The Story Of How We Evacuated 162 Team Members From Kashmir

Today, I’m going to tell you the inside story of how we evacuated 162 trekkers and team members from J&K along with more than a tonne of equipment in less than 48 hours.

The week has been emotionally and physically exhausting for all of us at Indiahikes. It has been laced with a mysterious calm, followed by panic, chaos, fear, grief, relief and finally, stoicism.

It all began on August 2nd, Friday at 4.30 pm

We were having just another day at the Indiahikes office. Two of our office members — Vishnu and Gautam — had just reached Srinagar and were travelling to Aru and Gagangir, the base camps of Tarsar Marsar and Kashmir Great Lakes treks.

They were making us terribly jealous with beautiful pictures from Kashmir. “Road leading to Sonamarg from our Basecamp! This is pure bliss,” Gautam said with a picture attached on Whatsapp.

A peaceful road from Gagangir to Sonamarg. Picture sent by Gautam, around 3.30 pm, on Augyst 2nd

Meanwhile, our founder, Arjun Majumdar, was having a meeting with two other team members in office — Lakshmi and Suhas. They had a trekking map of Kashmir spread out on the desk, books and pens drawn out, making notes of tricky sections on the Warwan Valley trek.  “I’m anxious about you and trekkers navigating this stretch,” Arjun said to Lakshmi pointing at the map. Lakshmi was set to leave for Warwan Valley that night.

While they studied the map, at around 4.30 pm, all our phones dinged. It was one of our team members from Mumbai.

“How are things in Kashmir? News shows tourists are facing problems? Have been asked to leave?” she said.

A news report about a security advisory issued by the Home Ministry of J&K had come to light, advising all tourists to cut down their travel “immediately” and leave the state. There was no rhyme or reason.

“I faced no problems at all this afternoon. Army personnel are roaming everywhere. But no issues. Dushyant faced some issues before Soura [Srinagar], but when I came, it was clear,” replied Gautam from Gagangir.

Going by the ground reports, we waved off the advisory for the time being.

But it didn’t take long for the advisory to circulate amongst trekkers on Whatsapp groups. With rumours of “Kashmir partition,” “Modi visiting J&K,” and “terror threats” doing the rounds, trekkers were beginning to get frantic.

Within an hour, it rained phone calls on us.

Should I cancel my trek? 

Is there a terror threat? 

My wife is on the Kashmir trek. Is she safe?

I’m leaving from Paris to Srinagar tomorrow. What should I do? 

We just landed in Srinagar. Our trek is tomorrow. What are we to do?

We stopped everything we were doing. Things were more serious than they looked. By then a copy of the advisory reached us by Whatsapp. The note looked grim. It asked tourists to vacate the valley.

Most of us pacified trekkers on phone calls. Our founders and ops team put their heads together to come up with a plan to tackle the emergency.

Many of our trekkers were already on the slopes, some of them on their way to Srinagar. Our staff members were spread all across Kashmir.

Our only aim was to keep trekkers safe and keep our staff safe.

Disappointment and worry

That evening, we were torn at the Indiahikes office. From our hearts, we did not want to stop our treks — so many trekkers had been preparing for their treks, travelling from around the world.

After many years, our Kashmir treks had been running smoothly throughout July with no political unrest. And three years after exploring Warwan Valley, we had finally opened it, thinking the region (near Kargil) was finally safe!

Our Kashmiri local team members, Ghulam chacha, Aziz miya and Firoz ji were cheerful that trekking in Kashmir was running with no hiccups after so many years.

However, we did not want to compromise on anyone’s safety. If this was an advisory from the Home Ministry, we had to take action.

A screenshot from our Office group: “We need to take this advisory seriously.”

That evening, we received a note from Ravi, our Slope Manager in Aru. “The tourism department has issued an ultimatum saying all tourists must leave Pahalgam and surrounding cities by 10 am tomorrow,” he reported at 8.15 pm.

“Vehicles are not being allowed from Srinagar into any of the inner cities. Vehicles can only depart from Pahalgam towards Srinagar to leave the state,” he added.

It was at 8.30 pm that we gave trekkers our statement: “Don’t travel to Kashmir. Those on treks are safe”

We took a hard call to cancel all Kashmir treks happening over the next three days — Kashmir Great Lakes, Tarsar Marsar and Warwan Valley.

Many trekkers had reached Srinagar already. Some had even driven to Kargil. They simply had to turn around and leave.

Those already on their treks were in remote, inaccessible places with no network. Even walkie talkies are not allowed on treks in Kashmir. We decided to let them be on their treks since they were safe and comfortable on the slopes.

For now, we would just tell trekkers not to travel to Kashmir. For those already in Kashmir, we would have to wait and see.

Fingers crossed, khuda hafiz,” read the last message for the night on our Whatsapp group.

Saturday, August 3rd, an ominously quiet morning

Our Saturday began peacefully. Trekkers had read our latest update with a voice note from our founder. That was enough to calm them down. The phone calls reduced.

A deceptively calm Lal Chowk, City centre of Srinagar, at 9 am on August 3. Picture by: Gurkirat.

Meanwhile, in Aru, two policemen from the tourism department visited our base camp at Aru, where Indiahikes members were staying.

“We told them that there are two teams of trekkers on the slopes. They agreed to let us stay and wait for them. But they instructed us to stay indoors and not go out,” reported Ravi that morning.

By 11 am, we received a note that most airlines had decided to waive off their cancellation charges — a good sign for trekkers who were cancelling their flights. This gave us further composure.

