The Great Escape
Together on The Great Lakes Trek, Kashmir
We at Quicksand love our play as much as work, which is actually play… you know what i am getting at right?
Every year all of us, take off for a vacation together. It’s a chance to travel to great places and have an adventure.
We’d been beach bums for the first few years.
We dived in Andamans; snorkelled together in the deep blue sea over at South Button- a giant rock jutting out in the middle of nowhere. An area made famous by Jaques Cousteau who made his little known gem, ‘The Invisible Islands’ in the 70’s here, he believed this place was home to the best corals in the world.
More diving and snorkelling followed in Indonesia on the next holiday as well. Later in Thailand we explored waterfalls, jungles, and just went crazy over the mango and sticky rice combo.
Time for something different perhaps?!
And not just any trek, but, the Great Lakes Trek in Kashmir.
We’d heard a lot about this almost mythical trek. Everybody seems to agree that this IS the most beautiful trek in india.
“There’s glacial lakes, resplendent valleys, high mountain passes and solitude”. Mind is kind of made up right?!
But not a lot of information existed about this legendary trek. So we had to find out for ourselves.
It was in the first week of July, 2015 that we made our way to Kashmir.
The trek covers Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar, Gangabal and Nundkol Lakes and three mountain passes over 4000m
Our journey started at Sonamarg. Known as “The meadow of gold’ along the picturesque Sind river. An overnight stay and we started to get used to sleeping on undulating surfaces.
The day started with a trail- slightly steep, that passes through the meadows and enters a pine and birch forest at Shokdari before the vast and long Nichnai meadow — our camping ground for the night.
By evening the weather turned grey and soon we were under a continuous blanket of rain. Which did not stop the next day as well.
We were grounded. Not the best of starts we thought.
Having waited an extra day we decided that there was no point in turning back. We pressed ahead hoping our luck would change.
We left Nichnai meadow and immediately started ascending one of the three passes of the trek- the Nichnai Pass (4000m). The pass still had snow, and it was quite a challenge to find our snow feet quickly, or else risk sliding down into a gorge- not an option.
Finally after a day long trek with a steady haze of rain coming down we camped next to the twin lakes of Vishansar and Kishansar. We hoped the next day would bring some change in our fortunes.
Next morning our prayers were answered- the sun was out! We finally started to relax and enjoy the long day’s hike ahead of us.
After discovering Vishansar Lake we headed towards its twin the Kishansar Lake which lies just over a ridge. We took it’s eastern shore to ascend the second pass of the trek- the Gadsar Pass (4050m). On the top of the pass we had an aerial view of the whole Vishansar valley with the twin lakes- the source of Neelam River. It wasn’t an easy climb to say the least, at least for some of us. But it was worth it!
Climbing over the Vishansar pass i was greeted with the most gobsmacking view i have ever seen. The Gadsar valley is something else. The glacial Gadsar lake and the it’s surroundings is a breathtaking affair. Small dots that seemed to move in the distance were horses grazing in the endless meadows of green.
Life was good here, you could tell!
Shepherds grazing their flocks around the Gadsar lake believe that, there lives a monster in the lake, a giant octopus which drags the creatures from shores by its tentacles into the water, never to be seen again.
Made an early start to the day.
We were headed to Gangabal; but first to get there we have to climb the Zajibal Pass, our last of the 4000 mt. pass.
We climbed the last and the highest pass of our trek ‘Zajibal Pass (4180m)’. We could see Mount Harmukh (5300m) straight ahead hanging in the clouds, below were the twin lakes of Gangabal and Nundkol.
The river crossing this time around was much more challenging and we did need some help from our hoofed friends.
to be continued…