Day 1 - 18 Aug 2017
Content: Kashmir, a place known as paradise by itself. I with friends planned a trip to the Greatest Alpine Lakes exploration. We strongly believed that the true beauty of nature lies in the lush-green isolated places that are not accessible by roads. The Kashmir Great Lakes trek was the perfect decision we made. It includes alpine lakes, meadows, and exotic flora and fauna. We landed at Srinagar airport. It was largely operating for military purposes so that it was highly secured. The airport was looking good. We got a taxi easily from the gate to Sonamarg.
Content: We reached Sonamarg by noon where I met our tour representative. He was from a local adventure company. They were skilled to organize trekking as a mixture of walking and education tours about the place. The trek starts from Sonamarg and ends at Narana. Sonamarg, the “Meadow of Gold” in Jammu and Kashmir, where we stayed on the first day. It is one of the most breathtaking hill stations in India. We stayed in a tent which was built on the meadowland against the backdrop of the mountains. Sonamarg is the last town with a market before the start of the trek. After having a hot cup of Kashmiri tea called kahwah with snacks, we headed to the town. On the way, we saw many singers who were singing melodious folk songs. From the market, we brought some energy drinks along with some snacks. For dinner, they served delicious Kashmiri thali.
Day 2 - 19 Aug 2017
Content: We got ready at around 6 in the morning. After breakfast at the campsite, we packed our load and backpacks on horses and start our trek. We were accompanied by a cook and his assistant, five pony men, five ponies & a trek leader, and his assistant. The trek leader gave an introduction about the journey along with some medical concerns. The fundamental thing I learned was the members of the group have to inspire each other and help each other. The beginning was a very steep climb.
Content: We reached a point from where we had to start our trekking excursion. Initially, the trek was a steep climb up to a place called Table Top. From the point, we saw the famous Sonamarg glaciers and valley in the background. Climbing till Tabletop literally and figuratively took us to a different world. There was a small dhaba where we spend some time and had a cup of tea with snacks. From here, the trail also turned gradual as we entered a valley of birch trees.
Content: We reached Nichnai around 2.30 pm. On the way, there’s an army check post where we produced our ID cards or passports. After checking, we headed to a pine forest and had our lunch at Shokdari Top. After finishing lunch, we entered the birch forest. It was a slight descend trek. We could saw a deep blue small lake at the foot of the mountains as we climb. Then the trail turns inwards twice and only then does the Nichnai pass come up. It was mind-blowing to watch the Sonamarg valley and the trail that we came from. Then at some point, we found a beautiful campsite next to a stream was arranged for us.
Day 3 - 20 Aug 2017
Content: We started our third day on the banks of the stream next to our campsite. We left Nichnai meadow crossing a small icy-water stream. We climb the pass through grazing pastures of sheep and goats. After crossing the pass we enter into the Vishansar Valley which is also called “the valley of medicinal plants”. In the next hour, the rocks gave way to grassland. Red flowers spring out next to our feet, we could see a wide green meadow stretching for miles with mountains lining the sides. Stopped and took pictures in the view of the peaks, the river below, and the flowery meadow. We saw a big waterfall splashing down the mountain cliff and joining a river.
Content: We reached our destination which is the home of rare migrant birds coming in summer across Siberia. We slid towards a lovely meadow that took us to Vishansar Lake. It was such a big and beautiful lake, which is named after Lord Vishnu. The lake is abounding with trout fish which was resting beautifully at the hems of two mountain peaks. The trek undergoes a steep slope that leads us to a pictorial meadow of colorful flowers. We could catch glimpses of a waterfall that finally joins a river. Here onwards, we continued with the hike towards its end, at the campsite.
Content: On the pass, there are two routes up to the Vishansar campsite. The normal route goes straight up to the campsite, and the other one goes via a lake on the top. They arranged beautiful tends on the bank of the river. Our other day was also spent in a campsite set aside Vishansar Lake. It is the first Alpine lake in Kashmir Great Lakes. We enjoyed dinner among the wild flowers and magical views of the great Himalayan mountains.
Day 4 - 21 Aug 2017
Content: After breakfast, we started our day looking over and over to Vishansar Lake. We started the trek with a sight seen around Vishansar lake. We walked gently in the meadows by taking amazing pictures.
