other Indian citizens and US $100 for foreigners.

Photo Credit: Etta Talwar Dutta


What is the ultra marathon route?

The ultra marathon commences at the Koyak Bridge near Tirith Village in the Nubra Valley, which is quite popular with visitors to Leh. The first section of the challenge which covers some 5 kilometres is a flat and relatively easy terrain till the road hits the Khalsar Village. Beyond this point, it is an uphill road leading to the Khardung La Pass. The route covers not only the Khardung village but also the pasture lands of the woolly Ladakhi yaks of the Nubra Valley and North Pullu. Beyond Khardung La, the terrain again slopes downward and the runners will have it a little easy going downhill all the way to Leh.

If you are one of the daring few ready to accept the challenge, we wish you the best of luck. Now don’t forget to log on to MakeMyTrip.com and make your hotel and flight bookings.