Pahalgam is the starting point of some of the best that trekking can offer in the Himalayas. Trekking to Kolahai Glacier is a dream come true – and their are potential treks to across the ranges to Sonamarg and even Ladakh for the brave. Besides, there are many day treks originating in Pahalgam for the novices, like hiking to Basisaran or to Chunasar and Mansar lakes, or not to forget to Sheshnag or all the way to Amarnath Cave.
These trekking routes have been for all practical purposes closed to tourists and serious trekkers due to the security situation. Basically no one would venture. Well, all that seems to on verge of a massive change, going by this news item covered by Arif Shafi Vani of GreaterKashmir:
Srinagar, May 13: The breathtaking snow-clad mountains of Kashmir that were closed for the past 18 years for ‘security reasons’ would soon be thronged by foreign mountaineers and trekkers, if all goes well.
To attract tourists and promote adventure sports, the government has given green signal to the Tourism department to market the traditional trekking and mountaineering routes, including troops-dominated peaks of Sonamarg and Pahalgam.
The routes were unofficially closed with the onset of militancy in early 90s. The mountaineers, mostly foreigners, could not freely undertake trekking on routes like Kolahai, Tattakuti and Gangabal due to heavy presence of troops.
“The traditional mountaineering and trekking routes of the Valley will be opened for promoting the adventure sports, which is gaining popularity among the tourists. We have to keep on experimenting and offer something new to the tourists to attract them to Kashmir. Some famous peaks have the potential to make the Valley one of the best mountaineering destinations,” joint director Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez told Greater Kashmir.
Hafeez said a team from International Mountaineering Federation (IMF) recently made on the spot assessment of the Valley’s trekking and mountaineering destinations. Another team, Access and Conservation Commission visited trekking spots in famous tourist resort of Aru in Pahalgam.
“The team was highly impressed and promised to go for massive promotion of the routes. As a first step, the IMF has decided to celebrate its golden jubilee year in the Valley and 90 mountaineers from various countries are scheduled to participate in the event,” Hafeez said.
Officials said high-profile mountaineers and trekkers are scheduled to participate in the IMF celebrations, which includes trekking, here from May 15.
The Tourism department has set up tourist trekking hire shops on various peaks. “We are receiving inquiries from various countries about out preparedness to host their mountaineers. We are geared up to host any mountaineering event. The mountaineers, trekkers or tourists intending to trek the peaks will get all facilities, including the gear and equipments at nominal charges,” Hafeez said.
Rauf Tramboo, general secretary of the JK Ski and Mountaineering Association, said, “Heavy domination of peaks by troops scares trekkers and mountaineers. We have to seek permission from the Army to undertake trekking. Ironically, in most of the cases the request is rejected on trivial grounds and it discourages the trekkers. Government needs to look at this aspect.”
Tramboo said the travel advisories from different countries during past decade had also forced the trekkers to remain away from the Valley. “As Jammu and Ladakh were exempted from the advisories, it remained a hub for global trekkers. I hope that the magnificent mountains of the Valley would soon get its share of trekkers,” Tramboo said.
Carin Fisher, a consultant on tourism to the state government said the restoration of trekking routes would boost inflow of tourists to the Valley.
“Kashmir has been projected as a trekking paradise. The initiative of the state Tourism department to restore trekking is timely in view of the similar facilities in neighboring states. But there is dire need to market it,” Fisher said.