Chitta Katha Lake – An Alpine Lake in Asia
Chitta Katha, the alpine lake in Azad Kashmir, has an elevation of 13,500 feet (4,100). The Hindu holy site was Shiva’s home in ancient times. In the local language, ‘Chitta’ means white, and ‘Katha’ means ravine. Chitta Katha lake is a deep basin in the peaceful environment.
This time consuming journey has a few milestones.
- Muzaffarabad to Kel – 4 hour
- Kel to Upper Domel/Utli Domel – 9 hours.
- Expected Trekking Time – 4 to 8 hours
Tourists can rent a jeep to travel on the track. Domel is a small faraway village in the Shounter valley. It is accessible after a four to five hour adventurous travelling on a bumpy road from Kel. Domel is reachable from the Astore valley as well.
Trekking begins from the village on the same jeep track that leads to Domel where the edge of the river is 150 metres away. There is a bridge to connect a small settlement. After leaving the settlement, an ascent to Chitta Katha lake begins which takes about one and half an hour to climb along a stony road with numerous bends. Overlooking from the ridge, the view is breathtaking. A precipitous descent leads to a bowl-shaped snowy valley. While crossing, be cautious of the slick path.
There are a few huts where nomad families care for their cattle. The hike takes you to a narrow gorge, which takes about 30 minutes to get to the top. Thick layers of snow cover Chitta Katha lake throughout the year. The trek to Chitta Katha lake requires strong muscles, but the grassy slopes on either side make this piece of land worthy of visiting and a number of waterfalls add to the awe.
Chitta Katha lake is just a few minutes hike from the end of this fantastic route. Trekking over the large and flat boulders and looking at the snow-capped Hari Parbat gives a spectacular view from every angle.
There is no time distinction among the 2 routes which are as follows.
- Garhi Habibullah ^ Muzaffarabad ^ Athmuqam ^ Karen ^ Sharda ^ Kel
- Islamabad ^ Murree ^ Muzaffarabad ^ Athmuqam ^ Karen ^ Sharda^ Kel
Kel is approximately two and half an hour from the base camp. There are meadows, streams, wooden huts and villages on the way. The campsite is located in a meadow. Tourists can hire a pony and guide services from the campsite.
Domel is 10 minutes from base camp. After a 25-minute jeep ride from base camp, they will arrive at Shounter (Spoon) lake. It’s better to hire a guide as the trekking route is not well marked and there are numerous detours. Guides also can carry your baggage. This trek is not for the faint hearted.
There are several stages to this trek.
- Base camp to DAK 1
- DAK 1 to DAK 2
- DAK 2 to the Waterfall
- Waterfall to Meadow
- Meadow and glacier to the Chitta Katha Lake
Base Camp to DAK 1
There are two routes to the lake after crossing the river through a bridge and reaching a hamlet ahead.
- Route 1 follows the stoney ridge. The hike leads to the top of a relatively small green mountain and then descends to DAK 1. This is a longer route that takes about 4-6 hours. The hiker must cross a 100 metre steep ridge, the route begins with a stream. Fill the water bottle because there is no water along the trek until DAK 1.
- Route 2 follows the stream that flows from DAK 1 and 2. This is a shorter but steeper route that will take approximately three hours. The trekker must climb a vertical cliff, after which there is a narrow trek of about 250 feet.
Both routes become dangerous when it rains. It is better to stop hiking at once because the ridges become slippery.
The best option is spending the night at DAK 1 or DAK 2, depending on your stamina. The nomad families there can cook food, provide tents for sleeping on reasonable charges.
DAK 2 is visible from DAK 1. Their distance is nearly less than a kilometre. It is a very steep climb along the mountain, culminating in a glacier crossing on top of the stream. The glacier is apparently safe but can be dangerous while descending, so be cautious. This hike will take 15 to 30 minutes.
DAK 2 is located at the top of the mountain. The trek is windy and cold, rather more congested. There is no water flowing nearby. On the other hand DAK 1 lies in a scenic valley, right on the bank of a stream.
Whether staying at DAK 1 or DAK 2, leave as early as possible to maximise spending time on the lake. The majority of trekkers leave around 6 AM. It is a 4 to 5 hours trekking from DAK 1 to the Chitta Katha lake.
The natural beauty of the area is inexplicable. Mesmerising scenery, dancing clouds, noisy water streams, grassy meadows and a wooden bridge make this place worth visiting.
The large waterfall seen from DAK 2, isb about 2 to 2.5 hours away. This path follows a stream and is marked with stones and boulders. Trekking briskly on the way back can hurt your knees. This is not a difficult hike at first, but the last 30% is difficult because the trail is narrow, some patches are a little dangerous.
Due to the height of 2000 feet after DAK 2, flora and fauna are quite different and rare. These plants are used in medicines.
While climbing above 12,000 feet ASL, there is less oxygen in the air. In case of respiratory issues, walk slowly to avoid exhaustion.
The final patch is the easiest and takes 50 minutes to an hour to reach Chitta Katha lake at a distance of one kilometre. The view of Hari Parbat peak is spectacular. There are numerous waterfalls, glaciers, streams and meadows along the trek of Chitta Katha lake. The lake is not visible until one reaches there.
The divine beauty of Chitta Katha lake cannot be expressed in words. There are many large flat boulders where taking a nap will re-energize you.
On the way back, about 40% of the hiking time will be saved but don’t try to rush, it could injure your knees. Tourists should plan to return from base camp to Kel on time, so that they can get ready for travelling to go home.
Author: Fehmeeda Farid Khan