Kashmir Great Lakes: The Most Beautiful Trek in India
I had been trekking since 2 years now and had summited a lot of mountains in the Garhwal region. Through those 2 years, I met plenty of people with the same passion and adrenaline of climbing mountains who had told me great stories about trekking in Himalayas.
Many of the stories from different wanderers talked about Kashmir great lakes being the most beautiful trek this country has to offer. At that time I was working as a trek leader in a trekking organization so I did not have the freedom of choosing the slopes I wanted to trek on, so when I opened up my own trekking company, I knew the first thing I had to do. Fly off to Kashmir and do the much fabled trek.
I landed in Srinagar, met my guide Javed bhai and we commenced our journey towards Shitkari, Sonamarg, our base camp. Though the drive was long and I had an extremely sore back, my heart was happy; I was set to climb on mountains I have just heard stories about and I couldn’t be more eager to finally do it.
After reaching Shitkari, we set up our tent, made some food and then retired to our sleeping bags impatiently waiting for the sun to rise the next morning.
After six days of intense hiking on severely steep trails, watching numerous shooting stars and the Milky way galaxy, walking extremely close to the India – Pakistan disputed border, drinking Kahwa with soldiers on check points, riding horses through the meadows and dipping in crystal clear, brain freezing waters of Gangbal, I finally made a descend to Naranag, the end point of the trek from where I took a cab to get to Srinagar.
As I sat in the cab thinking about what I witnessed, a tear silently rolled down my cheek, and I just shut my eyes and smiled. I had just been to heaven or the nearest place to heaven a living man could go; the views left me agape and the lakes, one after the other, made my eyes glisten.
The longer you stayed and watched, the more colors of blues unfolded before your eyes. The green of the meadows spread wide and as far as the eyes could see, not a dry patch, I remembered. The clouds, sometimes made it difficult to see anything, as the lavenders swayed along the breeze, scattering the sweet fragrance for miles. Standing at those towering passes, breathless, I felt so small yet, invincible.
All those stories I had been hearing over the span of last two years, were just underestimations of what this trek is; and it is definitely the most beautiful trek you can do in your lifetime, India or abroad. So, all you adventure seekers and mountain lovers, this is us calling out to you; thank us later. I am sharing the detailed information for the trek here.
Maximum Altitude: 13,800 ft.
Starting and Ending point: Sonmarg – Naranag
Approximate kms covered: 63 kms
Difficulty level: Moderate to Difficult (consists of challenging steep ascends and even steeper descends)
Description of the trail: The trail takes you through a varied bunch of terrains. Be it wide luscious meadows, tall birch tree forests, boulders as big as 16 ft, azure lakes and ribbon like rivers, this beautiful trek has it all.
Number of days required: Minimum 7 days
Best time to do this trek: June – July – August (don’t fear the rains; it is what makes this trek beautiful. Don’t forget to carry a rain cover and expect a downpour at any moment)
Phone Signals: You’ve gotta be kidding me. Why would you need phone signals in heaven?
Day 1: Reach Sirnagar and take a cab to Sonmarg. Shitkari, Sonmarg is the base camp of this trek.
Day 2: Sonmarg (7,780 ft) to Nichnai (11,838 ft); 6 hours, 9.6 kms.
Day 3: Nichnai (11,838 ft) to Vishnusar ( 12,011 ft); 7 hours, 12.5 kms.
Day 4: Vishnusar (12,011 ft) to Gadsar (12,200 ft) via Gadsar pass (13,850 ft); 7.5 hours, 11.5 kms.
Day 5: Gadsar (12,200 ft) to Satsar (12,100 ft); 4.5 hours, 8.6 kms.
Day 6: Satsar (12,100 ft) to Gangabal (11,651 ft); 6 hours, 9.5 kms.
Day 7: Gangbal (11,651 ft) to Naranag (7,450 ft); 6 hours, 11 km.