Rohil Basmai Valley Trek
Indiahikes explored the high-altitude alpine lakes in Aru region and discovered several hidden gems. While the legendary Kolahoi Glacier has been revered for decades, a feasible approach route of the trekking trail had not been documented. We addressed this issue and put it on the map.
The Rohil Basmai Valley Trek is yet another revelation. With the exception of the locals, this trail is a first for the trekking fraternity. The route is versatile since it unveils something unexpected at every juncture. One moment you’re trekking up a section littered with boulders and suddenly an alpine lake emerges out of the blue, with glacier-filled mountain peaks as its backdrop. The most ominous thing you’ll notice in this trail is its isolated nature. It’s hard to find traces of human life in this region. With the exception of the Gujjars and Bakarwals, it’s just you and the mountains.
The Rohil Basmai Valley Trek is characteristic of trekking trails in Kashmir. The trail features broad, open valleys carpeted by lush grasslands that give us the impression that they’ve been manicured by a superior hand. Tall trees with firm roots stand perched on the mountain valleys.
“Camping at a hillock that overlooks an alpine lake is a dream. In this trail, you get to live that dream.”, says Ankit Naithani, our Trek Leader who explored this trail in July 2016.
You cannot help but stare at the snow capped peaks that loom large in the northern horizon. The tributaries of numerous mountain streams merge right in front of your eyes, as they gather momentum to transform and take shape as rivers. The contradictions of the Rohil and Basmai valleys is interesting. While Rohil valley is broad and beautiful, the Basmai valley is narrower, thereby rendering the trees to be closely clustered . Nonetheless, the Basmai Valley is equally alluring.
Whom is the trek meant for?
The Rohil Basmai Valley trek is a perfect introductory trek for fit beginners. The 48 kilometer trail has a few steep sections, which requires decent fitness levels. Due to its remote nature, it is perfect for trekkers seeking solitude. Although some trekkers have concerns about the safety of trekking in Kashmir. As troubled as the state might seem, it is relatively safe to trek in the Kashmir valley, as long as you’re cautious and know where to go.
What are the risks involved?
The Rohil Basmai Valley trek has only one threat. The Gujjars and Bakarwals have dogs that are aggressive. They are known to attack trespassers. It’s advisable to trek in a group of atleast 3 to 4. It’s highly recommended that you carry two trekking poles, which will double up as your line of defense in case you’re attacked by a dog. If you’re trekking in a group, have your backs to each other.
If you do not have a trekking pole, make do with a stick. The dogs in this trail are known to sneak up on you. Be on the lookout. If you come face to face with a dog, do not run. They will eventually run you down. Stay put and face them. Use the trekking pole/stick to scare them off. Hitting them or throwing stones at them is not a good idea. It will only aggravate them further.
The Rohil Basmai Valley trek does not involve any technical sections that require special skills . The terrain is undulating but not physically exhausting for those who have stuck to the recommended fitness schedule. In this trek, you’ll be trekking upto an altitude of 13000 feet and there are chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness, which can be avoided by going on a course of Diamox. You can start the course 2 days prior to the trek.
How difficult is the trek?
The Rohil Basmai Valley trek is classified as a trek of moderate difficulty. The trek has sections with a few ascents and descents which require considerable preparation. The altitude gain is progressive and the grade of difficulty builds up slowly, giving you ample time to acclimatise and settle down. The numerous mountain stream crossings along the trail need to be negotiated with care. Use the human chain method to cross them. A physically active child above the age of 15 can do this trek.
How to prepare for the trek?
Start slow with your fitness regime. You need to be in good physical condition before the start of the trek. On the 5th day of your trek, there is a rocky patch for which you will need trekking shoes with good grip. Expect intermittent rainfall on your trek and carry a poncho and backpack cover to avoid wet clothes.
Author: Ajay Nagaraju
This trail was explored and documented by Ankit Naithani, Trek Leader, Indiahikes.
How to get there?
Private cabs from Srinagar to Aru are available. The average cost of a cab ride is Rs. 2,700 one way. The average time taken to reach Aru is 3.5 hours and it’s recommended that you plan your journey in a way that you reach Aru no later than 6 pm.
After the completion of the trek, private cabs are available for your return journey to Srinagar. The same charge of Rs. 2,700 applies.
Rohil Basmai Valley Trek Guide
Day 0: Getting to the base camp – Aru
Pahalgam is about 100 km from Srinagar and Aru is 12 km away from Pahalgam. Pahalgam is a more familiar place around Srinagar so if you are reaching on your own, take a shared vehicle from Srinagar to Pahalgam. It takes about 3 hours to get there.
From Pahalgam, Aru is right across the Lidder River. It takes another half an hour to cover this distance. Today, after a 4 hour drive from Srinagar you reach Aru by 6 pm. There are plenty of places to stay at Aru, though they are a tad expensive. The acclimatisation process starts today.
