Duration : 07 NIGHTS / 08 DAYS
Destinations : Srinagar - Sonamarg - Nichnai - Shekdur - Vishansar lake - Acclimatization -Vishansar -Gadsar-Kishansar lake and Gadsar Pass
Day 01: Arrive Srinagar, Drive to Sonamarg
There are various ways via which you can reach Srinagar. If you are on a big vacation and want to make your trip as memorable as possible, take the road from Jammu which goes to Srinagar instead of spending on flight tickets. The avenue goes along mountains and forests, serpentine rivers and brooks. You can surely get to know how it feels in the lap of mother nature in one of the world's most beautiful and gifted places. As soon as you reach Srinagar, you can hire a cab to Sonamarg. The roads are a thrill to ride on; you will notice the tightest bends and corners, the cab drivers here are highly experienced and have excellent reaction skills.
The journey to Sonamarg takes 3 hours as there is no snow on the road, so virtually no disturbances. After reaching Sonamarg, you will be taken to a Sitkuri campsite, where there are proper arrangements for living. Take rest for the day, for dinner has something traditional, this food will keep you warm and healthy for coping up with the climatic conditions.
Day 02: Sonamarg (7,800ft) to Nichnai (11,500ft) via Shekdur
The start of the trek marks a beginning for 7 days of the most beautiful and adventurous trekking experience. Start off at somewhere around 8 am, after a trek of 3 km you will spot a Dhaba. This is the only place to eat, and also available here are packaged drinking water, biscuits, fresh fruit juice and other consumable items which everyone can stack up for the rest of the journey. This is the last place to have snacks and short eats because the next place with inhabitants is only at Naranag, located at the end of the trek.
Notice that the track diverts to right, this will go down to the water level of the Sindh River, which flows in between the main road and the mud track. The trail for the trek starts here, but in no time starts to ascend, after about 10 minutes into the trek, the road bends left and enters a huge green meadow. This place directly overlooks the town of Sonamarg. The meadow has a gradual slope, and in half an hour you can easily reach the top. Maple and Pine trees grow here with spectacular health and strength, the climate is perfect for these coniferous trees. The trek will then quickly descend to a small brook flowing nearby, its crystal clear water, as good as any mirror. The trail again climbs up, and what comes next is the huge and spectacular dense forest of the maple trees. The unique experience that you will get here is walking on the bed of grass, which feels like velvet.
The next one and a half hour, the trail goes adjacent to the Maple trees; stick to this trail itself as others can take you down to some of the nearby villages. As you gain height, the Sonamarg valley will look more beautiful and fuller. The maple forest comes to an end at the top of the ridge, and at the other side of the ridge lays a meadow with gentle slopes going downwards. Do take some time to spend a few wonderful moments here, absorb the scenic beauty that Kashmir provides and guess why it is called one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the world. The small streams, the meadows, the pine and maple forest and the town of Sonamarg all combine to form an astonishing picture.
The climb is over for now, as the trail will slope down to the meadows, which are almost flat. The meadows are lined with silver birch trees on the left and shepherd huts in the west. The meadow is approximately 40ft wide, and the green carpet of the softest grass on earth covers the area. On the right side, you can see small mountain peaks with snow on top, this is Shekdur. If your group is planned to take a quick stop, then this will be the camping spot for the day. It generally takes about 3 hours to cross the meadows and another half an hour if you plan to stop at the end of the meadows.
Shekdur is a perfect campsite, covered by bhoj trees. What is unique about this campsite is that it is the only one with trees around, which adds a whole lot of varieties and that extra charm to your pictures and the stay itself. If you had started early in the morning, make Shekdur your first camp site, the next being Nichnai is another 2 hours away. Have lunch at Shekdur and start for Nichnai.
After an hour of the trek on the meadows, you will find a river valley, this is the beginning of Nichnai. The trail now has changed to the right bank of the river, which goes upstream. Looking at the sun rays making its way out of the clouds with silver linings is worth a watch. You are now behind the cloud peaks of Sonamarg valley; the trek is under a wide valley but is surrounded by mountains on either side. The river flowing nearby makes a lot of noise as it gains speed flowing past the valley and joins the Sindh River.
After an hour past trekking on the river valley, the rocky terrain gives way to a plain meadow with a gradual slope. Far ahead lies the twin triangular peak of the snow clad mountains, a sight to behold. This is the camping site for the day, place your tents on an elevated ground, and rest for the night.
Day 03: Nichnai (11,500ft) to Vishansar lake (12,00ft)
From the start, make up your mind that the day's trek is a long walk, with the route filled with scenic beauty, getting more and more attractive as you go up. Start up early, so that you have enough time to soak in the crisp and fresh air, which is amazingly refreshing. Your first task is to cross the Nichnai pass. The pass can be seen from the campsite. After about half an hour of walk along the river, cross it from its left bank. The next hour you will walk on the left side of the river. You will soon notice that the trail starts to go steep as you traverse the meadows. The next one hour will be spent climbing the pass.
