by Syed Aamir Sharief
Huen Heng was made famous by a tragedy when on February 7, 1966, a Fokker F 27 IA aircraft fell over the mountain and had no survivors.
In the lap of Pir Panchal, right in front of the famous Huen Heng peak, there are many virgin and captivating meadows. Two of these fascinating meadows are worth mentioning- Panchan Pather and Nuss Pather. These two meadowlands lie next to each other. Almost 25 km away from Kulgam town, the road to Panchan Pather passes through the small towns of Damhal and D K Marg to end up at Humpathri. Just a kilometre away a narrow unpaved road with gradual ascends leads to the magnificent meadow of Panchan Pather.
The two lesser-known picnic spots are abundant in natural resources. They contain all things that add life to the meadows. The splendour display of verdant meadows is a treat for sore eyes. The impressive appearance of the beautiful landscape touches one’s heart.
An oval-shaped meadow, Panchan Pather (2400 meters above sea level) is surrounded by small and big mountains on all sides with thin vegetation cover. A few brooks loop around the grassland. During summer, the grassy paddock is full of domestic animals. At the entrance of the meadow on the left side, there is a sacred place attributed to Sheikh Nuruddin, Kashmir’s standard-bearer saint, who was born in a Kulgam village. It is said that he has worshipped on this piece of land for some time.
The meadow is a local picnic spot and has the potential to attract more tourists in the coming years. There is also a naturally done cricket pitch on one side of the meadow. Youngsters come from far-off places to play cricket there during their daytime excursions. The meadow is frequented by teenagers of Mahu valley who come to this meadow by crossing huge mountains surrounding it.
Mahu and Mangat are twin belts on the other side of Kulgam, which is part of upper Banihal. It also has impressive meadows but some of them get into Kulgam valley for excursions.
Recently a festival was held at Panchan Pather by district administration Kulgam and Forest Department in collaboration with Tourism, Ahrabal Development Authority and Youth Services and Sports departments. The place was officially thrown open to tourists.
Located on the southeast of Panchan Pather, barely a thirty-minute short hike on a hilly trail leading to triangular-shaped pastureland called Nuss Pather (2600m). This is a sloppy meadow surrounded by dense forest cover. The imposing montane view of the Huen Heng peak is visible from the gate.
On one side of it flows a beautiful rivulet formed by the joining of many glacial water streams.
There is another way to reach this tourist destination. It starts from Kutmarg (Badijahlan) if one follows the DK Marg – Chimmer route. Adjacent to Nuss Pather across the ridge lies the wonderful picnic spot of Mohu valley named Rattan. One can reach there by passing through a gap at the crest of a highland.
Mount Huen Heng
The mountaineer’s greatest joy is in climbing mountains. As far as the Pir Panjal range is concerned, there are numerous small and big mountain peaks on it. Apart from skilled hikers, common people can also conquer such peaks. Some of the mountain peaks in Kulgam are considered very basic but important for mountaineering. These include Bramshakri (4500m), Huen Heng (4200m) and Sondir Top (3700m) and many others. Bramshakri is the highest mountain peak of district Kulgam.
Literally meaning, ‘dog’s horn’, Huen Heng is part of Kashmir folklore. Everybody in Kashmir has heard its name but quite a few know where it is located.
This peak was made famous by a tragedy when on February 7, 1966, a Fokker F 27 IA aircraft flying over the Pir Panjal mountains carrying 37 passengers including crew members met with an accident due to less visibility and bad weather conditions. The plane lost control and collided with the mighty Huen Heng peak. There were no survivors. The flight included a number of officers of the Jammu and Kashmir government.
It was this accident that made Huen Heng very famous locally. Interestingly, however, it is neither the highest peak of district Kulgam nor the Pir Panjal. It is one of the prominent peaks of the Pir Panjal range with an average elevation of 4200 meters.
Close to it, there is another peak located at an altitude of 3900 meters and dwarfed by Huen Heng. Some people often get confused and call it Huen Heng. The fact is that the towering peak that comes second while climbing from the valley is the famous Huen Heng.
Many trekking routes from several places lead to Huen Heng. The hikers of the Jammu division climb this mountain either from Mohu valley or Gulab Garh. The mountain slope from the valley side is very steep. No one can trek on it from the front side, other than professional mountaineers. As far as the rock climbers of Kashmir are concerned, they climb this mountain on four different routes that run parallel to its sides such as Kutmarg, Nuss Pather, Panchan Pather and Dudkuchan, Sanyadi route.
Of these approaches, Dudkuchan/Sanyadi access is a bit easy for scaling the mountain. Sanyadi is only a few kilometres away from the main town of DK Marg to its right. The enthusiastic alpinist should follow the main glacial outflow that comes down from the mountains close to Huen Heng. After passing through the pastures of Rampai, Pajmal, Kalkim, Burzi Pathri, Chopan Pathri, one can reach a mountain pass called Gagad Gali. A little higher than the pass is situated a spectacular Huen Heng cliff.
The whole of Kashmir valley and some parts of the Jammu division are visible from the summit. It separates Jammu from Kashmir. On one side of this mountain falls Kashmir valley. On the other side, there are two pristine sub valleys – Mahu and Gulab Garh.
(Blogger, Syed Aamir Sharief has a master’s in history and MPhil from Punjabi University Patiala. Since 2017, he runs 15-member Glacial Trails, a trekking, hiking and mountaineering club. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)