Our Warwan Valley team drove out of Kargil in the wee hours of the morning to reach our base camp at Gagangir by mid morning. They were safe. It was heart-breaking for all of us that one of our only two batches to Warwan Valley had been called off. But there was no other way.

So far so good. Let this weekend pass, things would get better we all told ourselves.

As the day progressed, things took a sudden turn for the worse

It was around 4 pm on Saturday.

Dushyant, the Head of our Trek Leaders’ team sent us a report from Gagangir. All tourists were being forced out of Kashmir. Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg were all being emptied of tourists. Amarnath Yatris had started turning around. Army vehicles were seen entering the main cities of Kashmir. Traffic had clogged highways.

Similarly at Aru, the situation had worsened. “The valley is empty and dead silent. Just the uncertainty and rumours are building up fear amongst the people here. Ghulam chacha is telling us that in the past 60-70 years, even during the Burhan Wani crisis, tourists have never been asked to leave so abruptly,” reported Ravi.

Our teams geared up for the worst that afternoon — an abrupt end to the Kashmir trekking season.

They started to pack all our equipment — tents, sleeping bags, food provisions, cooking equipment, eco bags, merchandise, the whole lot.

Amidst the chaos of evacuation, standing true to our Green trails value. The team packed 47 sacks of garbage collected from slopes ready to be taken to the landfill. Picture by Dushyant.

By 5.30 pm, our founder sent Indiahikes team members a decisive voice note: We were evacuating all trekkers from Kashmir

“Dear team, we are almost forcefully being evacuated from Kashmir. Gurdit has gone up to Tarsar Marsar to call back all trekkers. Similarly, Gourab and Baldev have gone to KGL to bring trekkers down. They will all be back by tomorrow, covering double distances if required.

Following that, our staff members will be moving out of the base camps with all our equipment, latest by Tuesday. Effectively, we will not be running treks next week, and most probably the entire season” he said.

Even though this was terrible news, we had no time for any emotions.

Moving trekkers to safety

Our Trek Leaders going up to KGL to bring trekkers down were already meeting with obstacles. They were not being allowed to go on the trek by army personnel.

“It took a while to convince them that we were going up only to bring trekkers down. We would reach Vishansar that night, and bring all trekkers back tomorrow,” reported Gourab, who was on a mission to bring trekkers back.

While some Trek Leaders went onto the treks to call trekkers back, a few other Trek Leaders came down to Srinagar to escort trekkers safely out of the state.

“Tarsar Marsar trekkers arrived in Srinagar this afternoon. Almost all trekkers have flights tomorrow and their transport to the airport has been sorted. I am in touch with all of them except one whom I am not able to reach. The KGL batch is about to reach Srinagar and Krunal is with them to take care of things,” reported Gurkirat, our Trek Leader from Srinagar.

Two teams of Tarsar Marsar trekkers and one team of KGL trekkers were yet to be evacuated. They were all still on their treks.

The Lidderwat campsite on Tarsar Marsar trek, where our team on the trek first heard the news of the advisory. Picture by: Vishnu Benne

In what seemed like another world, at Manali, our teams were setting up alternate treks

Meanwhile, our Slope Manager and staff members in Manali began arranging for space and equipment to accommodate special batches of Kashmir transferred trekkers. They opened up fresh batches of the Pin Bhaba and Hampta Pass treks.

We also decided to do a recce of Deo Tibba the next day. Our documentation team briefed our Trek Leader late at night on how to document the trek.

While our Trek Leaders, Slope Managers and Trek Managers were on overdrive in the mountains, our Bangalore office was on overdrive too.

It didn’t matter where we were. Everyone’s minds and hearts were in Kashmir.

That evening at 9 pm, something totally uncalled for happened

“Team, there’s an emergency in Aru [the base camp of Tarsar Marsar]. Policemen have gone to our base camp and have been harassing and abusing our team members. They want all our team members, equipment and a team of trekkers from Tarsar Marsar, who just arrived there, to vacate immediately.

“Ravi has been pleading with them that it’s too late in the night to get everyone out of there. But they aren’t listening. They want everyone to move out, and want it done immediately,” said our founder’s furious voice in a note.

Here’s what Ravi reported: 

“There were two Sub Inspectors and two hawaldars. They barged into the hotel where our trekkers were staying and began harassing us.”

Khali karo! Samajh mein nahi aa raha hai kya? Dande chalaoon kya!

It was already dark and Firoz ji had advised us not to move out in the dark, especially with trekkers. And here were four policemen, raising hell, forcing us to move out at night.”

Ravi has been in the armed forces for many years before joining Indiahikes. Such situations are not new to him. And even he was rattled by the behaviour of the policemen.

“They came in at about 8.30pm and started shouting at us to pack and leave in 2 minutes. Harpal and Sudheer were cooking. They came in and ordered us to stop everything and leave. They weren’t ready to listen to any of us,” reported Meghna, our Trek Leader who was also at Aru.

“The policemen were there to stay until we left,” Ravi added.

He requested to speak to the Station House Officer (SHO) at Pahalgam. The SHO hung up on him within seconds, without listening to him.

Ravi had no choice. Post 9 pm, he took 17 trekkers, 9 staff members, and 2 Trek Leaders and traveled to the dead streets of Pahalgam, to the SHO’s office.

“Somehow, we convinced the SHO that we’ll stay in Pahalgam, not Srinagar, and move to Srinagar early next morning. To this he finally agreed,” reported Ravi, who then had to organise stay in Pahalgam for all 29 members at 11 pm. Of course, our Indiahikes connections in the town helped.