On your way, you can notice a small lake at the base of the mountain. It is entirely blue in colour, and you can feel your excitement levels getting higher to see the great lake. The ridge seen from the meadow is not the pass. The trail twists inwards two times and only then the Nichnai pass comes up. From the Nichanai pass, you can watch the Sonamarg valley. Here, BSNL phone network tends to work most times. The next sign of the network is only when you move beyond Gangabal. This is the place where towers for other companies are placed.
The Nichnai pass resembles a hollow tunnel located in between huge mountains from all sides. The altitude of this pass is about 13,500 feet from the sea level. Now you are in for a major ascent. You can feel the gain of altitude as you further move along the Nichnai pass. Headaches are a part of the journey because of reduction in oxygen levels. From the top of Nichhnai pass, you move downwards. The trail is uneven and rocky and tends to hurt your legs. After one hour of this painful walk, you are welcomed into the grasslands. Red flowers make the grasslands look colourful. You are able to see a beautiful green meadow, which keeps you walking. A new river is born from here. You can enjoy nature's beauty at this point as you can see the huge waterfall you just left behind.
This marks the point where the plain becomes easy on your feet to traverse. There won't be any problem in covering the path. This is the place to view the Himalayan mountains in its full glory. Get yourself braced for the stream of water which you will have to face. You cannot expect warm water at such an altitude, and it will be quite freezing. After walking for more than half an hour Nichnai valley will come to end and you can see that there lies another stream of water flowing in your way. It is one of the streams which starts from Vishansar Lake. It is located at a higher level and hence the lake cannot be seen from the current position. You can put up your tents anywhere near the lake and this place will be very ideal place forcamping. It is the lake which is surrounded by 4 mountains. Vishansar Lake is located just 100 feet above your camping site, and you can spend your day over there enjoying the wonderful sunshine. The lake is known for its fishing but to do that you will need to take permission. Anyhow you will be heading towards Gadsar so sleep soon and gain some energy.
Day 04: Acclimatization + Rest Day at Vishansar
Day 05: Vishansar (12,000ft) to Gadsar(12,000ft) via Kishansar lake and Gadsar Pass (13,750ft)
This is the next lake which comes in the Kishansar Lake region. It lies around half a km away and also 500ft higher than its cousin Vishansar. The Kishansar Lake is situated at the base of the Kishansar peak. It will take around 45minutes to reach Kishansar Lake from the campsite. The trail ascends from the right side of the Lake. There are multiple tracks here. For those interested in photography, you get the view of the meadow and the lake from a good altitude. For those who prefer an easier trail, stick to flatter and gradually placed ground.
The path that you are following will lead to a ridge and at the edge of the ridge is Gadsar pass. Many beautiful meadows can be viewed after Kishansar Lake. The trek now becomes very narrow just like a lane, and it will lead to the top of the mountain. After traversing about 2 hours, you will reach the top point of the ridge. Along the way of Kashmir's lake trek, at the midpoint, you will see the most beautiful scene where Kishansar and Vishansar are seen together. Following the same path and enjoying the beauty of it will lead you to Gadsar pass, which is the highest point of your trek of 7 days.
If seen properly, one can spot many small lakes in and around the area. Don't get surprised if you see some snow along the path when you move downwards. Many beautiful meadows with red and white iris flowers will make your day very beautiful. Iris flowers are an indication that you are very near to Gadsar pass. Gadsar is nothing but a snow clad cliff top. One side there is snow all around, and on the other side there will be blue flowers blooming. It is about 12,500 kilometres above the sea level. There is no proper well defined and appropriate region where you can camp for the day at Gadsar. So you will have to spend your night at the army camp, which is near Gadsar. If you want to trek any further, then permission from army will be required. Night will be in the base camp and should be ready for the next morning for another day of adventurous trek.
Day 06: Gadsar (12,000ft) to Satsar (12,000ft)
Start off from the army camp and trek left towards the stream. You will find the trail crossing the stream and heading up towards the mountains. The stream is located at an altitude of 10,600ft. The Satsar camp is at 12,000ft and almost 10 kms away. Carefully crossing the stream is the easiest way to move ahead. If you are determined to avoid getting your feet damp in the icy cold water, then head to the bridge. The climb up is steeper if one goes to the bridge.
After crossing the stream, walk on the trail that goes up the mountain. The trek will look similar to a western ghat trail. You are just above the tree line. The short walk of an hour and a half long climb takes you up to an altitude of 11000 ft. Once you reach the 11,500ft mark, the climb gradually becomes little difficult. m. The trail turns round to the left and leaves the river valley. You will now walk on a flat trail enclosed by mountains on a meadow. This place is known as Maengandob. Satsar is nothing but a collection of 7 lakes. You cannot find all the lakes with water. 5-6 of them are usually filled with water. It depends on the time of the year you choose to trek.
