Amarnath yatra: Trek on a pilgrimage

Imagine a superhero with infinite powers. The only one who knows the path to immortality. He however, has to give in to his wife’s wish to know this secret.

To keep the secret safe from any eavesdroppers, the superhero chooses a place safely distant from any life.

En route, he lets go of all his companions. His ride, the bull at Pahalgam. The moon that adorns his hair at Chandanwari. The snakes around his neck  at Sheshnag. The five basic elements at Panchatarini. His son Ganesh at Mahagunas Top. To finally reach a hidden cave.

This fascinating story is the legend of Amarnath yatra.

The cave where the superhero (Shiva) supposedly narrated the immortality lessons to his wife (Parvati) – the “holy cave” of Amarnath – has become a revered destination for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

Preparation for the Amarnath yatra

We were looking for a trek in Kashmir. The Amarnath yatra was about to start. Everyone suggested we make use of this opportunity.

We are not too religiously inclined. But the prospect of a journey with hundreds of pilgrims and seeing the ice shivling; the world’s most renowned ice stalagmite excited us.

By then, we had spent a few weeks in the Kashmir mountains. We did a few day treks in Chatpal and Yusmarg to prepare ourselves for the Amarnath yatra.

Chatpal, an offbeat gem hidden in Kashmir Lolab valley, Kashmir unexplored

Amarnath yatra registration: On the spot (not exactly!)

In Pahalgam, we decided to definitely do the Amarnath yatra. Pahalgam is one of the starting points of the Amarnath yatra. However, Pahalgam did not have the Amarnath yatra registration facility.

We got our medical fitness certificates from the government hospital in Anantnag. We then went to the TRC (Tourism Reception Centre) office in Srinagar for the actual registration. Here we were allocated a date for commencing our Amarnath yatra.

Choosing our Amarnath yatra route

We chose the longer route for our Amarnath yatra, from Pahalgam. This is the historic Amarnath yatra route, retracing the steps of Shiva and Parvati. It is a 45 km trek from Pahalgam to the Amarnath cave. We reached the holy cave (this is how the Amarnath cave is commonly referred to) on the third day.

These days, the first 15 km, from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is just two-hour drive. The actual trek begins only at Chandanwari. (There is another option, which takes one day to reach the holy cave. This shorter Amarnath yatra route starts from Baltal. We will tell you in a while why we believe, the longer Amarnath yatra route is a better option.)

Start of the Amarnath yatra

We had been in Pahalgam for almost a week by then. But the morning we were to start our Amarnath yatra was the first time the clouds cleared. From our hotel room in Pahalgam, we got a clear view of Pissutop. This was the first mountain peak we would climb. It is a fabled “toughest stretch” of the entire Amarnath yatra route. We took this as a good omen and set out.

The water of the Lidder river was bright and clear. The sun was out. The air was crisp. Weather, perfect.

The main road of Pahalgam was choc-a-bloc with people. Excited faces. Some apprehensive. Everyone looking forward to begin their Amarnath yatra. For many pilgrims, this journey is a dream come true -a once in a lifetime event. Some get so hooked on to it, they keep coming back every year. It was a great chaotic atmosphere.

Dramatic scenes greeted us at Chandanwari. Refreshing welcome drinks were being served to the pilgrims. Fistfuls of dry fruits and chocolates were thrust into our hands. Food-wise, this was going to be a luxury trek!

Horses horses everywhere, not an inch to spare

Scenes of hundreds of horses and horsemen waiting on the brown snow for their passengers signal that the holy Amarnath cave is close by.

A sea of horses surrounded us. They were waiting patiently as their owners went fishing for passengers.

We figured we would see more people on horses than on their feet during the Amarnath yatra. (For days after the yatra, the sounds of “bolo, ghoda?” – Do you want a horse  – kept ringing in our ears.)

The 4 means of transport for accomplishing the Amarnath yatra: the helicopter, horse, palanquin or your own two feet!

Helicopter, horse, a palkhi or your own two feet are all the options now available for reaching the holy Amaranth cave at a height of almost 4000 meters.

Sadhus on the Amarnath yatra

The Amarnath yatra was our introduction to the ways and lives of the sadhus.

These days, only the sadhus walk the entire route, from Pahalgam to the Amarnath cave. Every once in a while, we would see the sadhus take a break. A break always involved a round of their favourite smoke. (No, we didn’t dare ask what exactly was in it!)

This is what a sadhu-break looked like

A sadhu (holy man) or ascetic takes a break and smokes up on his way to the Amarnath yatra, an annual pilgrimage thousands of Hindus undertake in honour of Lord Shiva.

While we wore layers of woollens and trekking shoes, the sadhus were dressed in a shawl and a dhoti.

A sadhu, dressed in minimum clothing and battered shoes falls asleep as he sits to rest on a rock, his heavy walking stick still in his hand on a steep stretch of Pissutop, the first mountain peak of Amarnath yatra.

Carrying all their worldly belongings on their shoulders, they trudged on.

A sadhu with all his baggage wrapped in orange cloth and the holy walking stick on the Amarnath yatra

At campsites, we stayed in simple albeit warm tents, with mattresses and blankets. This basic accommodation was too much of a luxury for them. They slept in the open air “sadhu shelters”.

The real sadhus were an epitome of simple living. Seeing them, was a study in cutting things down to the basics.

A sadhu sleeps on the ground with all his belongings close by after crossing the Mahaganus top, the highest point of the Amarnath yatra.

A sadhu takes a break with his smoking pipe on the way to the holy cave at Amarnath in Kashmir, India.

Any form of nicotine and alcohol is banned on the Amarnath yatra. Of course these rules do not apply to the sadhus!

Sadhus thus become the exclusive source of cigarettes on the Amarnath yatra. Every night, post dinner, they would be mobbed. Specially by young guys.

Addiction after all has a place in a person’s life, it appears!

Meet Chunnilal, the barefoot braveheart of Amarnath yatra

A young sadhu, Chunnilal, dressed in simple clothes and just a shawl to protect him from the cold with a shoulder bag and a walking stick walked the entire Amarnath yatra route barefoot.

Chunnilal was a young sadhu. We had a long interaction with him through the three days of the Amarnath yatra.

These conversations were our first real contact with a sadhu. They gave us an insight into the life the sadhus lead.

The feet of a young sadhu, Chunnilal, scarred and covered in mud as he halts at Mahaganus top, the highest point of the Amarnath yatra route on his brave feat of doing the yatra barefoot.

