The Enigmatic Great Lakes Trek

16th Aug 2014
Photo of The Enigmatic Great Lakes Trek 1/7 by Kasturi Karuna
The Gadsar Lake
Photo of The Enigmatic Great Lakes Trek 2/7 by Kasturi Karuna
The twin lakes as seen from the top
Photo of The Enigmatic Great Lakes Trek 3/7 by Kasturi Karuna
Snow capped peaks
Photo of The Enigmatic Great Lakes Trek 4/7 by Kasturi Karuna
The Gangabal
Photo of The Enigmatic Great Lakes Trek 5/7 by Kasturi Karuna
Enroute Gangabal
Photo of The Enigmatic Great Lakes Trek 6/7 by Kasturi Karuna
Yellow flowers in the meadow
Photo of The Enigmatic Great Lakes Trek 7/7 by Kasturi Karuna
The last leg of the trek

You don’t really conqueror a mountain. You conquer yourself. You overcome sickness and everything else-Your Pains, Aches, Fears-To reach the summit”-James Whittaker

All truly great thoughts are conceived during walking”-Friedrien Nietzsche

Often I am asked what motivated me for a trek. I didn’t even think twice before embarking on my first trek. It was only during the journey I realized how unprepared I was. I kept hearing the trek leader giving tips on acclimatizing to the new environment where oxygen level was low. Did I even think twice I would be trekking 10+ kms everyday on uneven land when all I was doing was walking less than 500 meters in a day. I really like when people challenge me and then it is no looking back. A person who is extra sensitive to cold, trekking in Himalayas brought instant astonishment on the faces around. “You are up with two jackets when its 10 degrees outside. How will you manage subzero”. Though I accept the recklessness on my behalf (I would serious recommend preparation) I reclaimed my confidence of doing the unknown and unthought-of. It unleashed all together a new way of discovering places and the hidden love I had for mountains.

How to Reach

One needs to reach Srinagar. From there you are picked up and transported to Sonmarg which is the base camp.

Sonmarg – Nichnai – Vishansar – Kishansar – Gadsar – Satsar – Gangabal – Naranag

Day 1: Arrive at Srinagar before noon then drive to Sonmarg by 2 pm. The journey takes 4 hours Night stay in a camp. Day 2: Sonamarg-Shekdur-Nichnai. Day 3: Nichnai (11,500ft) to Vishansar Lake (12,00ft). Day 4: Vishansar to Gadsar via Kishansar lake and Gadsar Pass. Day 5: Gadsar (12,000ft) to Satsar (12,000ft). Day 6: Satsar to Gangabal twin lakes.Day 7: Gangabal (11,500ft) to Naranag (7,450ft).

Trekking essentials

1. Trekking shoes

2. Medicines are Vomit, Fever, Body pain, Rashes, Dizziness

3. Walking sticks

4. A small sling pouch to keep water and other essentials if you are not planning to carry your luggage.

5. Carry just the essentials

6. Stop less because it can give you cramps at least on the first day


Day 1: Srinagar to Sonmarg Base camp

By God’s grace the rain god who had made the life of so many trekkers painful in the last few days decided to show some mercy on us. On reaching Srinagar we heard how it had been pouring nonstop from the last 48 hours and this has delayed the return of the last batch. Also the trek the day before had been postponed till the weather cleared. It was cold cloudy afternoon in Srinagar and no sooner you feel the eeriness of the place. The streets are dotted with security personals and it didn’t take me time to realize that it must be a normal part of their life.

In my causality I forgot to do some research on my end only to find my cell phone not working there. Took help from locals to figure out a local telephone to intimate my family that I had reached safety and would be out of network for the rest of the week.

The road from Srinagar to Sonmarg was picturesque. Since it has rained the previous day the valley looked lush green. The peaks had covered with snow and there was the Sind River flowing nosily beside you as the Van eased its way through. We had mid-way halt near an apple orchid to relish some just plucked apples.

Around 6 we reached Sonmarg which is a very small town/village which would be less than a kilometer wide. There wasn’t much to do at the base camp since the tents were delayed from the previous trek,we headed to Sonmarg for some Maggi snacks and tea.

Day 2 :- Sonamarg-Shekdur-Nichnai

In the morning I had the first leisure to get introduced to my trek mates. It had a good mix of people. It had good women to men ratio. It had people with 40 plus which was quiet motivating. There were first timers and also seasoned trekkers. Taking some tips I handled over my luggage for being carried by the mules which I believe was a very good decision taken by me as the trek unfolded.

The first 20 mins of the trek and I had serious doubts on my decision. What lay ahead was another 64 kms for the trek and 10 kms for the day. We trembled and begged for rest. The water bottle was half over. To the rescue was the picturesque Sonmarg with the Sind River flowing beside it. The beautiful valley with houses with Green roofs perfectly blended with the green meadows and the snow peaked mountains. Soon we were meandering through the meadows lined with Pine trees and the trek seemed bearable with occasional climb. The trek leaders kept motivating that we were almost done.

