How To Plan A Road Trip To Sach Pass and Precautions To Take
In my previous article, I shared my Motorcycle Trip to Sach Pass and the route I followed. Since ride to Sach Pass is considered as one of the toughest rides, a lot of people try to gather information before starting their journey. When I was planning my trip to Sach Pass, I also tried to search valuable information on the internet. Unlike Leh-Ladakh, Sach Pass is not a hot destination for most of the travelers and therefore limited information is available on the internet.
There are few blogs but they mostly update opening and closing of Sach Pass and the road condition of Sach Pass. Anyone planning a road trip to Sach Pass seeks more information like if any permit is required or not? what is the status of mobile connectivity in areas around Sach Pass, what is the best place to take night halt and availability of hotels and other amenities? In this article, I will be providing necessary information that will help to plan a road trip to Sach Pass in a smooth way (it can’t be the easiest as there will be still challenges). Hope my article will help future riders of Sach Pass.
How Many Days Are Sufficient to Complete a Trip to Sach Pass?
A trip to Sach Pass can be done in four days (I am assuming Delhi as the starting point and only Sach Pass is to be covered). If one start early in the morning he can reach Banikhet by evening (Dalhousie is 7KM from Banikhet) and can stay at night in Banikhet or Dalhousie. Start day two from Banikhet, cover Sach Pass and stay at Killar. Start day three from Killar, cross Gulabgadh, Kishtwar and night stay in Jammu. On day four one can easily reach Delhi from Jammu as the road is smooth and one of the best in India. Here I have not considered interruption by rain or landslide because if they tend to happen then it can derail your plan to any extent. This is the best traveling itinerary to cover Sach Pass and if followed can save precious time and effort. If you are planning to go Killar and then return via Manali, then start early in the morning to cross the nallas of Tandi-Kishtwar Road. It is to be noted that there is a small diversion or T-point right after you cross the River Chenab Bridge in Killar. From there one road leads to Jammu (via Gulabgadh-Kishtwar) and other towards Tandi. There is no marking or signboard so one must be aware of the diversion (its nearly 5Km after you cross the Chenab Bridge).
What Are Different Routes to Access Sach Pass and The Route I followed
Sach Pass can be accessed via different routes, it is accessible from Manali as well as from Pathankot. Not only this it can be reached via McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala route and every route has its pro and cons. I will discuss the different route to access Sach Pass and which one is the best.
There are four main routes to access Sach Pass which are as follow:
- Delhi -> Pathankot-> Banikhet -> Tissa -> Bairagadh -> Sach Pass -> Killar -> Gulabgadh -> Kishtawar -> Patnitop -> Jammu -> Delhi.
- Delhi -> Jammu -> Patnitop -> Kishtawar -> Gulabgadh -> Killar -> Sach Pass -> Bairagadh -> Tissa -> Banikhet -> Pathankot -> Delhi
- Delhi -> Pathankot-> Banikhet -> Tissa -> Bairagadh -> Sach Pass -> Killar -> Udaipur -> Tandi -> Koksar-> Manali -> Delhi.
- From Delhi -> Manali-> Koksar -> Tandi-> Udaipur -> Killar -> Sach Pass -> Bairagadh -> Tissa -> Banikhet -> Pathankot -> Delhi
I followed the first route and I will say it is the best route to access the Sach Pass. Route three is also feasible but I won’t be recommending it unless you are planning to go Leh after crossing Sach Pass. Route one is best as the road from Delhi to Pathankot is one of the best in India. Second, the road from Pathankot to Bairagadh is also in good condition (excluding few patches). From Bairagadh, Sach Pass is only 30 Km and can be easily reached. Once you have crossed Sach Pass, you will be descending from 4300 meters and all you have to do is to control your bike on slopes and nallas en-route. The road from Killar to Gulabgadh is in very bad condition (frankly saying it is no road at all) but since it requires ascending at few points it can be managed. Route two is not advisable because in that case you will be ascending 55 Km (Killar to Sach Pass) to reach the top and road is very bad when compared with Bairagadh to Sach Pass. Route three is time-consuming but the problem here is the nallas after Killar. Nallas and water crossing are also present between Sach Pass and Killar but the water crossing of Killar-Tandi Route is more ferocious than the one you will find on any route. If you are planning to cross Sach Pass via route three or four, it is advisable to cross these nallas early in the morning (water flow is less in morning, more accurately only 5% of what you will see in the afternoon). Route four is again not advisable as traveling from Delhi to Manali is more time consuming them traveling from Delhi to Pathankot (Delhi-Pathankot route has no mountain curves while Delhi Manali has a lot). Plus, to reach Tandi, you need to cross Rohtang Pass which requires a permit. Since Rohtang and Manali are hot tourist spot it will consume one day of your journey. Moreover, Delhi to Pathankot can be done easily in 10 hours while Delhi to Manali will take more than 13 hours of continuous driving.
Delhi to McLeod Ganj-Dharamshala route is another alternate for planning a road trip to Sach Pass but the same problem lies here as it was in case of route four. You will have to drive more on the mountainous curve which will consume time and eventually the road will lead you to Banikhet-Sach Pass route. So, route one is the best possible route to make a trip to Sach Pass. Yes, there are other routes too but they are more beneficial if you intend to cover few more places including Sach Pass.
