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Kashmir Great Lakes trek-2020: A photo tour

“Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto.”

Alpine lakes with crystal clear water,

A glimpse of ‘Nanga Parbat’,

‘Meerkats’ running to their hideouts,

Carpet of golden Chinar leaves,

Quaint Shepard’s huts,

Kashmir’s own Valley of flowers,

Milky Way in the freezing nights,

Volleyball matches at the campsites,Campfire with celebration dance at the last campsite.

This summarizes Kashmir great lakes trek in short.

Kashmir great lakes trek popularly referred as KGL is a 6-days trek, where we include 1 buffer day; making it a 7-days of trek. This trek has a different entry & exit points. The trek starts from Shitkari, near Sonamarg (80 km from Srinagar) & ends in Naranaag (50 km from Srinagar). Hence, our whole trek program is of 10 days.

As the name suggests, this trek’s unique feature is ‘7 lakes in 7 miles’. A few decades ago it was documented to have ’50 lakes in 50 mile’ but many dried out over the period of time.

The best things that I personally liked of this trek are:

  • The trail is not accessible via any mode other than trekking. Hence, the majority part of the trail retains it’s natural charm.
  • The lakes are unpoluted with crystal clear water. You can literally see not only the rocks & pebbles at the bottom but also the trout fishes swimming swiftly.
  • No trace of human habitation like shops, sellers, tea-stalls, vehicles, roads. Only sign of human existence are the beautiful Shepherd’s huts.
  • Clear night sky, opening the whole of Milky way above you.
  • Lesser number of other trekking groups as compared to the other Himalayan treks.
  • Camping is not the preferred mode of stay but the only option on this trek. Giving you the real experience of camping.
  • The view of Nanga Parbat….!!!
  • The sight of the Meerkats families chilling in their habitate.
02.10.2020: (Reach Srinagar)

On the first day of the KGL trek programme the trekkers reached Srinagar airport from where they were welcomed with the personalized gesture (Kashmir’s famous Pashmeena shawls) from ‘Me & Mountain’ and escorted to the Houseboat in a traveller van.

The team was welcomed in the houseboat with ‘Kahwah’ (special Kashmiri beverage) and the snacks. The houseboat was engraved with intricate designs and decorated with beautiful chandeliers. The team was alloted the rooms in the group of two & three. The team proceeded for the hot lunch

The rest of that day was dedicated for exploring the city. Unfortunately the gardens were still closed due to COVID restrictions. We took a short tour of the heart of Srinagar and had street foods. Me & Mountain offered a complimentary ‘Shikara ride’ (on Dal lake) at the sunset along with the city tour for our batch. Trip to Srinagar is incomplete without a Shikara ride which has a calming effect as your Shikara gently glide over the Dal lake and you laze watching the sun gracefully slipping down the horizon.

Post sunset, “Flag off ceremony” was held, marked by the following:

•Special goodies distribution (the batch received customized T-shirts)

•Announcement of the captain (among the trekkers) of the team & Flag off ceremony from the senior most participant to the captain

•Health cards distribution & baseline vital recording by the assigned health officer

The day ends with the lip-smacking dinner

03.10.2020: (Srinagar- Shitkari basecamp)

The team woke up to a flower laden Shikara of a flower-seed vendor. The charming vendor offered his Shikara to the trekkers to step in and capture the lovely moment in the camera. The trekkers bought the flower seed as per their interest. This completed the look of the Dal lake (‘Jewel in the crown of Kashmir’).

We started from Srinagar (after breakfast) for Sonamarg by road. The road journey was took us through some of the amazing landscapes. We felt the difference in the air as we drove along the valleys and the mystic rivers.

KGL trek 2020 organized by Me & Mountain was in October (the delay owing to the pandemic restrictions) and October being a harvest season of apples; we took a quick halt at an Apple orchard on the way to Sonamarg.


