in Kashmir

Lidderwat in the valley of Kashmir is amazingly colourful and beautiful in the summers but becomes a different terrain in the winters. I am continuing this story from my previous story: Winter whiteout in Lidderwat, Kashmir. When I, RiyazSafeen and others got here after 10 hours of hike in 6-7 ft of snow, we were dehydrated and exhausted. The weather had already got worse from bad and it had started to rain.Everyone of us hoped that it only rains and does not snow for the fear of getting stranded in a blizzard as we might get stuck here for a week.

Planning for the worse while exhausted

When I finally made it to the hut I was drenched and freezing, I just wanted to gulp hot tea. It took 5 cups to warm me up and get back some of my energy and it was the best tea I ever had. I am a coffee lover though, I never appreciated tea before.

It wasn't just me who was wandering in the snow

 It wasn’t just me who was wandering in the snow.

Over cups of tea we warmed our feet and shared stories of people who got stuck in winters of Kashmir. Those who managed to live through it are loved and praised. We had ration for 6 people for 3-4 days but it seemed that we are stuck for over a week. We had to make our ration last the most and after that everyone was on their own. The other option was to leave at first light, if it didn’t snow that night. Keeping our worries aside we decided to treat ourselves the first night so we feasted on the chicken we brought from Aru and of course some more tea.

Trying to get a good night sleep may seem far

It was a black night with rain over snow and suddenly there was a loud sound like a jet plane flying just over your roof. But it was not what I thought, it was an avalanche a few hundred meters from our hut. And it wasn’t just the avalanche but there were few more until the morning. My second night with hardly any sleep as I desperately wanted see the daylight.

One of the many shepherd huts on the way to Lidderwat

A temporary Gujjar hut beside the Lidder river covered by snow in this picture.

It started snowing in the morning and there was 2 feet of fresh snow. As the cleared, we got a clear view of the place. It wasn’t something I everyday see in Delhi. It was like waking up to dream, everything was white, black and blue. The beauty of the place was so addictive that everything that worried me last night and the desperation to leave the place seemed to go away. After all this was what I was here for. It was a group decision to leave and after we left the sky cleared in a few hours. It was a treacherous hike back as there was some fresh snow last night. This time I was careful to put my foot mostly on the rocks. The walking sticks were really helpful.  We hiked for 8 hours through the same path and even over our own footprints and reached Aru by dusk to our welcoming host.

Waking up to a dream

That’s Riyaz walking with the stick and leading the way.

Staying in the huts in this season is a better option than to camp in the wild as the weather can change from bad to worse in no time and it is impossible to find any wood to light at night. The hut stayed had plenty of wood and the walls took some hit from the avalanche at night.

The PDO huts in Lidderwat during winters

One of the PDO huts in Lidderwat.

I am sure to come back to Kashmir next year again

You can’t just visit Kashmir just once. I had planned for 2 nights here but they seem very less and will add another 5 days for next year. Theres plenty of things that I am planning to do next year when I come back and skiing tops the list. Tarsar lake is about 15 Kms from the valley and I hope to make it in 4 days. Hopefully the weather won’t be this harsh next year. This is what was going on in my while was admiring the beautiful sculptures of nature.

Hiking in Lidderwat during winters and betrayed by weather

A pair of good glasses with UV protection is what will save your eyes from the snow blindness.

Most of the hard part was over by the time we crossed the Lidder river. It was about 5 kms away from the camp, towards Aru. By noon the sky had cleared up and the snow on trees had started to melt. With the bright sun reflecting from the snow can really hurt your eyes. A pair of good glasses with UV protection is what will save your eyes from the snow blindness. A group of 4 hikers last year visited the place during January and one of them was without the glasses. By the time he reached Lidderwat his eyes blood red and he could not see anything except the sun for almost 4 hours. Without  sunglasses you will miss out on the most important part of the journey and the serenity of the place.

You can't visit Kashmir just once

You can’t visit Kashmir just once. And once will get you addicted to its beauty.

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