Category Archives: Trekking & Camping

Efforts on to promote winter sports, adventure tourism in Pahalgam

News Agency of Kashmir 8/27/2009 5:33:41 PM

Srinagar, Aug 27(NAK): Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, Nasir Aslam Wani replying to question of Altaf Ahmed Wani in Legislative Council said that the Department is putting its best efforts for promotion of winter sports and adventure tourism in Pahalgam. Various activities and festivals are being organized to boost the winter sports and adventure tourism in the area adding that the Department conducted Spring Festival at Pahalgam for promotion of adventure sports in Pahalgam, Para gliding was introduced during the festival besides trekking and rafting.

He said that the Commercial White Water Rafting has been introduced in a big way by involving local un-employed youth to start their ventures. This year permission for such activities has been give to 12 registered agencies to facilitate the Rafting for the enthusiastic tourists. In order to promote the sport of Rafting in Pahalgam, 2nd State Rafting Rally was organized this year by the Department. Six local Rafting teams participated in rally.

Trekking equipment like sleeping bags, tents, ruck sacks etc. are being provided to local youth and tourists on nominal charges to undertake various trekking programmes. Trekking equipment Hire shop is likely to be established at Pahalgam for benefit of trekkers.  Last year , it was proposed to hold some ski courses at Aru/Pahalgam but due to inadequate snow fall these could not be held. However, during the forthcoming winter, it is proposed to conduct winter sports activities such as snow ski and ice skating at Pahalgam.

In addition to this Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports conducted various courses in adventure sports in summer as Basic and Advance Mountaineering, trekking, Rock climbing and adventure courses for youth.  The Institute a joint mountaineering expedition to Kolhoi with North East Adventure Foundation Gowhati, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police. The expedition was flagged off on 4th August 2009 with an aim to study how to control glacier recessing taking care of flora and fauna and to clean the environment around Lidderwat-Satlanjan-Kolhoi area.

An artificial Rock climbing is being planned in the vicinity of Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports at Nunwun, Pahalgam.  The Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports also intends to conduct winter packages in coming winter in Pahalgam subject to sufficient snow fall with the aim to carry out recee of the area for ski lifts in Baisaran and Aru, so that during coming years winter sports like skiing can be promoted in Pahalgam.

Pre-Everest Expedition to conquer Kolahai peak near Pahalgam

The first of the three pre-Everest expeditions will be undertaken ahead of the first Everest expedition from the northeast in 2011. It will be undertaken by the North East Adventure Foundation.

Nesim Akhtar, an experienced mountaineer and member of the Governing Council of the Indian Mountaineering Federation for the past 10 years, will lead the Everest expedition.

Noted mountaineer Colonel Neeraj Rana and senior journalist and experienced mountaineer Pranay Bordoloi will be the deputy leaders.

As part of the first pre-Everest expedition, a 30-member team from the region will attempt to scale the Kolahai peak in Kashmir after undergoing a training session at the Indian Army-run Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering in Pahalgam.

The final team of 15 members for the main expedition to scale Everest would be chosen from the participants at the three pre-Everest summits of which two would be undertaken this year and the third one in 2010.

Of the 25 participants for the three pre-Everest expeditions, 13 are from Assam and 12 are from other northeastern States.The team includes 14 young women from the region.

After a trek to Kolahai in Pahalgam, a group declares return of normalcy in Kashmir

