Gadsar Pass (Ganderbal): On a hot August morning, a group of over 75 trekkers including women were climbing steep mountains at an altitude of nearly 13750 feet.
Two hours later, the trekkers accomplished the mission. Gadsar Pass top looked stunning. The trekkers’ fatigue evaporated as they basked under the sun at the most stunning spot of the Kashmir valley. From here the jaw-dropping views of the twin glacial lakes of Vishansar and Kishansar make the Gadsar Pass ascent worth it.
The two glacial lakes are part of the Kashmir Great Lakes (KGL) trek that is turning out to be a great attraction for adventure lovers from Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the county. Even foreign nationals are exploring the KGL trek.
The trek begins from Sonamarg – a famous tourist resort on the strategic Srinagar-Leh highway. The base camps are usually set up at Shekdur Sonamarg and later it passes to Nicnai pass (13,100 feet), Gadsar pass, Zaj pass (13,000 feet), and concludes at Naranang (7,450 feet), a small picturesque village in Ganderbal district. It takes around five to seven days to complete this trek.
“Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is one of the most beautiful and sought-after treks in the entire Himalayan region,” Deputy Director, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department, Waseem Malik told UNI.
During the KGL trek, one broadly gets to see several beautiful alpine lakes – Vishansar, Krishnasar, Gadsar, Satsar, Gangabal, and Nundkul lakes – which are nestled amidst the majestic Himalayan mountains and surrounded by lush green meadows and snow-capped peaks. During the KGL trek, there are several meadows and high-altitude passes which are the other major attractions for the trekkers.
“The KGL trek takes you through captivating lakes, snow-clad mountains, high passes, meadows laid with rare flowers, the beautiful and verdant maple and pine valleys,” said a trekker Sheikh Zahoor, who along with 10 members of “Varmul Trekking Club” recently explored the trek.
Sheikh’s co-trekker Tariq Ahmed said the KGL trek demands long walks on every trekking day, covering a total distance of 75 km in six days.
Last year, nearly 5000 persons explored and camped at high-altitude passes during the KGL trek.
“This year so far over 3000 trekkers explored the KGL,” said Malik.
It is, however, not a go-free zone trek.
J&K Tourism department grants permission for the Kashmir Great Lakes trek.
The permission is granted only after a trekker provides a health certificate from a doctor and adventure insurance that costs a few hundred rupees, Malik said.
“We ensure that 100 people enter this place in a day as it is an ecologically fragile area,” he said.
Until 2016 due to security concerns, the trek was also not accessible to civilians.
However, in the last six to seven years the trek has gained popularity with several top bloggers of the country and some Bollywood stars taking to the KGL.
“In the last few years we see that 30 to 40 percent of those trekking Kashmir Himalayas go for the KGL,” Malik said.
The Tourism Department in Kashmir is also aware of the unusual littering of plastic and polythene trash along the over 70 km trek trail.
And every year before the snow, the department with the help of volunteers goes up the mountains to collect plastic garbage.
Commercial tour operators say besides locals and domestic tourists, foreigners are also trickling in just as enthusiastically.
Sadam Hussian, who runs Mountains and Dream, a travel agency, said more people are now attracted to trekking.
“People love trekking to unknown destinations to stay close to nature,” he said.
A French national working in Vietnam, Bertrand, said he was really happy to explore Kashmir Great Lakes.
“ This is my first time to Kashmir and immediately I decided to explore the Great Lakes and the experience has been amazing,” he said near the Gadsar camping site.
Another trekker Mayuri from South India said this is literally jannat (paradise) There is a word of caution from those who trekked the KGL.
“KGL trek is an enormously popular journey among all adventure lovers and even commoners from across the globe. However, taking things lightly and being ill-equipped can be a life-threatening journey. Those who wish to embark on the adventurous trail need meticulous preparation besides a high motivation to go and unravel the rugged mountainous terrain,” said Jalal Jeelani, an avid trekker.
Shirish Iyer from Mumbai said the true beauty of Kashmir lies in the hidden valleys that are not accessible by road.
“I feel excited to explore the hidden beauty through the KGL,” he said