An SUV is certainly the most preferred mode of travel on the difficult terrain to Leh Ladakh. Not without reason. After all you need to traverse a rather difficult terrain with its steep ascents. Add to it the fact that you often have to encounter water ways on the road on account of the melting snow and the level of difficulty is further enhanced. High ground clearance of the vehicle comes in particularly handy when you are negotiating a treacherous terrain. However, if you want to make the trip in your Hatchback or Sedan, it is not impossible, provided you take these precautions:
• It is prudent to choose the time of travel with care. If it rains or in early summers when snow is present around roads, many routes become hard to traverse. For example in winters and early summers the level of difficulty in clearing paths like South Pullu – Khardung La – North Pullu, becomes very high. Similarly routes such as Lukung – Spangmik – Man – Merak – Chusul – Tsaga have very bad roads where getting through with a low ground clearance vehicle becomes very challenging.
• In choosing the travel route, overall it is prudent to opt for the Srinagar route, which is typically more traversable with the roads and mountain passes being at lower elevation.
• The important thing while travelling on a Hatchback or Sedan is also to keep the load optimal so that the car does not hit every boulder on the way.
• Installing an aluminum plate as a sump guard for low ground clearance vehicles may save your hatchback or sedan from being damaged.
• More than the kind of vehicle, the kind of driving is of essence. So remember to drive cautiously. In fact any time that you are in doubt, it is best not to rush into that stretch, instead to park on the side and assess the road condition and how other vehicles are crossing it.
• Keep the speed optimal, particularly while descending a mountain pass or crossing a stream.
• Keep your ears tuned to every sound the vehicle makes, so you can catch any problem area, early.
• Stock up on a whole lot of spares and essentials. Other than the regular spares remember to carry some m-seal and a towing cable
• Last, but definitely not the least do be prepared for some wear and tear. For example, some scratches on the underbelly are something that you may need to live with.
The fact that some people have actually made the trip on a Tata Nano, should be inspiration enough! Bon Voyage!