Day 1: Trek from Aru to Lidderwat
- Altitude: 7958 feet to 9131 feet
- Distance: 10 kms
- Time taken: 6 hours
- Trail type: Gently climbing long trail
It is a gentle but long climb from Aru to Lidderwat covering a distance of 10 km in 6 hours. The trail to Lidderwat starts to climb straight out of the village, following the course of the Lidder River. Follow the wide trail past the agricultural department’s fence. Look back to take a commanding view of the entire region of Aru. The trail gets into a cluster of fir trees and continues to climb. Half an hour later, the trail pops out at a clearing called Dalla near Gujjar huts.
Out of the pine trees, the trail gently climbs a mound, from the top of which is one of the most fascinating sceneries of the day. The Lidder River meets with the trail at the valley bottom, spreading out in springs. Next to the river are grassy glades where the trail runs. Beyond, the Lidder rushes out of a curve around more gorgeous fir forests. It takes about half hour to cross this lovely section of the trail and enter the cluster of firs once again. Across the forest and ten minutes later, are the superb meadows of Lidderwat. There are a few Gujjar huts that signal Lidderwat.
A sensible option is to drop down to the wooden bridge, climb out of the meadows on the other side and camp anywhere. On the other side are lovely clear streams running across the meadows – this is vitally important if you are camping for the night. Pahalgam District Authority huts for accommodation. There are also plenty of places to pitch camp.The Lidderwat camping site is a dream. Clear streams run across the meadows. Spare time to take long walks that stretch to either ends of the meadows.
Day 2: Trek from Lidderwat to Satlunjan
- Altitude: 9,131 feet to 10,500 feet
- Distance: 5 kms
- Time taken: 4.5 hours
- Trail type: Plain walk with intermittent moderate climbs. Last patch is a steep climb
Today’s trail is predominantly a plain walk. It is a twenty minute hike to the first set of Gujjar huts, is an extension of Lidderwat. It houses 5 to 6 houses. The next one hour is a flat walk with intermittent moderate climbs and the first village you reach is Trun Khalan (small). Post this point, the village trail turns rocky. Cross the mountain streams and the Gujjar huts. A bigger, beautiful village emerges on the left side of the river. This is Khalan. The other side of the village is Susrin. Climb upto the top of the village to bask in the beauty of Susrin Lake.
From Khalan to Satlunjan, the 1.5 hour journey is characterized by boulders. The trail also winds along the river. Satlunjan is a big Gujjar village, which houses 15 huts. Satlunjan literally translates to ‘Seven Bridges’, which denotes the 7 bridges to cross 7 mountain streams. From Satlunjan (10,700 feet), the climb towards Rohil Valley is steep. It usually takes an hour to reach the top of the valley, which has a few more Gujjar huts. Camp here for the night.
Day 3: Trek from Satlunjan to Sonasar Lake (Basmai)
- Altitude: 10,500 feet to 12,457 feet
- Distance: 4.5 kms
- Time taken: 5 hours
- Trail type: Boulders, grasslands, mountain streams and alpine lakes
The climb to Basmai Valley is moderate to steep right from the outset. Pace yourself well, the climb is taxing. Take a break every 15 minutes. You will spot a few Chopan/Bakarwal huts on your left.
Continue hiking up the trail. It’ll take you 1.5 hours to reach a boulder. Cross the boulder section and the beautiful, broad Basmai Valley will unravel in front of you. From the boulder, descend down to the Bakarwal hut besides the river.
From the river, it’s a gentle climb from the right side of the river until you reach the boulder patch. Cross over to the other side of the river. Post your crossover, it’s a moderate climb all the way to Sonasar. The alpine lake emerges as a surprise element. The banks of this tranquil beauty will be your campsite for the night.
Day 4: Trek from Sonasar Lake to Handilsar Lake
- Altitude: 12,457 feet to 12,103 feet
- Distance: 7.5 kms
- Time taken: 6 hours
- Trail type: Grasslands, mountain streams, boulders, snow patches and alpine lakes
Today is an exciting day. You shift your campsite from Sonasar Lake in Basmai to Handilsar Lake. From Sonasar Lake, it takes approximately 2.5 hours to retrace your steps and head back to Satlunjan. Take the the road diverging on your right to reach Rohil Top. It’s a gradual climb to the first lake, Tsangsar. It will take you 45 minutes to reach this spot from Satlunjan. The next half an hour is a flat walk, from Tsangsar lake to Sunpatri.
This is a good spot to take a breather. From Tsangar, it’s a moderate climb for one hour to reach Handilsar lake. Camp here for the night. Camping near an alpine lake is an experience unlike any other. The night sky is overwhelmingly beautiful.
Day 4: Trek from Handilsar Lake to Rohil Top; trek back to Satlunjan
- Altitude: 12,103 feet to 13,000 feet; Descend from 13,000 feet to 10,700 feet
- Distance: 6.5 kms
- Time taken: 6 hours
- Trail type: Meadows, boulders and alpine lake
It’s a moderate climb again to Rohil Top via Hapatsar Lake. It’s a 45 minute mild hike to the lake, which is at an altitude of 12,800 feet. Above Hapatsar, the snow patches are bountiful. They feed this alpine lake.
