5:18 AM

Kashmir - The Endless Beauty

Posted by Avinash K J

" Endless Beauty " -- Is what I call Kashmir as.
Our Mullaiyanagiri trek had to be put in wait queue when I got a mail from Commanding Officer Col Ajay S Shekhavat whos also the Principal of Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering (JIM) which is based in Kashmir.

I was excited to know that JIM is organizing a Mountaineering training programme in Nunwah, Pahalgam (Kashmir). I had to counter with a lotz of factors which did not favour my trip.But somehow i had a feeling that it was now or never! I finally decided to attend this training and set out from bangalore on 28th may to Delhi. Long distance train journeys are always boring, but this time I had a little entertainment with some Birding Activity from the train. As the train passed through the greens, plains, tunnels, barren lands, and desert lands of Rajasthan, I could spot a lot of birds like pond herons, Egrets, King Fishers, Bee Eaters, Spotted Doves, Ibis, Painted storks etc. I know i was graduating in my Bird watching skills :) i was happy for that.

It was like landing in Hell for me at Delhi as it was a burning 43 deg experience.. We had to take a chance of boarding Jammu Tavi Express with a non - confirmed ticket. And the result was horrible. No Reservation, No seat. Footboard all Night ! heh that was one heck of a Journey!

Jammu was almost like Delhi. But the travel was not over yet. Our next destination was khanibal, about 250 km from jammu. A different journey began from here when i was travelling on National highway No1. The road passed through Chenab valley entering the Gorgeous valley of Kashmir... I was Jaw Lowered when I had a first glimpse of Snow over a mountain... I asked my driver " whats that shining thing on the hill ? " He smiled at me and said " Apne kabhi baraf nahi dekhi ? " I widened my mouth a lil more , smiled at him and said " NO ! Is that Snow ??! " The driver literally bursted out laughing. " Hanji Bhai saab, woh baraf hai ". It was drizzling all da way and Army Convoys were passing by like fireflies... One convoy every 20 mtrs. It was like travelling on a different land.

The convoy driver pulled over near a small shop on NH1 and came back with a cup of drink for me.. " Welcome to Kashmir ". I smiled at him n asked
"whats this?" ..

" kaava hai janaab .. Peelijiye " ..

Kaava tasted Awesome. kaava is a drink prepared by smashing dry fruits like badam, cashew etc and boiling them with water n a pinch of rose essence. After a wonderful journey all through the day, we reached Khanibal by evening. From there we walked about 7 km to Anantnag ( which is most popularly known for terrorist activities ). I was surprised and shocked to know that the place is called " ISLAMABAD " by locals !!!!!!!!! I did not waste any time in Anantnag and moved on, Reached Pahalgam by Night. We were given a very warm welcome at JIM. It was a typical Army Attachment camp atmospehere. I went back to my old NCC days. Sleeping bags, Uniforms, Shoes etc were issued and i was so goddam Tierd after 4 1/2 days of journey.. I badly wanted a loong sleep. I slided myself inside the sleeping bag to protect myself from the freezing cold and was slowly drowning into my dreams.. My entire body shook with a shock and sat up when i heard a loud commanding voice of my trainer " kal subah Che baje PT parade mein milenge !!! "

Grrrrrrr I mumbled " My God in heaven .... What the **** ? " It was hard fact for me to accept that I had less than 5 hrs of sleep !

Im used to a 10 km run here in bangalore. But in that climate i was gasping for breath after the 5th km. My body failed to warm up and for the first time.. I was last !!! I felt very sad the entire day.. I also did not have a great day with the Acclimatization exercise. I failed to climb a 30 ft JIM practice rock as my hands started shivering and I lost the grip on the rock. I was hanging total off grip by half way !!! Its a terrible situation for any rock climber.But my fellow mates from jammu and a cute friend of mine Arif tapped ma back and said "It all happens on the first day.. Dont worry ! " I knew i had to find a work around for this else my 4000 km journey will go a waste. I was awefully up early the next morning and did a lot of warmup before starting my PT Parade. Running was OK. I almost gathered my usual momentum and endurance. I was feeling confident. Rest all followed fine. I made it on the JIM Rock and rapelled down comfortably. The next level of Acclimatization training was BSF Rock which was about 60 ft up the river Lidder. From hereon it was all going smooth and Fine.

The First ten days of training was sooperb. Lots of Rock Climbing, Rapelling, River rafting on Lidder. On the 11th day, we finally set out for sheshnag glacier. We reached Chandanwari by a JIM vehicle and started our trek from there. The first half was almost the same as any of my previous treks.. but when we were half way done with Pissu Top, things became a lil difficult for me again as i was not used to this kind of a climate and it was my First Glacier walk. Trekking on snow is such a fun n a great Experience !
I had almost given up half way when one of my friend from bihar said " Bhai, we'll stop.. mera bhi saans atak raha hai " The word stop souded pleasing for me at that moment and I stopped. My sir told us to halt there with our equipment and we'll be picked up on their way back. I felt relaxed for a second but suddenly my conscious kicked me and reminded why I was here !!! Not to Stop ! I called for my sir and said " Sir, mein letke bhi jaoonga magar jaoonga Zaroor ! " I was determined to summit Sheshnag. Without a second thought I picked up my rucksack and started walking.. Soon my friend also followed me and no one was left behind. we all made it to the top.

The First glimpse of Sheshnag was bloooooooooody awesome.. There it was standing tall and majestic with all that one can visualize in a dream... I had never seen something like that ever in my life. I just stood there staring , struggling to decide if i was in my dream or its a Real thing what Im seeing. My sir came behind me and whispered " How do you feel ? "

Without my conscious I replied " Maine apni saari zindagi jeeli , Ive lived my Entire Life !!!!! "

I got the definition of " Endless Beauty " .. Kashmir is just that ! This scene will stay in my mind till my last breath. Ive tried to capture the feel of the place with the best of my technique and Experience in Photography.

We could not spend a lot of time with mother nature as we feared the weather could go bad. And this phrase " weather going bad " means lott more than what it sounds, here in Himalayas. JIM has a bitter experience of losing three J&K policemen and CRPF who were on a mission to NUN peak last year, as they were stuck up in bad weather.

We considered ourselves lucky to finish the expedition with 100 % success rate and 0 casualties. Everyone of us completed the expedition. The memories will surely last for long !

Having my Prelims right at JIM , Im looking forward to scale more heights of Himalayas over the days the come ;)

Jawahar Institute of Mountineering is right here on the
banks of River Lidder in Pahalgam, Kashmir

More pics can be viewed on http://picasaweb.google.com/kj.avinash/Kashmir

Thanks for Swinging by ! :)