This was Chunnilal’s second Amarnath yatra. Like the last time, he was trekking it barefoot. The first time was quite tough, he said. That year, there had been more snow along the Amarnath yatra route. But this second time, he was at ease, walking comfortably.

His ultimate dream was to spend his life in Vrindavan, where, he felt God has His true presence!

Landscape along the Amarnath yatra route

To say the landscape on the Amarnath yatra is breath-taking is an understatement.

Green and fresh is how the trek begins. The initial path is through a lively pine forest and waterfalls.

The river Lidder gave us company all through the first day. The reducing size of Lidder was an indication of how high up we were.

A helicopter flies through the lush green pine forest ferrying passengers from the Amarnath yatra

The interesting aspect of this Amarnath yatra route, via Pahalgam, is the variety it offers. While there are steep ascents like Pissutop (day 1) and Mahagunas Pass (day 2), there are periods of a leisurely stroll as well. Some parts we walked next to a valley, some were through flat meadows. We crossed some glaciers, played in the snow and also waded through the freezing waters of the river at one point.

Life and sights around Dal lake in Srinagar, Kashmir

The biggest challenge we faced was from the horses. They were in large numbers. At times, we had to wait for them to pass and for the trail clear out for us to walk. Savouring such magnificent landscapes with the smell of horses and horse poo was a dampener.

The emerald water of Sheshnag lake, the first night halt on the way to the holy cave along the Amarnath yatra route via Pahalgam.

The first night halt was at Sheshnag. The emerald waters of the Sheshnag lake were a welcome sight, indicating a campsite close by.

At the campsites, tents as well as facilities like warm water and electricity are arranged by the locals of Kashmir.

Food is provided by the devotee volunteers. Such organisations come from all over India. They run food stalls (bhandaras) throughout the period of the Amarnath yatra, serving food from breakfast to dinner – for free.

Families from the Himalayas who stunned us with their hospitality Kids of the hills

The owner of our tent at Sheshnag warned us of sub-zero temperatures in the night. For sure, it snowed heavily that night. We weren’t sure the yatra would commence the next morning.

The campsite at Sheshnag, the first night halt on the Amarnath yatra route via Pahalgam with several tents spread out as seen at the break of dawn with fresh snow from the previous night in the backdrop.

We woke up to the sight of fresh snow on the Sheshnag mountains. It was an enchanting setting for brushing our teeth!

The weather in the morning was conducive to proceed. We were to cross the peak of the Amarnath yatra, the Mahagunas Pass at 14500 feet. The greens of the previous day gradually gave way to brown and barren mountains.

Pilgrims head towards Mahaganus top, the highest point of the Amarnath yatra route via Pahalgam as the greenery around reduces and the mountains start turning brown and grey.

The colours of our surroundings were playing with our state of mind. The lively spring in our feet had turned into an intense climb.

Realising we were in a place where nature didn’t intend for life to exist was a surreal feeling.

Two horsemen and their horses walk through the waters of the melting glaciers in the backdrop of black and white mountains towards the Mahaganus top, the highest point of the Amarnath yatra route via Pahalgam at nearly 4200 meters.

Mahagunas Top was lifeless, except for the pilgrims and the Indian army. Here, the army served us a welcome drink – warm water.

The Indian army along with the Jammu and Kashmir state police does a remarkable job of handling this mega logistical exercise. Controlling the huge untrained crowds of pilgrims in remote high mountains, especially in times of bad weather is a dangerous job.

A lavish variety of food is provided by a bhandara from Delhi at Poshpathri, just after the highest point of the Amarnath yatra.

As a reward for making it through the peak of the Amarnath yatra, a small descent later we came to a five-star bhandara.

The variety served here could have put a wedding party to shame! To be served it all at nearly 14000 feet, was kind of bizarre!

The next campsite was at Panchatarini. This is also the disembarkation point for the devotees who prefer the helicopters. The helicopters operate over both the Amarnath yatra routes – from Pahalgam as well as Baltal.

Beautiful landscape of a small stream surrounded by almost barren mountains with a bit of snow with the tents of the campsite at Panchatarini seen in the far background on the morning of the final and third day of the Amarnath yatra.

After Panchatarini a short ascent on day 3, took us to the site of the “holy cave” of Amarnath.

Scenes around the Amarnath cave

A buzzing market around the area of the Amarnath cave belies its height of almost 13800 feet.

The locals have set up shops where you can buy the prasad and deposit your luggage (bags or gadgets are not allowed inside the Amarnath cave). They also provide hot water if one wants to bathe before darshan. Or a bed for a short nap.

Man selling fake saffron and black blocks of shilajeet outside the holy Amarnath cave.

Or maybe buy the “purest saffron”? We also saw shilajeet for the first time – a substance loaded with medicinal values found specially in the Himalayan mountains. Needless to say, their claims of purity should be taken with generous doses of salt!

A bearded man posing as a sadhu, dressed in a warm orange jacket and a red blanket, wearing several rings in his fingers sits in a small cave around the holy Amarnath cave trying to sell photos of the shivling, rudrakshas as well as some currency.

On the other side is a row of “sadhus” who have set shop. A long queue then leads to the cave. Since photography isn’t permitted inside the cave, this was the closest we could capture the holy Amarnath cave from.

A sea of horses, shops and people in the midst of the snow and the mountains is the landscape around the opening of the holy Amarnath cave.

It was a stampede-like situation inside the cave. We saw the legendary ice shivling for a few seconds and headed out of the cave.

A series of horses and their horsemen take pilgrims through the slush and stone filled Amarnath yatra route from Baltal to the holy Amarnath cave.

We returned through the shorter Amarnath yatra route via Baltal.

This is a straight path, with a steady ascent on the way to the cave. The base camp of Baltal is 14 km from the Amarnath cave. Thankfully we only had to descend this distance.

We were constantly walking next to a deep valley. The stunning vistas on the way up had spoilt us. Though beautiful, we found this landscape while descending to Baltal, rather monotonous.

People of the Kashmir valley

Though this journey takes just a day, the continuous climb makes it extremely strenuous. For its variety and beauty, we highly recommend the Amarnath yatra route via Pahalgam.

The people of Amarnath yatra

As we had hoped, the Amarnath yatra was an excellent experience to meet all kinds of people. And as always, the people we met are our lasting impression of the Amarnath yatra.

There were healthy people who chose comfort as a way to holy darshan.

