I had to introduce myself as a trekker and mountaineer after a few high-altitude treks and four mountaineering courses in the high Himalayas. And my ambition extends beyond scaling the world’s highest peak.
What made you decide to pursue trekking?
Mountains, I feel, bring out the best in you, and they are the ideal place to put yourself to the test and learn what is true and what makes you happy, as well as the positive energy in life.
About Kashmir Great Lakes Trek and My Birthday on the Trek:
The Kashmir Great Lakes journey, dubbed “India’s Prettiest Trek” because of its seven gorgeous high-altitude excursions, was purely coincidental, yet it left an indelible mark on my heart.
I was in Jammu to get away from my daily life and had planned to meet my instructor from the Basic Mountaineering course who happened to live in Jammu after spending two days with him at his place.
But I got a phone call from my friends who were planning a Kashmir Great Lakes Trek the next day, and I had missed the last bus from Srinagar to Sonamarg and was short of money due to the unplanned trip I had taken.
The next morning, I hitchhiked to Sonamarg, where I met four of my buddies who were eager to begin the trip with me.
We began gathering everything we would need for the following 5-6 days, from dry rations to warm caps. Then we began our hike from Sonamarg to Nichnai at around 2:00 p.m., and after two hours of walking, we stopped at a tea shop for some Maggie.
By the time we resumed our journey, it had begun to rain, and I now wish I had my Trek 500 Rain Jacket from Decathlon with me. It could have salvaged the day for me.
We drove to Kishansar Lake the next morning after a short breakfast. This day was not about gaining height, but about walking on flat terrain with breathtaking views around every bend.
This day was spent roaming through the grasslands of heaven, which seemed almost surreal to me as a selfish human race that has destroyed everything natural beauty.
This day was dedicated to reaching Gadsar Lake through Gadsar Pass, 13,800ft, which required walking through a large snow area, which was difficult to do with a 22kg Rucksack on my back.
We walked quicker, faster in this route today, fueled by the experiences we’d experienced in the previous days and the unrivalled natural beauty that fueled our motivation along the way.
I had travelled to various mountains, little and large, beautiful and difficult, but the view in Gangabal Twin Lakes and Jaj Pass was one of a kind, and it had the capacity to heal any troubled heart and keep a person captive in the mountains forever. And I couldn’t resist going for a swim in Gangabal Lake.
We stayed at Jaj Pass for more than an hour, just taking in the scenery and watching the clouds do their thing.
From Gangabal, it was a sharp downhill to Naranag on this day. During our descent, we met a local Kashmiri who was riding a mule carrying campsite groceries for a trekking company to Gangabal.
The mule was injured, and the stuff was all over the place, and the helpless local was sitting beside the mule, helpless and clueless because he couldn’t go up or down with the injured mule carrying so much grocery, gas cylinder, and other equipment.
I discovered true humanity in the mountain’s most remote and remote corners, among those who had very little yet were eager to share it with utmost affection, even with an outsider.
*In life and in the mountains, there are times when you want to give up, but it’s necessary to persevere since the most magnificent lakes in the high Himalayas are found after the most difficult climb.
My Birthday on Kashmir Great Lakes:
We were known as the “special chabbis.” My batch of 26 persons came from a variety of cultural backgrounds, some from different countries, and were at various phases in their life. Everyone came for their own reasons, and I’d never seen strangers get along so well.
The way many of them approach life, the things they do, the trips they embark on, and the way they simply live their lives is quite amazing.
It felt like we’d all known one other for years by the end!
My birthday coincided with the most difficult day of the week-long journey. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it the night before, when camped in the valley, when I looked at the peak we had to summit the next day.
But, owing to my wonderful trek companions, I was able to make my way up with ease, and what spectacular vistas! The vista of Kishansar and Vishnusar lakes from 13,850 feet can’t be described in words.
I just sat there for a long, taking in the scenery. As the hike progressed, we passed through lush green meadows, across stunning crystal clear Alpine lakes. Through valleys brimming with tiny colourful flowers, alongside herds of sheep, across a glacier, and over several boulders. Each landscape had its own distinct appeal.
After completing KGL, I realised why Kashmir is known as “paradise on Earth.” There were mornings when I had to check myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming because we woke up directly in front of a lake. I’ll never forget this day, and even now, 2 years later, penning this from afar, it still brings a huge smile to my face.
To begin with, at an altitude where freshly prepared supper was a blessing in and of itself, the entire team agreed to bake me a cake. How unique is that? It’s beyond comprehension. When you’re at 13,850 feet and it’s chilly outside, the last thing you anticipate is to see a cake in front of you.
We met a few army personnel when crossing Gadsar Pass, and when they found out it was my birthday, they offered me some homemade Kheer and later came for a stroll around our campground in the evening.
Everyone did their part that day to make me feel special in their own unique way. As if the cake wasn’t enough, I was also given Jalebis as the day’s dessert! And our dearest guide gave me extra sweets after each dinner as a treat.
I felt at home even though I was far away from home, out of reach, doing something I’d never imagined myself doing, and with people I’d never met before. That day was just filled with so much love and admiration, and I felt happy and wholesome.
This will keep my heart warm for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure I would be as enthusiastic about hiking today if I hadn’t felt so much love the first time. I became so enamoured with the mountains that I plan to enrol in a mountaineering course in the near future in order to replicate the experience I had on my first excursion.