Sunday, August 07, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 3

Another glorious morning at Gangbal lake with the imposing Harmukh peak.
After a relaxing second day, we woke up to yet another glorious Kashmir morning on the 3rd day of our trek. We were well rested and anxious to start the "serious" portion of our trek. A long trek from Gangbal lake to Gadsar. We would need to first cross the steep Zagibal pass (4000 meters above sea level), and then move to Satsar (Seven lakes), and finally skirt the Poshpatri (valley of flowers) mountain to reach our destination Gadsar.

If only we knew how hard this day was going to be, we would have most likely abandoned the whole idea of trekking and headed back home.

Trek heading towards Zagibal Pass.
The mountains ahead of us looked deceptively small and inviting. We packed our bags and started early in the morning at around 9 a.m. - after a nice and hot breakfast.

Half an hour into our trek, I knew this was going to be tougher than our first day. The path is steep and full of loose rocks.

Heading towards Zagibal pass.
It is at times like these - that I started to appreciate my dedicated trekking shoes, and the walking sticks. The shoes are solid and grip the rock like glue, while the sticks help stabilize when I stepped on the loose surface.

My "North Face" trekking shoes.
As we climbed higher up the Zagibal pass, we could clearly see the twin Gangbal lakes from our high position.

The twin Gangbal lakes.
My brother taking a break on Zagibal Mountain.
The steep ascent was making us tired fast and we needed to take frequent breaks. The rest of our team had passed us (including my son on his horse) and were waiting for us to catch up with them at the top of the mountain.

The small speck on top is Shawn's horse - waiting for us to catch up.
After more than 1 hour of laborious ascent, we finally caught up with the rest of the team on top of Zagibal pass. The altitude here is supposed to be 4150 above sea level. My Casio shows 3955.

At the top of Zagibal peak.
The top of the Zagibal peak still had some frozen snow that had not yet melted. This was my brothers first encounter with snow and he was clearly excited at the opportunity.

Checking out the frozen snow on top of Zagibal pass.
View of Gangbal lakes from top of Zagibal pass.
It was now time to climb down on the other side of the Zagibal pass heading towards Satsar (Seven lakes). It looked like we had done the hard part and the rest would be an easy descent.

Heading down Zagibal pass.
The horses move a lot faster than us.
Beautiful views from Zagibal pass.
Our hopes for a smooth trek were dashed as we reached near the bottom of Zagibal valley. The place is full of rocks that need to be navigated gingerly. It was hard work and my mind had literally shut down. I was no longer interested in reaching our destination. I just wanted to cross the next rock, and the one after that. It was mind-numbing and tiring work, and took us nearly 2 hours to navigate through the rocky valley.

Navigating through the rocks.
We finally reached Satsar at around 1 p.m. and stopped for a much needed rest - and some food. Satsar is made up of 7 lakes in chain formation. It would have been great to set up our tent here and relax for the day - but apparently it's not a good place to stay during the night due to unpredictable weather - especially rains.

Satsar (Seven Lakes)
Our guide assured us that the worst part of the trek is really over, and the rest of the way is smooth sailing. What he conveniently forget to tell us was how long that smooth sailing was going to last!.

A short ascent up the Satsar lake, and we came across our first Indian military check-post. We had to give detailed information as to what we were doing in the valley, where we were heading and provide photo identification for everyone. The process took nearly 1 hour but the soldiers were very helpful and provided us with hot water to drink and a much needed hot tea.

The stop at the check-point plus the hot tea renewed our energy and we continued on with our journey. We were very near the Pakistan border now and we could clearly see the mountains in the Pakistan - just 2 mountain ranges away.

Pakistan is just across the mountains in front.
The trek now was indeed very easy. We had to skirt around Poshpatri (valley of flowers) mountain. Even Shawn got off his horse and started trekking with us - giving his horse a much needed break.

Easy trek around Poshpatri mountain.
Along the route, we came across Dupta Pani (hiding water). According to our guide, the water from this stream goes inside the mountain and then comes out in Pakistan. That must be one heck of a long underground tunnel.

Dupta Pani (hiding water). An underground water tunnel.
As we reached the other side of Poshpatri, we were awestruck by the sheer beauty of the mountain. The entire mountain is covered in flowers from the bottom to the top. No wonder it is called the valley of flowers.

Poshpatri (The Valley of Flowers)
Path cut through the flowers of Poshpatri mountain.
Poshpatri valley with a fast flowing stream.
Our team with the horses had gone ahead to setup the tent and keep it ready for us. It was getting dark and we were getting worried because our destination was nowhere in sight and we did not want to get stuck on the middle of the mountain. We decided to quicken our pace.

Sunset on Poshpatri.
After nearly 11 hours on the trek, we finally reached our destination. We were dead tired and just wanted to crash into the welcoming tent.

However, there was still one final task to be done. At the bottom of Gadsar is another military check-point. We had to go to the check-point and again give all our details - which were then cross checked with the details provided at the first check point over wireless radio by the military. Once they were satisfied, they welcomed us to Gadsar and we proceeded into our tent, where we had a hot dinner and just crashed into our sleeping tents.

You can read about our Day 4 by clicking here.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic pictures!!! Guess it is worth all the heavy toiling to get up there to the beautiful site. What an experience!!! What was your food in general?

Once again thank you for sharing your experience. (All these pictures are taken in that Kodak?)


Cajie said...

These pictures are taken with my more capable Nikon D300. The Kodak is good for some random shots but it would have not been able to resolve this much detail and color.

As for the food, it was fresh vegetables, mutton, chicken, Eggs etc. Our support team used 5 horses for food and provisions, so there was plenty of variety each day.