Kashmir, the land of nature and a paradise on Earth are well known for its serene beauty and breathtaking landscapes. It was one of the most favored travel destinations before the 90's not only for Indians but foreigners too. It was after the 1990 clashes among Hindus and Muslims and the rise of several militant groups in the valley that made it into a feared land.
Tourism once used to be the biggest source of revenue for the Kashmiri?s. It was not only visited for enjoying the views of the gorgeous lakes and valleys but for the purpose of hiking and trekking amidst various beautiful paths formed by mother nature as well. There is surely a great decline in its popularity but the region can not be considered unsafe for hiking. Yes, there are disputed regions that one must avoid but in case you are planning your next hike in Kashmir, then do not hesitate and in return, Kashmir will reward you with views you've never seen. And when you are left gaping at those huge mountains, remember, ?we told you so?.
You should know about the places you will cover on your trek, the security arrangements on the way, the weather conditions, the terrain, etc and if by chance you end up in any unexpected or unplanned situation do not panic just take a deep breath and let you trek leaders take the lead (they have enormous contacts everywhere)! Despite the ongoing political disputes Kashmiris are very hospitable people and will never treat you harshly. The politeness in their voice and the respect they bestow will make you feel safe in a blink of the eye. The local folks will surely try to help you in every way possible. So in any such situation, do not hesitate to ask for help as well. You might come across instances of stone-pelting and curfews (if you are that unlucky) in Srinagar and Kangan. The best way to protect yourself in any such situation is to stop any movement until things get calm. Also, there are CRFF check posts at every hundred of meters to ensure your safety.
Other than that, the mountains in Kashmir are almost incident-free so there is a negligible chance of any mishap during the trek.
You need to plan ahead of time for an expedition in the valley. There is a list of documents that you might not need all the time but in case of any crisis, it might save you from an unpleasant situation. Firstly, you must carry your original ID proof. A photocopy generally works but you might be asked to deposit the original, so it's better to have one and avoid any argument. It is also a good idea to carry 2-3 passport size photographs in case you get asked to fill some form.
For foreigners, carrying their passport and a photocopy of it is a must throughout the trek.
Acute Mountain Sickness
Before planning a trip to the mountains sufficient knowledge about the health problems caused due to the high altitude is a must. If your body isn?t used to high altitudes you might end up getting AMS, HAPE, or HACE ( in a rare condition) and if these problems are not treated on time it might even be the cause of something fatal.
AMS is the most commonly occurring problem out of all three. The common symptoms are fatigue, uneasiness, nausea, and dizziness. If you feel any of these symptoms do not wait for things to get worse but seek immediate medical attention.
Here is a list of the 5 most preferred and safe treks in the Kashmir valley.
Treks in Kashmir
Most of the treks in Kashmir are not for leisure hiking purposes. For example, the Kashmir great lake trek is a moderately difficult one and one has to cover around 10 km each day for 7 long days.
For trekking at such high altitudes with this level of difficulty, you must prepare your body beforehand. Regular exercise and stamina building will help in the long run.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek
This trek starts from the valley of Sonamarg which is in the Ganderbai district of Jammu and Kashmir and later on this trek will take you through the views of Nichnai pass, Vishansar lake, Kishnasar lake, Gadsar pass, Satsar Lake, Gangabal lake, Nundkol lake and end in Naranag.
Tarsar Marsar Trek
The trek begins from the base camp of Arru which is at a 4 hours distance from Srinagar. This will further take you to the valley of Lidderwat and then to Shekwas, a 5 km climb will take you to the Tarsar lake and from there you will continue your trip passing through Sundarsar, Marsar, Sonmasti and Sumbal ending back at Srinagar.
Kolahoi Glacier trek
The trek towards the mysterious Kolahoi glacier starts from the Aru village of Anantang district passes through Lidderwat, Dudshar lake, Kolahoi glacier view point to Satlunjan ending again at the Aru village of the valley.
Barafsar lake trek
One of the lesser-known treks of Kashmir the Barafsar lake was discovered by L Watts back in 1933 but came to limelight only in 2017. The trek explores the last inhabited place in Kashmir, the Sarbal village, which is known for its porters who accompany devotees for the Amarnath yatra. The Barafsar lake leaves you spellbound and makes you stand tall at a staggering height of 15,108 feet. The lake remains frozen almost throughout the years and hence suits its name, Barafsar.
One of the most preferred treks in Kashmir, the Warwan valley trek passes through the valley of Kashmir and the cold desert of Ladakh. You will encounter a sudden shift in the landscape this trek has to offer as you slowly move towards Ladakh. The view goes from a lush green to a barren brown within days and you can't help but marvel. On one side you have the barren mountains of Ladakh and on the other, you have the lush green meadows of Kashmir. The trek starts from the Panikhar village in the beautiful Suru Valley to Sukhnai village at the height of 9,200 feet.
When to visit
The best time opt for a trekking expedition in Kashmir is during and between the months of June to September; i.e during summer and onset of Autumn. The paths are generally clear during this time but there is always a chance of a sudden heavy rainfall or a landslide in mountain regions. Therefore it is advisable to be prepared beforehand for any such situation. Since it is also a bit politically unstable zone so you must keep an eye on the conditions in the region for over a month.
An additional request for all the trekkers would be to respect and appreciate the wonders of nature that God has blessed upon us. As a responsible citizen do not litter anyway on your trek and also avoid using plastic as much as you can. If you are carrying your own snacks with you, do not throw the wrappers around. Also, the wet wipes we often use during our treks are also not biodegradable so it is suggested to use a basic toilet paper roll. If you still insist on using a Wet wipe, make sure you keep them in a zip long bag and discard them once you are back to the base camp.