Every year December 11, is observed as International Mountain Day in order to spread mass awareness about the importance of mountains, as resources, opportunities and constraints in developing them, mountains as dwelling places for about 15% of world’s population etc. The theme of this year’s International Mountain Day (IMD) was Sustainable Mountain Tourism. Jammu and Kashmir, as a favourite visiting place for most of the tourists, has a vast range of exhilarating popular tourist attractions which are all unique in nature. Kashmir fits for visitors of varied interests in exploring. Tourists from all over the world Kashmir come to have different exciting experiences of visiting and enjoying absolute natural landscape of aesthetic appeal, under the natural coolers fitted in Kashmir’s different climatic conditions. Besides pilgrimage tourism, some come to enjoy the Mughal gardens, some to have a shikara ride in the turquoise water of Dal lake, some come to have a horse ride at the famous hill stations of Gulmrag and Paghalgam, some to enjoy winter sports. However besides all purposes of visiting Kashmir, thousands of tourists come Kashmir to enjoy mountaineering activities. There is a good scope of promoting mountaineering activities in Kashmir. For mountaineers there are hundreds of thrilling tracks leading to different alpine lakes, the lakes which are at or above the 10000 feet of elevation. These lakes at high altitudes are put as destination targets, where a tracker needs to reach.
Some of the famous tracking destinations in Jammu and Kashmir are Gadsar Lake, Gangabal lake, Tarsar Lake, Tulian lake, Sheshnaag, Vishansar Lake, Satsar Lake, Marsar Lake, Krishansar Lake, Choharnag and many more. Besides outsiders the native people in present times have become passionate about mountain tracking. Tracking is not only good for health as it is considered the best exercise, but it gives you an internal confidence to achieve the set target. Besides that it has social benifits as well, while on tracking with a group you make good friends and develop a good bonding with them. You encourage and motivate each other to keep going when it becomes difficult for you to walk. Trackers love to observe and understand the vast range of natural resources which Almighty has kept available for mankind. Sharing my own experience of visiting just a half dozen of alpine lakes yet, one feels absolutely in a different kind of world once he reaches the mountain top. The crystal clear water bodies, lush green meadows and mountains, colourful rocks and their sky touching peaks, flora and fauna everything forces you to introspect that how much we the humans have disturbed the ecosystem by our greedy activities. Mountain tracking has so many benefits. As an aerobic exercise, it keeps you physically fit, provides you cardiovascular fitness and reduces body fat. It boosts your confidence. While you go for tracking in groups, it equips you with teamwork skills also. As the theme of this year’s (of the year 2021) International Mountain Day (IMD) is Sustainable Mountain Tourism. The concerned authorities need to bring all the explored tracks and tracking destinations of Jammu and Kashmir on the tourism map and take measures to develop and promote them. This will promote the Kashmir Tourism and will definitely increase the economy of the people whose livelihood directly or indirectly depends on the tourism.
(The author is a member of Passion Hiking and Mountaineering Club –PHMC. Views are his own)