I went to rohtang pass 2 weeks back. At 13,100 feet, it is one of the key routes on all indo-tibetan-ladhaki trading stops and is also the principal road connecting lahaul-spiti valleys and ladhakh with the rest of india (other than zojila pass, which is through the kashmir valley). Rohtang in tibetan, literally means mound of corpses, such were the number of travellers who died while trying to cross the pass.
So we (jagdeep and vp singh joined me here yesterday) got up at 4 am, and started off for it. After knowing such history, little were we prepared for the sight which would us..it was a full indian bazaar up there. You could get maggi to t shirts. There were proper car parks, and they were overflowing. There were studs from the punjab who ripped off their shirts and jackets to pose in front of the snow, and the minute the snap was taken, they would start huddling from the cold. U could even buy beer here.
But we are also veterans of the indian fairs (we call them jatras in oriya)- I started with trying to learn skiing in ten minutes. We took snowmobile rides- basically all the types of useless expenditures our parents forbade us from in our small town fairs, we went ahead and did it- afterall the money we have earned does seem very illgotten, our hard work does never seem to compare with real hard work.
After posing with 11 foot high snow boulders, and mimicing real explorers by trying to climb every small snow mound (and tripping and falling endlessly while doing so!), we finally had enough and settled down in the comfort of our car.
As the driver pulled downhill through the traffic maze, we would get a glimpse of why rohtang is rohtang..caught in the jam of butter chicken tourists, there were couple of mahindras and tatas, packed to gills with hardy people for whom the snow was no celebrity to be awed by, for whom the pass still was the only access to their homes.
For whom for 4 months every year this valley between the the pir panjal range allows through all essentials, their shampoos to their petrol. For 4 months, they become part of india through this pass.
Soon there will be a rohtang tunnel; it will be a 9km long Shelob's lair. The border roads organisation will no longer maintain the roads through the pass. Lahaul- Spiti will gain, and Manali will lose. After all will u get ur kid to manali if he can't go up to rohtang and be dazzled by the snow?
But there is some majesty to these mountains. So what if u build a tunnel through rohtang la; there is always the next high mountain pass beyond Baralaccha (about 17500 feet). Kids will come in their Pajeros from chandigarh, zip through rohtang tunnel, buy their beer bottles at Baralaccha and will probably stream their snowman poses in 3D live to the world then.
I will thrash mine, if he even thinks about doing it.