MANALI: Seven months after the Manali-Spiti highway was closed following a heavy snowfall at Kunzam pass, the highway has been partially opened for traffic on Tuesday.
Perched at height of 15,050 feet, Kunzam pass, the gateway to Spiti valley of Himachal had received around 50 feet of snow this year. This pass is the only route to connect the Lahaul valley directly with Spiti division of the same district. Due to closure of the pass, residents of the district were forced to travel around 800 kilometres to reach the other end of same district covering Kinnaur, Shimla and Kullu districts.
The Manali-Koksar-Batal-Kaza (Spiti) route is one of the widely used adventurous routes of the world. Every year thousands of backpackers, mostly trekkers, mountain bikers and mountaineers use the route to reach Chandertal Lake, Kibber, Losar, Hansa, Komic and Chango. World famous monasteries like Kye, Tabo, Dhankar are also in Spiti valley of Lahaul-Spiti district. The panoramic Manali-Spiti highway provides a majestic view of Himachal’s largest glacier Bara Sigri. As the Rohtang pass was restored on May 28, around a month late than usual, the Kunzam pass too has been restored around two weeks later than usual due to record snowfall in past 20 years.
Kaza is a most preferred station of foreigners. The 412 km-long Shimla-Kaza highway remains open for traffic almost all the year but the main road to Kaza starts from Manali which remains closed for six months every year. This route being closed till late June this year, Spiti has bear huge loss.
“At least 20 feet high walls of snow are still protecting the edges of highway at Kunzam pass,” newly posted executive engineer at PWD Spiti division Vipin Kumar said who faced such working conditions for the first time. He said the highway has been restored for light vehicles while the maintenance work is on to hoist the green flag for heavy vehicles soon. “The adventure season in valley being at peak point, we had a pressure to clear the road as soon as possible. Road to Kaza was restored on June 9 but things were against us at Kunzam,” he said.
HRTC bus stand Spiti in-charge Anand Negi told Himachal Vacation the PWD Lahaul division has issued them a certificate of fitness of highway but Spiti division has lots of repair work to complete before issuing the certificate. “Highway is not fit even for light vehicles. Public work department is cutting the glaciers and landslides all the way between Gramphu and Batal. We cannot put life of passengers on danger. It may take 3-4 more days to declare the highway safe,” he adds.
In the meantime, hundreds of taxis with tourists have left for Spiti on Tuesday. According to travel agents and taxi operators, thousands of enquiries were pouring in asking them the status of Manali-Spiti road. Taxis were crossing the pass on their own risk.