Great Lakes Trek in J&K

Owing to last year fiasco (flash floods in Uttrakhand), I had decided to give Uttrakhand a break for a year for things to settle down. So I looked at Kashmir. One good thing about J&K is the quick access to the final road head as compared to Uttrakhand. 

24th July 2014 Mumbai-Srinagar-Sonamarg

Caught the direct Indigo flight from Mumbai at 11am to Srinagar and were there by 2pm at Srinagar airport. Moved to TRC Srinagar via bus from airport in hope to get a shared taxi to Sonamarg but unfortunately were not lucky and decided to leave for Sonamarg by 4:30 in a self rented one. Reached Sonamarg by 6:30pm and checked into Thajwas Glacier Hotel on the main road opp Sonamarg taxi stand.
The trek path as seen on Google Earth

25th July 2014  Sonamarg

Thajwas Glacier
Was a free day to acclimatize and also spend in and around Sonamarg as I had never stayed here before. Post breakfast decided to walk upto the glacier. We followed the road and then decided to cut through the fields instead. The total distance to the glacier & back from the hotel was approx 15km. We spent some time at the glacier, I walked up towards the snout and waterfall. On the way back stopped for some time to eat and drink hot kava and were back to the hotel by lunch time. The rest of the day was spent relaxing with short walks in the evening.

26th July 2014 Sonamarg-Shutkar Village (Alt 8616 feet)

Shutkar Campsite
Trek Permits
In the morning post breakfast we again climbed up the ridge behind the taxi stand and traversed crossing the army camps and were back at the hotel waiting for the guide to come. They reached by 3 pm and after some permit formalities we left by 4 pm. A short drive out of Sonamarg we camped by the river. In the evening we walked up the ridge to see the route for the following day. 

27th July 2014 Shutkar Village-Nichinni (Alt 12104 feet)
One can see Sonamarg town on the left and Thajwas Glacier on the right
Table Top
Left the campsite by 8am and walked up the jeep track to the meadows and onwards. Were at the tree line by 9:30. Waited for a hour for the guide to come and then started to climb up the zig-zag path to the table top (Alt 10857 feet). We were at the table top by noon. One gets good views of Sonamarg town and the Thajwas glacier from here. Crossed the table top and started to climb towards Nichinnai our campsite. Descended through the forest and reached the bolder fields. Stopped for lunch at 3pm after crossing the bolder fields and finally reached the campsite by 4pm. Evening was spent around the campsite

 28th July 2014 Nichinni-Vishansar (Alt 12094 feet)

The route to Nichinni Pass as seen from Nichinni Campsite
Looking up at Nichinni Pass
At Vishansar Lake

Left by 7:30 crossed the stream and climbed up towards Nichinnai Pass (Alt 13520 feet). At the pass by 9am. Spent an hour+ up there, was lucky to make the last call home from there, then descended down by noon. Had lunch and then a nice lesiure walk across the meadows to Vishansar Campsite by 2pm. Post the camp setup and some rest climbed up the small ridge from the campsite to the lake at 4:30pm. Spent a hour or so up there and returned back to the camp site.

Vishansar Lake
29th July 2014 Vishansar-Gadsar (Alt 10873 feet)

Gadsar Lake
Left again by 7:30 and after a short 30min climb we reached at the banks of Kishansagar Lake. Crossed the breath of the lake and after a stiff climb of 1.5 hours we were on top of Gadsar Pass (Alt 13962 feet). This was a strenous climb having an avg incline of 40-50 degrees. The last 50-60 meters was on loose gravel. Spent 30min on top of the pass. One gets beautiful views of both Vishansar & Krishansagar lakes from there. The decent from Gadsar pass was equally steep and then it was a long 6km walk through meadows and fields to Gadsar Campsite. We passed the Gadsar Lake. Just before the Gadsar campsite the army check-post is present where one has to submit the permit and provide identification proof. Was at the Gadsar army check-post by 1pm, as was the first to arrive spent 30min with the officers and had tea before heading further to the campsite.

Enjoyed seeing a cricket match between the army and the gujjars. 

View of Vishansar Lake from ridge top
View of Krishansagar Lake while climbing Gadsar Pass
View of both Vishansar & Krishansagar lakes from Gadsar Pass

30th July 2014 Gadsar-Megandob (Alt 12114 feet)

Megandob Campsite
Today was a short day, we left at 7:30am and crossed a snow bridge and walked some 20 min further. A short stiff climb up the ridge to the top by 8:30. After that it was a gradual nice walk skirting the mountain. The path went left. On the right there was a valley below which had few village further up. The border with Pakistan was some 25km from there.  Walked further and crossed a small stream and climbed up a small hill to the army checkpost. Was there by 9:30am and spent some 30min there. Post the mandatory checking of permits and ID's, left crossing a bolder field to the campsite. Was there by 11am. As it was misty so could not see the Satsar lakes.

Relaxed the rest of the day and spent time around the campsite.

The first Satsar Lake immediately after the army check post.
31st July 2014 Megandob-Gangbal (Alt 11830 feet) -Trundkhul (Alt 11785 feet)

Looking up to Zach Pass 
Fishing at lower Gangbal Lake
Left by 7:30am taking a shortcut by climbing up the ridge instead of the regular path below. This resulted is bolder hoping for the next hour or so. As it was misty could not see the Satsar lakes.  Joined the main trek path midway to Zach Pass (Alt 13455 feet). Was at top of the pass by 9:30. After a 15min break headed down the steep muddy trail. Waited an hour for the guide to join and then  decended the final stretch onto the meadows. Stopped by the stream for lunch by noon. After lunch we walked to the upper Gangbal lake spent 30min there and left for the lower one. Reached the lower one by 2pm.

It was a total picnic spot many locally come there to spend the weekend. Spent time alone by the lake till 4 pm and then walked further to the Forest Rest House 45 min further at Trundkhul.

Twin Gangbal lakes while descending from Zach Pass 

Upper Gangbal Lake

Lower Gangbal lake

Lower Gangbal lake along with Harmukh Peak (16970 feet)

Forest RH at Trundkhul

1st Aug 2014 Trundkhul-Naranag (Alt 7586 feet)

Left at 7:30am. The initial route was the regular up and down above the tree line and then we finally enter the tree line to start the descend. It was a misty days. After reaching a tea house at Alt 10500 feet the final descend starts. The entire path is steep having a avg 50 degree decline and is muddy, small gravel or sandy or mix till the road head village Naranag. Reached there by 11am, it was at an altitude of 7586 feet. A steep decent of 881m nearly 2900feet. Ones legs do give away. The pre-booked taxi picked us up by 1pm from there and dropped us to Srinagar. 

I stayed once again in the army cantonment area. After settling down & having lunch. Had a stroll in the evening and visited the shooting range for some target practice. 

2nd Aug 2014     Departed from Mumbai