Srinagar: When 24-year-old Aneeqa Khalid started hiking around mountain peaks and large lakes, she had no idea it would ruffle many feathers.
“My trekking trip started after the 2014 floods and it was rare for women to go to the alpine lakes or other unusual places in the valley,” she recalls.
Leading treks or climbing mountains professionally is rarely preferred by women in Kashmir – not only because of societal and family pressures, but because it is physically and mentally demanding.
However, few women embraced it for the love of exploration and led others to find that joy in climbing the strange cliff.
Aneeqa, who is a member and one of the team leaders of the Alpine Adventures Women Wing group is a perfect example.
With her courage and determination, she managed to complete 30-35 treks with Alpine Adventurers and Jammu and Kashmir Mountaineering and Hiking Club (JKMAC).
His most important trek was Mahadev Peak, the highest mountain peak in Srinagar district with an elevation of 3,966 m (13,012 ft) during Ramadan in 2018. Crossing the mountain on an empty stomach was a test of endurance human and has become a major stimulant of self-confidence in it.
Also, last year in the fall, she led a trekking group to Dachigam National Park where she spotted a herd of Hanguls with a mother bear and her cub. The nature experience brought her closer to nature than ever before.
Aneeqa, who is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Sciences and Mental Health at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, believes the trekking expeditions have awakened her hidden love for the mountains and made her more connected to her homeland. “Outdoor activities for women should also be encouraged as a lot of oral history is associated with these places. In this way, a woman can become an important recorder and repository of oral histories. Tomorrow they can relate this documentation to posterity,” she said.
Following in her footsteps, Zarqa Sofi, an avid hiker, finds hiking with a group of like-minded female travelers to be a rewarding experience.
Usually, the main obstacle for women traveling alone is security. “However, the trekking opportunities offered by JKMAC and Alpine Adventures ensure that women explore and have a good time without thinking about their safety or other arrangements,” said Sofi, whose grueling job at the bank made her going out on weekends.
Sofi added that sharing a platform with women of all ages, types and beliefs helps you learn a lot, not just about where you’re visiting and who you’re with, but also about yourself.
“It’s an experience of a lifetime. I would recommend it to everyone,” she said.