The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-25-2009, 10:07 AM
even sven even sven is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
What is the highest elevation you can drive to?

I recently had the good fortune to visit the Everest Base Camp in Tibet. It was an amazing experience. Perhaps the oddest part was the feeling of being at such a high elevation. Even turning over in your sleep could leave you winded, and you felt on level with the clouds.

But I know we went over some passes that were higher than the base camp.

Tell me, teeming millions, what is the most extreme height a very lazy adventure could hope to drive to?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 08-25-2009, 10:28 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 48,505
This page says it's in Ladakh, India:
Quote:
Two of the four mountain passes we have already crossed were more than 17,000 feet in elevation. By the time we arrive in the Kullu Valley, known as the"valley of the gods," we will have traversed six high passes and ridden through four temperate zones. Because of the number of motorable high mountain passes here, this road, called the Leh to Manali Traverse, is often called the "highest road in the world."
This site makes the same claim.

This page lists the highest roads in North America:
Quote:
Highest Road In The USA
Mount Evans Byway, Colorado

Highest Paved Through Road In The USA
Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Highest Unpaved Through Road In The USA
Bob Mizell of Erie, Michigan, sent me a note to say that the highest unpaved through road in the USA (and possibly in North America) is the Mosquito Pass between Leadville and Fairplay, Colorado. The summit of the pass is 13,186 feet.

[and others -- JLA]
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-25-2009, 10:35 AM
Duckster Duckster is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 12,847
You can drive to the top of Pike's Peak in Colorado - 14,115 feet above sea level.


Quote:
Ruta (route) 40, which runs the length of Argentina, holds the same mythic persona to Argentineans as does our own Route 66. Between La Poma and San Antonio de Los Cobres, Ruta 40 snakes its way up to the Abra el Acay (Acay Pass), where it crests 4,895 meters (16,059 feet), one of the highest navigable tracks in the Western hemisphere.
Source: http://editorial.autos.msn.com/artic...umentid=434392
Quote:
Khardung La is widely, but incorrectly, believed to be the world's highest motorable pass. There are higher motorable passes at Suge La, west of Lhasa, 5,430 m (17,815 feet), and Semo La 5,565 m (18,258 feet), between Raka and Coqen in Central Tibet. Both these elevations are supported by GPS and SRTM evidence and the latter was also measured by the Catalans and supported by the CIC, see above. Vehicles have been driven over the 5,582 metres (18,314 ft) Marsimik La, in the Indian Karakoram to the north-east of Khardung La, but it is debatable whether this pass should be considered to be motorable. There may be higher motorable passes elsewhere in Tibet, but verification of these has not been possible because of lack of information and restricted access.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khardung_La
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-25-2009, 11:07 AM
elbows elbows is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: London, Ontario
Posts: 8,852
Okay, well I've done the Leh to Manali traverse.

It's not a dull journey, the view is awesome but the road...

Maybe don't look too close at the road. The road is so narrow, in places, that to look out the window of the bus you can't see any of it, just the long, long fall down.

There were also places where traffic only went one way, for about 2 hrs, then it would reverse and go the other way for 2 hrs.

We came up to Leh on an Indian bus. Though we had timed this part of our journey to be in this spot in June, (when the passes open), the bus still traveled through a tunnel cut into the receding glacier.

We had bought tickets to fly out, back to Srinagar, foregoing 4 days on an Indian bus. But they made it clear, when we purchased our tickets, that the plane can only land if the clouds clear, visual required to land or take off. And there is no way to predict that. Often the plane reaches Leh, circles and returns, unable to land. Every day I was there I would listen for the plane to hear if it would land or not.

Additionally, the airport is, by necessity, tightly nestled between some truly remarkable mountain peaks. So you find yourself in an Air India plane, struggling to lift into the thin, thin air, on a barely long enough run way, which also requires a hard bank left, on liftoff, to avoid the Buddhist Monastery perched on the nearest mountain side.

