How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?

Kashmir Great Lakes trek is undoubtedly one of the most adventurous treks of Kashmir valley. As much as it fills you with thrills, it is important to know that the difficulty level of Kashmir Great Lakes trek ranges from moderate to challenging. It would be an understatement to say that it is an easy Himalayan trek. The total distance covered is longer than any other mainstream Kashmiri trek and you have to trek every day through rugged terrains, dense forests and cross the high-altitude passes. With unpredictable weather in the valley, it can sometimes get difficult, especially if you are not physically fit. 
There are some things to do before the Kashmir Great Lakes trek that can make things less difficult for the trekkers. From Acclimatising to hydrating yourself, there are quite a few things you have to take care of before and during the trek. 
In this article, we have detailed the difficulties that you should be ready to face on this trek along with some tips to sail through them.

Lake With the Flowers in the Foreground and Mountains in the Backdrop - How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?
Lake With the Flowers in the Foreground and Mountains in the Backdrop – How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?

Difficulty Level of Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

For 8 straight days, you have to trek 15 kilometres in 6-7 hours to cover a total distance of around 70 kilometres. The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is definitely long, but the real challenge is the altitude gain that trekkers experience. There are alpine lakes that we have to reach. There are three passes each at a higher altitude than the previous one. The altitude goes from 2,730m in Sonamarg to 4,200m in Gadsar Pass, which is the highest point of the trek. The high-altitude sickness with symptoms of headache, stomach aches, and vomiting makes it even more challenging and rough. If you are planning to go on this trek alone then it can be a bit risky in the absence of a trek leader, that’s why many travel companies like Cliffhangers India in Kashmir, arrange these activities for the tourists.

Day Wise Difficulty Level

Day 1: The first day doesn’t involve any trekking. You have to complete a 3 hour drive from Srinagar to Sonamarg. The basecamp lies in Shitkadi, a beautiful village offering some majestic views. You will be camping here to acclimatise well before the start of the trek. The trek leader gives a detailed overview of the upcoming days and provides important instructions for the trek 

Day 2: The actual Kashmir Great Lakes trek starts from here. We have to trek for around 7 hours, covering a distance of 9 kilometres from Sonamarg to Nichnai. The trek involves gradual ascent. Aside from the distance to be covered, you do not face much difficulty. However, you do have to walk beside a river canal and through a forest, so that could be a bummer at times. Apart from that, the views are going to be absolutely mesmerising. Do not overpace yourself on the second day only. Keep your energy for the next few days.

Day 3: The journey from Nichnai to Vishansar Lake is of moderate level. You will be walking a longer distance today, with 13 kilometres to be covered in 6 hours. Throughout the day, you have to keep a steady pace to reach the lake before it starts getting dark. Crossing the Nichnai Pass involves rocky and steep descents that might be a bit rough to navigate. The routes are a bit tricky too with snow on one side and rugged mountain ranges on the other. Starting in the morning, you will reach the camp by evening.

Day 4: The fourth day of Kashmir Great Lakes trek is the longest and most challenging day of the entire journey. Trekkers have to trek for 16 kilometres and that too only in 8 hours. The day would be physically tiring and demand all the energy. It will start from Vishansar Valley to Gadsar. The thing that adds to the difficulty and makes it the toughest day is the altitude we have to get to. Gadsar Pass is at an altitude of 4200m, which is the highest altitude of the trek. It will start early in the morning and you will reach the camping site by evening. The trails are very sharp and narrow and you have to be very cautious especially when crossing Gadsar Pass. Take every step very carefully and make sure to hydrate yourself from time to time.

River Flowing Amidst Towering Mountains - How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?
River Flowing Amidst Towering Mountains – How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?