After covering 6 kms we reached a flat meadow where we halted for rest and our blood oxygen was tested. We were recommended to halt there as many didn’t seem fit to carry forward. The first evening the entire group was mesmerized by the sudden change in the flora and fauna. Beautiful tents on green meadows amidst mighty Himalayas. The entire evening was leisure. I preferred to sit by the mountain and brood. With no mobile network it was peaceful around.

Day 3 :- Nichnai (11,500ft) to Vishansar Lake (12,00ft)

Today was a day which none of us will ever forget in the near future. It tested our believe in oneself. We had halted almost 5 kms before the scheduled halt the day prior which meant the total distance to be covered for today was 17 kms. The first part of the trek till Nichnai was quiet an easy one as we traversed though areas covered with trees and almost flat landscape. Once we reached the base of Nichnai pass merely looking up broke my confidence. By now we had a fair idea of where the destination lay and I knew it was nowhere closer.

Once we crossed the pass fully drained we rested to reclaim our breadth. All that lay ahead was never ending aimless walking which was soothing as the mind stopped thinking. All I was doing was listen what was the mountains were saying.

By the second day I started trailing behind. My knees had given up. While others faced issues climbing up, my knees could not take the pressure of moving down.

Day 4 :- Vishansar to Gadsar via Kishansar lake and Gadsar Pass

The next day morning two of our fellow trekkers were made to return after having severe dizziness the day before. Within 500 meters from the base camp lay the two crystal clear lakes Vishnusagar and Krishnasagar, the first lakes of our journey. The team fresh from the sleep was all energetic to click snaps. It was difficult to let go of the lakes so quickly though we had the mighty Gadsar daunting us from the front. But did it know that the toughest day had gone behind and Gadsar would be accomplished by the mighty soldiers in no time. I would also like to mention the leadership skill that was shown by the trek leader.

The Gadsar pass is a steep mountain slope almost an angle of 60 to 70 degrees. It has been experienced that seeing others complete the pass demoralizes the laggards and breaks their confidence. For this reason we were made to cross the pass in a file and the entire team was made to stick around so that we all reach the summit at the same time.

Throughout uphill the two beautiful lakes were around was constant soothing of the souls. But for me uphill always brought ecstasy followed by the horror of the downhill which my knees would have to go through. Very soon I started dreading the last day of the trek which would be all downhill. I just prayed to complete on my trek on my feet. The meadows now became colourful with small yellow flowers spread across the landscape. The rest of the journey was quiet peaceful before embarking on the third lake of the day the Gadsar Lake. We had sufficient time to halt here.

Day 5 :- Gadsar (12,000ft) to Satsar (12,000ft)

I think this was the easiest day of the all. The landscapes today were the most usual of all. There were less of meadows and nothing much changed. It was a monotonous journey which not much of a challenge either. Our trek leader had already informed us about it. But we were happy about the ease of the journey. We had to pass through an army camp where by we had to show our identity card. Just 500 meters from the place we camped. Our usual night time pass was to search for shooting stars or manmade satellites zooming through the sky.

Day 6 :- Satsar to Gangabal twin lakes

For me this was a crazy day. It had the perfect recipe to break my confidence. To make me swear I will never return to the mountains again. The trek started with almost a 3 hours trek through boulders. While my mates cruised along finding boulders challenging each step made me lose my hopes .At last the camp leader had to hold my hands and make me cross the boulders as I legs quivered at each step. I became an animal using my 2 legs and 2 hands along with my ass to find support and crawl my way through. We reach the top of the Zaij Pass and from there the 2 twin lakes were visible.

What lay was even more scary was the steep descent wherein not only my knees will pain but also my Vertigo will take good hold of me. Though the destination was within range I knew it was anywhere close to 3 hours for others and 4 hours for me. My pace reduced considerably. At a point my fear was so strong that I only crawled each step. After an arduous journey against hope I reached the base of the pass for a mesmerizing flat landscape to which my knees bowed in appreciation.

While I wanted to run after regaining strengthens in my knees, the clouds started moving down making the landscape breathless. The sky became misty and the snowcapped mountains behind were visibly near with clouds dancing around them. In this trek I can say with confidence the destination was every penny worth the effort. The two beautiful lakes perched in the laps of the mountain behind as the clouds descended made it look nothing less than heaven. With the last leg completed successfully the team spent some time dipping in the lake.

Day 7 :- Gangabal (11,500ft) to Naranag (7,450ft)

Today we step down to civilization. The first half of the trekking down was very easy. We meandered through almost plain meadows. After a while we were through pine trees. The weather was slightly chilly and so we felt less exhausted as we moved forward. However the last part of the trek tested my knees to the extent that cannot be explained in words. Sometimes the descend was so steep that I groaned each step I put forward and nothing can explain my happiness when I took that last descend. I ran on the flat road after reaching almost 2 hours later than the first soul had descended.

To all fellow trekkers:

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”-Mary Anne

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what others say you cannot do