Journey Tale of Both tracks (Pahalgam and Baltal)

Part 1: Preparations and General instructions for the Yatra
When I wrote my first travelogue titled “My 12th Amarnath Yatra report “on Ghumakkar and on my Blog, I received many e-mails having a lot off queries. Question and queries asked were of different nature and I replied all of them as per my knowledge. Although the first TR was written in short format and six day journey was concluded in just two posts, yet it got the warm response from the readers and people who are planning to visit. It has been already shared more than 425 times in a short span of just four months but it lacks in the terms of information. So, I decided to write one more travelogue on Amarnath Yatra with detailed information covering both tracks of Pahalgam and Baltal so that all question and queries can be clubbed and answered at one point. As the Yatra is starting this year on 28th June, I will try to finish this series before the commencement of Shri Amarnath Yatra-2013 so that it can help all the persons willing to perform Yatra (specially the first timers).

Before I start my actual TR, let me explain the structure of my TR:
•Center of this series will be the Yatra of 2010 during which we covered both tracks; Pahalgam track for ascend and Baltal track for descend.
•Some pictures shown in the series are of other than the year 2010 and have been used for reference.
•My trips are always remains on a budget. Hence, those who want to make this Yatra on a grand scale and splurge lot of money, this Report may not suit their requirements;
•In my report I will comment and record my observation purely on my personal experience, which may or may not match the experience of other pilgrims

Part1-1

Let us start with some Useful information for The Amarnath Yatra 2013:
The Amarnath Yatra 2013:
Dates (28th June to 21st Aug.) have been already announced for The Amarnath Yatra 2013 and duration has been extended to 55 Days. Yes, this is for first time in last 5 years, that Yatra Duration is set over 50 Days. Last time, it was only in 2008, the Duration of Yatra was 58 days. In 2012, Shri Amarnath ji Yatra was reduced to only 37 Days, for which the J&K State Government & Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board had faced a lot of heat from the various Social & Religious Organizations.

Important Changes for Amarnath Yatra 2013:
Apart from announcing the Amarnath Yatra Duration and Schedule, there are many other important decisions taken for the year 2013.

1)Medical Certificate is Compulsory: With Supreme Court coming hard on the Shrine Board and J&K Govt. for over 100 Deaths of yatris during the Amarnath Yatra 2012, it has now been decided that No Yatri will be registered without the Health Certificate.

A format of the Health Certificate is prepared by team of Doctors and To check the issuance of fake Medical Certificates, the Shrine Board had asked the States & UT’s to identify the Doctors, who would be authorized to issue the health Certificates

It is also decided that Medical Certificates issued only after 1st Feb, by authorized doctors will be considered valid.

2) Online Registration to be Dis-continued: Following reports, that a large number of pilgrims, managed to get fake E-Yatra permit cards, it is now decided by Shrine Board to discontinue the Online Registration facility in 2013. Now the only way for getting the registration done, is offline at the designated Yatra registration counters. This year, the registration Process has been started much earlier since 18th march 2013 as a convenience to yatris for completing the Yatra formalities (Like Getting the Required Health Certificate, Obtaining the Yatra Registration form, submitting the form etc). Remember the registration will be done on only First-Come-First-Serve basis. The Registration Process will run simultaneously for Both the Baltal and Pahalgam routes.

3) Colourful Yatra Permit Cards in 2013: In 2013, Shrine Board plans to bring a Colour Scheme for Yatra Permit Cards to facilitate Police Personnel Deployed at access gates in Domel and Chandanwari. Thus for 2013 Amarnath Yatra, the Yatra permit will be specified a different colour for each day of the week. Yatra Permit is the mandatory document for performing the Amarnath Yatra 2013. Without the Yatra permit the pilgrims will not be allowed to perform the Yatra.

4) Age Limit Specified: For the first time in the History of Amarnath Ji Yatra, Upper and Lower Age Limits have been specified for the Yatris. Those who are below 13 years and those above 75 years, are debarred from undertaking the Holy Pilgrimage. Moreover, pregnant women with over Six week of Pregnancy cannot perform the Yatra in 2013.

5) Medical Aid Centers:
To look after the health of Ailing pilgrims on the Yatra track, Boards plans to set up Medical Aid Centers (MAC’s) after every 2 KMs en-routes to shrine.

6) Rescue Teams En-Route: Mountain Rescue Teams will also be placed at identified places on the Route to help pilgrims climb the steep Mountains.
What you need to Obtain for Amarnath Yatra Registration?

Yatris intending to undertake Amarnath Yatra in 2013 must obtain the following Documents before proceeding for Yatra Registration

1) Yatra Registration Form: The Registration will be done through the Yatra Registration form. The Registration form can be downloaded from the Official Website of Shri Amarnath ji Shrine Board.

2) Health Certificate: For 2013 Yatra, Health Certificate from authorized Doctor is made compulsory by SASB. The Format for Health Certificate is available on the Official Website

3) Yatra Registration Counters: The Registration for Amarnath Yatra will be done only at the Designated Yatra Registration Counters. For 2013 Yatra, there are 422 Yatra Registration counters as against 276 in 2012. This year, the Registration will do by designated branches of J&K Bank, SBI, PNB, HDFC, Yes Bank.

How to Register for Amarnath Yatra 2013?