From Shitkari (Sonamarg), the rest of stays are in the camps. Me & Mountain provides 3-men camping tents alloting 2 trekkers per tent for spacious stay. Clean sleeping bags appropriate for the temperature were also provided.


It included veg as well as non-veg meals.

Morning started from bed tea (tent tea in this case) followed by delicious breakfast. The menu is never repeated on any of the trek days.

The team was supplemented by a pack of juice, fruit & a few candies along with the packed lunch (on the assigned days) to be carried for that day’s trek, apart from your personal munchies.

There were mutton, chicken, egg, fish (lucky to get a few fishes this time) in the menu for the trek.

Vegetarians too got a variety of food items like paneer & mushroom apart from green veggies.

Sweet tooth people didn’t have to supress their sweet-craving. As the dinners ended with a sweet note (daily surprise). In this trek, we savoured Rasagulla, hot Gulab jamun, Fruit salad, Sevaiyan, Carrot cake & Sohan paapdi to name a few.

Apart from the three full meals, you will be provided with evening snacks and tea/coffee/soup. This time the participants relished pasta, chowmein, pakodas as a few of the evening snacks.

The celebration cake

Our Shitkari campsite was on the bank of river Nallah Sindh.

After the lunch at Shitkari campsite (2km before Sonamarg), we did a warm up by trekking for a short distance, on one of the various trekking routes. It helped specially the beginners to get a feel of the real trek which commenced the next day.

We trekked a few kilometres on the route to Thajiwas glacier (‘The hidden jewel of Kashmir’). It was a scenic trek to the lush meadow and river-side with beautiful wooden bridges over it.

The day ended with the mandatory vital check up by our registered medical officer, recorded on the health cards on daily basis and dinner.

We were lucky to experience full moon from Kashmir. We slept under the moonlight & the numerous twinkling diamonds beside a river. It was an experience never to forget.

Night at Shitkari camp.JPG
04.10.2020: (Shitkari- Nichnai campsite)

Day 3 of the programme was technically the day 1 of the trek. We trekked from Shitkari (7,800ft) to Nichnai meadow campsite (11,500ft). On this day, after the breakfast, we trekked from Shitkari to Shekdur, famously known as ‘Table top’, from where you can see the whole of Sonamarg, surrounded by the mountains with the glaciers. We got the entry done in the army post (original photo ID card, preferably Adhaar card is mandatory for the entry) here & continue the ascent. Let me take you along the trail by the means of the photographs because words will fall short of what we saw in the reality.

We came across a stream from where we re-filled our water-bottles with the cold fresh water. Note: We advise you to carry bottles of total capacity of 1 litre, which you can re-fill from the fresh water streams on the way. Himalayan water free of cost….!!! There are no other source of water apart from these.

After a few more ascents we reached a long stretch of lush meadow….a picture perfect for your favourite gadget’s wallpaper. Then comes the mystic Chinar tree forest (Maple). As we trekked during the beginning of autumn (October) this year, it was filmy walking on the chinar leaves of all the shades, ranging from golden to orange. Chinar leaves have a signature shape which added on to the magical effect created by the golden forest.

From here the rest of the trail is almost flat levelled with a few descents. You will be walking along the stream, crossing a few areas of boulders. After a trek of approx. 12 km comes the Nichnai meadow campsite.

We energised ourselves with steamy snacks with tea and explored the meadow till the sunset. It became chilly as the sun set and to help us cope with this dropping temperature we were served hot soup. Everyone got their daily vitals checked and proceeded with the hot dinner.

