In a big boost to revive mountaineering as a major adventure sport, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Monday flagged off the first expedition in 25 years by J&K Mountaineering & Hiking Club (JKHMC) to conquer Kolahoi, the valley’s highest and most arduous peak to climb. He also unveiled the logo of the 13th Tour de Kashmir cycle race, an annual affair that attracts professional paddlers from all over the country. Mufti Sayeed, who also holds the charge of Tourism portfolio, handed over the flag to the squad leader and wished his team success at a simple flag off ceremony organized here this morning. Director General, Information & Public Relations, Zaffar Ahmad, Secretary Tourism, Farooq Ahmad Shah, President JKMHC, Mahmood Ahmad Shah and President of J&K Sports Development Association (JKSDA), Tariq Rashid Ghani, were present on the occasion. The State Tourism Department is sponsoring a joint team of Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), country’s premier regulatory body on mountaineering expeditions, and JKMHC, which will attempt to scale one of the iconic peaks of the valley for the first time since 1990. However, last time when Kolahoi, also known asGashibror to locals, was conquered was in 2009 when the trainees of Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering (JIM) successfully climbed the peak. In his meeting with IMF President in May earlier this year, the Chief Minister had described J&K as a mountaineer’s delight and underlined the need to organize expeditions to Nun Kun and Kolahoi peaks to provide fillip to adventure sports in the state. The Secretary Tourism informed the Chief Minister that this year so far, seven expeditions to Nun Kun peaks have been organized by IMF, with active support of the Tourism Department. The well-trained group of 15 climbers, led by Group Leader Sourabh Gandhi and equipped with modern mountaineering gadgets, will take eastern ridge route to Kolahoi, the same which was taken by the first successful expedition, led by Kennith Mason and Dr. Ernest Neve in 1912. The expedition will set up base camp at the snout of the Kolahoi Glacier on 9th September and attempt to climb the peak on September 12th and 13th. The affects of global warming have also taken its toll on the main Kolahoi Glacier, making the route more treacherous because of crevices, icefalls and overhangs. Hailing the young climbers for their courage for attempting to scale a technically-difficult peak, Mufti Sayeed hoped mountaineering expeditions will become a regular affair, especially in climbing challenging peaks in Zanskar, Himalayas and Kishtwar regions. “Our attempts in promoting adventure sports like mountaineering will bear fruit only if we are able to provide benchmark facilities to nature enthusiasts and climbers,” he said, while highlighting the need to provide copter evacuation, quick-aid facilities and emergency oxygen supplies to the expedition teams, which are prerequisites in organizing international expeditions. After unveiling the logo of Tour de Kashmir, the Chief Minister said the Government will lay dedicated tracks from Drugjan (Dalgate) to Hazratbal, alongside Foreshore Road, as well as at all leading tourist destinations to popularize cycling as a sport. “In Berlin, cycling is a major eco-friendly pastime with young and old paddling along their tracks while criss-crossing city and its suburbs,” he said. Tour de Kashmir, a regular feature for the past 12 years, is being organized by J&K SDA in collaboration with Tourism Department. It will see professional cyclists participate from all over the country. The 10-day event will have six stages and is scheduled to cover a distance of 388 km from Verinag, Pahalgam, Srinagar, Dudpathri, Gulmarg, Sonamarg before concluding at Srinagar. The members of the squad, who will be part of expedition to climb Kolahoi, are Sajad Hyder, Ram Singh, Manik Slathia, Bikram Boro, Parminder Sharma, Prashant Negi, Roshan Kotaria, Manish Kumar, Rouf Tramboo, Junaid Beigh, Nawab Muazam, Imtiyaz Qureshi, G. M. Wani and Irfan Ahmad.
2015 Kashmir Despatch