Meanwhile, the KGL rescue team had reached Vishnusar and met with the trekkers. They would leave early the next morning and reach Gagangir by evening. Similarly, the rescue team to Tarsar Marsar had already met with trekkers at Shekhawas and they would leave for Aru the next morning.

We all slept with troubled and worried minds that night.

August 4th, Sunday – Bidding goodbye to Kashmir

There was a staggering amount of movement happening in Kashmir on Sunday.

Our Whatsapp was fraught with updates from the slopes.

Whatsapp screenshot: Constant updates from our team in Kashmir

Our first task was to move trekkers to safety. It took till 1 pm, but all trekkers were back in Srinagar and given accommodation, where they could wait for their flights.

But their ordeal did not end there.

“That night, we were asked to leave our Srinagar hotel at 3 am and head to the airport,” reported Vishnu, who was with the last of the trekkers in Kashmir.

They all left for the crowded airport, where they would wait for the rest of the day for their flights.

Our team and trekkers waiting for hours outside the airport on Sunday (August 4) morning. Picture by: Vishnu Benne.

With trekkers safely evacuated, it was time for our staff and gear to move out of Kashmir

We had nearly 42 staff members stationed in Kashmir during this season.

They would leave by road to Jammu. From Jammu, a few would head to Manali via Chandigarh, the rest of them would move to Dehradun.

Our Kasmir team shaken and tired from packing up tonnes of equipment, packed into one lorry. Picture by: Dushyant.

Given the clamp down in Kashmir, it was near impossible to get transport to Jammu that afternoon. Our Operations Manager, resourceful as always, managed to get a truck, in which all our staff members along with equipment could leave.

It was painful for us to see our staff members packed like sardines in the back of a truck, along with all the equipment. They had faced a nightmare over the past 48 hours, and still wouldn’t get the rest they need. Relentlessly, the team worked together, had the truck loaded in an hour and left Srinagar at 10.00 pm. The team, despite the ordeal, were in good spirits for a smiling photograph.

All smiles despite the tiredness!

“Our tyre got punctured the next morning. We didn’t know that Section 144 had been imposed in Kashmir by then. Our phones were not working. The streets were deserted. Somehow, Dushyant managed to get the vehicle fixed and we began our journey again,” reported Ravi.

It took 40 hours– a back-breaking journey in the back of a truck.

But the ordeal was finally over!

“We loaded all the equipment and left Srinagar at 10 pm on Sunday. Reached Jammu on Monday by 2pm. Loaded everything in another truck and one team left in that truck for Dehradun around 7pm. 6 of us left for Chandigarh with some equipment and our own bags. Arrived at Chandigarh at 5 in the morning and right away took another bus to Manali. We reached Manali by 4 pm on Monday. With this, I think our whole team is safely out of J&K right now. Over and out!” reported Trek Leader Krunal.

So that’s the story of how we evacuated 162 team members from Kashmir

It started on Friday evening with an advisory.

Within just 48 hours, all hell broke loose, caused chaos, instilled fear and resulted in an abrupt end for the Kashmir season.

Trekkers are still in the process of replanning their travel and rescheduling their flights. We are glad that most of them are keeping up their spirit of trekking. They are headed to different trekking trails.

On another note, our Trek Coordinators have only good things to say about our Kashmir trekkers — “They have been extremely cooperative under these dire circumstances. It’s not easy to keep calm and think straight in such situations and all our trekkers have done that,” says Suhas.

Our office team is still on its toes, helping out every trekker personally, helping them make decisions, accommodating them in any way possible.

The only light at the end of this tunnel is that there was no terror threat. We are hopeful that J&K will be safer for tourists when we go back there next year.

But for the rest of the year, we’ll dearly miss the mountains of Kashmir — the lakes, the meadows, the flowers, the little sheep. Ghulam chacha, Aziz miya, and all other people of Kashmir. Our thoughts are with them.

Aziz Miya in the middle with Trek Leader Himanshu Singla
Our team with Ghulam chacha, at Aru.

The toughest part of it all

Some of our Trek Leaders have been reflecting on the toughest part of the 48 hours.

“To see Ghulam chacha and family cry was the toughest part for me,” shares Meghna, who spent the month of July on the Tarsar Marsar slope.

“Leaving Kashmir so soon was painful,” says Krunal Patel.

“Nothing was easy in the given circumstances. Keeping all the emotions aside, arranging accommodation for the trekkers, their exit plan discussion, arranging truck for the exit, assembling, organizing equipment from one vehicle to another. Punctilious job by Bhandari ji, Dushyant Bhai, Ravi and everyone else involved,” says Devang Thapliyal.

“48 hours of continuous struggle, so many situations to handle, this team held each other’s hands and kept moving on. Wrapping up slopes overnight, communication to teams who were on the trek, taking care of each other, loading unloading in seconds with full power, handling each and every difficult situation with calmness and smiles, LP truck nights with so much fun, Dushyant paaji, Ravi and Bhandari’s speech after every task completed, holding ground sheet together when it started raining and so many stories to tell. Proud to be a part of the team,” says Himanshu Singla.

All equipment from our Kashmir basecamps waiting to be loaded into trucks, outside Sheikh Tours and Travels, Srinagar. Picture by: Dushyant.

A final note from Dushyant, the head of the Trek Leaders’ Team

“Today all the team members from Kashmir valley reached their respective places safely.

And, while I was sitting in the bus, I was thinking about what had happened in the past 3 days in the valley, what we did and what is it that we are even working for?

I am writing a small note for all the team members for the same.

All of us love trekking in the Himalayas and at Indiahikes we are trying to define the future of trekking. This is something that we are constantly doing.

