This was the itinerary for the “boilerplate” and moderate 5 day/4 night trek in Kashmir:
Day 1 – Drive to Pahalgam and trek to Aru, altitude 9,270′ and camp.
Day 2 – Trek to Lidderwat, at 10,000′ through Alpine forest and camp.
Day 3 – Trek to Sekiwas, a gradual climb up to 11,286′.
Day 4 – Trek up to west bank of Tarsal Lake, 12,450′ and continue walking to the base of Naogal, altitude 10,000′. Overnight at Tarsar.
Day 5 – Cross Naogal pass and walk down through Kashmir villages to Tral at 6,000′ where we’d be picked up and driven back to Srinagar
Sula, our guide, picked us up at the Manora Houseboat at 9:30 a.m, rode with us in the shikara to the center of Srinagar where we waited for the cab. The taxi showed up right on time and we left for Pahalgram, a two-hour ride from Srinagar. The ride was over a good highway for the first half hour and then became semi-bumpy for the rest of the drive but nothing like the Katmandu to Pokara one we’d recently experienced on our first Nepal trek.
THEN – Pahalgram was a simple village situated at 2,130m/6,988′ at the confluence of two streams flowing from Sheshnag Lake and Lidder River and the usual start for treks among alpine lakes, snow capped peaks, valleys, glaciers and fast flowing rivers. There is the famous pilgrimage route that leads from Pahalgam to Amarnath Cave, a very difficult route that begins in Pahalgram and leads all the way to Ladakh ending in Leh, and the most popular trek called the Kolohia Glacier Trek. It too begins in Pahalgam and turns off towards the Kolohia Glacier at Lidderwat.
NOW: Pahalgam is Kashmir’s premier resort with a pleasant climate, and scenic location. There are eight tiny villages within Pahalgam with one containing a Shiva temple that dates to the 5th century and considered to be Kashmir’s oldest existing temple. You can hire a pony, or take a day hike.
We drove through Pahalgram and stopped by a meadow. Sitting there was Mrs. Kumar whose husband owns the trekking company we booked through along with niece, Sara, visiting from London….View image…and our crew. The crew consisted of Sula, our guide, cook Saib’ra, two pony men and four ponies. The crew immediately began laying out a ton of food including four live chickens who walked around clucking and scratching for insects, tents, checking everything over and then loading on the poor little ponies.
Mrs. Kumar told us that there had been a change in the itinerary. We couldn’t do the original trek because it was too cold up at Sekiwas, 11,286′ and the ponyman said the ponies would run away if they get too cold. Instead, we’re going to trek as far as Lidderwat, set up camp for three nights and use it as a base for day hikes. It’s fine with us.
A packed lunch was ready including a plate of nuts, ex-Marine’s favorite and this temporarily made him happy. He had trek concerns over sanitation, tents, camping and safety for just two persons. I wasn’t worried because the Kumar’s were also handling all trekking arrangements in India for Mountain Travel-Sobek, a highly reputable United States tour company and figured, if it’s good enough for Mountain Travel-Sobek, it’s good enough for me.
Snacks demolished, we set off for Aru…