7 days of trekking in Himalayas- Kashmir Great Lakes trek
Yippee… I am Alive!! 7 days of trekking in Himalayas, almost 70+ KM walk, ascent, descent in mountains, crossing passes, boulders, rivers and what not…but yeah I did it all to see the 7 pristine high altitude glacial lakes of Kashmir.
Not sure why but I usually end up choosing difficult things for myself. I jump into the waters and then realize the depth; the same happened with this trek too. Had a brief conversation about trekking with a stranger (now a friend) on a train early this year while I was on my way to Jaipur and the only thing I did was to let my husband know about India Hikes (the largest trekking community in India) as soon as I reached home. He had been making plans to go to Valley of Flowers with his friend for quite some time so it did make sense for him.
My husband’s plan with his friend couldn’t materialize and so… who else? I decided to be the scapegoat and as usual without putting my brain into details. When it came to deciding on which trek to do, I went a step further and settled on Kashmir Great Lakes trek based on the trek titles. This is despite having already gone through two years of treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome. Twice in the past, our Kashmir trip had been cancelled and I just wanted to visit Kashmir…somehow, anyhow and that’s it.
Training for the high altitude trek
I started a training plan, but even a minute of run on the first day seemed hard as my heart went pounding. In a couple of days 3-4 min continuous run became possible. I would run, walk in between, run again and somehow complete half an hour.
I became a little more sincere on training for initial few days. I also came across a video on extensive cardio workout to try the same. I did this for total of 5 days from the 30 that I had in hand. Occasionally we even tried to walk with our newly bought hiking shoes in the evenings.
My off and on training wasn’t quite motivating but the day we went to Decathlon and I saw the amount of expenditure we had to do arranging the necessary clothing, accessories and equipment for high altitude trek, I ended up making my mind for the trek 🙂
Whether I ran that day or not, I kept telling myself, I can do the trek and I did that every day. It’s like when you buy a new pen, pencil box bag etc you should atleast take the exam. I was equally adamant about KGL trek too. Despite the situation turning grave in Kashmir and our original trek batch of 15th August getting cancelled, we requested the trek coordinator and shifted ourselves to the 13th August batch which was on.
Once outside of the airport, curfew bound Srinagar looked more like a war zone than a city, with police and army at every nook and corner. No data, no connectivity. We were picked up from the airport and taken to a hotel to wait night and later shifted to the trek base camp in the wee hours to avoid any problems. 14th August we started our uphill trek from Sonmarg.
Adventure Travel in India—Kashmir great lakes trek
The trek is ~70KM, starting at Sonmarg (7850 ft) and ending at Naranag (7400 ft). The highest point in this trek is Gadsar pass at an altitude of 13750 ft which is one of the three high passes that we needed to climb in this beautiful picturesque journey. It is one of the most beautiful Himalayan treks with never ending meadows, cyan sky and lakes in all shades of blue and green.
21 trekkers and 4 member India hikes team – Javed Bhai at front, trek leader Abhiroop & technical expert Prahlad in the middle, and Liaqat Bhai towards the end made our group. Besides there were a team of helpers, cooks, horsemen and 15 horses to carry our offloaded bag packs and luggage including tents, food supply and other necessary stuff for survival at such altitude.
5-6-7 was the call every day. Getting up at 5am, breakfast at 6am and start trek at 7am (after unpitching our tents). Most days it used to be packed lunch as we would reach our base camps only at around 3pm or later which meant average of 10 kms walk in the hills per day before we could resign to our tents. Evenings were chill, dinner at 7pm and then time to bed.
Day 1 – Sonmarg to Nichanai pass via Shekdur (Altitude- 7800ft to 11500ft)
3 kms outside of Sonmarg, we started the trek. Little did I know what I was getting into but then after posing for enough pictures, time came to start climbing up the hills.
10 mins into the trek, and the trail led us to green meadows overlooking Sonmarg town and the Indus River down below. A gruelling climb and then a gentle stroll to reach our camps.
Day 2 – Nichanai to Vishnusar Lake (Altitude- 11500ft to 13500ft)
A steep climb to Nichanai pass and crossing over a lake of mild boulders made us arrive at the pass. Then it was descent into yellow flower beds gradually giving way to kilometres of beautiful green meadows. Gentle walk for hours and then we descended into camp just besides the awesome Vishnusar Lake.
Day 3 – Vishnusar to Gadsar via Kishansar Lake and Gadsar pass (Altitude- 12000ft to 13750ft)
This day was long, approx 13kms of walk. It took almost 2 hours of steep climb up to arrive at Gadsar pass. We kept marvelling at the twin lakes Vishnusar and kishensar below as we kept climbing the Gadsar pass.