Now, what defines Indiahikes are the values and the culture that we have.

In this crisis situation, what happened recently in Kashmir, I experienced what we stand for and nobody would deny, we all stood together as one.

Planning was done, changes were made, messages were passed, coordination was done, timely decisions were taken and all of it, all of it was done together as one.

And this wouldn’t have been possible without strong support from the team members sitting in Bangalore office. Sharing updates with trekkers, answering questions and addressing concerns non-stop, replying to worried family and friends must have been a task which is still going on.

This journey wasn’t easy for any team member but all of us sailed through this situation safely within safe time period. This is something we stand for and we will continue to do the same in future as well.

A big shout out for each team member (TC, TL, Content, GT and ops team, Manish ji, Arjun and Sandhya) in playing a crucial role in ensuring the exit of trekkers safely and handling endless requests from trekkers and preparing them for the next steps. Great efforts everyone!!”

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy is the Chief Editor at Indiahikes. She also runs a video series, Trek With Swathi. Before joining Indiahikes, she worked as a reporter and sub-editor at Deccan Chronicle. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications such as Deccan Herald. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates that mind like nothing else can.Read Swathi's other articles. Watch Swathi's video series here.

99 thoughts on “The Story Of How We Evacuated 162 Team Members From Kashmir

  1. Kudos to the team for this planning and moving everyone safely to Sri Nagar. More power to the team and trekkers !!I I recently did KGL and was repeating the trek for mere Love and warmth of the place!
    Keeping Kashmir in my Prayers. Insha-allah would visit again soon.

  2. Such a beautiful valley and the way it is being treated right now is downright saddening. Anyway, you guys did a great job with utmost professionalism and responsibility. Huge respect and heart-warming ‘thank you’ from my end.

    1. Agree with Ayush its sad how the people of Kashmir are being treated now, kudos to IH on how kept calm in such adverse conditions and ensured the safety and well-being of the trekkers!
      Hope that your treks bring in peace and healing to the valley in future!

  3. Thanks Swathi for the article for there were many questions running in my mind, more so on how you all mange to be so efficient. It is very relieving to see that all trekkers and members of IndiaHikes are safe. I had signed up for the Tarsar Marsar Trek later this month. It was heartbreaking to see the trek cancelled, but hats off to your team for arranging another trek and providing confirmation within 24 hours, given that the situation, as described above, was in such uncertainty and anxiety. In fact it will be an understatement to say ‘hats off,’ for you have been taking care of not just the trekkers in the valley but also those who would be in the valley in the coming days to do their treks, like me. It truly shows how well you all stand together and you stand tall. Congratulations to you all. I look forward to my trek in Hampta Pass. I sincerely hope and pray peace returns to the valley soon. (And I will be able to do the Tarsar Marsar Trek too) 🙂

  4. I have not yet been an IH client. Just read the blogs. After reading this piece, I have prmoised myself that I will book a trek for me and family with IH. Loverly writing. Well done to your team and hope things nomalise in J&K soon.

  5. AMAZING!!!!…I was just reading and it is like everything is happening just in front of my eyes! thrilled, excited, sad & happy! all emotions in it!
    Great work and example set by Team IH…kudos to all

  6. Great management team…. Now me and everyone is assured if you are trekking with Indiahikes, you are in safe hands and rest assured as you are with a great team.

  7. Great work appreciate efforts of you all. you know reading this article bring tears to my eyes, we have heaven in our own county still cant visit freely. Government has taken great step its one INDIA one nation hope this all sorted out and people of Kashmir be safe and sound. Ask jihadis do Gulfam chacha or aziz wants Kashmir to be divided?? Do they wish to be with pakistan..
    Great effort.. stay in high spirits team. Let peace be there i will love to travel to our beautiful KASHMIR with you all.

  8. Hi Swathi,
    Great work by team IH. A big salute to you and your team for the way you folks handled the situation, both from office and on ground zero. Keep up the good work. The need for immediate evacuation in India still needs to start up and go a long way for the safety of trekkers/mountaineers and the trek teams. Hope IH will make efforts for taking up this matter with the government and bring about a change.

    Regards,
    Santosh.

  9. OMG! what an effort India Hikes. Simply unbelievable. The circumstances that were imposed because of this valley shutdown were unprecedented. To evacuate such a large number of Trekkers and Staff in less than 48hrs and all to safety was no mean feat. Kudos to IH team. They had the courage to do this despite insurmountably odds. The happy faces of IH team members despite all odds tells a lot about what stuff they are made of. Hats off Guys and Girls!!

  10. I consider myself lucky to have trekked Tarsar Marsar just before this issue started. We completed our trek on 02-Aug-19 and by the time we reached Srinagar and were settling in out hotels we got the news from our trek mates with whom we had planned to spend the evening once we took bath and had some rest. Evening plans had to be cancelled as well.
    Hats off to Ravi and team who pulled this incredible feat. I just hope Gauhar bhai and family are safe. I spent a lot of time walking and talking in with him. He is full of life and energy and her daughter Kaira is cute.
    I had a wonderful time with everyone out there when I was on trek.

  11. This article gave me goosebumps. Cannot even imagine what each one of you would have gone through in that horrid time period. But congratulations! And thank you for doing what you guys did for every person out there. The trust on you from people like us will only increase from here.
    P.S. – you all deserve a rest, mentally at least.

