At first I set about writing a travelogue; but then quickly realised I could do that later and instead share the photographs which had created quite a storm on social media, particularly instagram. All the captions are heartfelt memories 🙂 When I went on this trek, in July-August 2016 I was a bit skeptical especially after having already been on the Tarsar Marsar Trek too in 2015. All my doubts have been dispelled and how!
Now I can safely say, with regards to the effort vs reward ratio, the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek offers scenery and landscapes like none other, plus there are the LAKES!
Presenting some of the best photographs from Kashmir Great Lakes Trek.
Day 1 began at Sitkari and ended at Nichnai after ascending the meadows of Shekdur through a birch forest. We had chai at a dhaba on a place called Table Top. It started drizzling after an hour or two of beginning the trek and a water stream or nallah continues till the Nichnai campsite. The rain has caused the proceedings to get quite cold. There is a herd of sheep with a shepherd in the rain, and that creates a beautiful traffic jam. Near the campsite, it is nice to notice sheep and goats playing with the horses. The light in Nichnai is beautiful when it stops raining and snowy mountains around look inviting!
Day 2 Aligning earth’s heartbeat with mine at Vishnusar Lake. Morning clouds and it is very cold at 6 am. We have breakfast and tea and leave for Vishansar Lake (both spellings are right) at about 8-830 am when the sun comes out. I realise that both my shoes and jacket are still wet after bearing the brunt of the rain yesterday. It is a non-stop uphill climb to Nichnai pass that is at 4100m. There are beautiful views of the other side from the pass; of colourful wildflowers in blue, red, yellow, white on the trail. We cross numerous glacial water streams on our descent. It is a happy case of serendipity when we encounter a bakarwal with a few sheep grazing on the banks of the Vishansar Lake in the evening.
Kishansar and Vishansar (Vishnusar) Lakes as seen from the top of Gadsar Pass. It is a surreal moment in the night when some of us are gazing at the stars and suddenly we sight a blazing meteor go past us in the sky! We are speechless and don’t know how to react at the stunning speed at which it goes across the sky. In the morning we start at 8 am, and pass Vishansar Lake and keep climbing to Kishansar Lake. These are both glacial lakes and I am unable to spot a water source for both these lakes. There is no reflection in the waters of Vishansar Lake but the waters of Kishansar Lake are fabulously still.
A place where I slept during lunchtime on the trek. Memories.
Day 3 or 4
My favourite lake of the trek – Gadsar (sar means lake.)
Day 3 It is a steep climb to Gadsar Pass (4150m) and both the lakes are visible from the top of the pass at about 1030 am. The views are lovely from top of the pass; the valley widens and 2 small glacial lakes are visible. It is a riot of wildflowers on the descent; and interspersed with the flowing streams dotted by sheep and goats resembles a proverbial paradise. We encounter a hut of a bakarwal from Rajouri and he invites us to his home. We cross Gadsar lake and head to the campsite near Gadsar Post of the Indian Army.
Day (do you even care!)
So cheesy, but even the guides were going crazy here!
A shepherd dog had started barking on the other side of our campsite and we ran helter-skelter to save our lives!
Day 4 I remember it as being the easiest day of the entire Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. I get my camera battery that I had given for charging at the army guys at Gadsar Post. The campsite is akin to sleeping in the middle of a herd of sheep; since we are surrounded by shepherds. Once we start walking, it is a steep climb – first through a snowy path and then through a field of strawberries. The scenery is lush green and after 2-3 hours when we reach the Satsar Post; it is drizzling and gets quite cold.
The trail crosses multiple lakes and Satsar Post is a pretty site surrounded by yellow wildflowers! After an hour or so, we reach a place called Mangandop. The sheep grazing in the hilly grasslands, surrounded by clouds and high mountaintops with snow on them presents an alluring sight. The visibility is quite poor and a short drizzle begins. It is a long and arduous climb to Zaj Pass as the terrain is quite rocky. There is a little chunk of snow on top of the pass. Sunlight peeps in through the clouds and the pristine sight of the two lakes – Gangabal and Nandkhol Lake are visible. The descent is beautiful especially with the sight of these lakes! When we reach the campsite in the late afternoon it is a pleasing sight to see local Kashmiris playing basketball on the banks of the lake.
Clicked from the classily named Zaj Pass (Locals also spell it as Zach Pass).
Aimless walks by a lake in Kashmir.
Playing basketball, cricket and football on the banks of Nandkhol Lake remains an everlasting memory as do Kashmiri songs and dancing with the cooks and helpers.
It was one of those speechless moments. Local Kashmiris camped by the lake and enjoyed angling and their time away from the curfew.
It was easy to forget the troubles of the valley while on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek and I was astounded to see colossal ruins of 8th Century Hindu temples in Naranag.
Hope you like this photo-story, I may do a day wise post of this fantastic trek soon. Interested folks can email me if they are looking for a local Kashmiri operator (who helped me on this trek.)
A few of my personal favourites among memorable posts, other than Kashmir :