If there is heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here”, the spectacular land of Kashmir, still stands true in every sense.Kashmir Great Lakes trek is a trekking expedition of 68-75kms which commences from Sonamarg, reaches the highest point Gadsar Pass at 13,750 feet and concludes at Naranag at 7450 feet. The trek is full of extensive mountain walking with some steep climbs and sharp descends.As the name indicates the Great Lakes trek comprises of a trekking expedition amidst some of the major lakes of Kashmir, which includes Gadsar, Vishansar, Kishansar, Nundkol , Gangabal and so on.Pristine and untouched, the lakes over here be it Dal Lake, Vishansar Lake or Gangabal Twin lakes are surreal and a rare sight. Alpine and snow clad mountains, green meadows, rocky terrains, gurgling streams, silver birch and other untouched beauties of Mother Earth make for a varied and complete trekking experience of around 68-75km.these days, rediscover serenity and uncover what makes Kashmir Great Lakes Trek a trove for adventure and nature enthusiasts seeking a thrilling experience of trekking in India.
As per new Govt mandate in Kashmir all the participants have to avail mandatory adventure insurance (provided by the govt) to participate in any trek within Kashmir which will cost Rs.400 per person.
What is included in the tour
- Activity: Trekking,Camping etc
- Accommodation during Trek (Camping)
- Meals while on trek (Veg)
- Permits (Foreign national need to pay extra )
- First aid medical kits
- Qualified and experienced Trek Leader,support staff
- Trek Permissions .
What is NOT included in the tour
- Meals during transit
- Mineral Water or soft drinks
- Transportation of any kind (but can be shared between trekkers)
- Mules or porter to carry personal luggage.(extra luggage if any can be left at luggage store srinagar with the authorities,charge per day Rs 100-150)
- Cost Escalation due to natural reason.
- Unscheduled stay due to landslide.
- Anything not mentioned above .
- GST 5%
- Backpack (55 – 65 L) with sturdy straps and supporting frame. Quechua Forclaz 60 is a good choice.
- Daypack (20-25 L) – optional. Useful for summit/pass day, handy if you want to offload your backpack on the trek.
- Trekking shoes – Sports shoes are an absolute NO in trekking. You need Traction on Snow and Sport Shoes with PVC soles hardly justifies the choice. Ensure the shoes are well used before the trek. Forclaz 500 and Woodland are good choices.
- 3 pair of track pants (at least one should be synthetic quick-dry kind). Or 3 pair of cotton pants with lots of pockets. Track pants are light and we highly recommend them. Plus when things get really cold then layers of clothes matter.
- 3 cotton t-shirt with collar.
- One full Sleeve Sweater. A fleece jacket would be an alternative.
- A full sleeve thick Jacket.
- 4 pairs of Undergarments.
- 1 pair of Thermal Inners.
- 4-5 pair of Sports Socks.
- Woolen Monkey cap/Balaclava that cover the ear.
- Light weight Rain Coat/Poncho (to escape a quick burst of rain).
- Hand Gloves (water proof).
- Sun glasses – Buy the one which will cover your eyes well. Choose from Black, Green, Brown. Blue coloured Sunglass cannot block UV rays.
Avoid multi toned ones too. Sunglasses prevent snow blindness, and are mandatory for treks.
- Sun Cap and/or Head-Scarf.
- Trekking Pole is mandatory.
- Tiffine Box Small ( leak proof )
- Tea Cup
- Light towel (a quick drying kind).
- Chap stick or Lip Balm.
- Cold Cream and Sun Screen Lotion (SPF 40+).
- 2 Water bottles (1 L each). Do not carry packaged water bottles.
- LED torch with extra set of cells/ Head Lamps (preferred).
- Personal Toilet Kit (minimal) and Toilet Paper.
- Small Repair Kit consisting of Safety Pins, Needle, Thread and String (mandatory).
- Slippers/Sandals (for walking around campsite).
- While there are adequate food provided on trek, some do feel very less energetic compared to others. So you can carry few energy bars, dry fruits, etc
- Camera, writing or recording material to log your experience.
Day-1 Srinagar to Sonamarg (9000ft).
Getting to base camp – Sonamarg. Depart to Sonamarg in the afternoon. It is 3 hrs drive from Srinagar. The transport will be arranged from Srinagar To Sonamarg.Cost of 6-8 seater cab is Rs. 3000. The amount is shared between trekkers.Possible Vehicles like Tata Sumo,Tavera,Quarlis or same will be arranged by us .