  12. Hi,

    Kudos to the team. This article has as its, single minded focus, the hopes people had of completing trek and the ensuing disappointment of the trekkers at it’s cancelation. I would say that something far more important than the beauty of these treks and the eagerness of the trekkers is at stake here – this is the boldest move India has made in decades on resolving the Kashmir crisis. Evacuating all Indians to safety was a huge priority for the GoI and perhaps the local admin came down roughly on you all for this. The article to me, is suggestive of a faint criticism of this. No doubt IndiaHikes wants to be apolitical but I wish IndiaHikes does recognise that the ground realities of Kashmir is far far more significant than all the trek opportunities and natural beauty out there!

  13. I quote :
    ” “There were two Sub Inspectors and two hawaldars. They barged into the hotel where our trekkers were staying and began harassing us.”

    “Khali karo! Samajh mein nahi aa raha hai kya? Dande chalaoon kya!”
    End of quote.
    This reminded me of a scene from Titanic : Ship is sinking, captain orders evacuation of the ship…… but them someone ask for ” their sheets in the bed to be changed and hot coffee served” !!!
    An emergency is emergency, there is no time for questions or objections there !!!
    At the end of the story well done IH for obeying Home Ministers orders.

    1. Thanks for your comment Prashanth…i was so glad to see your comment..i was kind of alarmed the way the security forces are shown in a slightly bad light in this aricle for asking them to leave immediately..remember they have the task of taking care of the whole valley..not just 162 members…they were just doing their duty.Im sure now you know why they were asking people to evacuate.im glad that atleast one comment is trying to show the other side..
      Again people from across world will see this article and comments section and start blaming the authorities for high handedness.They will only remember the part abhi niklo abhi niklo instead of understanding the whole picture…i have trekked both kgl and Tm ..i too have locals as friends ther with whom i am still in touch with…i hope things will get smoother from now on…cheers ..peace

  14. This article literally gave me goosebumps. Kudos to the entire IH team for what they did and achieved here. Cannot even imagine the emotions that must have been going through you all during the crises. But congratulations! You guys deserve a rest now, mentally atleast.

  15. Great teamwork….
    I have been a regular trekker with IH and must have done 7-8 treks.
    To handle these uncertainties it really needs a great composure and tireless efforts
    During the Srinagar floods of 2014, my wife was in the KGL trek and got stranded in 2nd floor of hotel for 3 days and 3 days in langar /relief camp for 2 days. That time I had felt the support from IH was not to the expected level. It would have been nice a similar story was posted. However this time this article really elaborated the situation and handling the same. Good to see IH team gearing up since such situations and calamities can be expected while trekking

  16. Kudos to each one if you! Can’t even imagine what all of you must have gone through. I cried when I read that Gulam chacha & his family was crying. Evacuating 162 people is not a joke & you did very well. We are so proud of you IH.
    This is out of our trekking subject I know.. But it pains me when I realize how undemocratically this whole thing has been done! My thoughts are with the gentle Kashmiris! Well…What can we do? I really don’t know.
    With regards

  17. Hi Swathi,
    Congratulations for a whole Indiahikes team for so effective and successful action!
    Thanks God, we have left from Srinagar do Delhi on Thursday, 1st of August after wonderful eight days of Kashmir Great Lakes trekking !

  18. Kudos to the team who brought everyone out of the situation by thinking straight; and thanks Swathi for giving an insight on how things have been progressing in Kashmir in the past few days.

    Kashmir and Kashmiris will come out of this for a better future

  19. Very engrossing but very saddening also. This article shows the competence of all the people working in IH. Policemen harassing common people is staple for us. Let us all hope that we could restart trekking in Kashmir once again and the region is peaceful with dignity and faith of Kashmiri awaam restored. Insha Allah…..

  20. Thanks Swathi for the article. IH teams did a commendable task of evacuating all trek members safely. Indeed it would have been emotionally draining experience as I know how difficult it is to leave after trekking even in usual situation.

  21. Great team effort by all the staff in getting themselves n trekkers out safely.
    Kudos to all .. Keep the spirits soaring high as usual…

  22. Marvelous job done by the team of indiahikes.These are the moments which defines the best organization in india..The way they handled that situation was commendable.
    As we all know creating any situation is not in our control but to react to that situation is 110% in our control.
    Good job..and also the trekkers have also done a fabulous job by cooperating..
    Going through this time make indiahikes even more stronger for the coming challenges…
    Even though I have not done any trek with them as I use to do by my own but by reading this story I definitely see my future treks with indiahikes..

  23. Hey Swathi, Thanks for writing and giving us an update. When i read the news a few days back, i was actually worried and was wondering what the trekkers who were currently in kashmir be doing. I was worried even though i was in a secure environment in my office in mumbai because i was on the KGL trek a couple of years back with IH. That was the best trek experience i have ever had.
    I was feeling bad for the trekkers who were on the batches to follow but was curious and concerned about the ones who were currently there in kashmir.
    I must say that what you guys have done is extra ordinary and it must have taken a great effort on your entire team to execute this evacuation which i am sure you guys would have done with a very heavy heart. I know this because i have seen the passion that your team carries
    Kudos to your entire team.
    This is another example of the values that you guys have at IH ie, Quality, safety and offering unmatchable Top-Notch service for a memorable and unforgettable experience.

  24. Thank you for the inside story Swati and hats off to team IH for all that you do. It saddens me that I have not yet traveled Kashmir and now have to put off my plans to trek in Kashmir for a while.. hope peace returns soon.

  25. Congratulations to whole team of Indiahikes. It was really a fantastic job. The most important part of this unplanned exit is the calmness with which you all handle the situation and lastly the safety of all the members. Well done boys & girls

  26. Commendable effort from the team under such duress.Can imagine the palpable stress until everyone was safe.Kudos to the entire team. Kashmir will wait for us until safer times.