Oh, and did I mention that the plane we were in was jumpstarted on the runway by the previous days plane that couldn't take off due to cloud cover?

It sounds quite the adventure doesn't it? Well it truly was. I am fortunate to have done quite a bit of traveling in SEAsia, South America, Indian subcontinent. If I was pressed I'd say that Leh was the very coolest place I got to.

My partner didn't want to leave the Thai beach he was on, to go off to India and Nepal, it was a challenge to get him back onto the road. But he says the same thing, best spot.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-25-2009, 12:12 PM
AK84 AK84 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
^
evensven only a few miles across from where you were are some roads used by the Pakistan Army which are at 19,000 feet elevation. Used mainly for military purposes.

Incidentally, why are you alive. That road you mention is usually shelled by the Pakistan Army quite viciously. They have the heights there.

Looks like I need tio write a letter to Northern Command HQ
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-25-2009, 12:45 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
I've been told that all terrain vehicles have driven up Mt. McKinley - is that true?
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-25-2009, 12:48 PM
AK84 AK84 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Sorry, elbows was the one I should have reffered to.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-25-2009, 01:19 PM
elbows elbows is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: London, Ontario
Posts: 8,852
We were a couple of miles from the ceasefire line, actually.

While we were in town some unrest broke out, the market was burned down, a curfew was imposed, armed India militia on every corner. Within a couple of weeks, tourists were bused out of Leh, and information became hard to find about what was going on there.

After the rioting and rock throwing of the protest, while scrambling back to our guesthouse, through the warren that is the oldest part of the city, moving at a fair clip, hoping to find a shop to buy cigarettes. (The people of the town all knew this was coming the shops had oddly and suddenly just closed up!) All but banged into an Indian soldier, in full gear, with a case of tear gas canisters. Yikes! Forget the cigarettes let's get out of this rabbit warren so we can see further than 6 ft ahead and behind us!

Mr Elbows suddenly develops the instincts of a photo journalist. He's sure there's some great shots to be had. Yeah, I'll show you the slides one day. What a bonehead. From our vantage point, on the town common, we could only see one side of the conflict, all the projectiles being lobbed into the unseen other side. When I could see projectiles being return fired I knew it was time to move.

When we reached our guest house, a few minutes later, the entire staff and owners had up and gone. Probably in town throwing rocks!

It was a very interesting trip.

And you may be interested to know the thing most likely to kill you, if you're in the Indian Army, is exposure. More soldiers die from exposure in Kashmir etc, than any other cause. It is a shocking difference of climate from the hot plain, that's for sure.

When we were there, the Leh phone book consisted of 6 numbers!
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-25-2009, 01:53 PM
Ají de Gallina Ají de Gallina is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Here in Peru you can easily drive form Lima to Ticlio (3hours) and go from sea level to 4800m (16000 ft) in 3hours on paved road. On good dirt roads I've driven around 5000 m.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-25-2009, 01:57 PM
tr0psn4j tr0psn4j is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
How do cars react to such high altitudes?
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-25-2009, 01:58 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: 847 mi. from Cecil
Posts: 28,742
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
I've been told that all terrain vehicles have driven up Mt. McKinley - is that true?
Not even remotely. At least not anywhere near the top.

Last edited by Fear Itself; 08-25-2009 at 01:58 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 08-25-2009, 02:10 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
Not even remotely. At least not anywhere near the top.
I was sure I'd heard that when we were in Alaska - guess not. They've definitely driven dogsleds up it, though.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08-25-2009, 02:52 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: 847 mi. from Cecil
Posts: 28,742
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
They've definitely driven dogsleds up it, though.
Yeah, Joe Redington and Susan Butcher took dog sleds to the summit in 1979, but I don't think it has been done before or since.