05.10.2020: (Buffer day)

We utilized our buffer day at Nichnai as one of our trekkers fell sick on the previous night. Optionally, the buffer day is either utilized at Vishansar campsite or Gangabal campsite, if everything remains favourable. We thought of giving him a proper rest for a day and on his request one our guides arranged pony (charge born by the trekker) back from Sonamarg. He was lucky to get pony for himself and 2 other team members (who opted for the ponies as stand-by for them) at the last moment, as most of the time all the ponies are pre-booked. Hence, it is advised to all the participants to book one for themselves (booking done for the full trek and not on daily basis) well in advance, even if they are in a doubt. Availability of pony doesn’t mean an unfit participant can opt for this trek, because there are lots of areas on the trail which you will need to cover on your feet and not on pony (like stretches of boulders and loose soil during the descent).

Well, the buffer day didn’t mean lazing in the tents but the participants are involved in the physical activities to help the body to acclimatize. After the breakfast, everyone except the sick trekker went to hike up till some distance & returned in a few a hours.

We made a full use of the meadow by playing Cricket, Volleyball & Frisbee. Yes, we carried the gaming gears too. Our buffer day turned into a high altitude picnic as we spent the day listening to the music, playing & hiking.

The day ended with daily vital check-up and steamy dinner.

06.10.2020: (Nichnai campsite- Nichnai pass- Vishansar campsite)

Our sick participant recovered and the whole of the team moved ahead together. This day we cross the first pass- Nichnai pass (13,615ft) after a steep ascent. You will feel the effect of strong chilly wind from this day, so keep all your layers of cloths handy in your day-pack. Nichnai pass is the last spot where you might get the phone network till the descent to Naranaag (when you shall start getting back the phone network). Beyond the descent is a stream, after which there is an endless meadow with a stream running across it.

Today’s trek of approx. 16 km ending at the first alpine lake of our trek- Vishansar lake (named after Lord Vishnu), at the height of 12,139ft. Today’s campsite is just a kilometre away from Vishansar lake, at the river-bank.  We warmed up ourselves with freshly prepared snacks and tea before heading towards Vishansar lake.

It was mesmerizing to sit by the calm Vishansar lake at the sunset. The river and the lake are loaded with Trout fishes. You can see them swiftly swimming in the crystal clear water. You can catch (maximum 4) the fishes only after getting a permit from the Srinagar fishery department. Without the permit it is a punishable offence.

After the sunset everyone gathered in the dinning tent for the vitals as we sipped the hot soup. We got engaged in little gossips as we laughed, recalling the incidences during the trek. Then the dinner followed.

Vishansar campsite offered me my first view of the Milky Way, under a freezing yet clear sky. I stood there astonished, witnessing a few shooting stars when my frozen extremities forced me to pack myself up in the sleeping bag. My bad luck that I wasn’t able to capture the Milky Way in my camera. It was so cold that we got up with a layer of frost over our sleeping bags the next morning.

07.10.2020: (Vishansar campsite-  Gadsar pass- Gadsar campsite)

Today is the day when we would cross the highest pass of this trek- Gadsar pass at 13,750ft (it’s the highest point during this trek). It’s this Gadsar pass from where the signature photograph of the KGL trek is clicked, with Vishansar and Krishansar lakes in the same frame.

The gradual ascent from the campsite is along the Vishansar lake moving towards Krishansar lake. After a steep climb along Krishansar lake you gradually start getting a view of Vishansar lake beyond Krishansar lake. Vishansar lake is lower than the snow-fed Krishansar (12,467ft). Vishansar lake is fed by the later. Neelum river (also known as Krishanganga) originates from Vishansar lake, which later crosses the line of control to enter Pakistan and join river Jhelum.

The descent of Gadsar pass is a bit tricky initially followed by gradual descent with intermittent meadows. Then comes the third and the forth lakes, Yamsar lake and Gadsar lake (Gadsar=fish, in Kashmiri). Both the lakes are interconnected via a stream. Still both has a very distinct colour of their own. Yamsar lake is dedicated to the ‘Lord of Death’ and the locals can narrate various spooky stories associated with it.

We trekked a rocky descent followed by a long stretch of flat trail, leaving Yamsar lake behind. We took a lunch break at an innominate alpine lake. Although unnamed, this lake is equally beautiful with crystal clear water.

