‘Stuck in Snow Blizzard at Atal Tunnel, How I Made it Back Safely’

Nature is not always kind.

My Report
3 min read

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Producer: Aastha Gulati

Nowadays, one of the most sought-after adventures is the snow drive and for that, most head to Himachal Pradesh. With that comes the desire to cross the Atal Tunnel, which is an engineering marvel and holds the world record of being the longest tunnel – 9.02 km.

While I am a marketing consultant by profession, I am passionate about travel and photography. So, on 23 January, with a few like-minded others, I decided to drive my trusty Mahindra Thar to Manali and experience it firsthand.

While we all love adventure, with it come several risks. My road trip was a case in point. When the tunnel had opened in 2020, it was slated to remain open all through the year. However, in the past three months, the tunnel has been closed multiple times, mostly due to weather and also some unfortunate incidents with tourists.

Authorities have become very strict due to all these factors. Travellers who love snow think that it is a leisure spot, but the important thing to remember is that nature may not always be kind.

During my road trip, we were halted by a hailstorm and a snow blizzard just after crossing the tunnel. Had I not gone with an experienced lot, finding my way back would have been a tough task.

Those who cross the Atal Tunnel have to follow strict rules and fresh protocols that change from time to time, depending on the weather conditions. These, we knew after we were at the Solang Valley check post (under the Kullu-Manali jurisdiction).

We were told that the District Commissioner has to give the final go ahead for the vehicles to cross. At the Dhundi check post, just before the Atal Tunnel, we had to wait there again for approval, even though we had already got one some kilometres back.

Finally, at Sissu check post after the tunnel, which comes under the Lahaul-Spiti jurisdiction, it was a check of those permissions in place.

‘Stuck in Snow Blizzard at Atal Tunnel, How I Made it Back Safely’
(Photo Courtesy: Harmit Ahuja)

After clearing all the checks, we entered the 9 km-long tunnel.

The drive from the South Portal to the North Portal just takes you to a completely different world, from Manali to Lahaul. I was totally stunned by the breathtaking view of the unending snow-clad mountains and frozen water bodies, and just the overall ruggedness of the region.

‘Stuck in Snow Blizzard at Atal Tunnel, How I Made it Back Safely’
(Photo Courtesy: Harmit Ahuja)

After entering the tunnel, we thought the worst was over. We felt a little warmer, and knew the other side will be better, weather wise, but much to our surprise, there was a massive hailstorm upon exiting the tunnel.

There was ice on the roads and the cars were skidding. When we reached Khansar Village, which is beyond Sissu at around 10,200 feet, the storm really hit hard. It was a scary sight. We took a very wise decision not to proceed further to Keylong and head back to Manali.

It was an unforgettable experience for me but there needs to be a word of caution. If you ever meet with harsh weather conditions, be thoroughly prepared with food and water-supplies, warm clothing, walkie-talkie, first aid kits, extra fuel etc.

Respect the rules and take prior permissions. Don’t go alone and best is to go with people who have experience.

(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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