Situated at the foothills of Mount Haramukh (the highest mountain in the vicinity of Kashmir valley), Gangbal is one of the most visited and famous alpine lakes in Kashmir.
Gangabal Lake is an alpine high altitude oligotrophic lake. This glacial lake is formed by the melting of snow and it is the home to many fish species including the brown trout. The lake is spread over two and a half kilometers and a maximum width of one kilometer.
Named after the Ganges, this lake is sacred as Ganga River to many Hindus. The local Kashmiri Pandits take part in the Gangabal Harmukh Yatra from Kangan every year in September. Also, this place is considered as holy as Haridwar as, in the past, ashes of their ancestors were immersed here.
According to Hinduism, the mt. Harmukh is the abode of Lord Shiva. According to the legend of “Hurmukhuk Gosoni”. Once a hermit tried to reach the summit of Harmukh to see Lord Shiva face to face. For twelve long years, he tried to scale the summit but failed until one day he saw a Gujar descending the summit. When the Gujar approached him, the hermit enquired as to what he had seen there. The Gujar said he had been searching for a stray goat, and that while searching he saw a couple milking a cow and drinking the milk from a human skull. The couple had offered him some milk, which he refused to drink; when they departed they rubbed a little of the milk on his forehead. When the Gujar indicated the spot where the milk was rubbed, the hermit was extremely joyful and rushed to lick his forehead. It is said that the hermit attained Nirvana and disappeared from the place to the complete surprise of the Gujar.
It is also believed that if you see the peak of Mt. Harmukh so you will not fall sick for 1 year at least. Luckily I was able to spot the peak and I didn’t felt sick for 2 years since then.
The water in the lake comes from rain and the glaciers of Mount Harmukh. The lake water outflows to a nearby Nundkol Lake and then via Wangath Nallah which goes to Sind River.
How to Get There:
This Lake is approachable either from Sonamarg involving a 3 to 4-day trek or directly through Chatargul along Bramahsar or via Naranag up the steep slope of Buth-Sher which takes a day or two.
I visited this lake while I was on my trek of The Great Lakes of Kashmir. I spent 2 Nights near Nundkol lake which is just 10mnts away from Gangabal Lake.
If you are willing to do something courageous. You should definitely trek on this route. It will definitely change your perspective about the Kashmir.