We trekked beside Gadsar lakes (11,811ft), surrounded by blue Himalayan flowers. This truly made it Kashmir’s own ‘Valley of flowers’.

We had an opportunity to see Meerkats with their families, taking sunbath and running around to their hideouts. Unfortunately, we were unable to take close-up shot of them.

The 15km trek continued along a river with a versatile course: meandering, falling off the rocky bed to form a tiny waterfall and finally disappearing under the terrain beneath us. We come across several Shepherd’s huts which are so beautiful, amidst the huge mountain ranges that you can’t stop yourself from taking their photographs.

Our campsite was at one of such Shepherd’s huts at Gadsar campsite (12,500ft).

We warmed upnourselves in front of the fire-place inside a Shepherd’s hut and baked a few potatoes before relishing Biryani for the dinner. We retired to our respective tents after spending some time gazing the Milky Way and shooting stars.

08.10.2020: (Gadsar campsite- Satsar campsite)

Today our trek started by crossing a small patch of glacier.

Today’s trek is almost flat with no steep ascent or descent. We trekked along a deep valley with a barren mountain range on our right and a river flowing deep down in the valley.

Our team was lucky to have a clear sky to see ‘Nanga Parbat’ (ninth highest mountain in the world lying in Gilgit-Baltistan) on this day of trek.

Nanga parbat peak between the two mountain ranges

After crossing another meadow, we came across a chain of seven big and small lakes collectively known as Satsar lakes (named as Satsar 1, Satsar 2, Satsar 3 and further). I have totally fallen in love with this dual shaded lake in blue and green. It was mystical seeing its tiny waves touching the feet.

After a short section of boulders we reached Satsar campsite at 12,000ft. The trekkers were really excited today, as for the first time in the past 5 days, we were expecting to reach the campsite before the lunch time. That meant a hot lunch for us….!!!

Evening was spent playing volleyball and chilling at the river-side followed by snacks & coffee. We wrapped up for the day after daily vital check-up and dinner.

09.10.2020: (Satsar campsite- Zach pass- Gangabal campsite)

Today we were looking to reach the last two named alpine lakes of this trek: Nundkol lake and Gangabal lake. The trek started by crossing a long stretch of huge boulders. This trail is a bit tricky but equally exciting. Get a feel of mini rock climbing as you navigate your way between the human-size boulders.

After this boulders section, the terrain has a steep slope leading to the third pass of this trek: Zach/Zaj pass (13,500ft).

Zach pass gives you a stunning view of another twin lakes: Nundkol and Gangabal lakes. Apart from the twin lakes you will see two more lakes on the either sides of this twin lakes. It is a breath-taking view of 16,870ft Mount Harmukh with Nundkol lake on its foothill accompanied by Gangabal lake, two unnamed lake and Pir Panjal range…all in a single frame….!!!

Mount Harmukh is known as ‘Kailash of Kashmir’ and believed to be abode of Lord Shiva. Gangabal lake or the ‘Ganges of Kashmir’ is a holy pilgrim site for Kashmiri Hindus. ‘Harmukh Gangabal Yatra’, an annual pilgrim takes place on the eve of ‘Ganga Ashtami’.

After clicking a plenty of photographs of this memorable moment on Zach pass, we started our descent to a meadow embedded with the yellow flowers. We had lunch at the stream across this meadow, crossed the stream and continued on a short ascent to another flower laden meadow. At the end of this meadow and a steep descent lied Nundkol lake. Here is the Gangabal campsite (11,500ft) just adjacent to the Nundkol lake.

This campsite had a few litters as compared to the previous campsites which were absolutely clean. The reason is that Gangabal-Nundkol twin lakes serves as a weekend trekking site. This weekend trek is done from Naranaag side (reverse side) and people return the same way (to Naranaag) after an overnight camping. Not holding anyone responsible for this but it’s a sad truth that the more accessible a place is for the humans, the dirtier it gets.