A man sits comfortably on a palkhi, a chair attached to rods held on their shoulders by four strong people and they carry this man along the entire Amarnath yatra route to the holy Amarnath cave.

And some crazy ones whose reasons we will probably never know (and maybe never understand).

A pilgrim does his Amarnath yatra on his four limbs

This man would move ahead on his four limbs, stand, fold his hands and chant a prayer. Then get down on all four limbs ahead.

We met him on Pissutop and have no idea if and when he did finally completely his Amarnath yatra.

And then, there were some whose memories will forever inspire us. Who made it through only on the strength of their faith.

They were the heroes of the Amarnath yatra, ageless devotees on a true pilgrimage.

Old man wearing a simple kurta, carrying his bag across his chest and a wooden walking stick braves the rough terrain and the cold weather at Sheshnag on his Amarnath yatra.

Indian Army is a big help at the Amarnath yatra

An Indian Army officer helps an old woman get through the final steep stretch to Pishutop, the first peak of the Amarnath yatra.

Map of the Amarnath yatra route via Pahalgam

  • Srinagar to Pahalgam is a two hour drive. You can hire a cab from Srinagar to take you directly to Pahalgam. If you want to save money, public transport is also a good option as Srinagar to Pahalgam is a pretty popular route. Take a shared Sumo from Srinagar to Anantnag, and another shared Sumo from Anantnag to Pahalgam.
  • In Pahalgam, you can stay at the base camp in Nunwan. If not, Pahalgam is flooded with hotels. Rates will be escalated during the days of the Amarnath yatra.
  • On the day you start your Amarnath yatra, start as early as you can from Pahalgam, preferably around 6 AM. Hire a shared Sumo or a bus to take you to Chandanwari.
  • From Chandanwari, the actual climb of the Amarnath yatra commences. Pissutop and Nagakoti are the climbs on day 1. The first night halt of this route of Amarnath yatra, via Pahalgam, if you are on foot, is Sheshnag.
  • On day 2, you will cross the Mahagunas Pass and Poshpathri. The night halt for day 2 is the campsite at Panchtarini. If you hire a horse, this is where you halt on day 1.
  • On the morning of day 3, you will reach the Amarnath cave. Be prepared for a long queue.
  • After your darshan of the ice shivling in the Amarnath temple, you can descend via the shorter route to Baltal. Halt for the night in the basecamp at Baltal.

Map of the Amarnath yatra route via Baltal

  • The route from Srinagar to Baltal goes via Sonmarg. The cheapest way of traveling from Srinagar to Baltal is to hire a shared Sumo from Srinagar to Sonmarg (you might have to break the journey at Kangan, on the way to Sonmarg).
  • Halt for the night at the basecamp in Baltal.
  • Start the climb early the next day. Be prepared for a long day. It is a steady climb of 14 km. After darshan of the ice shivling in the Amarnath temple, descend via the same route. Rest for the night again at the Baltal base camp.

Top tips for doing the Amarnath yatra

  • The best and the safest mode of transport to do the Amarnath yatra is on foot. The pictures above will show it is not impossible.
  • Alternately, there are tours available that take care of all the arrangements for the Amarnath yatra. If planning for this three day trek sounds like a tedious option, do try going for the Amarnath yatra through these travel companies.
  • Irrespective of your travel plans, prepare adequately before the yatra. Regular exercise in the months prior tot he Amarnath yatra will help. Practice climbing by trekking up a nearby mountain. If there isn’t one nearby, climb up the steps in the house or building.
  • Respect the mountain. It is our privilege to be in the heart of the Himalayas on the Amarnath yatra.
  • Most importantly, do not use the excuse of faith to flout the rules. Follow the dates and the times allotted. The rules are for our own safety. Many people do a tough job of ensuring our safety in these high mountains. Let us return this favour by being responsible ourselves.
  • You can do what we did, it is in fact a common Amarnath yatra itinerary among the Amarnath pilgrims. Ascend via Pahalgam, the longer Amarnath yatra route and descend via Baltal. You can leave your excess luggage in the lockers in Pahalgam. The route from Baltal to Pahalgam will be Baltal-Sonmarg-(Kangan)-Srinagar-(Anantnag)-Pahalgam. You can stay in the Pahalgam basecamp at Nunwan.

Need help planning your Amarnath yatra?

Tell us your requirement.

These blog posts will help you plan your Kashmir tour

Yusmarg: Should you stay here on your Kashmir trip?

South Kashmir circuit: Non touristy fit for all travelers

Tourist places to visit in Srinagar, Kashmir

Lolab valley, unexplored offbeat part of Kashmir, India

Chatpal, an offbeat travel destination in Kashmir, India

Kokernag in Kashmir, the biggest botanical garden and trout fishery

Or if you are traveling ahead of Kashmir to Ladakh

Roadtrip by state transport bus on the highway from Leh to Manali, India

Tso Moriri, the magical high Himalayan mountain lake at a distance of 250 km from Leh in Ladakh, India

Why visit Drass on the way to Ladakh, India

Lamayuru, the moonland of Ladakh, India

And Zanskar too…

How to reach Zanskar valley in Kashmir, India

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

125 thoughts on “Amarnath yatra: Trek on a pilgrimage

  1. lalitha

    Hello sandeepa chetan is locker facility is available at baltal Base Camp? Pls reply me fast …

  2. Kamal Kumar

    Excellent detail next only to achieve it practically to get the excellent feeling.One thing ,we have registered from our city for the holy journey through J & K SASB ‘s authorised bank getting CHC to from its authorised health centre & doctor ;then should we go the Tourist centre in Jammu / Shrinagar further report to get registration again /intimate etc or may go directly to Chandwari to report / cross verification of 3 copies of Yatra permit at this point , preliminary check up and for appraisal further about Do’s Don’ts etc / take all needful instructions/advice etc.

  3. ganesh

    Hi I want to do on spot registration at jammu, what time will taken for registration pls guide me all the details of on spot registration

  4. Narendran

    Hi Sandeepa Chetan,

    I’m Narendran and I would like to know if I can select the required date for the yatra? I want to take the shortest route up to the cave and while returning, explore the other route. So can I fix the dates accordingly?

    Say I don’t want to register and go directly (because I want to travel according to my own dates). Can I then go with a medical certificate,and register somewhere near Baltal/Sonamarg before beginning the yatra?