There would be nothing better than a sign of normalcy returning to Kashmir than normal tourists thronging to remote secluded trekking routes. Its beginning to happen. Makes me remember my trek to Kolahai in 1988  – and the area was declared out of bounds next year, especially since the episode of kidnap of foreign tourists in the Aru area.
Anyhow, this is an interesting update on the status of trekking in Kashmir valley, from Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 22, Dated June 07, 2008:
TOUR OPERATOR Tahseen Ahmad Wani is glad he went with what, till recently, was only a marginal, almost unthinkable trend in Jammu and Kashmir. Following an increase in requests for trekking gear over the past few years, he decided to venture into renting out adventure sports gear to tourist groups, and set up shop in Srinagar, followed by a branch in Pahalgam. This year, with the state tourism department planning to throw open all J&K’s trekking routes, Wani is looking forward to seeing his acumen rewarded with an unprecedented surge of foreign and domestic visitors.
Tourism has been making a marked comeback to the state after an insurgency-beleaguered hiatus of over a decade and a half. Closed “unofficially” since the early 1990s, trails to such destinations as Kolahai, Tattakuti and Gangabal have been off-limits for 18 years. Once a staple of the state’s economy, the hospitality industry was among the first and worst casualties of militancy, whose outbreak caused tourist inflows to plummet virtually overnight. Where nearly 5 lakh domestic tourists visited J&K in 1989, their numbers had crashed to less than 7,000 a year later; foreign tourists also stayed away, with visitors decreasing from 67,762 in 1989 to 4,627 in 1990.
Hopes now are riding high, following two straight years of record tourist figures: 4,32,888 in 2006 (4,12,879 of them domestic and 20,009 foreign) rising to 4,41,840 in 2007 (with 4,17,264 Indians and 24,576 foreigners). Exults Wani, “If the tourism department manages to sell our trekking destinations properly, both within as well as outside the country, we’re sure to make a fortune in this business.” That the government is not blind to the advantages of reviving traditional trekking and mountaineering routes is evident from its busy organising of food festivals and conferences both domestically and internationally to hardsell Kashmir as a trekker’s paradise. “We have some of the most famous peaks in the world,” says Sarmad Hafeez, joint director, tourism, “and if we’re going to bring the tourists back, we have to keep experimenting to offer them something new”. Pointing to the trekking goods rental shops the department has set up en route to key peaks, he says the state is now ready to host any mountaineering event, with all facilities available at nominal charges. The state even has plans to develop new areas along the Line of Control at an estimated cost of Rs 3.5 crore; Gurais, Tulel and Bangus are said to be ready for tourists this year itself.
Further contributing to the diminished threat perception over the Valley was a visit in May from the Mountain Access and Conservation Commission of the International Union of Alpine Associations. Returning from a trek to Kolahai in Pahalgam, the six-member group was pleased to declare that the various travel advisories against Kashmir issued all over the world no longer hold good. Another validation of the state’s efforts to restore normalcy came from the Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF), which held its Golden Jubilee celebrations in Srinagar. Well-known trekkers and mountaineers from across the country attended the function and visited Pahalgam and Gulmarg. Among them was ace mountaineer Rajeev Sharma, an Everest veteran who scaled the peak in 1993, and trekked in Kashmir several times in the 1980s. He says he’s excited by what he saw here this year. “The state has extensive adventure possibilities to offer. There are hundreds of unnamed and unclimbed peaks in the Pir Panjal range,” he told TEHELKA, adding, however, that he has his sights set on the East Karakoram range and Siachen. Both are among the places still under home ministry embargo, and need Army permission to access them, an authorisation often hard to come by.
WHILEUNION Sports Minister MS Gill promised to take the matter up with the home minister, security officials warn of the possibilities of cross-border infiltration and militant attacks, not to speak of tourist abductions. Of the last, Kashmir has had only a single instance, going back to July 1995 when five foreign tourists were kidnapped from Aru in Pahalgam by a little-known militant outfit, Al- Faran. One of those abducted was subsequently found beheaded near Anantnag; the fate of the others is still not known. Though the incident provoked an unofficial ban on the movement of tourists in rural areas and on trekking routes, with visitors required to limit their movements to Srinagar city, this incident was the only one of its kind and saw no repeats.
During the 1980s, J&K was foremost among the country’s trekking destinations. Famous treks like Lidderwat-Kolahai, Kishensar-Gangabal and the walk from Aharbal to Kounsarnag lake were frequented by mountain enthusiasts in hundreds. Apart from such favourite climbs as Haramukh and Kolahai, high-altitude lakes such as Gangabal, Nandakol, Sheshnag and Kounsarnag have also been great attractions for their trout-filled waters.

Trekking routes around Pahalgam to reopen

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.