  27. Kudos to IH Team!!!! You guys are absolutely amazing. I read the entire article, you all worked so hard to handle this difficult situation by ensuring safety all the trekkers and support staff. Stunning, no other words. I was in KGL -14th July batch and left Srinagar on 23rd July 2019, just can’t imagine something changed dramatically within a weeks time. Great efforts team, this shows you are actually standing by to IH vision “trying to define the future of trekking in India”.

  28. Job well-done. Great example of team work and coordination between Bangalore and Kashmir teams. And as always very informative and moving documentation.

  29. I was a part of 162 members evacuated from Kashmir.
    All the locals from Aru Gulam Chacha, Faiyaz bhai, Shakeel bhai and Aziz chacha helped us.
    They look after us like their own family.
    We are really feeling safe in Aru with this people than Police.
    While leaving the Aru everyone has tears in eyes.
    I can proudly say that there is love and peace in Kashmir what will be the situation.
    Love to each and every person living in Kashmir from all of us.

  30. Kudos to IH team for achieving this gigantic task, well coordinated in spite of the odds. I somehow can’t get over the faces of the local people who worked with the IH. Some of them are etched in my mind from our KGL trek of July 2012. How Chacha took it upon himself to make us cross Gadsar pass. The lead mule slipped and the load fell. Chacha took over and carried it on his back and led the other mules across as though nothing had transpired.

  31. Thank you for sharing this story. Hats off to you all at Indiahikes for managing this crisis so well. Even the trek cancellations came promptly giving sufficient time to plan alternate treks. All your actions reflect deep empathy for people. I wish more companies imbibe this culture.

  32. A painful story, and heart breaking for those who had to face ordeal right there. The team IH in the field and at the HQ did a magnificent job in planning and executing the evacuation plan.
    I had booked for KGL trek starting September 2, and had to cancel it for very personal reasons. Still feeling bad about it, but abandoning in between is heart breaking. I have always enjoyed visiting Kashmir, and will do it soon enough.

  33. Kudos to Indiahikes team and a big thanks for the team at Aru Base Camp!

    I was at the Tarsar Marsar trek and you guys took complete responsibility and stayed along with us during those horrifying hours. Thank you for ensuring that each one of us could make it home safely.
    Met incredible people along the way and had a great experience.

  34. this is reason why i choose IndiaHikes for any trek and i recommend the same to others also.
    Great Job IndiaHikes Team.

  35. Well done team INDIA HIKES. Your tour leaders have gone extra miles to face the unprecedented situation. The courage and coordination is fantastic. Keep it up for years to come.

  36. I was part of Tarsar Marsar Aug 01 trek too and can be seen sleeping in Orange colored T-shirt in the picture taken outside the Srinagar airport. Indeed those 48 hours were very tiresome. Almost sleepless nights. Had to wake up at 2.30 AM on Aug 4 and 5 and cover 2 days trek in a single day in a few hours.
    Hats off to Indiahikes team for matching the time accurately. We were able to book tickets on the previous day and return on 5th August. Had we not planned our journey on 4th, we would be stuck in Srinagar still as this place was completely disconnected from the rest of India and outside India from 5th early morning. Thanks a lot to locals, Firozji and management stuff. Indeed it was a journey to experience. I have tried to put my experience in this article – https://krazyliving.com/an-incomplete-visit-to-the-paradise-on-earth-kashmir

  37. Thank you Swathi for sharing this whole story to us.. News only gives headlines whereas your article provide a insider view of the actual scenario.

  38. Hats off to the spirited efforts. Lot of networking and continued connections has made this possible. Arjun and team are to be appreciated for the amazing quick actions which reiterates the fact that It’s always safe to trek with IH.
    The whole support group are to be congratulated and appreciated to have made it safely back to bases and to the trucks.
    We pray for Almighty to grant the days back to trek and enjoy the beauty of Kashmir as soon as possible. Let there be peace again..

    Om Shanti

  39. I was part of Tarsar Marsar Aug 01 trek too and can be seen sleeping in Orange colored T-shirt in the picture taken outside the Srinagar airport. Indeed those 48 hours were very tiresome. Almost sleepless nights. Had to wake up at 2.30 AM on Aug 4 and 5 and cover 2 days trek in a single day in a few hours.
    Hats off to Indiahikes team for matching the time accurately. We were able to book tickets on the previous day and return on 5th August. Had we not planned our journey on 4th, we would be stuck in Srinagar still as this place was completely disconnected from the rest of India and outside India from 5th early morning. Thanks a lot to locals, Firozji and management stuff. Indeed it was a journey to experience.

  40. An adventure of a different kind . A reality n wake up call to be ready for the unexpected . Great effort in getting everyone home safely . There is always another time for making the trek hopefully

  41. Wow… that’s an extraordinary job done. The way the situation was meticulously handled and the diligence with which the evacuation was carried out… Kudos to IndiaHikes team!! Not only you guys are best at the job but also a lesson in management skills.

  42. I got goosebumps reading this as I witnessed it all. Ever grateful to team Indiahikes ( Singla and Dushyant) and Ferozji. I admire their indefatigable spirit to safely evacuate us without causing an iota of panic. KASHMIR GREAT LAKES, we will come soon and complete our trek. (Trekker from 01 Aug KGL Trek)

  43. Its really painful to hear about the situation. Salutes to the whole team who worked efficiently in all aspects. I booked for KGL in august end. Got cancelled. Really missing lot. My love and respect to the whole team and kashmiris for making many hearts happy so long. Wishing and praying for a peaceful world and hope to do KGL soon with u India hikes..

