Text: Faisal Malik
Kausarnag is one of the main sources of drinking water to majority of people in Kashmir valley and is also the 2nd largest high altitude lake after Gangbal. It is also the main source to Kashmir’s famous waterfall named Aharbal, also known as the trekker’s paradise. Traversing the pine-covered mountains of Pir Panjal range, the boisterous waters of Vishav river tumbles down straight 25 meters below the Aharbal creating a beautiful waterfall. It is also referred as Niagara Falls of Kashmir, owing to the volume of water that flows down. Aharbal is the famous picnic spot and I have been there numerous times. Every time I visit the place I used to be curious to know its source of water. Finally one day me with my trekking buddies we decided to follow the course of stream and after 3 hours of trekking we reached a place wherein two tributaries meet. We stopped there and were confused about which route to follow. Then after a little while we met a man and he detailed us about the place, answered our queries and said the source of water lies deep in the pine and fir forests in the form of the gorgeous Kausarnag Lake (13500ft above sea level).
Aharbal acts as the starting point for the trek to Kausarnag. It is around 4 days trek and its mere impossible to cover such a distance in a day. Hence we decided to trek Kausarnag around June end time. Enthusiastically and with curious hearts we started planning an organised trek from March. We finalized on a 7 days and 6 nights trip instead of 4 days and 3 nights as we wanted to spend additional time at Kausarnag to soak in its beauty and rejuvenate ourselves.
Location: Kulgam, Kashmir valley, India
Coordinates: 33°30’44N 74°46’08E
Primary inflows: melting of snow
Primary outflows: A tributary of Veshaw River
Max. Length: 3 kilometres
Max. Width: 0.9 kilometres
Surface elevation 3,500 metres 11,500 ft. approx.
Frozen: November to July
Name of Event: Trek to Kausarnag, Kashmir
Date: To Be Announced
Difficulty Level: Medium
Endurance Level: High
Food Arrangement: Since it’s a long trek porters and kitchen ten will be set up everyday
Base Village: Aharbal
Trek Distance: 8 km everyday
Trek time daily: 7 hours maximum average
Nearest Airport: Srinagar International Airport or Sheikh-ul-Alam.
Airport Code: SXR
Railway station: Srinagar
Railway station: Anatnag – Local
Note: There are none no trees after crossing Mahi nag, gather fire wood from upper areas of Kongwattan for Mahi nag and Kausarnag.
Route from Mumbai: Mumbai to Srinagar. Then from Srinagar to Anatnag, then to Kulgam and then to Aharbal.
Finally after waiting for such a long time and proper planning we scheduled our trip to the valley’s second largest alpine lake in June end. It was a lovely morning and we began to pack our things for the trek. After packing things it was time to move. We boarded a cab from Srinagar to Aharbal. Aharbal is around 55-60 Kms away from Srinagar and is just 1 hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Srinagar. But it took us more than 2 hours to reach there as on our way to Aharbal we stopped at some locations due to the scenic beauty and some apple orchids. After reaching Aharbal, we established our camp first and then had our lunch. Post lunch, we went for some local sightseeing and after coming back we had tea. We started preparing for the trek that we decided to begin next morning.
We woke up in the morning packed rucksack and had breakfast. Then we started our trek by moving towards Kongwattan. From Aharbal to Kongwattan, the trek is gentle but long and involves a little bit of climbing. From Aharbal to Kongwattan the distance is 10 Kms approx. and it took us almost 7 hours to cover the distance, with the altitude gain of 342 meters. There we found the cluster of Gujjar settlements across the Vishvas River. After we reached there we pitched our tents and then after little rest we began to explore the place. The place is mostly meadows with clear stream good for trout fishing. We enjoyed our time there as much as we can. The place is absolutely delightful and extremely beautiful. We camped there for the night. Jokes and laughter continued along with the discussion for the following day, we went off to sleep.
Due to the previous day’s trek we had very sound sleep and we woke up a little late in the morning. Post breakfast we then continued our journey to Mahi Nag. We started trekking, gained an altitude of 80 meters in 5 hours and climbed a distance of 6 Kms (approx.). The trail is mostly ascending with intermediate flat ground and one river crossing enroute. After passing through the pine forests and some intermittent clearings you will reach wide sweeping grasslands that are formed from the merger of many valleys’. While ascending the trail, we past a few Gujjar huts and after a little walk we
reached Mahi Nag. We stopped at Mahi Nag, pitched our tents and camped there for the night. The stay in such a beautiful environment refreshed us and the beauty was outstanding. With long talks and listening to old mountain folk takes we went into our sleeping bags and slept.
We trekked for around 1 hour and spotted another lake named Niksar. We explored the lake and planned to camp there for the night. Niksar is a smaller lake as compared to Mahi Nag. We discussed the plan for the following day and went off to sleep.
At around 6:15 am we woke up and then had a refreshed view of the lake. We went for a small walk, had our breakfast and after a little while started packing our things for the next destination Kausarnag. Kausarnag is a few hours away from Niksar. Kausarnag is the 2nd largest fresh water high altitude lake with an area of 110 hectares. It is covered by the steep ridges of Pir Panjal region and is also the main source of water to a number of villages. The lake is situated at the altitude of 3500 meters and most of the time remains covered with snow and floating ice that makes it beautiful and mesmerizing. When we reached Kausarnag, we found the lake half covered with snow and ice floating on it, the atmosphere was extremely peaceful and calm. We went into the lake, walked on floating ice and explored the place. As time went by, we felt extremely refreshed and relaxed. It is difficult to describe the beauty of Kausarnag in words. After exploring and spending quality time there, we went to pitch our tents and take some rest. We made a bonfire and were awake until late in the night.
The morning at Kausarnag was calm and refreshing. We spent some time at the tranquil lake and then started packing our things. Our guides suggested 3 options:
1. Go back the same way as we came.
2. Move from the right side of the lake so that we get to see 2 small lakes and will end in Kulgam forests.
3. Go straight toward the Dobjen Wildlife Park via Mughal road.
After discussing the route and other things we opted for the 3rd option because we were running out of essentials. Finally we started walking toward the Mughal road and after walking for around 10 Kms, we reached the border of Mughal road and there we camped for the night.
Knowing that today we had a shorter distance to cover we woke up little late, freshened up and started packing. We walked for some time and reached into the area of Dobjen Wildlife Park. Luckily we spotted some wild animals and birds. We tried to spot Western Tropogan but in vain. Had our lunch and spent some quality time in the wild. Then we started moving towards the main road (Mughal Road). Our cab was waiting for us at the main road. We rushed into the cab and then went back towards our hotel where we rested with some sweet trek memories.
Tags: #Kausarnag #Kashmir #trekking #mountains #nationalpark #HighAltitudeTrekking #Anatnag #Kulgam #Dobjen #Mughal #ChalNikalPade