    Thanks for letting me know,
    Narendran. M

  5. kapil

    Very useful article……….i,ve got permit for Pahalgam route for date 16/07/2017…………….
    Q.1:- Am i eligible for return journey via Baltal route??
    Q.2:- What “date” means?? entering Jammu or Pahalgam camp or something else…….
    Q.:3- Are cigarettes strictly banned??

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Kapil, yes – you can return via any route. If you have ben assigned the Pahalgam route, you can return via Baltal. You will be allowed to stay in the Baltal campsite after you return from the yatra as well as at Pahalgam, should you need to later. That’s exactly what we did.
      Date means the date you commence the yatra from Pahalgam (you will take a jeep/bus onward to Chandanwari and start on foot from there onward). Leave as early as you can in the morning, the roads are jam packed and there’s a lot of checking. You will be allowed to stay in the Pahalgam campsite (at Nunwan) the previous night.
      Cigarettes are banned, they check. Besides, it isn’t safe to carry anything combustible on you as you trek up. It’s risky to you and your fellow pilgrims.
      Wish you a happy and safe Amarnath yatra.

  6. sundeep boorugu

    hi sandeepa name is also sundeep.. i have read ur amarnath yatra article which u hve mentioned detailed..that was really great by u. but a small info i need .
    this yr 2017 the yatra starts on 29th of June.. infact i got medical chk up frm doctors . an its clean. so can i travel on July 2nd from hyd this yatra.. coz i heard form a lot ppl saying go as early as possible coz due to pollution the shiv ling fastly melt.. n more over i am trvelling frm hyd to jammu through.. so frm jammu can u guide me brother.. from jammu shld i go directly go to srinagar or pahalgum pls uggest .. this is my 1st amarnath yatra tour.. need ur suggestions.. can i hve ur num .TIA

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Sundeep, when you register for the Amarnath yatra, you are assigned the date you should start your yatra on as well as the route. You must stick to that date.

  7. 2travellingsisters

    Reading this post we had a virtual yantra of this holy place! The pictures are breath taking, few look so surreal! 🙂

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Oh that’s wonderful, Shaivi! Things must’ve been quite different back them. Do they have any photos from their Amarnath yatra? Would love to know more of their experience!

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Thanks, we want to encourage people to take u the Amarnath yatra on foot, by themselves. Hopefully the story of our journey to the Amarnath holy cave will inspire others and give them the confidence that they too can do it on their own.

  8. Rajdip Chakraborty

    hello sir, is there any deadline time to entry from the gate for the same day? or i have the entire day to entry ?

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Rajdip, there is a set time. Try to leave as early as you can. On day 1, there is a lot of checking from Pahalgam to Chandanwari. The jeeps/buses are stopped by the JKP or CRPF to check the registration of all the passengers. And there is a cut off time, beyond which you aren’t allowed to start because then it means that the chances of reaching the camp by nightfall are dim. These restrictions are for your own safety so it is better to adhere to the time. IF you miss your start day, you might not be allowed to proceed on the next day (it is completely at the discretion of the official you talk to).

      1. Rajdip Chakraborty

        sir, can i get a clock room or locker in pahalgam or chandanwari for my extra luggage?

        1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

          Hello Rajdip, you can store your luggage in Pahalgam. There is storage facility available. You can find more information at the Pahalgam TRC once you get there.

  9. T Dubey

    Hello Sandeepa and Chetan, You have provided an excellent account about on Amarnath Yatra. I have completed Yatra earlier twice on Horse from Panchtarni route with Family. This time I want to trek. Will it be possible for you to let me know about any groups planning to do this and which I can join. Thanks & regards

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Tripti, you do not really need to join a group for the Amarnath yatra. Just register and reach the Nunwan base camp at Pahalgam a day before the prescribed date. You will meet many fellow pilgrims there and you can group together with anyone of these. Even while climbing, there are many other pilgrims always walking with you, so you always have company. The JKP and the CRPF staff is always close by in case you need anything.

  10. Sudhakar K Volu

    Hello Guys,

    ‘Quit your jobs, Sold your house and Travelling the world” WOW !! Read your article with great interest. I always had this in mind for the past 10 years but couldn’t muster the courage to do it. It still is on my mind and hopefully i will do it sooner than later. Congratulations to you both for this decision, you are living it up.

    Now coming back to my need for some assistance for the Amarnathji Yatra. I have done the Valley of Flowers and the Hemkund Saheb trek in August last. I trekked from Gobindghat to Ghangharia (11kms) in about 9 to 10 hrs at my pace n energy. The next day did the valley of flowers in about 3 hrs and 5 hours on return leg, then did the Hemkund uphill by horse and down hill by foot in about 4 hrs. I found the downhill journey far more difficult than uphill because of the pressure on the knees and feet. So my physical condition was average but lots of determination. I am 53 but am 20 at heart with an urge to travel the world.

    Now i have been walking regularly since Jan for about 5 to 8 kms in the mornings and intend to continue the same in preparation for my Amarnathji Trip. I will continue to build the endurance for this. So you think i can do this trip in 3 days uphill from Pehalgam and return Via Baltal in 1 day?

    A few other questions:

    1. Necessary to carry an Oxygen cannister?
    2. The Water proof shoes that i bought for the Valley of flowers trek okay for Amarnathji trip?
    3. I have all other things like woolen Socks, Rain coat, Jacket, Pull over, climbing trousers etc from my previous trek trip, U think this is ok?
    4. Are Thermals absolutely necessary?
    5. Can you extend your stay in the tents for a day if need be?
    6. Once you finish the Darshan is it necessary for you to come back to the starting point of 6 Kms if you have to descend via Baltal?
    7. Any thing that you may want to add?

    Thanks in advance for your assistance.

    God bless u both


    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Sudhakar, kudos to your zeal and we have only this to say, “go for it!”. The Amarnath yatra trek is not really a difficult one. Especially from the Pahalgam side, the uphill, downhill and plain stretches are nicely paced so you don’t strain your legs and knees moving in only one direction. And the landscape is breathtaking! That coupled with seeing fellow pilgrims of all ages (some even in simple slippers!) is a big motivator and doesn’t let you tire out till you reach the campsite.
      You do not need an oxygen cannister. All the other gear that yo have is sufficient for the Amarnath yatra. If you do not want to carry the rain coat, you get thin lightweight ponchos along the way which give decent protection. Recommend wearing thermals because it gets quite cold in the night. It isn’t too uncomfortable with the thermals during the day. You can always take off the sweater. Have a look at this comment too.
      The Baltal and Pahalgam routes meet at a point called Sangam (around 3 km but takes longer because there are just too many people there besides shops and bhandaras), till where you return back from the holy cave and then proceed to Baltal side.

