Its the time of the year when trekking lovers should be ready for the two of the most beautiful treks in mid-Himalayan region- the ever popular Valley of Flowers trek and the newly popularised Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. When the major trekking season in Himalayan region takes a monsoon break in August-September, these are the two most sought after treks.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek, read: Thajiwas is the perfect acclimatisation
There is still big difference between the two. Valley of Flowers is largely a single day trek, as there is no camping allowed inside the Valley. So, one has to start early morning from Ghangaria, do as much of trek inside the national park as possible (depends on individual fitness and capability) and return back to Ghangaria in the evening. But Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is a full-fledged six day medium altitude moderate to difficult trek. Its hardly fourth year, since organised trekking expeditions have started for Kashmir Great Lakes.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek, read: Trek from Sonamarg to Nichnai
There might be altogether many different reasons for trekkers to do this trek, but it is indeed one of the most beautiful trek in this region. I can say this with my experience of trekking in Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and West Bengal. It isn’t without any reason that it has become one of the most sought after treks in so less time. So, if you are a trekker and haven’t been to Kashmir Great Lakes Trek, then you should certainly go for it this season.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek, read: Romancing the rains at Nichnai Pass
I did this trek in 2017 and have done many posts on this, actually a post for each day of trek. You won’t find such a detailed account of the experience on this trek anywhere else. I am posting links to my all posts as well as to video blogs on this trek for the benefit of the readers who all want to either prepare for this trek or want to have detailed information on it. So, while you can go to my earlier posts for all the details, here I am summing up all essential details.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek, read: Paradise regained, as beautiful as it can be
Total trek days are six. There can be, or rather should be additional two days in the beginning to help you acclimatise. It always helps in adjusting your body to the weather as well as the tough climb ahead, since we are not used to both of them. Thus, base camp to base camp it can be an eight day trekking programme. It’s certainly not an easy trek. It can be graded under moderate to difficult category.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek, read: Gadsar to Satsar, a tale of seven lakes
Base camp for the trek is Sonamarg which is 87 kilometres from Srinagar Airport. First day trek is from Sonamarg to Nichnai, second day from Nichnai to Vishnusar (or Vishansar), third day from Vishnusar to Gadsar, fourth day from Gadsar to Satsar, fifth day from Satsar to Gangabal and sixth day from Gangabal to Naranag. Usually trekking concludes at Naranag and from Naranag trekkers are transported back to Sonamarg base camp in motor vehicles.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek, read: Satsar to Gangabal, journey to climax
It is a mid-altitude trek. Baring the first and last (i.e. sixth day) of trek, all other four days, we trek normally in the range of altitude from 11,500 feet to 13,500 feet. We cross three high passes in these four days- Nichnai pass (13,458 feet), Gadsar pass (13,763 feet, highest point of the trek) and Zach pass (13,428 feet). First and the sixth days of trek become difficult for all the quick ascend and descend of almost of almost 4000 feet- from Sonamarg to Nichnai on first day and Gangabal to Naranag on sixth day.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek, read: Gangabal to Naranag, when getting down becomes toughest
The name–Kashmir Great Lakes Trek–itself tells the story. This is all about lakes and there are too many. You will rarely see such an amazing system of lakes at this altitude and all of them are beautiful and fascinating. This trek has all- lakes, streams, glaciers, snow-peaks, meadows, forests, rocks, boulders et al. It has got most picturesque valleys. They are called valley of flowers as well. You will find flowers of all types blooming on your way. Besides, if the sky is clear then star-gazing in the night will be a memorable experience. Most of the lakes here are also known for trout fishes and at times have been very popular for trout fishing among foreign adventurers. Gangabal and Nandkhol lakes at the base of the Harmukh peak are the highlight of the whole trek.
Trek has got immensely popular in recent years and hence there are many trek operators jumping the bandwagon. Among them are organisations like Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) and big trekking companies like Trekmunk, TTH, Indiahikes as well as numerous small operators based in Srinagar or Sonamarg. It is entirely possible for you to do the trek individually with help of guides, porters and an operator. You can choose by comparing the prices, facilities and experience.
Acclimatisation Day: Thajiwas Glacier
10 Quick bites
- It’s not an easy trek, hence prepare yourself mentally as well as physically.
- Due to proximity to border, this area of Kashmir is sensitive for security reasons. Always carry you photo IDs with you. At least at two points the security personnel will be verifying credentials of all the trekkers and keep record of them.
- Although Kashmir does not have rains during these months, but you can never be so sure. Keep yourself prepared. We had rains on first two days of trek.
- It gets pretty cold in night, more so if it rains. Rain can easily convert to hailstorm or snowfall at these heights. Never take things lightly, keep yourself warm.
- Keep your luggage at minimum. First day itself, you will feel like throwing away your rucksacks. Although, you can avail services of ponies to carry your luggage, you will have to pay for it.
- Shoes are something you need to be most careful about. Two big reasons- there a few streams and a glacier to cross on the way. Waterproof trekking shoes will be quite helpful here. Secondly, at a few points, there are big rocks to be climbed and boulders to be crossed. You certainly need a good pair of shoes to negotiate them.
- Don’t try to go inside the lakes because firstly the water will be damn cold and secondly, you won’t be aware of the depth.
- Don’t be shy in taking help of walking sticks whenever you need it. Is no shame, neither it is a race. Be at leisure, take your own time, enjoy the surroundings as you have taken lot of courage and efforts to be here and it is once in a lifetime experience. But as a trekking rule, never loose sight of fellow trekkers ahead and behind you.
- Once you move out of Sonamarg until you reach to Naranag, there are no villages or habitation. No power, hence keep extra batteries, power back-ups as much you will need to capture your memories.
- For at least four days in between, there won’t be any proper mobile signal. Hence convey everyone concerned beforehand about this, so that they are not uselessly worried. There might be some faint signals on all the three passes- Nichnai, Gadsar and Zach, but don’t put too hope on them.
Video of the Day 1 of the trek: Sonamarg to Nichnai
Video of Day 2 of the trek : Nichnai to Vishansar
Video of Day 3 of the trek: Vishansar to Gadsar
Video of Day 4 of the trek: Gadsar to Satsar
Video for the Day 5 of the trek: Satsar to Gangabal
Video for Day 6 of the trek: Gangabal to Naranag
There is lot more. Don’t be apprehensive about Kashmir or Srinagar. There is no fear, just fun. Enjoy the Kashmiri hospitality. Read my posts on different days for detailed account and views between two camps.
Have you already been to Kashmir Great Lakes trek? How was the experience? Share with us in the comments section below.
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