Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes)

Tripoto
14th Jul 2018
Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) 1/1 by Lopamudra Mohapatra

We all have our own reasons for signing up for a trek - for a new experience or a challenge to push one’s limits, both mentally and physically, or to seek answers or to contemplate life. Whatever be the objective for embarking on this adventure, a Himalayan trek fills you with a fresh perspective to seeing life, renewed energy in your veins and some unforgettable experiences.

Popularly opined to be the most beautiful trek, Kashmir Great Lakes trek certainly redefines benchmarks in terms of visual grandeur. Such is the ethereal beauty and experience that it leaves you with sights and memories that you would want to hold onto for a lifetime.

I signed up with Trek-the-Himalayas, along with my group of friends. It’s an eight-day trek, open only from July-September 10. Post this, the green meadows transform into a carpet of red and are later enveloped by 20ft snow in winters, making them inaccessible.

Though its classified to be a moderate trek, do ensure you maintain the fitness level required. This is essential to be able to enjoy the experience rather than letting it turn out to be a painful catch-up exercise every day.

At the onset, I must admit we were highly-tentative and debated about the situation in Kashmir. But, our worries were quite ill-founded once we reached there. We felt it was quite safe and the trek-team, guides and locals are genuinely warm and lovely to tourists.

Itinerary:

Day 1

Drive from Srinagar to Shitkadi. We camped overnight at Shitkadi, by the Sindh river.

Day 2

Shitkadi to Nichnai

Trek starts at Shitkadi. It is probably the toughest day physically owing to multiple factors- the altitude ascent is significant (~4000ft), the walk is relatively long and your body is yet to acclimatize to the conditions.

The trail starts with lush green meadows that are surreptitiously steep leading to a tree-line of maple, pine and paper trees. The topography then, gradually descends into a maple forest, the floors covered with dense foliage. We stopped by for lunch at the table-top, marked by a maggi-point.

The first ascent: Day 1-to the tabletop!

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra

The ridge overlooks the picturesque Sonamarg valley, with snow-dusted mountains at a distance. The walk further leads into the beautiful campsite of Shekdur, but we chose to cover some more miles and finally camped at Nichnai. However, your camp-sites could vary depending on where you choose to start from - Srinagar or Shitkadi.

Day 3

Nichnai(11500ft) to Vishansar lake(12000ft) via Nichnai pass (13500ft)

This is a relatively long walk, along an undulating topography of ascents and descents – which is typical of this trek. The highest point of the day is the Nichnai Pass (13500ft). The walk is along the snow-clad mountains on one side and barren, rocky ranges on the other. The meadows are a carpet of green, glistening with beautiful red and yellow flowers. And if you are astounded by this beauty, it is just the beginning.

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra

The campsite was alongside a stream originating from the Vishansar lake. Sunsets don’t happen before 8pm, so we spent the evening on a game of frisbee until dinner.

The shepherd huts were close by and the meadows were filled with cattle, that camouflaged with the rocks from a distance. The locals ascend to these heights in search of fresher pastures of the cattle during June-Sep and later descend to lower altitudes, to avoid the vagaries of weather.

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra

Vishansar Lake: Day 2

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Day 4

Vishansar(12000ft) to Gadsar (12000ft) via Gadsar pass (13750ft)

The ascent overlooks the Vishansar lake, followed by the Kishansar lake which later led to the highest point of the trek- Gadsar Pass at 13750ft. It is a strenuous climb, and the slippery, muddy path magnifies the difficulty level. But, you realize it was absolutely worth all the effort when you are greeted with the royal view of the twin lakes at the top and snow-covered edges on the other side. The descent from the pass leads to the Yamsar lake, which is relatively small and later to the pristine Gadsar lake, where we took a break for lunch. It is these meadows, where flora is at its glorious best- manifesting in a myriad of colors against the lush green grass!

The first army-checkpost comes beyond this point, where there is one round of verification to be done. We finally reached the Gadsar camp-site- the peaks around are beyond the Line-of-Control, that is about 20kms from the camp-site.

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Day 5

Gadsar(12000ft) to Satsar (12000ft)

The trail starts with a glacial patch, winding into an uphill climb to Kastur-kuth. Along the path, you come across deep craters created by the shell-bombings during the war. This is when you know you have reached Maegandob. If the weather is favourable, you can also catch a glimpse of the famous Nanga Parbat. It’s a beautiful walk along the meadows here-on until the Satsar army check-post.

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra

Satsar lakes is a collection of 7 small lakes, however we managed to see only three these on this day and two more on the next day.

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Day 6

Satsar lake(12000ft) to Gangbal lake (11500ft) via Zujj pass (13400ft)

The day started through a long boulder patch that basically tests all your rock-hopping skills gained in the past few days. Next up is a steep climb until you reach the Zujj pass, which offers the view of the 4 lakes (Gangbal, Nandkul, Kolsar and Kalasar) on one side, and the uncanny view of lush green meadows against the barren mountains on the other. We descended from here and camped beside the Nandkul lake.

When the lakes are still, they offer a splendid reflection of the mountains. The color of the waters is a result of the play between the clouds, sun and the water- transforming between colourless to clear blue to green waters.

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra

The Vishansar and Kishansar Lakes

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Day 7

Rest day At Nandkul.

To merely term the camp-site as scenic would be a gross under-statement. Explored the twin lakes during the day- the waters were too enticing to resist a refreshing dip after days of trekking. A game of frisbee, long walks along the terrain, interacting with fellow trekkers and the day just flew by.

Day 8

Gangbal lake(11500ft) to Naranag town(7400ft) and finally, drive to Srinagar

It starts with a small ascent, followed by a gradual and then a steep descent. Unlike earlier, this day is a stress test for your feet and toes, rather than your stamina.

With Zujj pass behind in all its majestic glory and with meadows ahead, you walk down the forest department huts and the army camps. The trail goes through the forests of pine, deodhar, black cheery, paper trees. Glimpses of civilization crop up sporadically, your phone signals come back to life, the muddy paths transform into the stone paved village tracks and you have the reluctant feeling to being back into the cacophony of civilization.

Sometimes, trekkers choose to talk the opposite route to start from Naranag and climb up to Gangbal lakes and descend. Do note that will be a much steeper climb, but perhaps, well-worth if you plan only a short trip.

Quick pointers:

1. Maintain fitness levels at least as per the difficulty level of the trek you are signing up for

2. Refer to the trek-essentials and pack accordingly.

3. Do carry sufficient cash for the maggi-points.

4. The weather is very fickle in the mountains and ensure to have sufficient clothing packed – ponchos, water-proof gloves, extra jacket and headcovers for the cold breeze.

5. Carry your photo-id cards, along with 2-3 copies of it for verification at army check-points.

Keep Exploring!

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra

The Vishansar and Kishansar Lakes

Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
Photo of Adventure.Meditation.Life - A Trek in the Himalayas (Kashmir Great Lakes) by Lopamudra Mohapatra
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