Day 02: Sonamarg (9,000ft) to Nichnai (11,500ft) via Shekdur3 hour ascent followed by 1 hour descent and finally a gentle ascent to Nichnai (6 hours, 9kms)
Shekdur is a beautiful campsite surrounded by Bhoj trees. This is the only campsite with trees on this trek and therefore adds a good variety to your moments and photographs. If you have started from Srinagar in the morning, make Shekdur your first camp. The next campsite Nichnai is atleast 2 more hours away.
In 1 hour, you reach the end of the Birch trees and the trail goes down and climbs back into a river valley. The river valley is the beginning of Nichanai. The trail now is along the right bank of the river going upstream. Look behind to see snow clad peaks from Sonamarg valley. You are now in wide valley but enclosed by mountains on either side.
Far ahead lie triangular twin snow clad peaks. Choose a flat ground to pitch tents and end the first days trek.
Day 03: Nichnai (11,500ft) to Vishansar lake (12,00ft)
Medium climb to Nichnai pass 13,500ft. Small descent followed by a long flat meadow walk ending near Vishansar Lake. The days trek is a long walk on meadows with the scenery changing for the better all along.
Your first destination for the day is to cross the Nichnai pass or Vishansar Berry. The pass is visible at a distance from the campsite. It lies just to the right of the twin snow clad peaks
As you climb, notic e a small lake at the foot of the mountains. The lake is deep blue in colour and you can sense your expectations raising of the main lakes to come on this trek. The pass is deceptive. The ridge seen from the meadow below is not the pass.
BSNL phone network tends to work here most times. This is the last point on the trek where you get phone network. The next sign of network is only when you move beyond Gangabal.
In the next hour the rocks give way to grass. Red flowers spring out next to your feet. What you see ahead is a wide green meadow stretching for miles with mountains lining the sides. A new river flows down from the pass into the meadow ahead.
Stop here and take in the view of the peaks, the river below and the flowery meadow. Notice to your left a big waterfall splashing down the mountain cliff and joining the river.
A stream originates at the Vishansar lake which is a bit higher on your left. The lake is not seen yet and cannot be seen from the campsite. Pitch your tents anywhere beside the stream coming from the lake. There is ample camping space. The Vishansar lake lies half a km to the left and 100ft higher from the campsite. Head left and follow the stream without crossing it. The lake is two mounds away and takes about 7 minutes to reach. The first impression you get on seeing the Vishansar lake is that it is big. It lies nestled below 4 mountains.
The Kishansar peak though 0.5 km away, reflects in the lake. The reflections are wonderful when the lake is still. The color of the lake depends on the time of the day and the clouds in the sky. Early in the morning, before the sun really shines, expect clear colorless water. The lake starts getting its colors when the sun shines. On a clear sunny morning, the water is absolutely blue.
Day 04: Vishansar (12,000ft) to Gadsar(13,750ft) via Kishansar lake and Gadsar Pass (13,750ft)
Steep 2 hour ascent followed by a steep descent followed a gentle walk in the meadows. (5 hours, 10 kms)
The next lake in series is the Kishansar lake. The Kishansar lake lies just about ½ km away and 500ft higher than Vishansar. The Kishansar lake lies at the base of the Kishansar peak. It takes about 45minutes to reach Kishansar lake from the campsite. Move right towards the stream and cross it where it is easy. The trail climbs up on the right side of the Vishansar lake. There are multiple tracks here. For those keen on photography, the one going up is more attractive as you get the view of the meadow and the lake from a height. For those who prefer an easier trail, stick to the flatter trails.
Kishansar is also big and blue. It has a big meadow stretching on its right. The lake and the meadow is bordered on the farther side by a ridge line that raises sharply. The trail climbs up to the top of the ridge and on the top of the ridge is the Gadsar pass.
Spend time at the Kishansar meadows photographing the lake from various angles. The next part of the trek is from Kishansar lake side to the top of the ridge.
On the other side of the Gadsar pass stretches a long valley with 2-3 small lakes visible. Far in the distance lie a series of snow clad peaks. The peaks lie outside our Line of Control.
Choose to make Gadsar you campsite for its sheer beauty but only if you can vow to leave the ground as neat as you found it to be. No one camps at Gadsar. There is a small abandoned army shelter near Gadsar.
If you choose not to camp next to Gadsar, the next place to camp would be the Gadsar army camp. Continue on the downward trail from Gadsar and in half an hour the valley widens up. Spot another blue lake on the left of the valley. Notice the snow clad mountains now give way to lower barren mountains.Continue downhill and at the end of the third half hour, the army camp comes up. Gadsar army camp is just a small hut housing 5-8 army men. To move beyond the army camp, one needs permission from their Head quarters. The Head quarters is 3 miles further away down into the tree line near a village. The Gadsar camp communicates with the HQ through walkie talkies. The HQ is equipped with a satellite phone of the army.
