India opens remote trekking and mountaineering routes

Adventure travelers were given even more incentive to travel to India recently when it was announced that the government would begin allowing access to previously restricted areas in the remote Jammu and Kashmir provinces. The move has both economic and political motivations that officials hope will provide benefits for the country in years to come, but trekkers and mountaineers will begin receiving benefits of their own beginning this summer.

In all, 104 new mountain peaks have been removed from the restricted list, and opened up to climbers for the first time. Most fall in the Leh and Ladakh regions, along India’s border with both China and Pakistan. Because of their close proximity to the disputed Kashmir region, only ten previous mountaineering expeditions, primarily made up of Indian climbers, have made their way into the region. This means that the vast majority of those mountains have not yet been climbed. Climbers looking to claim a first ascent will find plenty of altitude to challenge them. Many of the peaks top out above 22,000 feet, including Saser Kangri I, II, and III, which stand 24,327 feet, 24,649 feet, and 24,590 feet respectively.

Backpackers will find plenty to love in this remote and stunningly beautiful region as well. High altitude passes and trails that have previously been off limits are now open to foreign travelers, including a route that leads to the village of Turtuk in the Nubra Valley. The village played a historically important role in the region in centuries past when caravans traveling the Silk Road passed through the high altitude settlement, ferrying goods from East to West.

This move by the Indian government comes following a recommendation from the Ministry of Defense. The region has been a source of conflict for years between India and Pakistan, but tensions have now eased in the area, and this will signal a return to normalcy. The influx of climbers, trekkers, and other adventure travelers is likely to help the local economy as well.