Content: Then we encountered Krishansar Lake which is the sibling of the Vishansar Lake. It lies just about half km away, which is the second beautiful lake on this journey. This lake is named after Lord Krishna. Our guide told us that scientists have labeled these lakes as oligotrophic lakes, which means these lakes have higher levels of oxygen and less organic content. So that it is perfect for drinking. The water of the stream was so cold that we removed our boots and then crossed the stream. We were tired and decided to have tea and rest for some time. Then, we climbed towards Gadsar Pass.
Content: The highest pass of the trek was the Gadsar Pass which was steeper than that of the Nichnai. From the top, we got the aerial view of the whole Vishansar valley along with twin lakes of Vishansar and Krishansar “the source of Neelam River”. The pass is breathtaking in giving a panoramic view of two valleys — on one side of the pass is Gadsar Valley and on the other is Vishansar Valley. We walked down to the Gadsar valley which was full of flowery alpine plants and the green-carpeted mountains look fabulous with their snow-clad tops. Finally, we arrived at our camping ground. Gadsar army camp is just a small hut housing 5-8 army men. To move beyond the army camp, we need to ask permission from their Headquarters. All details about the trekkers and staff including original id cards are recorded, collected, and checked by the authority. We took tea and spend the night in the meadow.
Day 5 - 22 Aug 2017
Content: We packed up from the Gadsar valley after breakfast. We crossed the ice bridge and follow a long gradual trail towards Satsar. Beautiful landscape with mountains all around covered with green carpet-like grass and in the slopes with few pine trees. It was an ideal place to take good snaps. As we entered the Rasbal, we could see a flowing river disappears inside the boulders and flows underground. We continue our trek through seven small lakes of Satsar.
Content: Satsar is a collection of 7 lakes scattered around an isolated valley. We had to check-in at an Army camp before Satsar Lakes. We camped at Megandoab at the foothills of the third pass of Zajibal for an overnight stay. The campsite was in the middle of the mountain peaks. The view was very beautiful, we had a cup of soup sitting on the top of a stone. We had early dinner and spend some time outside to capture night shots.
Day 6 - 23 Aug 2017
Content: Our sixth day starts with the crossing of an ice-cold stream right next to the Satsar campsite. We crossed the stream starts the ascent full of huge boulders. We saw many mountains full of pine trees, after many days of trekking in the mountains with almost no trees. One of the mountains we could see was a striking Mt. Harmukh. This mountain is said to be the abode of Lord Shiva and it is believed that no human feet can touch the Harmukh Summit. We passed through around three ridges to reach Nundkhol Lake. We ascend the last pass of our trek ‘Zajibal Pass'. On the top of the ridge, we saw two lakes lie next to one another. A stream takes water from the higher lake to the lower. The Nundkhol lake lies at the base of the Harmukh peak. The Harmukh glacier hangs on the sides of the rocky edges of the mountain. Both the Gangabal and Nundkhol are famous for trout fishing. We camped near the banks of Gangabal lake.
Day 7 - 24 Aug 2017
Content: The final day trek was from Lake Gangabal to Naranag. Gangabal Valley has close to six alpine lakes and the prominent being Gangbal Lake and Nundkol Lake. Gangbal Lake is the largest alpine lake of Kashmir and it gets its water from Mount Harmukh Glacier. We trekked down the meadows of Trunkhol.
Content: At Trunkhol, we showed our ID cards at the Army check-post. We walked down to Naranag village through the pine forests of Bodpathri. The trail is a well-trodden muddy one through the thick of the pines. The trail is not continuous and there are mud trails that can be very difficult to walk. The final stretch is the man-made trail, which is the base camp for trekkers climbing Mount Haramukh or Gangbal. There is a shiva temple just 50 meters away from the final point. This temple is a famous tourist spot and is one of the important archaeological sites of India. We took our lunch and drove back to Srinagar to catch a late-night flight.
Content: We reached Srinagar town, from there we hired another taxi to the airport. Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is one of the most beautiful treks in India. Many of the lakes on this trek are named after gods from Hindu mythology and we came across interesting stories about the origin and existence. The airport was not a big one but well maintained and cleans. When we reached the airport all networks of our phones are bounded and can't able to access. There was no Wi-Fi. The waiting rooms are air-conditioned and well maintained. We enjoyed every day in Kashmir Great Lakes Trek.