Chita Katha Lake

One of the frozen lakes for most of the year, the Chita Katha is located in Shounter valley in Azad Kashmir. A strenuous 4 to 8 hours trek is the final hurdle between the Upper Domel and this 4,100 meters (13,500 ft) high lake. Upper Domel is a small remote village in Shounter valley and accessible through a 4-5 hours traveling on a jumpy jeep road from Kel in Neelum Valley. It is also possible to reach Upper Domel from the Astore valley.

A stay in Upper Domel requires complete camping arrangements as no other options are available. For camping look around for an appropriate place as the potatoes are cultivated at every inch of levelled land. Very basic food and tea can be available from a 5×5 feet smoky cabin at the start of the village.

From the village, trekking starts by walking out of the village on the same jeep road which led to the Upper Domel. A steep path leaves the jeep road to the edge of the noisy river about 150 meters from the village. A temporary and unreliable bridge made of bushes helps to cross the river and reach to another small settlement dominated by the potato fields.

A steady climbing starts at the end of this cultivated settlement. A continuous ascent on a stony path with number of round turns takes about one and half hour. Once at the top of this green ridge, the views at both front and back sides are superb.

In the front, a sharp decline is leading to a deep bowl shaped valley with snow and ice. The slippery icy surface requires care while crossing towards the other side of the snow. There are few ‘gujjar’ huts with few families taking care of animal herds.

After few minutes of gentle walk, this bowl ends at a narrow gorge with a water stream in the deep. For most of the year a thick cover of solid snow keep this stream covered. Carefully walking on this slippery and inclined snow it takes approx. half an hour to reach to the end of this gorge.

The inclined path ahead is still steady, but the grassy slopes with uncountable flowers on both sides make this piece of land an out of world dream place. For further fascination, more than ten small and medium sized waterfalls dropping from the heights in every direction.

At the end of this splendid land, the Chitta Katha is few minutes easy walk away. By walking on wide and flat boulders, keeping the eyes on emerging snow covered peaks at a close distance now; suddenly the Chitta Katha comes into view. At the feet of heavily snow covered Hari Parbat, this lake offers exclusive views from every aspect.

In local language the ‘Chitta’ means White and ‘Kattha’ is used for water stream. In a more meaningful manner it can be imagined as a reservoir of clear water which reflects the white snows of surrounding peaks. Chitta Katha is set in a deep bowl in a serene isolation.