Day 05: Gadsar (12,000ft) to Satsar (12,000ft)
Gentle descent for 1 hour followed by a steep ascent for 3 hours followed a flat meadow walk.
From the army camp move left towards the stream. The trail crosses the stream and heads up the mountain. The altitude at the stream is 10,600ft. The Satsar camp is at 12,000ft and almost 10 kms away. Crossing the stream is the easiest way to trek. If one really wants to avoid getting their feet wet in the icy cold water, then head to the bridge which a kilometer away and cross the stream. The climb up is steeper if one goes to the bridge.
The landscape ahead is captivating. Isolated mountains stand in front. Towards the right is a small ridge. In between is a flat green bed with a stream flowing in between. Choose to camp here if Gadsar lake was your last camp. If the army camp was your start, it makes sense to cover a little more distance today and camp near the first of the Satsar lakes. Satsar is actually a collection of 7 lakes. You can actually find 4 or 5 lakes with water, depending on the season you choose to trek.
Beyond the ridge on the right is the Satsar army check post. It is the 3rd line of defence from the LOC. The same process of ID checking, collection and questioning repeats here too. Finish this today so that tomorrow is a clean day of trekking.
Ten minutes out of the army camp is the first of the Satsar lakes. The lake is pretty big and looks picturesque in its green setting with mountains in front. Choose a place to camp here for the day.
Day 06: Satsar (12,000ft) to Gangabal twin lakes (11,500ft)
Mild ascent followed by gradual descent followed by long steep ascent and long steep descent followed by gradual up and down walk. (6 hours, 9 kms)
The days trek goes up and down replicating the trek as a whole which mostly goes up and down. Trek up half an hour out of camp, to reach the biggest Satsar lake. The terrain is bouldery and it is more of a boulder hopping exercise than anything else. The biggest of the Satsar lakes is also the last in the sequence. After the last lake the trail starts to descend. Continue for half an hour on the main trail until you see the forest line ahead to your left. The right side is a ridgeline about 1000ft higher. It is time to gain height again. The altitude at the base of the climb is 11,800ft. Take the zig zag pony track to climb up to the top of the first ridge. A 45 minute trek with limited breaks will see you on top of the first ridge. Once on top, you see two more ridges to climb. The trail from the base to top is barren and rocky. Looking behind at the opposite mountains, spot the Gujjar huts amidst the tall pines. You will not fail to notice the bareness of the mountains here and the greenery on the other side.
A quick climb, a shorter descent and a stream crossing over a wooden log bridge brings you to the shores of Nundkol lake. Notice that this lake is not as pristine as the other lakes you saw on the trek. Remnants of camping are there all around. Lot of people trek up from Naranag to Gangabal and go back as a weekend outing. You will wish they spared time and thought to clean up the mess they created by these beautiful lakes.
The Nundkhol lake lies at the base of the Harmukh peak. The Harmukh glacier hangs on the the sides of the rocky edges of the mountain. Both the Gangabal and Nundkhol are famous for trout fishing.
The Gangabal lake is about 20 minutes away from Nundkhol. A fiery stream flows on the right of the two lakes connecting them. The stream has to be crossed to go to Gangabal from Nandkol. Do not try to cross the stream at the lower levels but go all the way to the bank of Gangabal and on the right you find a good man made bridge laid out. Gangabal is huge. A parikrama of either of the lakes will easily take an hour.
Day 07: Gangabal (11,500ft) to Naranag (7,450ft) Drive to Srinagar
The days trek is a killer on your toes and knees. From the Gangabal campsite head down along the stream towards the tree line. Don’t walk beside the stream but walk along the ridge on the right. 30 minutes into the trail, your aircel phone could get glimpses of network just enough to tell home that you are alive. The ridge ends and you descend to a green flat meadow on the right. The Harmukh peak looks impressive when you look back. The green meadow has little yellow flowers growing all over and you start walking gingerly to avoid stepping over them.
It is not rare to spot lot of people trekking up here from Naranag headed only to Gangabal.
Naranag slowly comes in sight at around 8500ft but there is quite a bit more to go. The last stretch of the last day does become an endurance test but soon the stone paved village track comes up and in no time you enter the main road of Narnag.
Note: 1] There is a different permission charge for Foreigner & the difference amount should be paid by the participant on spot.
2] Itinerary can be changed, in case of snow, rainfall and landslides.