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    Trekking in Kashmir

Trekking in Kashmir combines nature and the local culture. As the trekker climbs higher, both the landscape and the people change. Fruit orchards and paddy fields are replaced by alpine meadow carpeted with wildflowers. The poplar and the majestic chinar trees give way to fir, pine and oak. The simple villagers of the plains are replaced by migrant families of Gujjars: herdsmen who cross the high mountain passes with their cattle in search of greener pastures, living in primitive stone huts that often date back centuries.
The main areas of attraction for the trekker in Kashmir are the Lidder and Sind valleys, which support a number of high altitude meadows, or “margs” as they are locally known. The townships of Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam are the main trekking



Sonamarg Trek
Sonmarg is also the staging point for some of the most popular treks to higher altitudes. A pleasant one-day excursion from Sonmarg is to the Thajiwas glacier 8km away, approachable by a pony over a well-maintained track. The most popular trek originating from Sonmarg is the Kashmir Lake Trek. It covers the lakes of Gangabal, Vishansar, Kishansar, and goes close to the Harrnukh peak. The trail first crosses the Nichinai Pass (13,387 ft) and then enters the alpine valleys that eventually lead to the Gangabal Lake. Vishansar (Vishnu’s Lake) is at just over 12,000 feet and slightly larger than the 12,500 feet Kishansar (Krishna's Lake). Gangabal Lake is the highlight of this trip. Protected by the three peaks of Mount Harrnukh, Gangabal is 5 miles in circumference and offers the finest trout fishing anywhere in Kashmir.

Kashmir Lake Trek
is one of the most popular in Kashmir. The trail follows the traditional route of the Gujjars (the nomadic shepherds of Kashmir) from Sonmarg to Harmukh, passing four picturesque high altitude lakes with spectacular mountain scenery, flowered campsites and trout fishing. The first day brings the trekker to the meadows of Shok Dharan, with panoramic views of Zozila and Sonmarg. Then the trail climbs to the Nichinni Bar at 4,000 metres, where the reward for hard work is uninterrupted views of the Baltoro Glacier in the region of K2. From there the trail descends through lush meadows covered with wildflowers to the glittering Kishensar Lake. The lake has excellent trout fishing. From Kishensar, the trail climbs to the Vishensar Lake through open marshland to a pass at 4,300 metres.

On a clear day a magnificent view of the Nanga Parvat is possible from here. The trail descends to the town of Gadsar and trekkers can spend the night in one of the Gujjar encampments that spring up here in the summer. After crossing over a permanent snow bridge, the trail winds a tough climb along the Satsaran ridge and down through open pastures to the village of Jowdor. This is the only permanent settlement in the area and the villagers (migrants from Gurais) depend on agriculture for their livelihood. The rare Musk deer and the Kashmir stag are regularly sighted nearby the village. From Jowdor the trail climbs steeply to Megandob and then descends to the lakes of Gangabal and Nudhkhol. The pass at 5,755 meters, just before the descent to Gangabal, offers a spectacular view of Mount Harmukh. Gangabal is the best lake on this trek for trout fishing. The 9th century temple at Naranag is worth a visit. From here to Wangat is a 6 km easy walk. Wangat is connected by bus to Kangan and from there to Srinagar.
Season: June to October.
Duration: 7 days.
Stages: Sonmarg to Nichinni (13 km), Nichinni to Kishansar (13 km), Kishansar to Gadsar, Gadsar to Megandob, Megandob to Gangabal, Gangabal to Naranag.

Pahalgam Trek

The Pahalgam-Kolahoi Glacier-Pahalgam trek takes 6 days and covers approximately 70 km. At the Kolahoi glacier the trekker can catch a glimpse of the Kolahoi Peak and see the source of the Lidder River. Excursions to the Tarsar and Marsar lakes in the Upper Dachigam area can also be made from here if the trekker has an additional two days. The first stage of this trek, from Pahalgam to Aru, can be done by vehicle. It is, however, recommended that the trail be walked to acclimatize ahead of the tougher routes to follow. This trail follows the Lidder River to the open meadows at Aru, where excellent campsites as well as private hotels are available. The short trek from Aru to Lidderwat runs through thick pine forests to undulating meadows where the trekker can see the local shepherds grazing livestock. From Lidderwat the trail follows the west bank of the Lidder through Gujjar encampments to the largest nomadic village in the area at Satlanjan. The Kolahoi peak (5,734 metres) is usually clouded over by midmorning, so it is wise to start early from Satlanjan. The trekker does not have to go to the glacier to view Kolahoi; you also have the choice of ascending the ridge opposite Kolahoi, or climbing to Dodsar after fording the Lidder stream. You can return to Lidderwat the same day, or leave the next morning for Aru and then Pahalgam.
Season: May to October.
Duration: 6 nights. Grade: Moderate.
Stages: Pahalgam to Aru (11 km), Aru to Lidderwat (11 km), Lidderwat to Satlanjan (4 km), Satlanjan to Kolahoi to Lidderwat (14 km), Lidderwat to Am (11 km), Aru to Pahalgam (11 km).




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