The Kolahoi Glacier is known as ‘Gwash Brani’ meaning ‘Goddess of Light’ in western Himalaya as millions of Indian and Pakistani people depend on the water that it supplies to them perennially as Kolahoi is Kashmir’s only perennial source of water. Located at 34° 10 N, 75° 30" – just below the Kolahoi Mountain and up the Lidder Valley, Kolahoi Glacier is a hanging glacier and is five kilometres long. Due to global warming and local features associated with Mountain Hydrology, Kolahoi Glacier has hollowed out. In 2008, the mountaineers of Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering stated that the Kolahoi Glacier had receded by half since 1985 and is no longer safe to study as it is hollow to the extent of 200 feet.
An Automatic Weather Station was installed by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) which launched a Glacier Research Programme at an altitude of 13,000 feet in Kolahoi Glacier Monitoring Observatory. This station is equipped with high precision scientific glacier research equipment that tracks the quantity of the atmospheric changes that are causing the negative mass balance in the glacier. With the use of Differential Global Positioning System, and the water level recorder (installed at the Lidderwat Discharge Station) the TERI team tracks snow density of Kolahoi Glacier and to measure the flow of the melt water that flows through the valley of Lidder.
One giant measure was jointly taken by The Energy and Resources Institute and the Indian Mountaineering Foundation to study, preserve, and safeguard the Himalayan glaciers under the NAPCC (National Mission of Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem) which also launched the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem. This definitely takes a joint-effort of the glaciologists and the climatologists.
The sound of cracking which is resonating within the crevasse and is heard from either side of this glacier is evident of an imminent collapse. The absence of this glacier would threaten the survival of millions.
This is the same glacier that waters River Jhelum which in turn drains into the Dal Lake. It is because of this glacier that the Kashmir Valley is so fertile which cultivates export-quality rice, wheat, saffron, corn and apples. The Kolahoi Glacier is the source of River Lidder that runs through Pahalgam. The best way to view this glacier is from a distance.
Trekking up to the Kolahoi Glacier is a 4-day activity and a very interesting one at that. The trail meanders its way endlessly through lush green meadows, River Lidder, dense conifer forests, ice-cold gushing brooks, and finally ends just before the Kolahoi Glacier. It is mostly a medium strain trek.
1.Pahalgam > Aru Valley (12 kms – 8 hours – moderate trekking grade).
The pathways from Pahalgam to Aru are well paved and comfortable to trek on for hours. This road may be traversed on foot, in a jeep or on a pony. But the best experience of trekking is obviously on foot. This trail is along the River Lidder up to the wide and open expanses of Aru Valley Meadows. Aru offers excellent sites for camping which are good for overnight stay. Few mid-size hotels are also available here.
2.Aru Valley > Lidderwat Valley (12 kms – 8 hours – moderate trekking grade).
This stretch of the trail is an unstructured and irregular path which meanders through dense Conifer forests onto beautiful and scenic undulated meadows. A common visual here is that of local shepherds grazing their livestock at Lidderwat. This is a good place for overnight camping.
3.Lidderwat Valley > Kolahoi Glacier (7 kms – 4 hours – moderate trekking grade).
From Lidderwat, the trail crosses the Gujjar encampments and reaches the Satlanjan Valley Village 4 kms away. And from Satlanjan to Kolahoi is another 4 kms. Satlanjan is a lush green meadow where there is a village and a common sight here during the daytime is children being taught at school in the open on the slopes – a very endearing sight! You must reach Kolahoi by noon as it gets clouded post noon and is therefore barely visible from a distance. Kolahoi being at 18, 800 feet is visible from afar and is best viewed from the ridge opposite it or from Dodsar by wading across River Lidder. The Kolahoi glacier, having weathered many climates and atmospheric changes still stands majestically amongst the Mountains. It is to see this colossal mass of ice that thousands trek up this trail from Pahalgam every summer.