If you could visit three astounding destinations of the 'Natural World' - which would you choose? The Grand Canyon in America for canyoning towering gorges? Benxi River in China for frozen-river trekking? Gstaad slopes in Switzerland for Helicopter-Skiing? Rangitikei River in New Zealand for extreme white water rafting? Well... what if you could get a taste of all of the above... for a fraction of the cost... no visa required... right here in India? Would it get you packing your bags already?
People... newsflash for you! There is more to Kashmir than freedom struggle. There IS freedom. Literally! Whether you want to soar, scale or splash your adrenalin, Kashmir spoils you with countless options.
Known as the Grand Canyon of India - Zanskar offers almost the same thrills of scaling virgin cliffs in Arizona. Of course... it's at your own peril because no amount of preparation or training will make it easy for scaling these threatening heights as you are dealing with hundreds of kilometres of 'never-scaled-before' natural inclines. So no precedence! A remote geography, cut off from the rest of the world for more than half the year, with no road entrance, is this awesome terrains of tall rocky gorges with steep gradient cliffs - a dream come true for any rock climber or rappeller. And to add to all this joy is the roaring River Zanskar that flows in the ravine below. This is the place to be if you want extreme adventure in your canyoning endeavours. The only way into Zanskar is by Trekking through the high Mountain Passes - the Pensi La and the Umasi La, which makes the journey to this area just as interesting and adventurous if not more. Visit Zanskar between June and September for trekking and rappelling.
And if you're 'pro-sub-zero' then wait till its winter when the Zanskar temperatures plummet to about -40 degrees Celsius and freezes the monstrous river into a thick blanket of ice. Popularly known as 'Chader Trek' - this walk on the frozen river is nothing short of a miracle as it entails avoiding falling through cracks in ice into freezing cold river water underneath. It's this unpredictability with a tinge of danger that makes this adventure sport so attractive and addicting! It's a 10-day 'trek and camp' venture which entails steep rocky mountain climbing, treading frozen ice for days, camping in the ice caves alongside the river and traversing the terrain with complex moves and skills - which is more adventure than what Benxi frozen river has to offer. Frozen Zanskar is at its best in December and January. From Jammu, Zanskar can be approached from 2 routes - one is via Srinagar which is about 750 kilometres and the other is via Leh which is about 1300 kilometres.
One of the highest Helicopter skiing resorts in the world is the Gulmarg Ski Village at 9850 feet altitude - offering 22 peaks above 13150 feet and 44 peaks around 12,000 feet elevation. Gulmarg puts extreme in heli-skiing - a must for all the snow-hungry powder-hounds of the world. Imagine being propelled 10,000 feet up to a peak of an immaculate snowy mountain where all you see in the 360 degree panorama are more peaks of mountains? Imagine you are the only dot of colour on this colossal canvas of whiteness? Imagine the only sound u can hear is that of your breathing with an occasional swooshing of a zephyr? Imagine the chill of the altitude is not the only chill that's running down your spine? Imagine that rush of being on top of the world and that feeling of touching the sky? And then imagine taking a deep breath and jumping off that peak onto its steep slopes and skiing at an uncontrollable high-velocity for thousands of vertical metres. This is not just a description of Heli-skiing. It's a promise of Gulmarg - all the chills and thrills and more than what you get at Gstaad. Gulmarg is just 55 kilometres southwest of the State capital - Srinagar.
No less a challenge than mountaineering - is White Water Rafting Expedition on the turbulent river Indus on a raft, canoe or a kayak. You need the guts of an adventurous teenager for this sport. Crashing and splashing along with 13,000 cubic feet of water per second, against the gorges and rocky outcrops and falling with the ice-cold water at deep gradients and gushing with the racing river for kilometres in the upper reaches in the Himalayas is what you can expect from white water rafting on River Indus. And River Zanskar can bestow the same attention on you. Between July and September is when the river offers the full spectrum of rapids - which suits both a first-timer and is suitable for a pro. This river-ride is the most scenic run which offers breathtaking views of the steep rocky canyons and deserted rocky valleys - but of course if you've hit Grade III rapids by then - it won't matter as all you'd be wondering then is how to remain in your raft on the that wildly surging stretch of the river. Truly exhilarating! One run with River Zanskar or River Indus and you'll never think of Rangitikei River or any other again... Read More About Jammu & Kashmir at hoparoundindia.com.
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