With only five days left for the annual Amarnath Yatra to begin, the authorities were today apprehensive about timely opening of the traditional Pahalgam route owing to heavy snow accumulation but expressed confidence that the pilgrimage through the shorter Baltal route will start as per schedule.
"The Baltal-Holy Cave (16-km) track is largely clear. The final stretch of about a kilometre up to the shrine is still fully covered with snow, and, as in the past years, on this stretch the pilgrims would have to walk on the frozen path," Chief Executive Officer of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) R K Gupta said.
Gupta, who returned here late last night after an on-the-ground assessment tour of the two yatra routes -- Baltal-Holy Cave and Panjtarni-Sheshnag-Chandanwari-Pahalgam -- on June 21 and 22, was briefing a review meeting chaired by Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra here, an official spokesman said.
The CEO said though it would be possible to commence the yatra along the Baltal route in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir from the scheduled date on June 28, the traditional 45-km Chandanwari route to the 3,880-metre holy cave from Pahalgam in Anantnag district of south Kashmir still poses a challenge as a large stretch is still covered under snow.
"As regards to the Chandanwari route, the track between Sheshnag-Wavbal-Mahagunus Top?Poshpatri-Panjtarni is still heavily covered with snow. The snow level, particularly at Poshpatri-Mahagunus Top and Wavbal, is between six and eight feet," Gupta said.
He said the Pahalgam Development Authority staffers were working on this stretch on double shift basis to clear the snow. "In this stretch the yatris would have to walk on a snow track. It is not expected that the track would be free of snow before June 28," he said.
Governor Vohra, who is also the SASB chairman, would visit the holy cave, Panjtarni and Sheshnag camps on June 25 to take a call whether the yatra could, without any risk, commence on June 28 through the traditional route.
Vohra will also visit the base camps at Baltal and Nunwan to review all arrangements, the spokesman said.