Kashmir Great Lakes Trek – Day 1 – Sonamarg to Shitkadi

My last trek was in 2017 when I did the EBC (Everest Base Camp). Body, mind & soul, in equal measure, had been itching since then to dust off the gear & put them to better use than wearing trekking pants & uppers for high altitude flying in the mountains!

I chanced upon the Kashmir Great Lakes (hereafter referred to as KGL) trek sometime in 2020 on reading an article about it in a travel magazine. The idea stuck in my mind & I was soon busy contacting different companies/agencies to gather more details. The best season for this trek is Aug-Oct & coincided perfectly with the culmination of Amarnath Yatra flying & so I decided to attempt it in 2021. But as luck would have it, with the operator shortlisted & all details finalised the yatra got cancelled last year & so did the trek plan!

The KGL trek starts from Sonamarg & ends at Naranag, a few kms off the route from Sonamarg to Srinagar. A change in base from Pahalgam (earlier) to Sonamarg (this year) thus placed me in a better position to execute the pending plan. The Company & the powers that be were kind enough to oblige & with their help & of course God’s blessings I was able to bring my plan to fruition. The operator finalised for the trek was a company by the name of Kashmir Treks which I would later highly recommend to everyone.

P.S. Mr Mehraj Mir of Kashmir Treks is available on +91-9906421796. Give my reference.

A view of the Sonamarg Valley

The Itinerary

The KGL trek plan looks roughly like this :-

Day 1 – Sonamarg to Shitkadi (by road)

Day 2 – Shitkadi to Nichnai (11 kms/7 hrs)

Day 3 – Nichnai to Vishansar (12 kms/7 hrs)

Day 4 – Vishansar to Gadsar (14 kms/8 hrs)

Day 5 – Gadsar to Satsar (9 kms/5 hrs)

Day 6 – Satsar to Gangabal (11 kms/6 hrs)

Day 7 – Gangabal to Naranag (15 kms/6 hrs)

A sketch of the Great Lakes Trek route (not to scale)

As the name suggests, this trek involves walking some 70-75 kms, visiting lakes & climbing to about 13500 feet couple of times to cross high altitude passes separating different valleys. Some operators throw in an extra day at Gangabal for trekkers to rest & enjoy the scenic beauty there.

But before I delve further into activities of Day 1 let me introduce my companions for the next one week or so.

Meet the Kannans

I was originally booked on the batch beginning on the 13th Aug after scheduled culmination of the yatra on the 11th. But a premature & unofficial closure of the route forced me to reconsider my plans. I checked frantically with Mehraj & found that he had another batch starting the 8th Aug & agreed to fit me into it. There were just 2 more people on the group besides me, a couple from Mumbai he said. “A couple, oh wow” I said to myself. “I am going to get bored”. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The Kannans’ flight from Mumbai to Srinagar got delayed. The same vehicle which was to pick them up from the airport & bring them to the overnight camp at Shitkadi (on the outskirts of Sonamarg) was supposed to later pick me up too from the hotel. Tired of waiting I called Mehraj to send a separate vehicle for me & was thus in position by 3.30 pm before the Kannans arrived.

Mr Kannan & Dr Anupama Kannan (pic taken later during the trek)

They are old. Yes. They also ‘look’ old. Yes. My instant reaction (to be honest) on seeing them for the first time as they arrived around 5 pm was of amazement & disbelief that they really could be trekking at high altitude at this age! All my doubts were to be dispelled in the next 5 mins or so.

Jab We Met (pic courtesy Mr Kannan)

Dr (Mrs) Anupama Kannan, 62, turned out to be an avid trekker. In her teens she has gone through the rigours of the Basic Mountaineering Course at NIM, Uttarkashi. She has since then successfully completed many treks & has also indulged herself in other adventure sports like scuba diving, sky diving etc. How many of us can match up to her energy?

Mr Kannan, 67, a Metallurgical Engineer by profession now lives his retirement years as a TATA AIG agent just to kill spare time. He is a doting husband (you can see that in his eyes) & makes it a point to accompany his wife on all her fantastical trips whether he finds himself capable of accomplishing the same or not. He is also an ace photographer & came armed with a DSLR with multiple types of lenses on the trek.

The Kannans in a candid moment on climbing a high altitude pass (pic from later in the trek)

Together, Mr & Mrs Kannan make a lovely pair, full of energy & spirits, caring & affectionate & I couldn’t return untouched by their grace, graciousness & concern for me, their odd companion in the wilderness. I would hear more tales of their travels to all corners of the world over the course of next 1 week.

So with the introductory formalities having been taken care of & a cup of hot kahwa down our throats we decided to set the tempo for the trek by taking a walk down to the Sind river.

