If you’re an adventure freak and want to test your endurance on lofty mountains, Himachal Pradesh is the place to be this summer. From rock-climbing and cross-jungle trekking to white-water rafting and parasailing, the state offers it all.

The forest department is organising adventure sport expeditions to promote ecotourism.

“Trekking expeditions for professionals and beginners have been planned across the hills from May 15 to June 29. Any participant in the age group of 15 to 50 can participate,” Chief Conservator of Forests (Ecotourism) Harsh Mittar told IANS.

More than 50 trekking routes -- both arduous and moderate -- in the Himalayas have been identified and trained local youth have been roped in to assist the trekkers, he said.

“The department has identified routes of varying duration ranging from one day to eight days in Kullu, Shimla, Mandi, Sirmaur, Bilaspur and Kangra districts. Trekkers would be taken in groups of five to 20 and would also be acquainted with the local flora, fauna and culture,” Mittar said.

The trekkers will also get a taste of local culinary traditions. “Cuisine made by villagers would be served to the trekkers in their traditional utensils,” Mittar added.

The Tirthan-Sainj trek, which passes through the Great Himalayan National Park in Kullu district, is popular among trekkers. Two groups will be taken on the trek, the first departing May 15 and the second June 5.

“The eight-day trek is an ideal getaway, but for professionals only. It takes one from an altitude of 5,000 feet to 15,000 feet. It passes through Sairopa-Rolla-Shilt-Guntrao-Dhela-Humkani-Shakti-Chenga and the fees is Rs.11,200 per person, including boarding and lodging,” Mittar said.

“The other popular trek for professionals is Churdhar. The five-day trek passes through 5,000 feet to 12,500 feet and the fees is Rs.5,000 per person,” he said.

However, for newcomers who want to mix holidaying and adventure, a single-day trek to Shali Tibba, around Shimla hills, is the best option. It will cost just Rs.1,500 per person.

Mittar said the response to the short treks has been quite good, especially from schoolchildren. “On an average, we receive 10 enquiries daily about prominent trekking routes and camping sites. So far, more than 250 daredevils have got themselves registered for various expeditions ranging from one kilometre to 75 km,” he added.

The Manali-based Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports is another professional institute which conducts mountaineering expeditions and high-altitude treks.

“This year too the response of trekkers and mountaineers from all over the world is good. A number of expeditions are already under way,” said Rajeev Sharma, a senior mountaineering instructor at the institute.

The institute, set up in 1961, is also conducting special activities for corporate executives, students and families in adventure sports -- mountaineering, backpacking, skiing, soft adventure, trekking, rafting, kayaking and paragliding.

The idyllic, pastoral setting of the Himalayan range in Himachal Pradesh has been drawing an increasing number of backpackers. With a population of just over six million, the state attracted 11,437,155 tourists, including 400,583 foreigners, last year.

Kullu-Manali has emerged as a favourite tourist destination, followed by Shimla and Dharamsala.

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