      Happy yatra and happy travels! DO let us know how the experience was for you!

  11. Kirti raval

    Hi Dear, thank you so much for useful information, it will help me this time. I got registration for coming Amarnath Yatra. Am going alone from my all dear n near, I would like to go by walking with Pahalgam route, we have come back by the same route.
    As per your blog one week is require for both ways.
    What is the horse cost ?
    Is the horse is available between the way?
    Kirti Raval ( Ahmedabad)

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hi Kirti, if you feel tired you can hire a horse midway. The rates for the horses are fixed by the board each year, though if you hire it midway, they might charge you a premium. It will take 6-7 days for going up and coming back by the Pahalgam route for the Amarnath yatra. Try to return by the Baltal route if you do not want to trek for so many days. Happy travels and all the best!

  12. Divya kambam

    Hi it’s very useful information and I want to know is tents are safe for ladies

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hi Divya, the tents are safe. The tent owners take precautions while pairing the tent mates, they will usually club in couples/solo female travellers with families. Do not worry.

  13. Suparna Banerjee

    You have described the trip very nicely. I just want to know , we are going in 12 persons group. what will be the convenient for luggage, a porter or horse? how much it costs? How will be the weather(temperature). How many woolen clothes are needed?

    Suparna Banerjee

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Suparna, wish you a happy Amarnath yatra. It is too soon to tell how the weather will be and the weather can change drastically overnight in the high mountains. Be prepared for rain, wind and cold. Recommend woollen socks, woollen caps and a sweater. Keep a jacket (windcheater) with you. For the rains, you can buy a poncho that you get around the Amarnath camps. We had also kept a layer of thermals with us. You can use a porter or horse for luggage, whatever makes you comfortable. They do walk very fast, though. So if there is anything that you will need as you walk, recommend keeping that in a bag with you. Stay away from doing the yatra on horses, do not recommend them AT ALL.

  14. Shefali Shukla

    Very well explained in your blog Sandeep. Few questions as I am too planning for Sri Amarnath Darshan in 2017:

    1. Can same day ascend and descend via pehelgam route is possible as lot of crowd is there at the holy cave ? Or night halt at Sheshnag base camp is needed in any situation ?

    2. Will authorities allow you descending via Baltal if your permit is ascending via Pahalgam ?

    3. In which Hotel you stayed in Pahalgam ? We’ll plan to acclimatize ourselves by staying one day at Pahalgam.

    Shefali Shukla
    New Delhi

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Shefali, to ascend the Amarnath yatra route via Pahalgam, you will need to halt for 2 nights along the way (night 1 at Sheshnag, night 2 at Panchatarini). Horses going up via this route skip Sheshnag. Then you spend only one night (at Panchatarini) before getting to the Amarnath cave. We do not recommend horses AT ALL.
      You can descend via any route you want, however for climbing up, you must stick to the route and the start date strictly. On the way back after the Amarnath darshan, you can stay at both Baltal and Pahalgam.
      You can stay at the Nunwan base camp in Pahalgam on the night before your commencement. If you want to stay longer, there are many hotels in Pahalgam. We recommend any which is away from the main market road.
      We wish you a happy and safe Amarnath yatra.

  15. lalita varanasi

    Great blog and lovely explanation. Only one question, if I am a lone traveller, a woman, can I take more time…to ascend…as I am not sure of the speed and also is it safe for a lone woman traveller?

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Lalita, the Amarnath yatra is perfectly safe for a solo woman traveller. There are hundreds of others on the same route as yours, so it’s easy to find company along the way. Also, the Indian army is posted at regular intervals – so any help needed is easily available. The distances are easy to cover for even old pilgrims and getting to the campsite at the end of the day should not be a problem even if you walk really slow. In fact, you should move ahead at your own pace irrespective of the speed of the fellow pilgrims. A steady pace is the best way to move ahead. Also, if you feel the need for resting a day longer, you can easily stay for another day at any of the camps. Follow a fitness routine as we have suggested above and the Amarnath yatra will be a joyous experience.

      1. T Dubey

        Hello Lalita,
        I am planning to go for Amarnath ji darshan in first Week of Jul 2017. If you are ok, you can join me. Kindly let me know

  16. vishal chauhan

    No words seriously!!!! You written it very well and the most important thing is that don’t missed any single thing that happened during Amarnath Yatra! From Tented camps to cave everything you covered in it. Thanks to sharing it Sandeepchetan 

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Dipak, if you plan to trek up to the Amarnath cave from Pahalgam, your expenses will be negligible. You will be staying tents at Nunwan (Pahalgam base camp), Sheshnag and Panchatarini. The rates for the tents at each camp are fixed by the government every year, it should be somewhere between Rs. 200 to Rs.300 each night. Other expenses will be some supplies you might want to carry – ORS packs, some nuts, walking stick, rain poncho and a BSNL sim card if you choose to buy it – in all a few hundred rupees more. If you do not plan to walk and want to hire a horse instead, then you will pay extra for the horse (to carry you) and a porter (to carry your stuff).

  17. Avinash Gaikwad

    Namaskar Sandeepa and Chetan … Guys ur blog inspired us……We are from Maharashtra and planning to Amarnath Yatra.
    So can u plz guide us ..Hume kaha registration karna hoga if we come from Maharashtra by train.and other compulsory things which is we have to be do. and we are planing this trek as per ur is that ohk na agar hum khudse plan karke jaye without any tour packages….????
    Plz guide us

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Avinash, we are happy to know that the story of our Amarnath yatra experience has inspired to you plan a trip of your own. It can easily be done by yourself, without booking any packages. The registration opens around March, be on the lookout for the registration open news. You can register for the yatra at the local banks that they tie up with, the announcement will give clear directions for the same. You will need to get a health certificate from the government hospital. Stay tuned for around March, we will also be notifying our readers through Facebook and Twitter when the Amarnath yatra registration opens. In the meanwhile, you can start building up your fitness – regular exercise at home will make the trek to Amarnath very easy.

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  19. Anorahs

    I live in South America and your blog inspired me to take on this pilgrimage next year. Thank you and lots of love from Suriname.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hey Sharona! Thank you so much – you are probably our first reader from Suriname! We missed out on visiting your country on our first trip to South aMerica – simply because the visas were a bit complicated. Hopefully next time! Hope you do make it to Amarnath next year. Happy travels!

