“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Yusuf wonders what has happened to funds paid by foreign mountain expeditions in J&K to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) that are returned back to the State for promoting mountain tourism

(Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, 56, was born in the Dalgate area of Srinagar. He attended Government Schools in Drugjan, Sonawar, and Batwara, all in Srinagar, and completed his college studies at the Sri Partap College, Srinagar. Following his graduation, he briefly attended the University of Kashmir, and in 1980, joined the Physical Education Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Yusuf teaches aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.) and has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and is the Treasurer of the Winter Sports Association of Jammu and Kashmir, General Secretary of J&K Aero Sports Association and the J&K Ski & Mountaineering Association, Secretary of Srinagar Winter Sports Association, and Vice President of the J&K Yoga Association. In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and writing.)

Scaling a New High

I.M.F. stands for the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. I.M.F. is a controlling body of Mountaineering in India. It is obligatory for every Indian or foreign team to book the particular peak with I.M.F. and seek necessary permission before launching expedition in Indian Himalayas. It is not only because of security reasons that the I.M.F. books the peaks but for avoiding jumbling of climbers of different nations on the particular peak as otherwise there could be clashes among mountaineers for choosing the climbing route and setting up base camps etc.

it is heartening that the Govt. of India has finally thrown open the mighty peaks in Ladakh Himalayas for climbing. I remember in early seventies I had to obtain permission from Superintendent of Police, Srinagar for visiting Leh. It is laudable step taken by Defence Ministry. It would certainly help promote adventure tourism in Ladakh region but what about Kashmir? We do not have lofty peaks in the valley but we have world’s best trekking routes all around which could lure thousands of foreign and domestic trekkers here. It is true that the presence of troops on the trekking routes does not permit tourist players to organize trekking expeditions freely and fearlessly for intended tourists. The most beautiful trekking routes in Kashmir we have are from Sonamarg to Gangabal and back to Kangan via Naranag or a trek from Bandipore to Gangabal and back to Sonamarg or Kangan. One can find variety of flowers and more than fifty mountain lakes on this route which include famous Gangabal, Gadsar, Krishensar and Vishensar etc. The other best trekking route we have in Kashmir is from Pahalgam to Kulun via Sunmous or Yemhar pass. Both these routes are suitable not only for trekking but for ski-touring as well. In 1984 this writer successfully led a ski-mountaineering expedition from Pahalgam to Surfrah in Sindh valley which is still a record.

We need to explore more routes for trekking and ski-touring in the valley for which we have more potential than climbing peaks in Ladakh. Mountaineers are less but trekkers are in abundance so Kashmir should take benefit of it. We can attract a large chunk of tourists to our trekking areas. The Tourism Department must make its effort to get clear all these trekking routes from the troops forthwith. It is true that besides Pirpanjal range, we have a number of small but more challenging peaks in Sindh and Lidder valleys which include Umbrella peaks, Mosquito peak, Cnf Carnedo, Innominate, Valehead, Crystal Peak, Blade/Arrow, Nichnai peak and Mount Harmukh etc in Sindh valley, while Mount. Kolahoi and Sheeshnag peak etc. in Lidder valley and Sunrise, Sunset and Tatakoti peaks etc. in Pirpanjal range.

Mr. Raouf Tramboo has well said that the tourists feel scared in mountainous regions of Kashmir due to presence of troops but his suggestion to charge fee to foreign expeditions to earn revenue for the state is not fair. He must know that the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Delhi is already charging huge sum on account of permission fee to foreign expeditions. Charging more fees or additional fees by state Government may cause damage to adventure tourism. Money should not be consideration for our Tourism Department if we really have to boost adventure tourism in the state, instead they should pay some incentives to adventure promoters/operators. IMF was providing some share of the money earned through fee to Himalayan states but I fail to understand where this money has gone in J&K. Surely this money was not properly utilized for the purpose it was provided to our state.

I remember sometime back the Ex-Director General Tourism/Ex-President of J&K Mountaineering and Hiking Club M. Ashraf had moved a proposal to raise a sport climbing wall in the valley from the money received from I.M.F but unfortunately this artificial wall never came into existence in Kashmir till date, though there is urgent need of procuring this artificial climbing wall. This could help us promote Sport Climbing (competitive rock-climbing) and train local youth to Mountaineering.

At the moment we do not have trained manpower who could go as liaison Officer with foreign expeditions to Ladakh Himalayas. Someone else will be benefited. Pertinently Kashmir has given birth to great mountaineers like Late Master Chandra Pandit, Late Samasar Chand Koul and Late Abdul Rehman (popularly known as Rehman Nanga) who have been part and parcel of earlier expeditions to dreaded Nanga Parbat and K2. We do not have good climbers in the new generation.