Kashmir! It has always been a dream to visit Kashmir. But I’d hardly known back then that I’d visit Kashmir as a trekker! Having said that, walking through the meadows, breathing the fresh air, gulping down hot Maggi in the cold breeze with a bunch of fellow trekkers is the best way to soak in the beauty that Kashmir is. I’d been to the Kashmir great lakes trek in the month of August with TrekNomads along with my partner Sapnesh. Most of the pictures you see in this blog are clicked by him. And what an experience it was!
Kashmir Great Lakes trek – Highlights
Before I begin the day-to-day accounting here are the highlights of the trek:
- Highest altitude gained: 13,800ft (trust me, the best feeling ever when you reach the peak!).
- Of course the pristine Kashmir lakes (around 6/7).
- Postcard like scenic beauty everywhere.
- Experience of trekking in almost ALL kinds of terrain.
- Hot Maggi, chai, and coffee at that altitude!
- Amazing Kashmiri people and trekkers around you.
- A happy tummy and mind. (Best food, and best sleep).
Zindagi mein aur kya chahiye? Internet, yeah that you don’t find it on the trail. Which is quite the ideal case to just be with nature, friends, and yourself. Also FYI, this was my first Himalayan trek. Before this, I’ve done small treks in the western ghats.
Okay, as I said before, it all started with my dream of visiting Kashmir. I was surfing for packages for Kashmir and then came across the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. I saw a few pictures, got mesmerized, and decided to do it. And TrekNomads had an end-to-end package that just fit in. We booked our tickets and the package almost a month before. The process was really smooth and the TrekNomads personnel are really helpful in addressing all your queries.
Preparation: Yes, some prep is required for a high-altitude trek.
After the booking is made, Naveen (our trek lead and the founder of TrekNomads) will keep you posted with a number of do’s, don’ts, tips, and also the essentials for the trek. The foremost and the most important thing is fitness levels. As beginner trekkers, it was important for us to amp up our fitness routine.
Recommended reading: A detailed guide on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek
The requirement was, 5km running under 35 minutes and some strength training. What seemed like an uphill task in the beginning days of our training, became really smooth in the last week. We started running from the day the fitness requirements were shared with us. We started with one kilometer and we were finally able to run 5kms towards the end of the last week.
To sum it up, I recommend you to start your training 6 weeks before, focus on:
- Keeping the run at a steady pace during a session.
- Keep breathing and stay hydrated.
- Another tip is to do practice interval running for better results.
- And of course, don’t ignore strength training and stretching.
How To Reach?
Since this was my first time in Kashmir, I wasn’t familiar with the hotels or boat stays. A very good plus point of going with TrekNomads is that they handle your transport and stay in Kashmir. Honestly, this made our lives so much easier.
Recommended Reading: A photoblog on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek
You can reach Kashmir (Srinagar) via Airlines as well as trains. However, direct flights or trains aren’t available from other parts of India. You’ll find flights and trains from Delhi. One tip to avoid cancellation of flights is to book reputed airlines in that region such as Vistara or Air Asia. We experienced rescheduling and cancellation with other domestic airlines.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek – Day-wise experience
Day 1: Boathouse stay at Nigeen lake
We met our trek lead, Naveen, ready to receive us at the Srinagar airport along with our other trek mates. We took a tempo to the boat stay which was going to be our abode for the night. Our boathouse was situated in the beautiful Nigeen lake.
We were treated with hot pakodas and Qahwa (a traditional Kashmiri tea) at the boathouse. Later, we took a boat ride known as the Shikara ride on the lake. The ride was the most peaceful ride ever under the sunset of Kashmir.
Later, we spent most of the evening getting to know the fellow trekkers and their other adventures. Naveen took over and explained to us a few do’s and don’ts and how we’d spend the next few days in the mountains.
At night, we had an amazing and appetizing dinner along with laughs and talks. We retired for the day after a walk under the stars and a lot of excitement for the next day!
Here’s how the interiors of our boathouse looked like.
Day 2: Drive to Sonamarg
The next morning was the time to bid goodbye to the beautiful boathouse and the humble owners of it. They were one of the sweetest hosts I’d ever come across.
Later it was a long ride (90km) to reach Sonamarg base camp, our very first camp; it was beside a stream of gushing water. When we reached Sonamarg, our team crew had reached earlier and had started pitching tents already while we trekkers were soaking in the beauty of Sonamarg.
Hot lunch was prepared and served. Our cook for the journey was a Nepali cook Khazi bhai. The food he prepared was definitely comparable to the big restaurants! After lunch, we took a jeep ride to Zo jila pass and zero point which is closer to Kargil. The ride was thrilling with sharp hairpin turns and beautiful scenic views.
Pro tip: Don’t skip this ride because it will help you acclimatize to the high altitude.
We slept the night in the lap of the mountains and the humming of waters. The next day was the first of our six-day trek.
Day 3: Trek to Nichnai (max altitude:11,500 ft)
We woke up early, had a filling breakfast and tea, all set for the arduous climb. Our trek lead advised us to take it easy and not rush into anything. The first day starts with a patch of forest, and then rolling hills, streams of water, and later you enter the mountains.
On the way, you meet the Kashmiri children asking for toffees, such an innocent thing.
We gain a considerable amount of altitude on the first day hence the ascent can be tiring. It was very tiring for me. I was making the mistake of not maintaining a constant and comfortable pace, it was burning me out very soon. Naveen suggested that I start with baby steps, build a pace and take breaks only when required, and most importantly to stay hydrated.
Like an obedient student, I followed his words and it worked! I was soon able to catch up with my trek mates. At halfway through you reach a maggie point which is the need of the hour!