The evening snacks with tea was ready after having which we moved to explore Nundkol and Gangabal lakes (Gangabal being the largest one among the lakes in this trek). We reached back to the campsite by the sunset. The trekkers got the vitals checked and proceeded for the hot dinner.

Below are the photographs of Nundkol lake

Below are the snaps from gangabal lake

After the dinner, we celebrated the last camping night of the trek with a special dessert: Celebration carrot cake prepared by our talented cook, Riyaaz.

Campfire was arranged with the dried twigs and tree branches. After offering a thanksgiving token to the staffs by the trekkers, everyone joined in to sing songs around the campfire. Everyone, especially the staffs rejoiced dancing on the Punjabi songs till the campfire burnt down, leaving a starry sky behind.

We spent some time admiring the starry sky for the last time before going back for the city life the next day. We retired to our respective tents with the sweet memories of that night.

10.10.2020: (Gangabal campsite- Naranaag- Srinagar)

Although the majority of the trek on the last day is a descent, the trail is not an easy one as other descents. We started by crossing the stream originating from Nundkol lake. You can cross it either over a narrow wooden log or the rocks on the stream-bed. Walking over the log will make your heart thump, as you can place only one foot at a time on the log, with rapidly flowing stream beneath you.

After a short ascent we reached a ridge with the meadows on the either sides, bounded by the massive mountains. We descended to a flower cladded meadow with a beautiful guest house standing alone, and an army camp at some distance.

You will need to produce your original Aadhaar card before the army officers for verification and data recording. The army officers hosted us with tea and biscuits. They even filled our water bottles with warm water for rest of the trek. The kind gesture from our army men was really heart-warming.

At the Army camp

Beyond the army camp, starts the treeline where you trek through the pine and deodar forest. Initial phase is almost flat with intermittent gradual descent till we reached a ‘Tea stall/ Dhaaba’. The phones with the functioning network will start getting network here.

Gear up your trekking pole and tighten your shoes, as now you shall be experiencing the most dreadful descent of the trek. It’s steep…real steep and what adds on to the difficulty is the loose soil and pebbles. Frequent sandy trail on steep down-slope makes the way prone to skid. Making this day’s trek more challenging was the never ending down-hill. After all the distance from Gangabal campsite to Naranaag is approx. 18km with straight 3000ft drop of altitude.

As we transversed the spooky forest echoed with raven’s cry, we started hearing the rumbling of a river, which gradually increases as we climbed down. It’s Wangath river (tributary of Sindh river), along which is situated an ancient Hindu pilgrimage village, Naranaag. It is famous for Naranaag temple (dedicated to ancient Nagas, hence the name), holding the archaeological significance.

The team (a few of the staffs left early hence not in this photograph)

We took a quick rest till all the trekkers gather at Naranaag and proceed for Srinagar in the traveller van. We reached Srinagar before sunset. After 1 ½ hour of road journey and we were back to a city life. All trekkers had only one thing in mind at this moment: a hot shower. We reach our Houseboat and take much awaited shower. The trekkers who had a pending souvenir shopping, left for the same to the city’s market. Some purchased the stuffs from the local vendors who visited the Houseboat for sale.

Later in the evening we gathered in the hall for the ‘Closing ceremony’ of the trek. The flag was handed back by the captain to the senior most participant, marking the successful completion of the trek. Each trekker was awarded ‘Certificate of appreciation’ followed by a special dinner with Kashmiri cuisine.

Handing over of the Flag by the captain to the senior most participant
11.10.2020: (Depart from Srinagar)

After the breakfast, the trekkers departed for their respective destinations. With wonderful memories and fresh mind everyone left back for the city life….dreaming of the next trek.

Seeing off

Inspired by Kashmir great lake trek….???

Join ‘Me & Mountain’ for this trek this season.

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