This story was sent my way by Best Hike editor Rick McCharles a few days back, and I used it as the basis for a story at Gadling this morning too, but definitely thought it was well worth sharing here as well. According to this article at India Today, the Indian government is lifting restrictions on trekking and climbing in the remote areas of Jammu and Kashmir, and in the process opening up some great new options for exploring the region.
A total of 104 new mountains that were previously off limits will now be open to foreign climbers and trekkers. Most of the peaks remain unclimbed, which should draw a number of expeditions looking to make first ascents on one or more mountains in the region, which falls along the border with Pakistan and China. These peaks will offer lots of altitude as well, with many of them topping out at over 7000 meters. The article says that highlights include “Saser Kangri-I (7,415 m), Saser Kangri -II (7,513m), Saser Kangri III (7,495 m), Mamostong Kangri, Rimo Group, Apsaras I, II, II1, Teram Kangri I, II, III, Singhi Kangri, Sia Kangri, Ghaint I and II and Indira Col.”
Much of this region has been closed for decades due to the conflict with Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region, but tensions have eased in recent months, clearing the way for travelers to visit the area. In fact, it was the Ministry of Defense that recommended the opening up of the region, seeing benefits both politically and economically by promoting normalcy in the region. One of the locations that will be a draw for trekkers in particular is the village of Turtuk in the Nubra Valley, which once fell along the old Silk Road. The village has been closed to foreigners for some time, but is likely to be popular stop over for backpackers.
Previously, it was nearly impossible to get permits for mountaineering expeditions to enter the restricted area. In fact, only ten teams, entirely made up of Indian climbers, have ever ventured into the zone, which required special permits from the defense and home ministries, as well as the Indian Mountaineering Federation. Now, climbers looking to explore the area will just have to apply for a permit from the IMF, like any other mountain in the country. The government will begin issuing permits for the upcoming climbing season, which means that expeditions will be able to enter the previously restricted area this summer.
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