  20. shamanth

    Hello Sandeep,

    Very nice blog.
    I just wanted to know the expenses, if I trek to the holy cave from Pahalgam route.
    Apart from registration charges(which is Rs.50), food and accomodation charges, are there any charges to be paid?
    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      You will not have to pay any charges for the food as the bhandaras along the way serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. You will have to pay for the tents when you halt, the rates are fixed and displayed in Pahalgam. If you need hit water for bathing during the yatra, you will have to pay extra. Also, you might want to buy a SIM card provided specially for the pilgrims so you can stay in touch even along the trek. If you want to carry some light food with you like nuts and chocolates, some ORS packs, masks to cover your mouth and a trekking stick, these will incur some additional expenses. Have a safe yatra.

  21. Mayank Chauhan

    Hi Chetan,

    We went on the Amarnath yatra on 13 Aug via Baltal. We started the trek early morning and came down to the base camp same evening. It was an experience of a lifetime. Your advises were very helpful, Thank you.


      Hello Mayank, this is Rajdip, we have completed our registration via baltal this year. can u please tell me where can we safely hold our extra luggage in baltal



  23. Jyoti Chhokra

    Hello Sandeep.

    Hope you are doing well!.

    Really Appreciated , awesome travelogue!

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I have one query here, Initially we have decided to take the route of Baltal. But now after going through with the experience shared by people like you, we are planning to go by Pahalgam and to come back by Baltal. As out flight is for tomm early morning from Delhi to Srinagar. We are having registration from Baltal, but curious to go by Pahalgam instead. So I request your immediate reply if you can please,
    ” would it be possible to go by Pahalgam, if we have registration for Baltal route ? ” would the authorities allow us to go by Pahalgam and come back by Baltal ?

    1. Chetan Karkhanis

      You have to travel by the route you have registered for. If you want to change the route, you can do the on-the-spot registration in Srinagar and change your route.

  24. Maragathavalli Inbamuthiah

    Beautifully captured and informative. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am leaving in a week for Amarnath albeit by helicopter as we are taking old people with us, but your pictures make me crave for the actual trek – maybe some other time!

  25. nisha

    Hi…I liked the way u narrated ur amaranth trip story n ur experience…just reminded me our trip…it was awesome nawesome… I loved your pics…Jai Bhole!!!!!

  26. Mahesh

    A big thanks Sandeep,
    I’m planning for yatra this year and this is what I was looking for on the review.. Pictures were awesome.. i cant wait to trek on those snow trails..

  27. Umasankar

    Lovely blog Sandeep. Enjoyed reading every bit. I, along with 5 frnds, planning the pilgrimmage in July 2015. After reading you blog and seeing the pics cant wait to start off the yatra. Just one question. What are he probable dates with least crowd expected.

    1. Chetan Karkhanis

      Hello Umashankar, there is probably no such date. Since most of the Amaranth yatris register themselves much in advance and have to comply by the date they are assigned to. Wish you and your friends a safe Amarnath yatra.

  28. Prabha

    Hi Sandeepa Chetan, awesome travelogue! After reading other blogs, was somewhat apprehensive of our plans to undertake ghd yatra on 8th July from baltal. But you blog and photos made me feel that its a must see place. We did Manas sarovar and Kailash yatra last June and temptation to visit Himalayas again is high!
    A couple of queries please.
    – Can a 10 year old boy undertake the yatra? What abt 13 years old boy? In good health.
    – if we use helicopter, how is the acclimatization managed ?

    Thank you and keep traveling and blogging. You write very well.
    – Prabha

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Amaranth yatra should be possible for young boys in good health. It is a tiring route from Baltal, since you are continuously climbing up towards the cave. If you take the helicopter, there won’t be enough time for acclimatization. But it is only 6 km climb once you disembark from the helicopter at Panchatarini. Wish you a safe Amaranth yatra.

  29. Aman

    Hi sandeepa and chetan .Buses are available all time from jammu to pahalgam coz i can reach jammu at 9:30am. Or timimg is fixed . And can i get proper guidance as i m going for the 1st time.

  30. Vineet

    Hi sandeep
    my date to visit amarnath is 8july. So i should book my train for 6july night to reach jammu in the next morning 7july and then take bus to pahalgam. Please assist me as i dont know how much time it would take for jammu to pahalgam and how to reach there and when will the yatra start or i have to stay pahalgam at night before yatra

    1. Chetan Karkhanis

      Hello Vineet
      To start your Amarnath yatra from Pahalgam on 8th July, you should be in Pahalgam on 7th. Take one of the shared jeeps from Jammu to Srinagar. It takes 1-1.5 hour to get to Pahalgam from Srinagar. On the way from Jammu to Srinagar, you can get off at the Pahalgam diversion and take the route towards Pahalgam. However, it might not be easy to get a connecting vehicle at this point. It’s safer to go to Srinagar and from there get into a shared jeep going to Pahalgam. If you leave early in the morning from Jammu, you should reach Pahalgam base camp by late evening.

  31. Prasad Bhanushali

    The narration is excellent….nice photography and details of sadhu ..absolutely true.I deed felt the same on my Kedarnath yatra last year .These sadhus walk right from Haridwar to kedarnath almost 250 km .I have plan my yatra in month of Aug..your blog will definately help me…..

  32. Meena Vaidya

    Lovely Travelogue ! I’m just wondering about hiring a porter, I have done Kailash and I know even a jacket seems to weigh a ton.
    Are porters availble ?

    1. Chetan Karkhanis

      Thank you Meena! and Congratulations on completing the Kailash yatra. All the best for the Amarnath yatra. Porters are easily available right from Chandanwari all the way to even somewhere close to the Amarnath cave. You might even find them hounding you to hire their services.

  33. Anjali Parikh

    Hi..Sandeepa Chetan,
    I and my cousin we two ladies are going for yatra on 4th July.I wish to do this yatra on my foot…I want to know that to carry my laggage can I get porter over there?..or should I take horse in case of emergency. we will start our yatra from Pehlgam route n end it by baltal so can’t leave our luggage at pehlgam..we have return flight tickets from Shrinagar..we won’t take too much luggage but whatever we have for that what we can do?
    And yes I loved to read your yatra excellent. ..