Road Condition in the different segment of Sach Pass
The condition of roads is good in nearly 80% of the stretch (Delhi-Sach Pass-Delhi). It’s basically the road around Sach Pass and Pangi Valley is in bad shape. I won’t say that they are in bad shape but I will say they are the worst roads you have ever see in your life. There are numerous water crossing which further adds up the problem. Overall, it’s the 180Km from Bairagadh to Tandi or 170 KM from Bairagadh to Kishtwar that possess the main challenge. The road in this stretch is worst and some of the water crossings are so turbulent that it can damage your vehicle. If you are planning to visit via Car, make sure the car has good ground clearance. Also, make sure to cross the water crossing early in the morning. The road from Delhi to Pathankot is one of the best (six laned-two way), from Pathankot till Bairagadh it is single lane but still in good condition. Once you cross Tissa, the condition starts deteriorating but still you will be able to ride at a speed of 30-40KM/hr. From Bairagadh to Sach Pass and till Killar road is worst and it will restrict the speed to 10-15 KM/hr and you will be driving in 1st or 2nd gear (both for Bikes and Cars). After Killar the road is a mixture of rock boulders and sand and for bikers, it is necessary to maintain the balance. Further, there will be numerous water crossing and hardly any shop for refreshment. You will get decent shops in Udaipur or Gulabgadh. Once you have crossed Gulabgadh or Udaipur the roads start getting better.
Availability of Car or Bike Mechanic in Sach Pass Route
Sadly, there is hardly any mechanic and once you cross Bairagadh, the next mechanic you will find in Gulabgadh (Killar-Kishtwar) or Sissu (Killar-Tandi). In between this, there is no any mechanic who can fix your car or bike so it is advisable to carry necessary items (Air Pump, Engine Oil, Chain Lubricants, Extra Tube(front one is preferred), Clutch and Accelerator wire, puncture kit and toolkit). If something bad happens then the only way is to tow the vehicle to the places I have mentioned. When I was riding to Sach Pass, I met with two boys on Royal Enfield and one bike met with an accident. He had to ride nearly 60 KM without engine oil as all his engine oil drained and there were no shop or mechanic to fix this. It is advisable to get a check of your vehicle at Pathankot, Manali or Jammu before starting the ride to Sach Pass.
Availability of Petrol Pumps on Sach Pass Route
Petrol Pumps are available in the entire route and its only after Sach Pass you won’t find petrol pump until Kishtwar or Tandi. From Pathankot till Bairagadh there are 3 petrol pumps the last being between Tissa-Bairagadh stretch. Make sure to fill your tanks at the last petrol pump and this will be sufficient to cross Sach Pass and to reach to the next petrol pump in Tandi or Kishtwar. Petrol is also available in black rates at Killar and Bairagadh but they charge INR 130-150 per liter and quality of petrol is a question mark. Petrol Pump at Pathankot-Banikhet route and Tissa-Bairagadh route do accept card payment but it depends on network availability.
Availability of ATM’s on Sach Pass Route
It is mandatory to keep necessary cash as once you have crossed Banikhet you won’t find much ATM and if you find one, chances are minimal that it will be operational or have cash in it. It is always good to carry sufficient cash while planning trip to any mountainous region and same applies for the Sach Pass. ATM is in Gulabgadh and Keylong and then the next will be in Manali or Kishtwar.
Availability of Mobile Network on Sach Pass Route
Mobile connectivity varies from place to place and service providers but I will recommend having an Airtel Postpaid or BSNL Postpaid for Sach Pass route. Almost all the operators work fine till Banikhet but as soon as you cross its network will be gone. Only BSNL works there and since Sach Pass lies in Himachal Pradesh prepaid number from other stares work here perfectly (this won’t happen as soon as you enter Kishtwar as it will be Jammu & Kashmir). I will recommend going with Airtel postpaid as it has most reach in mountainous region after BSNL (probably Airtel girl is right here). I was in my hotel at Bairagadh(2800 meters above sea level) and still, my phone has 4G internet connectivity. The same I witnessed when I made a Bike trip to Badrinath Temple and in most of the Stretch, the Airtel had 4G internet connectivity. Once you cross Bairagadh network will be gone (no matter what the service provider is) and then you will get small network connectivity (Only BSNL) in Killar, Gulabgadh, Udaipur, and Tandi. Airtel or any other private network provider signal will be in Kishtwar, Keylong or Manali. Here again, Airtel has edge over others as Vodafone or Idea signal is very week or hardly available.
Availability of Hotels and Homestay on Sach Pass Route
There are plenty of hotels and Homestays in the entire Sach Pass Route. The route has hotels and as you reach near Sach Pass, you will find home stays at an affordable price. Hotels are available in Banikhet, Tissa, Bairagadh, Killar, Udaipur, Gubalgadh, Tandi, and Kishtwar. One thing to note here is, it is advisable not to book any hotels before starting your trip (unless you are a part of a big group) and you can stay at night at any town as per your requirement. This will make your trip more flexible and allow you to change the travel plan. Bairagadh and Killar the only place where you will find night accommodation. In between this, a small camp is at Himachal Police Check post in Satrundi which rent a bed for INR 200 per person. This is the last place where you will find accommodation in Sach Pass route and then the next will be in Killar. Killar has PWD guest house as well as many hotels and homestays. As I already said Sach Pass is not as commercialized like other Mountain Passes of India, hotels are available and if you are 4-5 person traveling in a group it won’t be difficult to find night accommodation at any point in entire route of your Sach Pass journey.
This is all I can mention about planning a trip to Sach Pass. I have tried my best to cover all the necessary things which will be necessary for a road trip to Sach Pass. In case I have missed any point do let me know via comments and I will try to add them further. Happy and Safe Journey.