Last edited by Fear Itself; 08-25-2009 at 02:52 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 08-25-2009, 03:13 PM
KlondikeGeoff KlondikeGeoff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by tr0psn4j View Post
How do cars react to such high altitudes?
Yeah, that was what I was going to ask. I wonder if any of the old carburator engines can hack that. I would doubt it without some real tinkering. Fuel injection would probably work OK, but doubt if the tour buses had those engines.

elbows, did you have any altitude sickness problems?
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 08-25-2009, 03:37 PM
Enola Straight Enola Straight is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Even if there is no "road" per se, how high can you climb a climb-able mountain in a 4WD?

Is it in fact possible to reach the summit of Mt. Fuji in a Toyota Land Cruiser?
Mt. Kilimanjaro in a Land Rover?

Lets just suppose, besides your suspension having super rock-crawling gymnastics, you also have an engine with a turbocharger and pre-heated fuel to breathe in the frigid, rarefied atmosphere of high altitude...how much higher than Base Camp could you drive up Mt. Everest?
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 08-25-2009, 03:54 PM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: A better place to be
Posts: 26,718
There is a regular road to the top of Mauna Kea (13,796 feet = 4,205 m) -- not the answer to the OP question but certainly a candidate for "highest mountain you can drive to the top of" that was raised above.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 08-25-2009, 04:45 PM
elbows elbows is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: London, Ontario
Posts: 8,852
No, I didn't have any problems, but we had come up slowly through India with plenty of time to acclimate. That's the way to do it.

When we went to Peru, we were less smart or maybe a little over confident, having never had a problem before. Flew into Lima, on to Cuzco the next day and 48 hrs later we were hiking the Inca trail. Not so smart.

I don't think I slept a wink in Cuzco and my appetite was non existent. Trying to sleep we both had funny sort of brain stem-ish headachy feelings.

The highest pass was along the second day of the trek, something between 10 - 12,000ft. I had a really hard time getting over the pass. I just couldn't get my breath. Every few steps I'd be panting like I'd run a mile. Probably not the highest I've ever been, either.

I never really got ill and it wore off as we went along. By the time we reached the ruins I was feeling all spry again.

There were 8 people on the trek, including a couple of strapping young American lads, both named Mike, (whom we referred to as Mike Squared!). The food was carefully rationed to last the entire trek, but I'm sure these two could have eaten it all in one sitting. Climbing all day builds an appetite and these fellows were just at that age, y'know?

I am just a slip of a girl and my appetite was almost non existent, two bites into every meal, I'd go," bleck, enough, I can't eat anymore." The guide, wanting me to recover my health, would keep sending more food over to me, course after course. I'd choke back what I could.

Well, Mike Squared figured it out pretty quick, I don't think they were getting enough food to fill them up, and they were always hungry. So every meal they were my constant companions, right there at my side waiting like a couple of stray cats. "Can't finish that? Let me help you out!" They were a riot to hang out with.

Thanks for asking me this question Klondike, I haven't thought about those fellows and our meal times together for a long time. I'm smiling now just remembering them.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 08-25-2009, 04:59 PM
Ají de Gallina Ají de Gallina is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by tr0psn4j View Post
How do cars react to such high altitudes?
Car tend to lose 10% of power per 1000m climbed (turbo cat feel it less).
Modern cars need no extra modification, but in older models you need to change the timing

Last edited by Ají de Gallina; 08-25-2009 at 05:03 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 08-25-2009, 07:37 PM
coremelt coremelt is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
the highest road that the general public can easily drive on is almost certainly Khardung La between Leh and the Nubra valley as mentioned: 5349 meters.

The other higher roads are military only or restricted access, or its not generally possible to take your own vehicle on them.