  44. Amazing ! Congratulations.IH management should feel proud about this moment exclusively about the team members that they own it.
    The effective crisis management won’t be possible with the right team and their right attitude. Please own these people forever in IH team.
    This situation is really inspiring and provide assurance for any trekkers to join for the trekking with IH team. I am awaiting for a trek with IH team. See U soon.

  45. Really appreciate the efforts of the team. We were at vishnusar lake campsite when gaurab arrived to share the updates. On hearing the news of the trek being cancelled early in the afternoon just post reaching the campsite, we all were heartbroken but staying in present, all of us trekked to vishnusar lake to enjoy the one and only lake we would be able to see and stayed there for quite a while. Left early morning next day and hats off to the entire team and IH staff for ensuring everyone reaches down in time by continuously motivating and making all the arrangements for making us reach Srinagar for further travel. Post reaching Srinagar, firozji took charge and booked hotels for all and then at night coming to hotel and informing about the curfew situation to leave for airport asap. Overall exceptional work by the IH team.

  46. I am really glad you shared this story with all of us, this was an insight into things that generally go unnoticed by us, who live in urban areas and can only pass judgement on what is wrong and right and criticize. What all of you must have gone through is way beyond our imaginations, you’ve gained all of our respect and i really pray and hope that none of you, including the trekkers have to go through something so devious ever again. Kudos to the headstrong Indiahikes Team!!

  47. A great crisis situation handled very promptly & successfully by Indiahikes team. All Trek Leaders of Indiahikes & the local support staff has demonstrated great Disaster Managing Skill. With people like Devang Thapliyal as Trek Leaders , I am confident that Indiahikes can overcome any tough situation with all patience & perseverance in future also.
    Great job accomplished Indiahikes.
    Omprakash Jain

  48. Amazed at the level of responsibility that IH team took here. The camp site looks like a heaven, what would be the emotions like to return from there, without trek completion. Kudos to trekkers’ spirits and going by the need of hour. This would not have been possible without all your local team and thier connections.

    Now I look forward to my upcoming trek more than ever. I know it is in safest hands.

  49. Great team work!
    Thanks for bringing this story to us so we feel an inch closer to what the people of Kashmir are really going through.

    Kudos IH Team!

  50. Length or vocabulary of this comment cannot even appreciate your beautiful souls more . As said in the story, your culture is what making trn Indiahikes unique. The struggle you went through to safeguard all the trekkers is more than kindness,bravery. Standing by your culture and principles made you more trustworthy. Each and every trek leader or any of your staff member had just defined these ; Inspiration, commitment, Love.
    Can’t thank enough. Inspired !

  51. Firstly, Hats off to the IH Team.

    Secondly, “EXCELLENT DISASTER MANAGEMENT SKILLS”.

    Thirdly, Kudos to IH Team for working together as one family and over coming the crisis situation.

  52. An inspiring journey and the insight into the whole story unfolding gave the reader a better understanding of the situation. I’ve been looking to join IH for an adventure for some time and now feel very much connected through your story. Hope the season comes back soon and we see this awesome place again. All the best to your team and local connections.
    PEACE!

  53. Indiahikes deserves credit for running hikes in beautiful Kashmir, despite the political issues there. I have visited Kargil and skied around Gulmarg, but I cancelled another trip to Gulmarg because of an upsurge of violence. For the sake of Kashmir, tourism is important, and for all of our sake, it is important to work together on positive things. Indiahikes does that, and I want to thank them.
    Oh, I live in remote Utah, in the weirdly violent USA.

  54. Wow IH team. Kudos to your team to have pulled out of this situation safely. My respect to all the staff and trekkers!

  55. First of all , Kudos to IH and trekkers in Kashmir for the not reacting but responding rightly in the said emergency situation. This can be a learning for preparing an Emergency Management Plan for all IH treks of we don’t have. And I got one more reason to rely upon IH for all my treks in future as well because it is not only trek fee that you look before deciding on trek agency but values and culture it holds. Congratulations IH, after reading this article , I can say that IH is not mere a profit making entity buy also a moral and value oriented organization.

  56. Reading this article brought me into near tears. The team efforts and the attitude that you have exhibited is examplary and beyond words.

    Even in emergency situations you have taken actions to shift the trash for recycling? This itself speaks volumes about what an great team you are and how your vision is imbibed by everyone.

    My salutes to everyone who have led this evacuation.

  57. Not true that there haven’t been any problems with the Kashmiri Treks earlier. I was in one of the batches of the Tarsar Marsar trek in 2018. Aru was shut down, and so was Srinagar due to a political unrest. We had to halt at Aru for a day, and then another day at Pahalgam before situation calmed down. Missed our flight, and had a very scary ride back to Jammu with roads riddled with pelted stones. Hopefully things will return back to normal soon!

  58. It was an Herculean effort your team has done. I know you are a very closely knit team and you can pull off easily. Since my last trek at dyara i made another few fans of yours. They were my friends Anil and Kanwarpal . They appreciated your efforts so much to which my feeling was that i have seen much more then this.

