The cliche brand line of Kashmir Tourism today “If there is a paradise on earth, it is Kashmir” for a matter of fact – is divinely true as vouched by thousands of national and international explorers every season. The diverse flora and fauna, the meandering rivers, snow clad mountain ranges and the lush green gardens with an array of exotic flowers species are bound to sweep you right off your feet. Undoubtedly, Kashmir is the crown of India and also a prominent Gateway to the Indian peninsula. This region is guarded by the some of the most formidable mountain ranges in India namely the Himalayas, the Pir Panjals and the Shamshabari ranges.
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There are about 592 known and registered mountain peaks in this region which makes it a climber’s paradise also. The untouched snow peaks and the breathtaking view offered by them attract mountaineers from all over the world in a similar way as ants are attracted to sugar. One such peak which has always stood out and tested the most experienced climbers is Mt Harmukh.
Mt Harmukh stands at an elevation of 5,142 mtrs (16,870 ft). Located in Ganderbal district of Kashmir, it is a part of the Himalyan range and is located between Sindh river in the South and Kishan Ganga river in the North rising above the pristine Gangabal lake in the Kashmir valley.
The snow melting from the glacier forms this lake which contributes significantly to the regional fresh water supply. The mountain with Ganga bal lake at its foot is considered a sacred mountain by the Kashmiri pandits. It is also known as ‘ the Kailash of Kashmir’ and is famous for its annual Harmukh Gangabal pilgrimage. According to Kashmiri Pandits, Harmukh is the abode of Lord Shiva. The locals say that once a hermit tried to scale the summit to find out the truth about Lord Shiva. He failed consistently for several years and when he decided to return, he met a Gujjar descending from the summit. When the Gujjar approached, he asked him as to what had he seen there? The Gujjar said that he had been searching for a stray goat, and that while searching he saw a couple milking a cow and drinking the milk from a human skull. When the Gujjar indicated the spot, the hermit was very joyful and rushed to the place. It is said that the hermit attained Nirvana and disappeared to the complete surprise of the Gujjar, never to be seen again.
Harmukh was first climbed by members of the Great Trigonometric Survey led by Thomas Montgomerie in 1856. From here, he made the first survey of the Karakoram, some 210 km to the North and sketched the two most prominent peaks, labeling them K1 and K2. So, Harmukh is
the mountain from which the world’s second highest mountain peak K2 was discovered and the name given by the surveyor continues to be used till date. Interestingly, the peak can be scaled form two directions.
The first one being from the North Western side leading from Bandipora along Erin, Kudara and Sarbal lake. The other one is from the South East side from Ganderbal. The former is a much easier route as the climb is much gentle and less rugged as compared to the South East side. The summit provides a magnificent view of the ranges beyond, especially of Nanga Parbat. The climbers argue that it is one of the most challenging peaks to climb as the route is rugged and near vertical cliff faces make the ascent extremely difficult. Mount Harmukh is indeed one of the most awe inspiring mountains of this region.
Mount Hamrukh certainly holds enormous tourism potential which can be exploited in the times to come. With the fast returning normalcy in Kashmir , the day is not far away when Bandipur and Ganderbal areas enroute to Harmukh will become hub centres of tourism and adventure activities in Asia.
While this will boost the economy of these areas, more and more tourists will be able to revel in the beauty of the Paradise called Kashmir.