    1. Shubham

      How many days does it take to get pilgrim and medical certificate. If i register now can i get my date around 5july

      1. Chetan Karkhanis

        Hello Shubham
        We were already in Kashmir when we decided to do the Amarnath yatra. So we went from Pahalgam to Anantnag, did the medical certification at a public hospital there, then the yatra registration at the “on-the-spot” centre in Srinagar TRC. (The centre was later shifted near the Srinagar railway station, which is much further away from the main city.) We got the date for 2 days later to proceed on our Amarnath yatra via the Pahalgam route. This is one way of getting your registration.
        You can ofcourse do the registration in your hometown, but we do not have experience about this. Have a look at the Amarnath shrine board website, you will certainly find all the information there. Either this or on-the-spot, we don’t think getting a date for 5th July should be a problem.
        Whatever date you get, do stick to that date, they are very strict about checking this at all the checkpoints. People try to bend the rules, some are ven successful. But we strongly advise against doing this.

    2. Chetan Karkhanis

      Hello Anjali, congratulations on deciding to do the Amarnath yatra on foot. It is the best way to experience this journey. Porters are easily available right from Chandanwari, they are called “pittu”. You can easily avail their services. Also, a lot of pilgrims do start their Amarnath yatra at Pahalgam and end it at Baltal. They leave their luggage behind at the lockers in Pahalgam. Pahalgam-Srinagar is an hour long journey. All the best to you and your cousin for your Amarnath yatra.

    3. T Dubey

      Hello Sandeepa and Chetan, You have provided an excellent account about on Amarnath Yatra. I have completed Yatra earlier twice on Horse from Panchtarni route with Family. This time I want to trek. Will it be possible for you to let me know about any groups planning to do this and which I can join. Thanks & regards

  34. Shubham

    Like you said just 1500 people per day then how they can manage 4lakh people(as per previous year record). Please tell. Coz i can just go between 5 to 15 july.

  35. Shubham

    Thanks for the answer @sandeep
    how many days it would take for medical and pilgrim certificate. Also the restriction to the people 1500 is according to the city(panipat) to which a person belong or people crossing pahalgam for yatra and how many days before a person could register himself Like this time yatra starts from 2july

  36. Sahil

    Is this compulsory for one to be in group or one can go indiviually. What about tents they take charges per head or book the whole.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Sahil, you do not need a group to go for Amaranth yatra. You will find many individual pilgrims on the way. Tents are charged on a per person basis.

  37. Shubham

    Could we get date to visit amarnath according to our need or they will decide. What about electricity to charge the phones. Is there any diffrence being a early visitor or afterones

  38. Vinay

    what is delux and semi delux vehicle also what about the clothes we’ll be wearing do we take the luggage along with us or we wearing the same for 3 days

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Vinay, which vehicles are you referring to? If you are talking about the buses from Jammu to Srinagar, you will actually not find much difference in these buses. You can keep your excess luggage at the lockers in Pahalgam and only take the stuff that you need. Whether you want to wear the same clothes or carry the clothes for 3 days is up to you. But we can assure you that its better to wear the same clothes than carry excess baggage. Makes a lot of difference when climbing up. Keep your luggage weight to the minimum. And don’t compromise on the essential things like warm wear and rain protection.

  39. mani

    Hi Sandeep…. lovely travelogue…. enjoyed reading it.
    We are a group of 4 women planning to trek to the Holy caves via the traditional route in August. Please let us know if tents are available on as and when we reach the halting place or do we need to make prior bookings. As of now we plan to take off on our own and not through an travel agent.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Chetan Karkhanis

      Tents are available when you reach the camps, right from Pahalgam. No prior bookings are done nor are the required. As long as you stick to the dates assigned to you and the timings, Amaranth yatra is a pretty easy pilgrimage to go on. Food, stay, medication is very well managed. We wish you all the best for this pilgrimage. Let us know if you need anything more.

      1. Shubham

        Could we get date to visit amarnath according to our need or they will decide. What about electricity to charge the phones. Is there any diffrence being a early visitor or afterones

        1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

          Hello Shubham, you get the dates depending on the empty slots. They have a restriction of sending 1500 yatris from each of the bases, Pahalgam and Baltal. If this number fills up, then you are given the date for the next day. Charging points are available at the overnight camps. End route, the bhandaras had arranged for charging points at Pishutop and Poshpathri (first and the second day of the Amarnath yatra). The advantage in going early is that the camps are cleaner and there is a better chance of seeing a bigger shivling. Wish you all the best for your Amarnath yatra.

      2. Shubhu

        Please If you could make me clear of the official expenses from jammu to pahalgam and then baltal in return including tent.
        If unknown person visit there how he will get to know the route.

        1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

          Hello Shubhu, from Jammu you take a bus or shared jeep to Srinagar. From Srinagar you can get a sumo jeep to Pahalgam. While returning, you will have to come to Sonmarg from where you will get a sumo jeep for Srinagar. The costs of the tents are fixed by the government every year. We had paid Rs.200 per person at Pahalgam. Cost increases at the higher camps. Once at the Pahalgam base camp, you will find many fellow yatris. So finding the route is not a problem at all. There are many CRPF and JKP personnel on the way to the Amarnath cave. They can guide you in case you have any problem.

  40. Mayank Chauhan

    Hi Sandeepa & Chetan,

    We are a group of five guys in late 20s planning for Amarnath Yatra. We plan to take the Baltal route. As you have mentioned that journey through Baltal must be completed within one day, I am assuming that there are no lights available enroute therefore one must return to the Baltal base camp by sunset, if this is the case then-

    1) Can we come from Srinagar in the morning and return back the same day, considering that Srinagar to Baltal is a 2.5 hrs journey, or

    2) We make a night stay at Baltal before the journey, start the trek early morning and return to Srinagar in the evening.

    I want to know your opinion about the two options. Or if you could suggest something better.


    1. Chetan Karkhanis

      Hello Mayank, option 2 is the feasible option for your plan. You will have to leave from Baltal early in the morning. They have a cut off time after which they do not let the pilgrims out from the base camps. So get to Baltal the previous evening, have a good dinner and a good night’s sleep. Start your Amaranth yatra early the next morning. You will have a long day ahead. There are no camps for a stay over in between on the Baltal route. At the Amaranth cave, they have arrangements for a short nap or rest. But its not adequate for staying over. Days are long at this time if the year, it gets dark only by 8.30 PM, so you will be able to get back to Baltal on time. From here, we would recommend staying the night again at Baltal and proceed ahead the next morning. Wish you a happy pilgrimage and a safe journey to Amaranth. Let us know if you have any other questions.

      1. Mayank Chauhan

        Thank You Chetan,
        Please explain me the accommodation options available at Baltal and nearby areas.

