Kashmir Great lakes trek – Crossing treacherous Gadsar

15th August 2012

Previous posts:
At Sonamarg
Vishansar lake

It was Independence Day. But the trekking group will also remember that day for a different reason!!

When I came out of the tent at 5AM, the scenery outside stunned me. The mountains covered by clouds provided a beautiful backdrop across the stream. It had rained heavily during night stopping just before the daybreak.  According to organizers, the days trekking would be long and difficult. Rightly so as we would be crossing Gadsar pass at the height of 13,750 feet highest point of the entire trek. The rains would make trekking even more difficult.

Things were not so rosy when we started our trek. The gloomy weather appeared to play spoilsport of our plans. By the time we reached Vishansar Lake, it had started to drizzle. From Vishansar, a steep climb of about 500ft brought us to Kishansar.  The drizzle had by then turned into downpour.  It was a pity that we could not enjoy the beautiful Kishansar Lake. We had to wait for a while for other to catch us before proceeding further.  A few shots are fired from my camera from the shelter of Altaf’s umbrella.

Vishansar lake
As streams were abundant in the trail, we had made a habit of carrying very little water. But at Kishansar Lake our guide Altaf tells that the next source of water would be found after we cross the pass. To reach the water in the lake we had to take a deviation of about a km which most of us hated to do. An irony that we face paucity of drinking water when it is raining heavily!! Only Sachin goes to the lake to fetch water. I hope that my water reserves can be sustained till Gadsar pass.

Kishansar lake

The path to Gadsar pass went right next to Vishansar Lake climbing up several hills and disappearing at the shoulder of a hill. It was steep.

In general there was nothing for me to worry about the rains. Armed with raincoats and bag covers, there was no chance of being wet. But it was the nature that we need to tackle. Troubles started as we started climbing Gadsar. The path to Gadsar was steep and narrow. On one side was a steep drop to Kishansar and the path was just wide enough to keep our two legs together. The worst part was that it was muddy and slippery.

I and Naveen were at the leading the group. I suddenly slip and fall down. I scramble to hold on to the grass and somehow come back to the path.  I find myself not able to control the walk. Put one step and my legs start to slide. It would not be an issue on normal roads but here was the steep drop to lake where we cannot afford any wrong doings. Each step had to be taken with almost caution.

We see Aravind (not me) slipping at the same place where I slipped. But he drops down a couple of feet and shouts for help. That was a scary thing to watch. Altaf comes and rescues him but he slips again leading to panic in the group. Equally alarming was when the horse carrying our tents falls down. It survives miraculously. It was then sent back.

By now it was clear that the main path was not usable. People started climbing wherever they can walk leading to confusion and chaos. Looking at the situation, I felt that the day’s trek may be cancelled and we return back to the camp at Kishansar. So I asked Naveen not to walk up. The entire group was struggling down.  We wait for 30 minutes but none of the team members come up.  Amit who is the organizer of the trek comes and asks us to move up. We would be continuing our trek, he told.

During such times all forgotten Gods come to the mind!!

I and Naveen start to climb up further. We were slipping at each step. It was sad that I could not take any photos of such difficult scenes. One reason was the rains that were continuously lashing but it was my hands completely covered with mud and slush that made me unable to use camera.

We reach a major slush point where Naveen struggles to keep from falling. If he is finding it difficult to balance then I can never control the fall. So, I decide not to take that path but climb up directly. It was a steep climb of more than 70 degree slope. But at least there were some plants which I could hold on unlike on the main trail where nothing would stop you from falling down. I walk and crawl on all four and hold on to plants wherever possible.

The dangerous stretch had ended. Muddy path had given way to stony one which was easy to manage. But in all those difficult time, the nature was still at its best. The two lakes were now visible together. That was a scene to watch.

Vishansar and Kishansar lake
It was a moment of joy when we reached the top of Gadsar pass. But it would not remain for long. Since we were at the top, there was no escape from the winds blowing from all directions. It is not good to stay for long pass on top of the passes. But unfortunately we had to wait for other people as we were the first ones to reach the top. One of the horsemen asks us not to get down as we could lose our way in the foggy weather.

With shivering cold, I sit behind a rock hoping it would save me from wind. My fingers were stiff due to cold and I could not feel any sensation. It was definitely not a good idea to stay there any longer. How small we are in front of nature. Few weeks ago, I had climbed Dolma La at 19,000 ft easily thanks to nice weather. But Gadsar at 13,750 feet was proving to be difficult to handle.

The last stretch of the pass
After waiting for 30 minutes, we see Subbu and Aishwarya coming in. Our cook also joins and gives us an alu paratha. That was the best thing to happen in that inhospitable weather. Now that the stomach is taken care of, we start with descent. The descent from Gadsar pass starts with an icy patch. Fortunately for us, the descent was gradual. While the path was still slushy and slippery it was safe as we would fall on the path itself. 

Climbing down Gadsar pass
Three lakes could be seen from Gadsar pass. The lakes appear nearer as we start descending the pass. The first lake was called as Yamsar. 

Yamsar lake
The second was a lake without a name!!

Finally the Gadsar Lake. It was the most beautiful lake that we saw during the trek. What made it stand apart from the rest were the ice parts floating on it, the glaciers and the carpet of flowers around the lake.

Gadsar lake
The walk was long and tedious. Reaching the elusive camp seemed to be eternity. Hours and hours of walking brought us to a small army camp. Here we had to register our name and show our ID cards. The army men were friendly and helpful.  Our camp was few minutes away.

It was 4PM when we reached the camp. All we wanted was to pitch the tents and settle down. That had to wait as the horse carrying our tent had fallen down in Gadsar pass. In the mean time, cooks prepared hot tea and noodles.  The last batch came at 7PM. The days trek had taken a toll on all of us. It was evident y the absence of the evening activities like anthyakshari and mafia. But in spite of such adverse conditions everyone had come out unscathed.