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Kashmir Great Lakes

Kashmir Great Lakes


Postby Magoo82 » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:00 pm

Date walked: 16/07/2017

Time taken: 8

Distance: 52 km

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The inspiration for this trek came about roughly three years ago when i'd chatted to an Indian girl on the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal and she'd waxed lyrical about the natural beauty of Kashmir. Like most people my initial reaction was "yeah but is there not a lot of bother in Kashmir?" Nevertheless the idea remained in my mind until early spring of this year when a friend and I travelled down to the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle to see a talk given by the explorer and journalist Levison Wood.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

I had a brief chat with him after the show and he also talked in grand terms about Kashmir and his advice was not to sweat too much about the common perception of the place. For those of you unfamiliar with the issues surrounding Kashmir, i'll spare you the history lesson and say that it is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan who have both held claims over the region since India's partition and there has been an uneasy standoff between the two sides in the decades since.

So I booked a guided trek with India Hikes that took in eight days of hiking though the Kashmir Himalayas and by July I was ready to fly out.

My introduction to Delhi could have been better. My flight arrived at 2am so there was no way of taking the metro from the airport into town - I had to take my chances as a tourist in a taxi from the airport. And sure enough I fell victim to a taxi scam that resulted in me being taken to the wrong hotel and being stung $75 for the privilege.

Undeterred I found my hotel the following day and made friends with some of Delhi's resident squirrels along the way.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

After a couple of days it was time to fly to Srinagar in Kashmir which I found to be a far more charming city than Delhi, despite the heavy military presence (India currently has half a million troops stationed in Kashmir).

I met up with my trekking buddies (one American and 21 Indians) and after a night spent camping near Sonamarg (a place to which the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against all travel :shock: ) we began our ascent up into the mountains with views starting to open up behind us.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

The first day's hike involved a 4000ft ascent up to 11,500ft which left a few of the gang suffering the effects of altitude sickness. It's a pretty dangerous amount of ascent at that level but the reason given is that there are no suitable camping spots prior to that destination. Regardless of the reasoning, a few had quite an uncomfortable night.

There aren't many photos from the following day's hiking as the rain was heavy and I had no desire to drown my camera so it stayed wrapped up in a Tesco bag for life in my pack. This was the worst day for weather however and thankfully for the remainder of the trek the monsoon season seemed to confine itself to the nights when we were tucked up in our tents. When the weather cleared at camp 2 though the scenery was a delight, especially around Vishansar lake.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

The following morning we were held up as the local herdsmen were warning of stormy weather on the Gadsar Pass, the 13,800ft col we had to negotiate to reach our next camp. So I had a wander up one of the nearby hillocks while the others passed the time with a game of cards.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

Our departure from camp was sudden. Our trek leader Devang had spoken to the locals and his cry was simply "Strike the tents and get your boots on, we're leaving". Thankfully there was no drama afoot and he'd simply had word of a weather window to cross the pass. This was to be the toughest part of the trek. We'd already lost two hikers who'd had to turn back due to altitude sickness and we were now faced with a gruelling steep ascent constantly battling the thinning atmosphere and our pack weights (I was carrying between 15 and 17kgs).

The porters stayed behind to clear the campsite then gradually began to catch us up on our way up the pass.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

The sense of relief once the pass was reached was almost as overwhelming as the views. We knew we'd broken the back of the trek and we sat there for almost an hour just taking it all in.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

On our way down from the pass we stopped for lunch at one of the many glacial lakes with stunning mountain scenery to back it up.

Imagehttps://flic.kr/p/WV5Pem by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

The days that followed were considerably more sedate in terms of gradient but the scenery continued to live up the billing, especially in the dusk twilight when the colours really bring these mountains to life.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

Imagehttps://flic.kr/p/Xs7kMo by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

Apparently there aren't really people who live in these valleys permanently. They take it in turns to come from the towns to do three month shifts looking after the animals and the land. They bring their own dogs to round up the sheep but the dogs aren't daft and they're never far away when there are chapattis on the go.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

We continued onward past the military checkpoint at Satsar. Some of the soldiers are friendlier than others but regardless each checkpoint involved a 45-60 minute set-down so they could record all of our identities and, depending on the mood of the officer in charge, have a look through our rucksacks. These stops were a good opportunity to concentrate on the wee things like the birds and the flowers though, a nice tonic to the epic scenery all around us.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

Imagehttps://flic.kr/p/Xw9oNz by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

The mountain scenery is, in places, quite similar to Scotland but obviously on a far bigger scale. It's like morphing the Cairngorms and Skye together then juicing them up on an unholy dose of steroids.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

As we neared our journey's end we pitched up at Gangabal Lake which sits at the convergence of a number of trekking routes and unfortunately the human footprint here is very noticeable in terms of litter. Let that not diminish the grandeur of the place though.

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

At this point I took a mystery fever which sapped me of strength and necessitated my completion of sections of the descent to Naranag on horseback, my first foray into equestrianism and I can assure you my last in light of the sore bum I suffered for days afterwards.

But what a voyage it had been. If it wasn't for the slightly unpredictable security situation in the region (three pilgrims were slaughtered and a policeman lynched in the weeks prior to my journey there) then there is no doubt in my mind that this would be one of the world's most popular trekking routes. The natural beauty is just off the chart. But would a higher footfall spoil the seclusion and the wilderness factor? That's always the argument I guess. But if that ever does happen i'll consider myself extremely fortunate to have experienced it beforehand.

All that was left was a drive back to Srinagar to watch the sun set on another epic adventure and a ponder over the inevitable question..."what next?"

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr
Last edited by Magoo82 on Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Magoo82
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Re: Kashmir Great Lakes

Postby Mal Grey » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:06 pm

Amazing!
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Mal Grey
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Re: Kashmir Great Lakes

Postby Graeme D » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:39 pm

Holy sh*t - that was good! :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

Magoo82 wrote: It's like morphing the Cairngorms and Skye together then juicing them up on an unholy dose of steroids.


Now there's an idea......... :shock: :lol:
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Location: Perth

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