A panoramic view of Sind river near Shitkadi

It was time for the evening prayers & I was lucky to spot a local offering ‘namaaz’ who happily agreed to let me capture a pic.

A man offering ‘namaaz’ at the Sind river bank

After spending an hour there we returned to the confines of our modest campsite consisting of 3.5 tents or so. An evening competition between Mr Kannan’s DSLR & my modest cameraphone to shoot the moon yielded this result.

The moon framed beautifully amongst the snowy environs of Thajawas glacier, Sonamarg

Dinner was served at 7.30 pm & by 8.30 or so we pulled in to our little tents & called it a day. It would be an early start for Nichnai the next morning.


Now readΒ https://ghumakkarindian.com/2022/08/26/kashmir-great-lakes-trek-day-2-shitkadi-to-nichnai/




  1. Beautifully documented ang great pictures to go with it. Brings back memories of long long ago. This was in the late 70’s we used to do the lake trek duration used to be 19 days. Starting from Kishansar and vishansar then down to sonamarg and then via baltal and mahagunus pass ,sheshnag ,chandanwari, freslam, Aru, Lidderwatt, Kolahoi and then up to tarsar and Marsar lakes and exit via dachigam wildlife sanctuary.
    Must have been great fun as kashmir is the best for trekking

    1. Wow Sir!! Is there anywhere that you’ve not been? Hahaha!
      I have lots to learn from you!!
      You’re absolutely right in saying that Kashmir presents some beautiful trekking opportunities.

    1. I have met thousand of people in my working life. I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with Rakesh Sharma, the only Indian to have seen the earth from space. But Sudeep for us was indeed God sent to see us through our completion of this fantastic trek, of which I had my own doubts of completion. If not for this thorough gentleman (Ex Army Officer turned Helicopter Pilot) I was not confident of this 7 day trek, although we have done the one day Grand Canyon trek Just one minor correction Sudeepji, I work exclusively with TATA AIA as an Executive Life Planner. I think you should write a book on this experience and not just a blog. I am suggesting this because there is no book available (exclusively) on the Great Lakes of Kashmir. Do it before they dry-up. Stay Blessed and Stay Safe Sudeep not only for your sake but for our sake too.

      1. Thanks a lot for your kind words Sir πŸ™‚ I myself couldn’t have asked for better company on such an adventure. It was your spirit in the end which pulled you through the trek. You & Ma’am make a lovely couple & I wish you both many more adventures together & I personally look forward to trekking with you again πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

        P.S. I have made the correction regarding your current employment Sir.

        1. Sudeep,
          You are too kind.
          I felt I was reading about some other couple!!!!
          Eagerly looking forward to the remaining days so we can re live the experience of a lifetime yet again.

        2. Sudeep,
          I must tell you that I absolutely love your style of writing. It is so easy to read; at the same time, it’s high on content.
          Exactly like how you go about everything in your life- that’s what I’ve concluded after 7 days with you😊
          Waiting for the rest of the days!!

          1. Thanks a lot for your kind words Ma’am πŸ™‚ I still have a lot to learn from you & Sir!

      1. I read somewhere Sir, “It is not the mountains that we conquer but ourselves”! Couldn’t be more right πŸ™‚

  2. Get a sense of the trek by sitting at home through lucid descriptions and lovely photos! An enjoyable read. Thanks

      1. Suddep, great description, found myself almost walking along with you. Great work and all the best for future treks.

  3. Sudip, your travelogue made me feel as if I was on the trek with you. Very well written with an easy flow. Look forward to more.

  4. Batu , on a serious note this is the first time I’ve read your blog . You’ve vividly penned down your journey. After going through the write up, I most definitely want to do the trek myself. Knowing about energetic and compassionate company now would love to know more about the lakes and landscape.

    1. Haha…thanks for the honest confession Mona but I’m so glad that my perseverance paid off πŸ™‚
      Trekking, for me, is meditative, therapeutic & healing! The mountains are so calm, peaceful & pure as compared to the cacophony filled lives that we live in the cities & I love to escape to experience this bliss whenever given an opportunity.
      If you wish to start trekking, I can suggest some beginner ones πŸ™‚

  5. A good start . Looking forward to more of this experience as you’d see and experience
    . When nature and human fortitude to explore it come together true beauty gets unraveled.

  6. Wonderful write-up Ghumakkar Bhai. You bring it alive with your breezy description. And the pictures are an added bonus. I am tempted to bring out my trekking gear as well! Also looking forward to the rest of the write-up.

  7. It takes time for these comments to upload. Mine was not flashing so I thought maybe my typing efforts went for waste, and mind you it takes me big effort to do it . Now that I’m glad it’s there , I’m going to be reading your blogs and putting in my comments. Your easy with your thoughts and a waterfall of ink .
    Keep going πŸ‘

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