1) First Download the Amarnath Yatra Registration form and Compulsory Health Certificate, take the Print Outs and Duly Fill Both the forms.
2) To know the location of Authorized Doctor to issue the health Certificate, you can check this list.
3) To Know the Location of the Nearest Yatra Registration Counter, you can check this list.
4) If the authorized doctor/Medical Institution certifies you to be fit to undertake the Yatra, please go to the nearest Registration Bank Branch and submit: (i) the filled-in Application Form along with four passport sized photographs; (ii) the CHC issued by the authorized Doctor/ Medical Institution;
5) Registration Fee: Along with the form, you have to Pay Rs 30/- as Registration charges for the Yatra.
6) Once your form is accepted by the Concerned Form Registration Officer, and everything is in order (i.e. Your Registration form and Health Certificate), then you will be issued Yatra Permit for undertaking the Amarnath Yatra. (If Registration Quota for the day and route is still available)

Must Note:
1. Every Registration Counter has a fixed Quota to Register the Yatris for a particular Day and Route.
2. Without the Yatra Permit, you will not be allowed to cross the Check Point at the Base Camps of Baltal and Nunwan (Pahalgam).
3. Yatra Permits for this year’s Yatra would be different for each day of the week and route to facilitate police personnel deployed at the Access Control Gates at Baltal and Chandanwari in determining whether a Yatri possesses Yatra Permit valid for the relevant date and route.
4. Health Certificates, issued only after 1st March, 2013 will be considered valid.
5. Yatris intending to perform Amarnath Yatra by Helicopter, need not to do any Registration, But they will have to obtain the Health Certificate.

TIP: List of Registration Centers, Yatra Registration form, Compulsory health certificate form and List of authorized Doctors (state wise) can also be downloaded from http://www.amarnathyatra.org/
Helicopter booking:
ONE WAY FARE
BALTAL-PANJTARNI: RS. 1500/- PER PASSENGER
PAHALGAM-PANJTARNI: RS. 2400/- PER PASSENGER

If you intend to travel by helicopters to Panjtarni, you will not be required to register separately for the Yatra. However, you will have to submit the prescribed Compulsory Health Certificate at the time of boarding the helicopters before being allowed to proceed further for their Yatra.
Important Instructions: After the registration process is over; all the persons willing to perform Yatra (specially the beginners) should read all the instructions printed in Hindi and English on backside of Yatra Permit. Generally these instructions are printed in small fonts and everybody ignores them. I replicate all of them here for the convenience of readers.

DO’s:
•Prepare for the Yatra by achieving a high level of Physical Fitness. You are advised to start at at-least a month prior to the Yatra at least a 4-5km Morning/Evening walk. For improving the oxygen efficiency of your body, you should start doing deep breathing exercises and Yoga, particularly Pranayam.
•Your journey shall involve trekking across high mountains, facing strong cold winds. You must carry (i) adequate woolen clothing; (ii) a small umbrella (preferably one which is tied with an elastic band around your head and supported by a strap around the chin); (iii) windcheater; (iv) raincoat; (v) waterproof trekking shoes; (vi) torch(vii) walking stick; (viii) cap (preferably a monkey cap); (ix) gloves; (x) jacket; (xi) woolen socks; (xii) trousers (preferably a waterproof pair). These items are essential as the climate is highly unpredictable and changes abruptly from sunny weather to rain and snow. The temperature can sometimes abruptly fall to 5 degrees Celsius or lower.
•For Ladies: Saree is not a suitable dress for the Yatra. Salwar Kameez, pant-shirt or a track suit will be better. Ladies who are more than 6 week pregnant shall not be allowed to undertake the pilgrimage.
•Keeping in view the tough nature of the trek, children below 13 year in age and elderly persons above the age of 75 years shall not be permitted to undertake the pilgrimage.
•It would be better if the porter / horses / ponies carrying your luggage travel just in front or behind you, as you may suddenly need something from your baggage.
•During the Yatra from Pahalgam/Baltal onwards, you should keep spare clothes/ eatables in a suitable water proof bag to ensure against their getting wet.
•Carry a water bottle, dry fruits, roasted grams/channa, toffees/gur (jiggery), chocolates, etc for use during the journey.
•Carry some cold cream/Vaseline/sunscreen to protect your hands /face against sunburn etc.
•You should not trek alone. Always travel in a group and ensure that all those comprising the group, walking in front of you or in the rear, always remain in your sight, to ensure against your being separated from them.
•To enable prompt action being taken in case of any emergency, you should keep in your pocket a note containing the name/addresses/mobile telephone number of a member of your group with whom you are travelling. You must also carry your Yatra Permit and any other identity card.
•On your return journey, you must leave the Base Camp along with all members of your group. In case any member of your group is missing you must seek immediate assistance of the Police and also have an announcement made on the Public Address System at the Yatra Camp.
•You should provide all possible help to your fellow Yatris, travelling with you, and perform the pilgrimage with a pious mind.
•You must strictly follow the instructions issued by the Yatra administration, from time to time.
•Earth, water, air, fire and sky are integral parts of Lord Shiva. The Base camp and the entire Yatra routes are the abode of Shri Amarnathji. Throughout your pilgrimage you must respect the environment and do nothing to pollute it.
•All waste materials must be placed in the nearest dustbin. All organic wastes must be put in the dustbin which is green colored.
•Lavatories/ urinals, installed in the camps and other places en-route the Holy Cave, should be used.

DON’TS
•Don’t stop at places which are marked by warning notices.
•Don’t use slippers because there are steep rises and falls on the route to the Holy Cave. Only wear trekking shoes with laces.
•Don’t attempt any short cuts on the route as doing so would be dangerous.
•Do not do anything during your entire forward/return journey which could cause pollution or disturb the environment of the Yatra area. Use of plastics is strictly banned in the State and is punishable under law.

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