What is the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, or KGL trek?
One of the most sought-after treks in the country right now, and it does complete justice to it’s popularity. You get to cross 3 high altitude passes and see more than seven alpine lakes over a period of 6 days (7 days – if you’re lucky to get a rest day). Every day you are surrounded by high mountains, grassy meadows, or green and turquoise alpine lakes. The trek starts from Sonamarg (Shitkari) and ends at Naranag, both places are easily accessible from Srinagar.
Why should you do the KGL trek?
It’s not too long (69 kms only), difficulty levels are moderate, and I would personally recommend it for beginners (we had a few in our group, and they all did splendidly). There are a lot of alpine lakes to explore out there of varied hues and blues, and someone did mention the region to be home to 70+ lakes. And to top it all, the night sky on a moonless night is perfect for stargazers, shooting stars and galaxy hunters.
Who should do the KGL trek?
Everyone* who wishes to embark on their journey of trekking across our beautiful country, KGL can act as a good starting point. I saw kids, elders, overweights, underweights, welterweights, all sorts of ages and groups of people over the 7 days of my trek.
*keeping in mind you are physically active and mentally prepared to take on the long walks and the high-passes of the trek. If you ask me, it’s all in the head. Your legs do the walking, whilst your mind does the talking.
When should you do the KGL trek?
The online guides suggest July, August and early September. The dates for my trek were 8th to 14th of August, with all of us assembling at Shitkari, Sonamarg on the 7th of August. Luckily, we had 7 days of sunny, rain-free trekking days which was quite a relief. You really don’t want to walk in the rain during the trek, it’s not fun at all. Also, sometimes the KGL treks get cancelled due to bad weather / rain, so keep an eye out for the weather forecast before making your bookings.
Who should you do it with? (TMNA, of course)
Bikat Adventures was my preferred organisation for trekking. We had 2 Trek Leaders + 2 guides for a batch of 15 people only, the operations were smooth and everything was very well organised. Apart from that there are a lot of options to chose from, but keep in mind the size of the group you’re going with versus the number of trek leaders / guides allotted to your batch. If things go wrong, the trek leaders are supposed to take charge, but if you are with a group of 20 with 1 trek leader, then I believe it’s always a risk.
Some people do it alone as well, that should be fun too!
What are the essentials to carry for the KGL trek?
Proper waterproof cover for your bags, buy a plastic sheet and wrap your essentials in it inside the bag itself.
Sunscreen, lip balms etc. to protect yourself from getting baked.
A hat is better than a cap, a buff to protect your face and neck.
Waterproof trekking boots are always good, normal trekking boots work as well but make sure they have been used before. Avoid using brand new trekking shoes.
A head torch with spare batteries.
Binoculars to spot the stars and the galaxies in case you’re a night-sky lover.
Itinerary, with pictures:
Day 1: Arrival at Sonamarg / assemble at Shitkari (2,730 m) Most of the campsites are at Shitkari so in case you’re confused and your tour operator isn’t responding just head to Shitkari which is right before Sonamarg. I rode my bike down to Shitkari, and left it at Sonamarg for the entirety of the trek and picked it up on my way back.
Day 2: Sonamarg (2,730 m) to Nichnai (3,500 m)
Day 3: Nichnai (3,505 m) to Vishansar Lake (3,658 m) via Nichnai Pass (4,150 m) The trek finally starts taking shape with the terrain changing, crossing a high pass and reaching the first of the alpine lakes – Vishansar Lake. Spent the day soaking in the beauty of the lake and the beautiful terrain around the campsite.
Day 4: Vishansar Lake (3,580 m) to Gadsar Lake (3,810 m) via Gadsar Pass (4,206 m) Gadsar Pass is the highest point of this trek, but it’s not too hard to be honest. The beginners in our group were super smart and extra-hardworking so they left an hour before us and met us all at the top. Our group was one of the first to cross the pass that day, champs! The Gadsar Lake is probably the prettiest lake en route.
Day 5: Gadsar Lake (3,810 m) to Satsar Lake (3,658 m) The day starts with a nice climb along a path lined with wild strawberries, and then you hit the Windows wallpaper scenery on your left and the Nanga Parbat (8,125 m) in the distance on your right. After reaching early to Satsar, we climbed on towards another lake hidden in the mountains where we organised the National Stone Skimming contest which was a two-way tie between Tahir bhai and Sanjay, our trek leader. For ’twas a good day.
Day 6: Satsar Lake (3,658 m) to Gangabal Lake (3,505 m), via Gangabal Pass (~4,100m) One of the best campsites overlooking the Nund Kol Lake and the mighty Harmukh peak (5,142 m ). If you’re lucky you get to chill / rest at this campsite for a day. Take a short walk to Gangabal lake or try breaking a bone climbing any of the huge boulders overlooking the campsite.
Day 7: Rest Day at the Gangabal Lake campsite This was my favourite day of the trek where I hardly moved a muscle. Spent a while in the morning fooling around the massive boulder opposite the Gangabal Lake, playing frisbee and catch with the staff until we lost them both, spying on a marmot for good 15 minutes or so and lazing in the sun doing absolutely nothing. Bikat offers a rest day while most of the trek companies do not, so it’s a good deal to just chill for a day in the mountains doing nothing. Our cooking staff was sweet enough to conjure up a birthday cake for one of our trekking mates as well 🙂
Day 8: Gangabal Lake (3,505 m) to Naranag (2,271 m) Least favourite day, going back is always sad. The tree-line starts to appear, you pass one final army check-post and then it’s all downhill (literally) from there. Mobile networks reappear, and people disappear. Thankfully we walked back without any rain, if it rains on your last day you don’t walk back, you slide into Naranag.
The Great lakes of Kashmir trek is by far one of the best treks in the country right now. It’s suitable for people of all ages, beginners or advanced trekkers, so you should definitely go for it before it gets too popular and dirty and the government shuts it down. Try and book your trek looking at the weather forecast, avoid rain if possible. Be prepared mentally (and physically) to finish the trek once you start it.
Please do not discard your plastic bottles, wet wipes, cigarette butts, i.e., all non-biodegradable waste in the mountains.
Keep the terrain clean, and green!
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to ask in the comments below!