I rode a Royal Enfield motorbike over Khardung La both ways in 2007, amazing journey. They tune the fuel mixture for higher altitudes by adjusting the carburetor , but all vehicles in Leh are set this way anyway since it's already above 3000 meters.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 08-25-2009, 08:51 PM
Xema Xema is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
There is a regular road to the top of Mauna Kea (13,796 feet = 4,205 m)
And it's worth noting that this point is only about 40 road miles from the ocean. I doubt there's any place where it's possible to gain that sort of elevation in a shorter drive.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 08-26-2009, 10:35 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Nanjing, China
Posts: 8,924
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ají de Gallina View Post
Car tend to lose 10% of power per 1000m climbed (turbo cat feel it less).
Modern cars need no extra modification, but in older models you need to change the timing
You can also get by with less octane. As I drove through the rockies, all of the "regular" gasoline was 86 or even 85 octane, whereas in Michigan the cheap stuff is 87 octane. Here in Mexico all we have is "green" or "red," where red is the high octane stuff. I'm guessing that it doesn't change from region to region, i.e., it's the same in Manzanillo as it is here in Mexico City. I don't know that, though, and there are no octane labels on the gasoline pumps that I can see from the car.

My poor Lincoln -- even with the Pemex Rojo -- has noticeably less power here at 7300 feet above sea level. It's still significantly more powerful than all the little VW's that can't climb the hills and constantly get in the way, though.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 08-26-2009, 10:49 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by even sven View Post
I recently had the good fortune to visit the Everest Base Camp in Tibet. It was an amazing experience. Perhaps the oddest part was the feeling of being at such a high elevation. Even turning over in your sleep could leave you winded, and you felt on level with the clouds.
Even Sven, I did the same trip in 2005. Read about it here. Woke up every 10 minutes panting.

On the way back, the main highway to Lhasa was shut so we had to go "the back way" over some of the transhimalaya. Not only was it terrifying, it was also 5,400 metres (17,716 feet) above sea level. A guy with us had an altimeter that at one point said 6,200 metres (20,341 feet), but I didn't believe it.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 08-26-2009, 07:37 PM
Cunctator Cunctator is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Posts: 10,063
Until the mid 1970s it was possible to drive to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, the highest point on the Australian mainland.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 08-27-2009, 02:12 PM
AK84 AK84 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
The higest highway in the world in the N-5 in Pakistan which goes across to China. It can take regular traffic.

And it is a bloody nightmare to be on. The drops....................
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 08-27-2009, 06:13 PM
FoieGrasIsEvil FoieGrasIsEvil is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: The Nasty Nati
Posts: 14,817
Are there regular gas stations along these perilous routes? I suppose there must be, but some of these places seem like such a harsh environment to operate a permanent business in.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 08-27-2009, 07:05 PM
coremelt coremelt is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by FoieGrasIsEvil View Post
Are there regular gas stations along these perilous routes? I suppose there must be, but some of these places seem like such a harsh environment to operate a permanent business in.
not "regular gas stations" but on the manali-leh and leh-nubra valley roads there are shacks or nomad style tents set up that are rest stops selling noodles chai, coffee, bottled water and petrol in 1 liter plastic bottles.

Leh has proper gas stations.

N-5 is lower than Khardung La, its only 4693 meters...
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 08-27-2009, 10:07 PM
even sven even sven is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
Even Sven, I did the same trip in 2005. Read about it here. Woke up every 10 minutes panting.
Hell of a trip, huh?

So the Tibet base camp is at 5,208 metres (17,090 ft). I guess I better get my ass out to Leh!
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 08-28-2009, 04:48 AM
AK84 AK84 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
not "regular gas stations" but on the manali-leh and leh-nubra valley roads there are shacks or nomad style tents set up that are rest stops selling noodles chai, coffee, bottled water and petrol in 1 liter plastic bottles.

Leh has proper gas stations.

N-5 is lower than Khardung La, its only 4693 meters...
Which is wht I said "Highway", as opposed to roads. There is a road pretty much all the way to the K-2 base camp at Concordia, at 19,000 feet.

And yes the N-5 has petrol stations and at least two rest areas.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 08-28-2009, 04:57 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by even sven View Post
I guess I better get my ass out to Leh!
You're saying you need to get Leh-ed?

ETA: did you stay at the 'Zhu Feng View and Admire Floor' too?

Last edited by jjimm; 08-28-2009 at 05:01 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 08-28-2009, 06:24 AM
Chief Pedant Chief Pedant is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enola Straight View Post
Mt. Kilimanjaro in a Land Rover?

