Even though Pangong Tso is a salt-water lake, it completely freezes in winters. It is among the highest brackish water lakes in the world at 4,250 metres. But owing to the salinity of the water, it has low micro-vegetation. Barring some small crustaceans, there is no aquatic life though, some herbs and shrubs species do grow around the lake.
Actual remnants of the Tethys Sea, which found no run-off when the plateau started to rise, formed the Pangong Tso. The lake has no outlet and is replenished by the melting snow of the peaks from the catchment area, functioning like an endorheic basin.
Pangong Tso, remains cut off from the rest of Ladakh for about six months (winter months) as the road leading to the lake across the Changla la (Alt. 17590 ft) remains closed for about six months. The lake remains frozen for more than three months from December to April.
In October 1962, during the Sino-Indian war, this area saw heavy military action; and since then has been a sensitive border issue. The eastern end of the lake is disputed between India and China, while the western end is disputed between India and Pakistan.
Increased tourism has helped the locals to make some money but its impact on the fragile ecology of the place is quite serious
First sight of Pangong Tso while coming down from Chusul via Tsaga La
Melting of ice from the peaks in the catchment area replenishes the lake. As a protection from UV radiation zooplankton in the lake synthesises photo protective compounds that function as sun-screens