The climb to Rohil Top is moderate and it’s the highest altitude of the trek at 13,000 feet. The views from the top are spellbinding. The Rohil Nala flows to the left side of the trail.
The Rohil valley is narrow in comparison to the Basmai Valley but beautiful nonetheless. Spend a good one hour at the top and take in the sceneries. Retrace your steps to Satlunjan lower campsite. Camp at Satlunjan for the night.
Day 5: Trek from Satlunjan to Aru
- Altitude: 10,700 feet to 7958
- Distance: 14 kms
- Time taken: 6 hours
- Trail type: Grasslands and mountain streams
Today is a longest day of the entire trek. However, the trail does not pose too many challenges. You will be trekking along lush grasslands that wind through broad-open valleys covered with trees. The route is blessed with mountain streams, which is always a relief. The milky white stream water is fresh and rejuvenating. It’s important that you take short five-minute breaks and hydrate yourself well today. You will be losing an altitude of 2492 feet within a single day and that can be tricky if you don’t pace yourself well. Predominantly, it is a gentle climb. If you get off to an early start, you will reach Aru no later than 3 pm.
Get trek fit!
How to get fit for the Rohil Basmai Valley Trek
The Rohil Basmai trek is classified as a trek of moderate difficulty. This trekking trail does not pose any serious challenges. On the first day of the trek, you cover a distance of 10 km at a stretch. On Day 4, you gain an altitude of 900 feet and lose an altitude of 2300 feet. This portion requires persistent preparation and stamina. You can begin by jogging everyday. This helps increase your lung capacity. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 25 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.
The steep climb to Basmai is a challenging section. The muscles on your legs need to be strong enough to endure this patch. To strengthen your legs do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set.
Trekking with a backpack requires some effort and agile muscles. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed.
Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
What to pack?
What you need to carry on the Rohil Basmai Valley Trek Glacier trek
Once you’ve decided to go on any trek, the first two things you need to purchase are trekking shoes and a backpack.
- Trekking shoes: Not sports shoes. The shoes need to have soles with good grip and ankle support. We recommend FORCLAZ 100, 500, and 600 from Decathlon. .Wear the shoes for a week prior to the trek to avoid shoe bites/blisters on slope.
- Backpack (40-60 litres): Backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.
The best season to do this trek is between March to October. Expect light showers during these months. So carrying a poncho is absolutely essential.
- Full sleeve woolens (2 pairs including the one you are wearing):We endorse fleece over wool as it is light weight, compact and warm. It is better to layer your clothing with multiple light sweaters than to carry one thick heavy jacket.
- Thick jacket: Carry 1 full sleeve windproof jacket/down jacket.
- Trek pants (3 pairs including the one you are wearing): We highly endorse synthetic quick-dry pants as they are light. Plus, when it’s cold you can wear one over the other. While trekking, a pair is what you would carry apart from the worn. You could keep the third pair for your return journey. Alternative would be cotton pants with many pockets or track pants. Jeans, shorts and 3/4 pants are not suitable for trekking.
- Collared t-shirts (3 pairs including the one you are wearing):Preferably light, full sleeve t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Avoid loud colors that would distract birds and animals.
- Thermal inners: 1 pair of lightweight, upper and lower. Thermal inners are optional for those who are more sensitive to the cold.
- Sunglasses: Curved ones will cover your eyes well. No blue coloured sunglass — they don’t block UV. Blacks, greens, browns are fine. Avoid multi tone sunglasses. Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. People who wear spectacles, choose either contact lenses or photo chromatic glasses. If both are not possible, wear your spectacles and carry big sunglass that can be worn over your spectacles.
- Suncap: To protect your head from the direct heat of the sun, protect your face and neck from sunburns. The cap must cover your ears and neck.
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
- Balaclava: . You may use scarves as an alternative to balaclavas.
- Poncho: A lightweight poncho is preferred because unlike raincoats, it covers your rucksack as well. A poncho is indispensable for the Rohil Basmai Valley Trek as light showers are expected
- Socks (3 pairs): 2 cotton pairs, 2 woolen pairs (mostly to be used on campsites and while sleeping. Keep them dry.)
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Trekking pole: Trekking pole is mandatory.
- Daypack (20 litres): It is mandatory to carry a daypack if you choose to offload your backpack. If you decide to carry your backpack, day pack is not required.
- Toiletries (Sunscreen – SPF 40+, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm/chap stick, small soap, toilet paper)
- Repair kit (needle & thread)
- Camera: Carry all accessories – spare batteries, charger, etc.
- Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons. To save weight, you may use your lunch box instead of carrying a plate separately.
- Water bottles: 2 bottles, 1 Litre each. Packaged drinking water bottles like Aquafina, Bisleri and others are not allowed.
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalize things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes. While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalize things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
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Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
- Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
- Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
- Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
- Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
- Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
- Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
- Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
- Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
- Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
- Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
- Gauze – 1 small roll
- Band aid – 10 strips
- Cotton – 1 small roll
- ORS – 10 packets
- Betadine or any antiseptic cream
- Moov spray (aches, & sprains)