mountain tales

A photographer has taken stunning shots of one of the most treacherous roads in the Himalayas

Gareth Phillips has posted these images on the Instagram account of the 'New Yorker' magazine.

Traversing a part of the ancient Silk Route, the Old Hindustan Tibet Road, high up in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh, is suffused with history.

Now known by a more perfunctory (and decidedly less nostalgic) title, National Highway 22, the road was first laid by the British in 1850s to connect India to Tibet for trade. It lies at around 12,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by a punishing landscape of mountains, gorges, and valleys, and making for some treacherous twists and turns that are often struck by landslides and avalanches.

But there’s also a delicate beauty to it, which British photographer Gareth Phillips sought out during a recent trip to Himachal Pradesh. This past week, he took over the Instagram account of the New Yorker magazine’s photo department with a series of arresting images of one of the world’s most dangerous roads.

Phillips wrote in his first post:

"As sporadic landslides destroy sections of the road, commuters are forced to take great risks to continue their journeys. As unfortunate drivers lose control and crash over the mountainous edges, the car wrecks are found and recycled. As road workers expose their bodies to the dusty sun-scorched elements, their toil secures a temporary flow of traffic and movement"

He noted that the result is a fascinating mix of fragility, destruction, renewal, and beauty.

Here is a selection of the images from Instagram:

Morning, this is photographer Gareth Phillips posting from my recent trip to Himachal Pradesh. I will be showing images from a project I am working on about high altitude roads in India. This week, you’ll see photos of The Old Hindustan Tibet road or National Highway 22 as its now known, In the central Himalayas, which has been dubbed one of the world’s most treacherous roads due to its perilous drops, continual landslides, frequent car accidents. The road connects the former British hill station of Shimla to the Indian border post of Shipki La. It was originally part of the ancient silk route and was then developed by the British in 1850 as a way of improving trade links with Tibet and China. Although the border between India and Tibet is now closed, the road supports a constant flow of traffic and daily commutes for locals, taking trade from town to town and attracting adventure tourism. The work I am showing focuses on the elliptical nature of the road, with fragility, destruction, renewal and beauty intertwining on a daily basis. As sporadic landslides destroy sections of the road, commuters are forced to take great risks to continue their journeys. As unfortunate drivers lose control and crash over the mountainous edges, the car wrecks are found and recycled. As road workers expose their bodies to the dusty sun scorched elements, their toil secures a temporary flow of traffic and movement. Its a delicate balance that binds all that use this road with the only constant being beauty and awe for anyone who travels along this ancient and vital road. Here the road from Khab to Nako is observed with the Spiti River deep below the valley. It is close the the Shipki Pass that takes you to the border of India and Tibet. Photograph by @garethphillips_ #himachalpradesh #road #india #landslide #car #hindustantibetroad #nationalhighwaytwentytwo

A photo posted by New Yorker Photo (@newyorkerphoto) on

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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