  59. this is india hikes.. proud of you all.. its been a privilege trekking with you , and being a small part of the values that you so impart and follow. awsm family culture is what helps you tackle any situation.
    keep it up

  60. I was part of the trekking team that successfully completed TARSAR MARSAR trek between 18th and 24th July’19. Feel extremely lucky for this. Situations everywhere, throughout, had been very peaceful and welcoming! India Hikes are highly professional in all aspects of their commitment to assigned tasks from the smallest to the biggest. They are excellent in their communication which is done in a timely manner with 100% clarity. This is evident with above communication from Swathi. Kudos. I have interacted with a few of above team members, Meghana (she was our trek leader) , Firoz, Ravi and others.
    They are all simply superb, supportive ,highly professional and 100% duty bound. The way the team has responded to the surprice calls by the Govt, and achieved safety of all the 162 trekkers and their staffs too is richly laudable. Special compliments and appreciations to the entire India Hikes Team for this. I personally recommend everyone to accept such challenges and overcome them with alternatives on hand. Govt’s intention was not to loose a single life in the Great Kashmir valley at this critical juncture – whether in cities / villages or in the fields or treks. This is achieved with great understanding and support by India Hikes and its trekkers in the interest of our Motherland. Wish the situation comes back to absolute normalcy in a period quite shorter than expected by all of us. Compliments and regards to one and all once again on this achievement.

  61. Extra ordinary and unique efforts made by IH Field team and Management team. Salute to trekkers did hard work with patience in troublesome situation. Since the matter was not in our control. Do not worry we hope with good control over Kashmir by GOI we have new tracks also in future.

  62. Thanks for sharing a picture of “the other side of the coin,” a fresh perspective, given all that we’ve been hearing about scrapping of article 370 and conversion of J&K into two new union territories… Well done IH on this historic event! Wishing all the hard ship we faced are for a better future for all.

  63. Great job done by amazing team of IH. I am sure with such last minute national security concerns when no one is even prepared, it must be a herculean task to ensure everyone’s safe return. Congratulations to entire team of IH, special wishes to people on ground there who worked diligently to fulfill their duty. Best wishes!!

  64. That’s what Indiahikes stands for. its no more a simple trekking institution but a big Family.

    Great job done..

  65. Hats of the IH team. Sad as the situation for treks in Kashmir is, my respect for the IH team has moved notches higher. Hope things get normal/better soon

  66. Wow! Hats off to the team out in Kashmir to have relentlessly worked and smoothed things out in this grim situation. This story only ups my admiration for the professional and committed team that Indiahikes is, one can trust them completely!!

    I had signed up for the Tarsar Marsar trek in September and when it got cancelled, was heartbroken. Nevertheless, I have this strong belief that it is only a matter of time before Indiahikes makes it happen!

    Kudos to all of you from Indiahikes and the trekkers too who had to return!!

  67. Truly mega effort by the IH team in totally extra ordinary circumstances. And knowing you few of the trek leaders named in the article makes me feel, that much more connected to the events. Good that all ended without any major incident!

  68. Indeed great job by India hikes team in getting all the trekkers and their staff back safely. This just confirms the fact that India hikes is the best and safest organization to go for a trek in India …

    That being said, I hope all understand that events of last week are historic and momentous. In no way can inconvenience to 2 dozen trekkers going for adventure trek to relax and enjoy can be compared to the tasks the Govt of India is doing. The government is working for a better life of 1.25 crore people in J&K and Ladakh. And this is an event emotionally very close to the hearts of 100’s of millions of Indians like me.

    In these momentous times, to comply with instructions and orders of government officials, police, security forces is actually the very minimum that can be expected of any Indian.

  69. I was from the team of trekkers from Tarsar Marsar who had just arrived in the Aru camp after trekking 27 kms all the way from Sundersar, only to know that we had to move to Pahalgam that night. None of us were inconvenienced because of the flawless handling and execution by the IH staff and team. Their cool composure in handling the situation only meant that the couple of trekkers who were beginning to panic, were quickly pacified. Dinner was served as planned – nothing, not even the dessert served during dinner was compromised. Regardless of the tension / worry that was brewing between the IH staff, it wasn’t made visible to any of us. Firozji from Sheikh travels ensured that he personally drove us from our Srinagar hotel to the airport on the day of the curfew. Such professionalism on everyone’s part during those uncertain hours showed the values that IH stood for. We all have been mighty impressed and extremely thankful to IH for the way they responded to the situation! Thanks!

  70. I was from the team of trekkers from Tarsar Marsar who had just arrived in the Aru camp after trekking 27 kms all the way from Sundersar, only to know that we had to move to Pahalgam that night. None of us were inconvenienced because of the flawless handling and execution by the IH staff and team. Their cool composure in handling the situation only meant that the couple of trekkers who were beginning to panic, were quickly pacified. Dinner was served as planned – nothing, not even the dessert served during dinner was compromised. Regardless of the tension / worry that was brewing between the IH staff, it wasn’t made visible to any of us. Firozji from Sheikh travels ensured that he personally drove us from our Srinagar hotel to the airport on the day of the curfew. Such professionalism on everyone’s part during those uncertain hours show the

  71. Difficult to sum up your efforts in words. Truly amazing. I’m thrilled. The precision and accuracy employed by you people comes with years of dedication and honesty. Really would like to be a part of any of your treks next season.

  72. Nicely handled critical situation done by good team work. We appreciate India hike all team who’s more pain for trekkers & field team we salute India hike

  73. Kudos to entire Indiahikes Team! Situations such as these makes us more strong and help us grow as a better human being. My sympathies for all the trekkers who got disappointed. I’m sure with the same enthusiasm you would once again look forward to plan your trek in Kashmir valleys once everything gets settled over there.

  74. Superb job done IH, but we must all keep in mind that the govt. is dealing with the situation in JnK effectively. It is not trying to inconvenience tourists but get them out on time. So the high handedness of the police is understandable. Nevertheless I would love to trek with IH again.

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