        1. Chetan Karkhanis

          There are base camps at Baltal where you will get decent accommodation in the tents. Sumos are easily available from Srinagar for Baltal. These are specially set up for the pilgrims of the Amaranth yatra. The tents are equipped with mattress, pillows and blankets- enough to keep you warm for a comfortable sleep. The rates are officially decided by the government. There are ‘bhandaras’ set up by several zorganisations which provide a wide range of foods. They do not charge for the food.

          1. Mayank Chauhan

            We have booked our yatra permit for 13th August from Baltal. As advised by you, we will be staying night before and night after the yatra in tents at Baltal base camp. I had one more query though, while we would on trek what are the facilities available to keep our luggage safe?

  41. sanjoy ghosh

    Namaskar Sandeep chetan ji . It is very useful post for me . what type of footwear is useful during amarnath yatra ? suitable latrine facility are available for ladies ?

    1. Chetan Karkhanis

      Hello Sanjoy, good trekking shoes are a must for Amarnath yatra. Both of us used these Action Trekking shoes and were very happy with them. They also have a high ankle version, if that suits you better. Also carry a couple of pairs of good quality socks. We had kept one pair of woolen socks as well, in case it got really cold or to wear at night when the temperature dips further. Another thing we highly recommend is to carry plastic bags that you can wear in your feet. We wore these inside our socks to stand on the cold stone steps to enter the Amarnath cave. The steps are extremely cold and wet from the dripping ice melt water from above. Wish you a happy pilgrimage to Amarnath.

  42. cnicholsonpaine

    We so enjoyed reading your post and looking at your beautiful photos! We are two young American women and one older British gentleman who look forward to completing the pilgrimage this July. We want to dress respectfully as we hike this sacred trail; what should we wear as women? Is it ok for us to wear pants and jackets? Does it often snow on the pilgrimage? Do you have any other suggestions for us? Thank you so much for all your valuable information!

    1. sandeepachetan

      All the best for your Amarnath pilgrimage. It is perfectly fine to wear pants and jackets on this journey (in fact it is recommended). You will find a lot of Indian women dressed this way. We were lucky to get perfect weather conditions on our Amarnath yatra, but like they say about the mountains, weather can be rather unpredictable. The Indian army does an excellent job of keeping people safe on the yatra. On indications of bad weather, the yatra is halted for a day. In any case, one should be prepared for rain and cold. Snow, though not a certainty is quite likely. The extent varies every year. We hope you have done the prior registrations required, the last minute registration process can get chaotic. Let us know if you need any more information. And enjoy the pilgrimage!

      1. cnicholsonpaine

        Thank you so much for your kind reply and for all of your information! Your beautiful photos and encouraging words have made us very excited to experience this wonderful trek!

        We are planning to do the Yatra in July, so we still have some preparation time, but we would like to get as much of the registration done as early as possible. Is it possible to register for the trek online now (where?) or is it better to do it in person when we arrive?

        Thank you!

  43. udit

    Hi sandeepchetan,

    Thanks much for so much informative post!
    We 4 couples are planning yatra this year (2015) august mid, but we have max 4 days to complete and back to delhi.
    So planning to choose Baltal route, please guide how much time would it take by foot and ponnie if we take to go and come back.

    1. sandeepachetan

      Hello Udit, all the best for your Amarnath yatra. The journey to Amarnath from Baltal has to be done within a day. Unlike the camping sites,there aren’t sufficient stay arrangements near the cave. So either by foot or on horsebacks, the journey to the Amarnath cave and back to Baltal is a one day event. From what we have seen, we recommend doing the journey on foot, as we felt that was the safest option.

  44. Pankaj Verma

    I have already did once in 2013 now i am planning to go again on 04.07.14 from Delhi if any one want to join our group can contact…

  45. Buddhadeb Basu

    SandeepaChetan – I have read a lot of material on the net on Amarnath Yatra – yours is by far one of the best written – factual, anecdotal and informative. Thank you so much for sharing. I will leave for the trek in a couple of weeks and hope to have a great time.

    1. Sandeepachetan

      Thank you, Mr. Basu. We wish you a safe and glorious journey to Amarnath. Recommend carrying plastic bags to wear in your feet, under your socks after you take off your shoes. The rock steps at the entrance, where you will spend considerable time, are freezing cold from the dripping ice water. The plastic bags are a useful protection.

  46. Lynn Esposito

    I’d like to talk about your beautiful photo of Sheshnag Lake.
    I saw that view too…..and forever remember it.
    But when I saw it, there was a large tall glacier covering the mt. on the opposite shore.
    White snow capped and tall walls of that wonderful aqua/blue glacial silt.
    There were no horses, not that many people….only 5 of us who had decided one night to do the trek to Amarnath and taken off with a backpack and small knapsack early the next morning.
    When we settled in at Sheshnag, I left them back in the tent “village” and walked up into the hills to see this sight.
    While sitting there, a robed shape came to me thru the mist. It was a woman, dressed in ragged clothes and lots of coral and turquoise stones.
    She said “Salaam Halakum”….a Muslim.
    I answered “Halakum Salaam” ….or however you spell it.
    She slapped me on the back. b/c I knew to reverse the greeting.
    She sat beside me for a while. We couldn’t speak each other’s language, but mimed a lot, and added a few words we each knew. Then we sat quietly and listened to the glacier creak.
    You could actually hear it.
    She got up and held out her hand to me, pointing in the direction of the hills and said the name of her village, I think. She wanted me to come with her.
    One of those pivotal moments in life.
    I could have just left with her and gone off on an adventure beyond even the one I was already having.
    But caution prevailed, and I said no.
    She shook her head, we smiled and she disappeared back into the mist.
    I’ve no regrets, but sometimes still wonder what if…..
    Thank you so much for that photo. It’s as I remember it, but no glacier.
    And now woman from the mist.
    So thank you also for the memory.

    1. sandeepachetan

      As always Lynn, you have enriched our experience with your comments. You talk of times when things were so very different – peaceful. I am guessing she must have been a Gujjar woman. Maybe they had set up their summer camp in the mountains around Sheshnag. Maybe she was inviting you over for a cup of tea- as everyone in Kashmir does!
      These days, there are no people around in these mountains except during the Amarnath yatra. A chance meeting like the one you had, was a possibility only of the past.
      I can imagine this meeting must have felt magical, a memory to be carried forever!
      Thank you so much for sharing this special moment with us.