Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 5

Gadsar-Vishnasar Trek.
After a long and well deserved rest at Gadsar on Day 4, we mentally prepared ourselves for another long and hard trek on Day 5. As we did not want to get into the same sticky situation that we faced on Day 3 (i.e. not reaching our destination before sunset), we decided to start our trek early. It would later prove to be a very wise decision - though for a different reason.

We had our breakfast at 6:00 AM, and were ready to start off by 7:00 AM. It was a bright and beautiful morning. We packed only the raincoats, water and some chocolates and set off. The support team would pack everything and catch up with us. Those guys are really amazing. They make trekking look so effortless - and they don't have any fancy trekking gear.

Shawn has done more than 4 hours of trekking on Day 3, and we encouraged him to start off with us today - instead of using his horse.

After more than 2 hours of steady walking, we reached Gadsar lake. It's a small and peaceful looking lake with some frozen glaciers still floating in the water. We stopped for a short rest. The support team had not yet caught up with us, but we decided to push on, as we knew that they would catch up with us before long.

Gadsar Lake.
Frozen pieces of glacier floating in Gadsar lake.
View of Gadsar valley.
Pretty flowers in Gadsar valley.
After about 3 hours, the rest of the support team caught up with us and we continued on the easy trek for another one hour. So far, we had not seen any wildlife during our trek, so I was pleasantly surprised to finally come face to face with the Himalayan Marmot. I told everyone to stand still, while I quietly changed my lens from the wide angle 17-55mm to a more usable 80-400mm.

Himalayan Marmot.
The Gadsar valley is a truly beautiful place and the straight path meant that we could enjoy the surrounding scenery instead of worrying about ascending or descending huge mountains.

The peaceful Gadsar Valley.
Mountain range to the west of Gadsar Valley.
Mountain range to the East of Gadsar valley.
A picture-perfect postcard morning in Gadsar.
Since we had started off early, we took frequent breaks to just relax and enjoy the mountains and the glaciers.

My brother Roy sitting and enjoying the glacier filled mountains.
Roy and Shawn discussing the finer points of trekking.
Finally after 4 hours of trekking, we took our first proper break to have a quick lunch before starting with the difficult part of the trek - a steep ascent up Krishnasar pass. Shawn had become tired by now, and did not want to continue with the ascent on foot, so he hopped on his horse.

Lunch break, before starting ascent up Krishnasar pass.
Shawn decides to use the horse for the ascent up Krishnasar pass.
The Krishnasar pass looks deceptively small from this distance, but as we approached closer, we realized that we were in for a very hard climb.

Climbing up Krishnasar pass.
It's really amazing how fast the horses and the support team moves. They were already half-way up the mountain (those small specks is our team) while Roy & I were huffing and puffing trying to catch up. And we thought we were in good shape!.

After more than 2 hours of climbing, we finally reached the top of Krishnasar pass.

At the top of Krishnasar pass.
Krishnasar pass is 4100 meters above sea-level (about the same as Zagibal pass that we crossed on Day 3). The scenery from up here is just spectacular. We could clearly see the 2 famous lakes - Krishnasar and Vishnasar (named after the 2 Hindu Gods Krishna and Vishnu).

View of Vishnasar and Krishnasar lake from Krishnasar pass. 
Taking a break on top of Krishnasar pass.
All we had to do now was climb down the pass and set our tent near Vishnasar lake (the one that is further away in the picture). There was a small problem though. Roy is afraid of heights, and the path down looked like it was a straight 90 degree drop. Roy's first reaction was "I can't do this", and he indicated as much to our guide, and suggested that we turn back and return to Naranag. Of course, that was not practical, as it would take us another 4 to 5 days to retrace our steps back to Naranag - while we could reach destination (Sonamarg) in only 2 days if we continued on our current route.

We finally convinced Roy that we could do it, and we started on the delicate job of descending the very scary Krishnasar mountain. Surprisingly, Shawn got off his horse and joined us in the descent and he was very comfortable climbing down. As for me, I packed my camera gear and did not take a single picture till we were safely down in the valley.

Starting the steep descent to Krishnasar lake.
At the bottom - near Krishnasar lake.
We finally reached the valley near Krishnasar lake, and proceeded to the nearby Vishnasar lake. As we reached our destination, it started raining heavily and this is where our decision to start early proved to be a wise decision. If the rain had caught us while descending the Krishnasar pass, we would have been in a very dangerous situation as the rain makes the trail slippery and wet.

Our destination for Day 5 - Vishnasar lake.
The rain was coming down hard and fast as we reached our tent. We were cold and shivering. Shawn and I just crashed into our warm and welcoming sleeping bags. I felt proud that Shawn did about 6.5 hours of solid trekking today (he used the horse only for the ascent up Krishnasar pass).

Roy, ever the avid angler, took his fishing rod and went trout fishing in the cold and miserable rain. This time, he caught a whole bunch of them which made for a delicious dinner, but I was too tired and cold to bother taking any pictures now. I had some Rum in my bag. I gulped down some of it and went into a deep sleep.

I vaguely remember getting up later in the night to eat dinner but don't remember what I ate. I am sure there was some fresh trout in there.

You can read about our Day 6 by clicking here.


Ishfaq Mir said...

Brillant travelogue.

Angad Achappa said...

Awesome trip report!! :) My fav image of the lot is the marmot image!! :D

Cajie said...

@Ishfa, Thanks. Roy will be very happy to know that you have seen the pictures and read about our adventures.

@Angad. Thanks. I was carrying the heavy 80-400 lens on my back most of the time and never got a chance to use it, so I was wondering whether I should have brought it along in the first place. That picture sort of made it worth the effort of lugging it on my back.

Anonymous said...

Great report and pictures as always. Cajie, have you done any PP on these pictures? The color of cloud and greenery are too good to be true.

Still wonder, how Roy managed to climb down?

Cajie said...

Very little post processing in these pictures. Just some contrast adjustment, saturation and sharpening.
The reason the sky is so blue is because I had a Circular Polarizer on the lens.
Here is a straight-from-the-camera picture for reference.

Cajie said...

Oh..and regarding Roy climbing down, Muzafar stayed with him during the entire descent, while Shawn and I merrily went ahead.