We kept moving forward, baby steps, hydration, constant pace, breaks when tired was my mantra. But towards the end, I got a headache. I’d read about AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and thought I was experiencing it. That slowed me down drastically. With the help of Naveen, I made it to the base camp.
My headache vanished seeing my trek mates and the campsite! So yeah, it wasn’t AMS, probably just a thing in my head. It was a tiring and challenging climb amongst all the other days for me.
Day 4: Trek to Vishansar (max altitude:12,172 ft)
The previous day’s tiring climb had me thinking about how difficult the following days would be. But to my astonishment, I really got the hang of it and loved every bit of the trekking I did in the Alpines.
I woke up with apprehension yet with carpe diem kinda energy. We left for Vishansar, our first lake after breakfast. Today’s trek was a shorter one with a steep ascent in the beginning and then we descended towards the Vishansar lake.
The campsite location is really amazing, which is just a kilometre away from the Vishansar lake. We reached the campsite around noon, had lunch, chilled a bit, and then went towards the lake.
What a beauty! We had ample time to spend at the lakeside, clicked a few pictures, and went back to the campsite.
We retired for the night after some group games with the trekkers and a sumptuous meal!
Day 5: Trek to Gadsar (max altitude:13,800 ft)
Today was the day everyone at the Kashmir Great Lakes trek talked about including our leader. This was the day we reach the highest altitude and was going to test our endurance (I still found the first day to be difficult than any other day). We began our journey quite early after breakfast. All the trekkers were wearing the TrekNomads T-shirts which that we trekked to the highest point of Kashmir Great Lakes trek!
It was no doubt a difficult climb, but it’s worth it because of the beautiful landscapes that this path has to offer. We crossed a stream and then climbed up the mountain to reach the peak. It was quite chilly at the peak because of the altitude.
After a quick photo session, we descended to the Gadsar lake and had our packed lunch. This was by far the most beautiful lake we’d encountered according to me. It had a rich emerald color and changed to a different shade of turquoise when hit with sunlight. Amazing beauty you Kashmir! By this time, I think I was quite comfortable with descending mountains than ascending them.
Day 6: Trek to Satsar (max altitude:11,810 ft)
After a difficult climb the previous day, today was an easy one. We reached the base camp in the afternoon for lunch. Like any other day in the mountains, today was beautiful too. The terrain was mostly flat amidst the green mountains. At one such point, we were luckily able to spot the Nanga Prabhat of the Himalayas.
Since we reached the campsite early, we had a lot of time to get to know our fellow trekkers more and better. So we had all kinds of charchas discussions over our chai! Lovely time spent.
Day 7: Trek to Gangbal twin lakes (max altitude:11,730 ft)
This was the last second day of our trek which was challenging in its own way main reason being the big boulders! After we packed our tents at the Satsar lake, the very start of Day7 were the boulders (massive rocks). It was quite a long stretch.
After a brief rest, we resumed towards our today’s destination, the peak! (the twin lakes are visible from here) It was a steep ascent, the terrain is a bit rocky and granular here. The climb was tiring, but all of us made it to the peak.
And Woah! Every drop of sweat you drop ascending, every time you motivate yourself to keep going is worth it. Trust me, the view of the twin lakes is incredible.
Next, we descended towards the twin lakes, which are in the meadows.
Like the adventure hadn’t ended! We had a surprise adventure towards the end of the trek. We had to cross a stream on a thin plank! It’s not at all easy as it sounds. I had my heart in my hands crossing it! Anyway, we made our way to our last campsite at the Nandkol lake.
Day 8: Descend to Naranag village (max altitude: 6,982 ft)
The last night, the temperature had dipped and we retired to our tents earlier than usual. Today was the last day in the mountains we were going to descend to Naranag village and then back to Srinagar.
The descend was a challenge in itself! After five days in the Alpines, I thought of myself as a pro in descending mountains when compared to ascending. But mountains are here to throw all kinds of challenges! This was the toughest and most challenging descent ever! However, we all reached safe and sound reunited at a small cafe, and made our way through a ride to Srinagar.
We stayed in a 3-star hotel that night and had our first shower after a week or so! And practically used a toilet too after a week. We gathered to make our farewell speeches at the dinner table and talked about our most cherished memories of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek.
Day 9: Buffer day at Srinagar city
We were so skeptical to spend the buffer day at Srinagar. I’m so thankful that we decided to stay, it was a fun-filled day at Srinagar. We went shopping and exploring the local art, food and some sightseeing. We roamed around in rickshaws and all of them were friendly with us. We visited art centres, dargahs, cafes, and emporiums.
For lunch, we went to Ahdoos, located in the middle of the town, they make amazing food here! Kashmir is known for its mirch and masala and it’s very rightly reflected in their cuisine. Ahdoos is a must-try.
After lunch, we shopped for some spices, condiments, Kesar, bakery items (they make good baked stuff), dry fruits, and some gifts for friends and family.
We returned to our hotel rooms with a bitter-sweet feeling.
Day 10: Departure
The next day I was sad to leave the “paradise on earth – Kashmir ”, but the end of the journey means the beginning of new ones. We left early towards the airport, had multiple security checks, and waited for our flights. We returned home with wonderful memories and a new bunch of friends.
I’d heard someone say, “You don’t climb the mountains, the mountains let you climb them”. I believe in this now, I believe in the almighty mountains! And I’ve become more humble towards the experience that the mountains give you. The mountain Gods had been so kind to us that we did not experience any kind of natural extremities in this Kashmir Great Lakes trek. I hope you have a good and safe mountain time too!
About the Author:
Puja, is a first-time Alpine trekker, but a regular trekker otherwise. Puja has graduated as an engineer, she’s a part-time technical content writer, now a blogger too. Apart from the usual routine, she likes being close to nature and enjoys trekking and traveling in general.
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