Everest?
You would not be able to get a Land Rover up the Kibo Cone on Kili; once on the rim of the cone you might be able to navigate certain parts over to Uhuru peak. I recall it being reasonably navigable right on the rim, and my photos right at Uhuru peak all show pretty flat terrain (I was a bit too winded at that point to remember every detail on my own). It's the last part of the Kibo cone that would be tough, and even the trails are cut into loose scree making traction nearly impossible.

I'm heading for Himachal Pradesh in a few weeks and will take some jeep rides up into the mountains. Perhaps I'll have a more specific answer on my return. I agree the parts of the Kashmir dispute area are probably the highest consistently navigable roads, having grown up in that part of the world. However "navigable" can change from day to day, and we have some fairly humorous slides of locals literally carrying the jeep up the mountain to get it over to the next valley (real jeeps--old Willy's). As a child I remember more than one trip into the mountains where we used reverse to back up a particularly steep switchback in the Himalayas.

Last edited by Chief Pedant; 08-28-2009 at 06:26 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 08-28-2009, 02:13 PM
Chief Pedant Chief Pedant is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Coincidentally I am planning a trip to northern India right now, starting in Shimla and heading up to Leh. I agree that Khardung La is probably the answer to the OP, particularly if one includes the criteria of "very lazy" or at least "as lazy as the Chief Pedant." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khardung_La

Part of my trip, if all goes well, is to continue on from Leh and go north over the Khardung La past. It is not the highest in the world, but for us lazy folks, probable the easiest high pass to go over. It should suit me fine as I follow up my personal goal to have been the fattest, laziest, least-physically-fit man to climb to Uhuru Peak.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 08-28-2009, 04:01 PM
Cisco Cisco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cunctator View Post
Until the mid 1970s it was possible to drive to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, the highest point on the Australian mainland.
What changed? They did it in the book Seven Summits (non-fiction) in the middle 1980s.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 08-28-2009, 05:38 PM
FoieGrasIsEvil FoieGrasIsEvil is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: The Nasty Nati
Posts: 14,817
Quote:
Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
not "regular gas stations" but on the manali-leh and leh-nubra valley roads there are shacks or nomad style tents set up that are rest stops selling noodles chai, coffee, bottled water and petrol in 1 liter plastic bottles.

Leh has proper gas stations.

N-5 is lower than Khardung La, its only 4693 meters...
1 liter bottles of petrol???

Wow. I assume the buses don't stop at those places for gasoline!
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 08-29-2009, 08:29 AM
enipla enipla is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Colorado Rockies.
Posts: 8,263
hey Johnny -
Quote:
Bob Mizell of Erie, Michigan, sent me a note to say that the highest unpaved through road in the USA (and possibly in North America) is the Mosquito Pass between Leadville and Fairplay, Colorado. The summit of the pass is 13,186 feet.
I'm pretty sure this is correct. Mosquito is the highest pass or 'through road'. It's begins about 7 miles from my house. It's been a few years since I've been over it. You need4x4 for sure.

Just as a side note.... The drive over Hoosier Pass in central Colorado (11,500) is regularly used for high altitude testing. I see all manner of camouflage cars and trucks driving it.
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 08-29-2009, 09:40 AM
coremelt coremelt is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by FoieGrasIsEvil View Post
1 liter bottles of petrol???

Wow. I assume the buses don't stop at those places for gasoline!
the one liter bottles are pretty much only for motorbikes and emergencies of you really mess up. It's only about 65 km from Leh over the Khardung La pass to the first town in the Nubra Valley so it's easily doable without filling up.
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 08-29-2009, 09:47 AM
coremelt coremelt is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
ok... I have a new mission in life, Marsimik La looks easily doable on an Enfield and it's 300 feet higher....

http://www.60kph.com/interact/marsimek_la.htm
http://www.60kph.com/interact/marsimekla_tips.htm
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:50 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.