Day 5: After a challenging day, the next day from Gadsar to Satsar is easier with only one hour of ascending and then you smoothly enter the Satsar Valley, which is in relative terms, a piece of cake. The total distance is a bit long. You need to cover 12 kilometres in 5-6 hours but the easy-going walk on the lush meadows makes it pretty doable. The region is quite isolated and not much civilization is seen but what you will see is the seven lakes dotting the region that are interconnected to each other.

Day 6: The second last day of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek starts from Satsar towards Gangabal. The gradient would be moderate to difficult at any given point. Firstly, by crossing boulders and then trekking in rocky terrains, you will reach the Zajbal Pass. After that follows a sharp ascent for 3 hours and then a long descent of about the same duration. You will see a blend of ascents and descents in the trek on this very particular day. Before reaching the Gangabal Lake and Nandkol Lake, you will have to walk in a narrow meadow and then some ups and downs take you further. The total distance to be covered is 9 kilometres in 5 hours.

Day 7: On the very last day of Kashmir Great Lakes trek, it starts from Gangabal to Naranag, a beautiful village. It would be a challenging day, with rough gradients. The trek starts with gradual descent and then a sharp descent takes you to the forest. You trek in the forest for half an hour and then reach Butsheri Top. A 3-hour steep descent follows up from here which is a challenging part of the day. It will be quite hard on your legs, even on a straight route. A last tough descent will finally take you to Naranag.

Day 8: Say goodbye to Naranag and leave for Srinagar.

Trekker Watching a River Flow in the Lush Green Meadows with the Mountains with the Backdrop - How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?
Trekker Watching a River Flow in the Lush Green Meadows with the Mountains with the Backdrop – How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?

How to Overcome Challenges of Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

Distance: Kashmir Great Lakes trek is certainly a long trek in which trekkers have to walk for a total of 75 kilometres. A complete 9-day itinerary is needed to conclude the trek the right way. Not a single day goes by when you don’t have to start the trek early. With rigorous walking every day on the not-so-smooth routes, it does pose a challenge that can only be overcome by preparing physically before the trip. As a benchmark, if you are able to cover 10km in 60 minutes, the trek should be a breeze. I would say being able to improve your endurance would be the key.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS): Another challenge that scares some trekkers is the altitude gain that they experience and the added risk of Acute Mountain Sickness that comes with it. One minute you are on a plain meadow, walking easily and the next minute, there is a narrow steep ascent. The journey from Sonamarg to the high-altitude Gadsar Pass is a tough one. The solution to confront altitude gain is acclimating well before going up. Spending a day or two in either Srinagar or Sonamarg is the way to go. Also, make sure you carry Diamox and consume as prescribed by your doctor. Knowing the symptoms of AMS will also help you in identifying the same in time.

High-altitude passes: Kashmir Great Lakes trek involves crossing three high-altitude passes in which Gadsar Pass is probably the toughest one. The pass takes you to the Gadsar Valley where you witness the majestic beauty of Gadsar Lake and where you camp as well. But the whole voyage to the serene lake is not a cake walk. The toughest part of Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is its adventurous passes. Listen to the briefing of your instructor carefully at such milestones. But more importantly, you will have to prepare well physically. And while on the trek you will have to be mentally resilient as well in overcoming the grit-testing passes.

Trekker Posing for the Camera in a Meadow with the Mist All Around - How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?
Trekker Posing for the Camera in a Meadow with the Mist All Around – How Difficult is the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek?

There is absolutely no denying that Kashmir Great Lakes is a challenging trek but the scenic views and sights that it presents in front of your eyes is mind-boggling. People from all over the country do it every summer and so can you. With the right attitude and right team with you, you too can undertake one of the trickiest trek of India, adding another feather to that adventure cap.

You can also choose from treks in Uttarakhand like Valley of Flowers. Alternatively, Himachal offers treks like Hampta Pass and Beas Kund amongst others. We have also created an extensive list, contributed by the community listing out the Best Trek Recommendations.

Travel responsibly and keep your carbon footprint to a minimum!

Ritesh Mishra

Ritesh Mishra

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