After crossing the ridge, there is an army check post. It is well known as the 3rd line of defence of the India. Take permission and grants required to move ahead. Obtaining all permits this day itself will be better as you can sail through without a problem the next day. A 15 minute walk from the army camp takes you to the first of Satsar lakes. It gives you a reason to rejoice as the view is mind-blowing and colourful. The whole scene depicts heavenly experience.
After walking only for ten minutes, the first lake of the Satsar region, can be seen. The lake is quite big and looks amazing in its green setting. At night, you may find chilly winds blowing, beat it by having a campfire, and enjoy with friends.
Day 07: Satsar to Gangabal twin lakes
The requirements for today are quite taxing as you need to travel another 9km which can take up to 6 hours' time to reach your destination – Gangabal. The path that you will encounter goes up and down. You gradually move along to reach the widest part of Satsar Lake. You end up doing many rounds of boulder hopping exercise as the track is full of boulders. The biggest Satsar Lake almost marks your last of the visiting places. You continue your journey on the same trail for the next 30 minutes or so to reach the forest line along the left hand side. On the right, you can witness a ridge situated 1000 feet higher than you. Now you again encounter altitude gain. Currently you are at 11,800 km above ground level. A zig zag path leads you to the top of the ridge. Once you reach the top you further see two more ridges to climb on your way. This trail, which you have taken up, is rocky and hard to traverse. So the speed of taking over this phase is much longer. Leg aches are expected here as the foot fails to match up to the edginess of the terrain. Looking behind you can see the small huts of Gujjar amidst pine trees. You can see the contrast of barren and green mountains standing beside each other.
The view is stunning from the top of the ridge. Trekking long the valleys of Kashmir is a fruitful trip and is the best visual treat to one's eyes. You can see two lakes lying next to each other. You can see the biggest of all lakes Gangabal spreading its serene beauty all around.
The lake's friend Nundkol lies just beside it spreading the aura of water all around. Your destination for the day is seen at Gangabal. It lies 1400 feet below the point you are standing at. You have to brace yourselves up and be ready to face the steep descent downwards. Climbing down can actually be a challenge as you can overlook the entire path ahead of you. It is a stony descent so take caution.
Along your way, you encounter a stream which brings in some freshness and energy into you. The steep descent for the next 40 minutes brings you to the greenery again from the barren land. This meadow is not one of the biggest but spreads from right to left. Trudging along, about a kilometre away you get a glimpse of the tree lane again. Even after reaching the base you still have a long distance to cover to reach your destination lake.
After traversing for some time, you will come across Nundkol Lake. The lake is not that clean because of travellers who camp over there and do not clean the place before leaving. Therefore, the beauty of the lake goes diminishing in your eyes. Nundkol Lake is just below Harmukh peak. The glaciers of Harmukh are all over the mountain. The destination is just 30 minutes' walk from Nundkol. Both the river is joined by a stream of water. It will be a foolish idea to cross as the water flows in a ferocious speed. It is recommended to use the man-made bridge to reach the beginning of Gangabal Lake. You can set up your camp for the day along the bank of the lake and enjoy its beauty giving yourself the deserving rest.
Day 08: Gangabal (11,500ft) to Naranag (7,450ft) Drive to Srinagar
Today transfer from Hotel to The day’s trek will take a heavy toll on your toes and knees. Head down along the stream from the Gangabal campsite. It’s better to walk along the ridge than to walk along the stream. 30 minutes into the trail, your phone may get glimpses of network, just enough to tell your family members that you are alive and enjoying. Harmukh peak looks huge and impressive when you look back. Yellow coloured flowers grow all over the green meadows. Walk with a little caution to avoid stepping on them. You will experience the wonderful trekking scenario that Kashmir provides. . Now you can see some people as some houses can be seen slowly in the deep forest. In the forest, you will have to traverse a bit carefully so that you are not injured at the last day of the trek. There is no sign of any altitude gain for about 6 kilometres. The altitude gain is very gradual which will not affect your trek. Slowly you will move to 11000 feet from 10,800 feet to move out of the forest region. At the end of the trail, there is a sudden descent, and there will be a drastic change of losing 3000 feet of altitude in 4 kilometres. Along the way, you may find some co-trekkers going towards Gangabal.
This is the place from where you can easily see the ultimate destination – Naranag, but don't lose enthusiasm as the journey till there is pretty far. This last stretch of rough terrain leads you into a small village of Naranag which is stony. You slowly move ahead to reach the main road of Naranag. As you reach Naranag, you will find human civilization after 7 days of wonderful trekking. As it is situated at a lower altitude than the rest of areas for the trek, people stay here for the whole year.