The Kashmir great lakes (KGL) trek is considered to be one of the most beautiful treks in India. It was my first medium grade Himalayan trek and I was very sceptical about finishing this trek as it entailed walking 6-8 hours each day. Also, a point of contention was whether to do the trek with a trekking company or go privately with your personal guide, cook and porter. Being my first Himalayan trek, it was a difficult choice to make. But we ultimately decided to do it solo because of the freedom it would offer in terms of exploring the places at our own will and pace than being led by some “Trek Leader”. This private affair turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences for us.
The trek consists of 7 Alpine Lakes, each one being prettier than the other. It is not only the lakes but the glaciers, the beautiful green meadows, the sound of the water streams in company of horses, shepherds and their sheeps, and blissful silence which makes this trek one to die for. The solitude and peace we experienced was something few places on earth can offer. You feel trapped in Kashmir long even after returning from this trek.
Shitkari is a small hamlet and was the start point of the trek, it was just around 1 km from Sonmarg. Srinagar to Sonmarg is 2.5 hour pretty drive as you follow Indus River (Sindh River) all along the way. We were greeted warmly by our local guide and our cook/porter at the campsite. Being my first Himalayan trek, Sagar helped me with the nuances of a tent, sleeping bags, toilet tents, etc. After we pitched our tent by the roaring stream, we were served with some tea and snacks. Being away from civilization was something completely new for me and I was totally loving it. After a small walk around the meadows of Sonmarg we were served with simple food for dinner.
The first day of the trek started with a steep ascent which took us almost 2 hours to reach the table top. The beauty of the Himalayas, the tiny Sonmarg town and the grazing cattle were our views for the short break. After the tabletop, the trail passes through lovely dense forest of Maple trees. According to our guide, the climb was over and now it was just plain meadow walk, however reality was quite different!
When on KGL, you have really long days of walking. And the only good thing about the niggling pain in the toes is that priceless sight of your campsite after the gruelling walk. We took a neat 8 hours to reach Nichnai completely exhausted and starving of energy making us realize how unfit we were.
Day 2 started with a medium ascent to the Nichnai Pass the destination being Vishansar Lake. We started off ahead of our guide but soon were stuck on the other side of the stream – Perils of trekking without guidance! However, soon our guide snapped us and took us on the correct route. On this trek, the grade of climb keeps increasing until you cross Gadsar Pass which is the highest point of the trek. A 7 hour walk takes you to Camp site No. 2 which is just below Vishansar Lake.
The joy of seeing the Vishansar Lake with its different hues of blue makes you wish time stood still so that you could enjoy the moment for as long as forever! Vishansar lake was the first high altitude alpine lake that we witnessed on this trek in the mighty Himalayas. The immediate thought we had after seeing this lake was we wish we could take a dip here. But after touching the water I calmly gave up that option, but not Sagar! The adventurous soul that he is, couldn’t resist himself from stepping into the ice cold water stream after a long and sweaty walk!
Somewhere on your journey don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the view. As they say, the journey is more beautiful than the destination and we couldn’t agree more.
Day 3 is the toughest day of the entire trek where you cross Gadsar pass, the highest point on this trek. In background you see the first two lakes, Vishansar and Kishansar. Considering this was the toughest day, I decided to have mule as a backup if I faltered anywhere. But to my and everyone else’s surprise, I was able to ascend the pass without the mule. Guess the mule, calmed my nerves and made me stronger helping me ascend successfully without much issue!
This is the 3rd alpine lake called the Gadsar lake. When on a trek, your comfortable dining table and chair is replaced by an uncomfortable rock, your tv is replaced by picturesque landscapes, and your 7 course meal is replaced by basic yet sumptuous dal and rice! If life is so simple then why do we complicate it back in our concrete jungle?
Day 4 starts with a flat walk for about 3 hours followed by the Satsar Army Checkpost. It is the 3rd line of defence from the LOC. After doing a few short formalities, we headed to the first of the Satsar lakes, where we were to camp for the night. Satsar actually means 7 lakes, however only 2 fall on the trek route.
Day 5 starts with a steep ascent on boulders to reach our last and final stop called the gangbal and the nandkol lake campsite. Early showers made our climb on the boulders pretty tough and risky due to the slippery stones and the fog reducing our visibility. But with the help of fellow trekkers on the trail, we safely crossed over. The rain didn’t seem to stop and we reached Gangbal campsite with wet hair and muddy shoes. We were supposed to stay 2 nights here but with weather playing spoilsport, we decided to move out the next very day heading back to civilization.
Day 6, the last day of our trek is a killer for your sole and knees. it is a gradual descent followed by steep descent on boulders! 30 minutes into the trail, and our guides cell phone got network, and we informed at home that we were alive!
Different shades of green, the sun playing hide & seek, the clouds coming out of the valley to form a perfect landscape. I thought I was day dreaming.
1) A difficult trek so prepare well in advance.
2) Pack light as its a monsoon trek, chances of you getting wet which in turn will increase the load on your shoulders. Keep a rain jacket handy.
3) Carry Sun block cream but don't wash it in a running stream
4)Care for the fragile environment.
5)Pre paid sim cards don't work in Kashmir.
6)Withdraw cash if required form Srinagar itself.
7)Last but not the least, have lots of fun, stop, soak in the beauty and click lots of pictures as this trek is one of the most picturesque treks in India.