A gradual descent into a valley of red, blue, violet and yellow flowers culminated at our lunch stop at Gadsar Lake – an extremely azure green lake fed by huge glaciers.
Post lunch, it was a long walk to settle down at our campsites which was adjacent to an army camp.
Day 4 – Gadsar pass to Satsar Lake (Altitude- 13750ft to 12000ft)
Yet again a steep mountain was ahead. As we climbed step by step and then walked on a grassy meadow on top of mountains, Nanga Parbat came into sight. One can see peaks of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) from here. The mountains then opened into the most spectacular and huge grassy meadows I have ever seen in my life.
Sheeps, horses, streams across the path made everything unimaginably beautiful and so much like a movie setting.
Walked over to the army camp, enjoyed hot soup at their hospitality, and turned left manoeuvring at two lakes to reach our campsite.
Day 5 – Satsar to Gangbal and Nandakul Lakes (Altitude- 12000ft to 11500ft)
Climbing up to Gangbal pass, again was a huge stretch on all parts of your body.
The view from the top was worth the stretch though with the 2 lakes (Gangbal and Nandkol) at the foot of Mt. Harmukh – a 5000+m mountain which was first climbed in 1856 and from where the first reported sighting of K2 was made.
It was a steep descent to lunch point by the river, then a gradual climb over a mountain hump and crossing a river before could settle down into a camp which is straight into the lap of Mt. Harmukh.
Day 6 – Buffer day, exploring Gangbal and Nandakul Lakes
The schedule changed to 8-9-10. Some luxury of sleep, no unpitching of tents, and relaxed breakfast.
We Strolled over to the magnificent Gangbal Lake, walked around the periphery, played Antakshari and took a dip at Nandakul on the way back. Hot lunch at campsite, day for rest, games and awesome pictures of Mt. Harmukh at night in moonlight made the buffer day idea at Gangbal all the more heavenly.
Day 7 – Gangbal to Naranag (Altitude- 11500ft to 7450ft)
This was a hard day after we bade goodbye to Mt. Harmukh. The descent was a killer on knees and toes, initially a gradual descent which became steeper by the hour. To add to the pain, my husband was in a hurry to reach the most wanted dhaba on the way down to get phone signals to be able to speak to our son after 8 days. There were loose stones everywhere and the bad slippery trail just wouldn’t end. However, in the midst of this endurance test, it was the beauty of Pine forest and the green meadows which kept me alive. Naranag came to sight at 8500 ft but there was still a lot more to go. Every 15 min we were told, 15 min more walk…as the village track came up and the ordeal ended, I immediately got into the “Eternal Peace Hotel” at Naranag (along with others) and treated myself with a heavy meal of Rogan josh…All is well that ends well.
Lessons I learnt from my trekking experience in Himalayas
A few serious things like…
- We can easily survive without over eating.
- It’s perfectly okay to attend nature’s call in the nature.
- Plastic lunch boxes are not a healthy choice at high altitudes
The trek affected me mentally too and at many points I had some saintly revelations 🙂 especially after I had crossed a mountain pass such as –
- The fact that we all have different life stories and situations should make us humble enough to appreciate everyone irrespective of where one stands in the race.
- Each one of us has his/her our own pace and if we start to run to catch up with others in the race and forget to enjoy the journey, we may end up injuring ourselves. It’s important to appreciate our uniqueness, our pace and our capabilities.
- We are all connected and if we give even 2% of love and care that we have within ourselves for a selected few to everyone else too, we would end up making the path/journey happier and easier for everyone resulting in fewer complaints among flatmates, tent-mates, roommates etc etc.
- Touching a single heart or a life is worth more than standing at the top alone.
Honestly, trekking and life seemed so much similar to me as I walked day after day. The path had beauty in every step and so it had the impediments of various kinds. It was our minds which made all of us to go on even after the bodies had given up at certain points. The important thing was to go on till we finish and enjoy the journey whether we were first or last. Like trek…in life too one can stop for a while, one can take rest or even a break, one can be up at a moment and down in another but all of us have to go on till we finish and finish well.
Now that the trek is over, I can say that it is a must have experience. I would have remained more like a tourist if I had not embarked on this journey to experience being a traveler.
Tips for High Altitude trek – things to remember
- Don’t over eat; sleep only at nights, if you can.
- Drink plenty of water (4-5L). Drinking helps hydrate & improves O2. No Alcohol.
- During ascends put your toe first and during descend put your heel first. Nurse your knees.
- Dress in layers; adjust them to keep cool or warm.
- No slips in concentration and carefulness. Trek poles to the mountain side.
- Keep the trail green and clean.
- Don’t give up.