It had been seven long days of steady climbing, stumbling over fields of rock and snow, crossing high passes and camping out in the extreme cold. Sleepy villages had given way to alpine meadows carpeted with flowers of every colour; and past the snowline, to a forbidding rock and snow-strewn terrain.

Top of the world: Nearly 1km in length, the spectacular Kanasar lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the region. Percy Fernandez

The lake, which derives its name from two small islands that rise from a corner of its eye-shaped expanse, is just one of the many undiscovered lakes in this area. Even though western Garhwal is one of the most popular trekking destinations in the country, these glacial lakes had remained a secret, known only to a few local shepherds. If it weren’t for them I would never have found them.

That started off a series of treks to three hidden, high-altitude lakes—Baraadsar, Maldaru and Kanasar.

The lakes, and the journeys to them, are spectacular. En route I’ve stumbled across stunning peaks such as the 5,400m-high Ranglana, the sheer face of which remains unconquered despite five attempts; worshipped at intricately carved wooden temples festooned with shields won by the local cricket team; and eaten what have got to be the best apricots in the world.

As told to Akshai Jain.

Maninder Kohli is an avid trekker, and head of the Delhi chapter of the Himalayan Club. He will be talking about his travels to the lakes at 6.45pm on 18 September at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi.

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