There are different amazing treks in India and then there is trekking in Kashmir, which is altogether a phenomenal experience. Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is one of the most beautiful treks in the country. This trek is located above Sonamarg, which lies on the Srinagar-Leh highway just before the Zozila Pass. The true beauty of Kashmir lies in the hidden valleys that are not accessible by road. Until a few years ago this trek was also not accessible to civilians and has innumerable beautiful alpine lakes throughout its trails. It takes around eight days to do this trek, but the vistas leave you with memories that would last a lifetime, and since it’s a moderate-difficult level trek, it can be taken up by fit but amateur trekkers or even some first timers.
From my experience, there are some pointers you need to keep in mind before trekking in Kashmir. I hope people wanting to trek in Kashmir will find this useful.
Kashmir has always been a problematic place under political microscope of more than a decade. I have written a detailed take on the safety of tourists in Kashmir in the current situation. You can take a read on the article to understand my views on the place and my recommendation.
In general, Kashmiris are hospitable people, and tourism is an important industry and source of income for them. Hence, they will go out of their way to make sure visitors are safe. It has always been believed that tourists in Kashmir aren’t deliberately targeted or harmed. That being said, one should always be cautious on the places they visit in Kashmir.
Research on your trek
It’s mandatory that you do your thorough research about the trek, especially if you’re trekking in Kashmir, as this belt is always under political microscope. You need to know about the place you will be trekking, weather conditions, the terrain, average trekking distance between camps, difficulty level, Time etc and plan your trek accordingly. If you end up like me in a situation where you registered for one trek and then you go on another, just take a deep breath and plunge into the adventure completely.
For any trek you need to carry a set of documents and since there are multiple army check-points during Kashmir Great Lakes trek, it is a must to carry your ID proof, it’s better to carry your original aadhar card, do carry a photocopy as well, in case you need to submit it. It is also better to carry 2-3 passport size photos, just in case you are asked to fill a form. For people outside India, do carry your passport and a photocopy of it. Make sure to have it with you throughout the journey.
Medical fitness certificate and other trek related documents will be asked according to the company you take the trek with.
Sure, you can turn up at the foot of the base camp with nothing but a song in your heart and a pocket full of dreams. But you’re going to be in for a bit of a shock. Without at least some pre-trip training, or a good basic level of fitness, trekking is hard work. Let’s be real – it’s hard work anyway and trekking in Kashmir is no less! The toll for a great trek is paid in sweat. Sore calves and aching quads are badges of honour, with blisters and lost toenails marks of pride. But in return, you get some of the most untouched, pristine and jaw-dropping scenery on the planet. And you know what? The more you train for your epic hike, the easier it’ll be.
Kashmir Great Lakes is a moderate to difficult trek. You cover an average of 10 km each day. In 4 days you gain an altitude of 8,550 feet. If you want to do this trek comfortably and enjoy all it’s glorious views, you will need to prepare well. Follow a fitness regime that can help you gain stamina and improve cardiovascular endurance. You will have to follow this schedule for atleast a month before you go on your trek.
Carry the right trekking gear
No one can predict the weather on mountains especially when trekking in Kashmir. So hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. Sun, snow, rain, slush, boulders, the terrain could be anything. Hence the importance of a proper gear is crucial.
Good shoes are a must. Invest in a good trek shoe, you will never regret it. I was so reluctant while buying my trek shoes, but it was my savior during tough conditions. Kashmir Great Lakes trek has almost all the possible terrains packed into one. From sun to snow, and slush to boulders, your shoes should do the work.
I almost kissed my shoes at the end of the trek. It is SO important and can save your leg from injuries. I got mine from Decathlon, I have written a detailed review of my shoes Quechua MH 100 women’s mountain shoes.
I also carried a Lifestraw water purifier water bottle. This is such a blessing not just for us but for the environment also. If you’re a frequent trekker or traveller, I would highly recommend to get one of this as it helps in cleansing the water from the taps/streams, at the same time saves the environment from plastic mineral bottles. You can read the review here before buying them.
Rain poncho, torches, trekking poles, caps and gloves are a must, while sleeping bags or tents will be given by the trek company.
Awareness about high altitude health issues
Awareness about high altitude health issues is a must. This is one of most important factors that determine your health condition during the trek. When your body doesn’t get acclimatized to a high altitude, you end up having AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), HAPE and HACE.
AMS is a simple altitude problem and if not treated immediately can progress to HAPE and HACE which are severe conditions that can even result in death. Major symptoms of AMS are fatigue, uneasiness, nausea and dizziness. You always have to be vigilant, if you feel any symptoms of AMS, it is always better to take immediate medication. For a more details on the 3 problems, hop on to How to deal with altitude sickness.
Choose a reliable Trek company/operator
This is another crucial thing. If it’s your first trek, it’s important whom you trek with, especially in a place like Kashmir. Do check their safety measures and go through the reviews on their page. Check whether a local guide would come with you and what will be the precautions in case of any medical emergencies. Trekking in Kashmir is very different from other treks, hence a knowledgeable operator is very important.
I did my trek with India Hikes and the support they gave was immense. We got into a situation which was uncommon, we were supposed to take Tarsar Marsar trek, but the scenario in Srinagar changed overnight and messed up things. India hikes still worked their best and gave us another opportunity to go on KGL trek. Since it was last minute change, there wasn’t much time to plan, imagine a situation where a couple of your trek mates are at the base camp and the rest got stuck in the city for good. They couldn’t cancel the trek; they couldn’t take us on the same trek either. It was a dicey situation but still they managed to pull it off efficiently. The trek leaders and the local Kashmiri team was on point and helped us in every step. This is exactly why choosing the right trek company matters.
A first aid kit must be the first thing you should pack for your trek. Needless to say, you should always carry basic medicines and ointments while trekking. This will avoid you from stopping in the middle of the trek due to some injuries!
Best time to visit
Treks in Kashmir are open during the summer and the autumn season, ideally from June to September.
Eco friendly measures
Respect the mountains. Do not harm them in anyway. Avoid carrying plastic as much as possible. In case you carry snacks with you to munch on, do not throw the wrappers around.
I’m sure most of you know wet wipes are non-biodegradable, hence if you use them, put them in a ziplock cover and dispose them once you’re back in the city.
Trekking in Kashmir comes with its own privileges. Good news is that there will not be any network during the time of your trek. So no phone calls, no whatsapp and offcourse no facebook and Instagram. Enjoy nature to its fullest! If you’re travelling to Srinagar, you need to have a postpaid connection or a BSNL sim.
The last ATM is at Srinagar. In case if you need cash, you need to draw at the ATM in Srinagar. Anyway there won’t be any shops on your trek so worry not, even 100 bucks is more money.
A winner is a dreamer who never gives up! No matter how hard it was during your trek in the himalayas, you will always crave for more once you return to the concrete jungle.