Gangotri Gaumukh Tapovan Trek 2017
The Ganga, the holiest of the rivers, revered by the Hindus over millennia, springs from an expanse of ice measuring 8 km by 24 km, the Gangotri Glacier. This is the source of the Bhagirathi, which joins with Alaknanda to form Ganga at Devprayag. From Devprayag, the river flows 2,480 km to the Bay of Bengal. At the very top of the Gangotri Glacier, like a crust of crunchy chocolate on a vanilla bar, is a 30 to 50 ft layer of mud and rock, the debris dragged down by the mountains by the inexorable flow of glacial ice. To the left, in the north, are the towering vertical faces of the Bhagirathi massifs. Across the Bhagirathi, in the south, the scree slopes sweeps up into the distinctive pyramid of a Shivling, topped by its signature overhang. And, at eye-level, is the little entrance to an icy cavern, the mouth of the glacier – Gaumukh. Crafted in opaque ice of white and green, the glacier issues from its dark recesses the little trickle that has for millennia drawn to it the waters of a thousand streams and the faith of countless millions.
Suggested trek itinerary starting from Gangotri, the closest road head to Gaumukh Tapovan. Ideally, Gaumukh trek should be done in 5 days i.e 4 nights 5 days from Gangotri. TrailHikers recommends that you should stay a day at Gangotri on arrival to acclimatize and a day on return to rest so the trek requires a week to undertake.
Distance: 8 km Time: 3-4 hrs Level: Easy
Sudarshan Parbat (6,507m) seen from Gangotri
– The best time to do Gaumukh Tapovan trek is May to mid July
– Its essential to acclimatize one day at Gangotri for Gaumukh Tapovan trek
Before you set out on the trail from Gangotri (3,046m), you might like to take in the sight of the kund or trough, where the Bhagirathi River crashes into a limestone basin polished into fluid sculpture. Popular custom decrees that you visit the Ganga shrine half a kilometre upstream before taking to the pilgrim trail that runs above the temple, and begins in the last stands of forest at the edge of the road into town. It is a well maintained path, hugging the river on its path from east to west. The forest thins rapidly, and one is soon in a landscape of brown and grey, relieved by the stream below, and the symmetrically framed views of the mountains in the front.
The traditional first stage of this walk is to Bhojbasa, 13 km away. But since the starting altitude is considerable, progress is slow, and if one in unsure of acclimatisation, it may be prudent to do the half-stage, to Chirbasa (3,350m) on Day 1, where a small group of chirs (pine) is a relief in an otherwise desolate landscape. On both sides of the trail, dhabas offer simple fare, as well as a carpeted platform to sleep on and an ample supply of quilts. If you want you to tent for the night, go down to the river, where there is charming camping place among groves of freshly planted silver birch. Ther is also a forest bungalow, too decrepit to offer any shelter, but with a water-point and flat grounds well suited to a cluster of three to four tents.
Distance: 5 km Time: 2-3 hrs
Himalayan blue goat “Bharal” at Bhojbasa
Above Chirbasa, the valley widens, and offers views of snow-clad peaks in the south. It is a gentle walk to Bhojbasa (3,800m), running virtually due south-east along the river, the Bhagrathi peaks ever a beacon to the source of the river. Bhojbasa is the widest point in the upper valley, and camping here at night offers magnificent moonlit views of the Bhagirathi peaks. For those who don’t want to light up their stoves, there’s an excellent langar at Lal Baba’s Ashram, or more commercial fare at the GMVN establishment, which also offers solar lighting and hot baths.
Typically, pilgrims wil do Gangotri-Bhojbasa in one stage, tick off Gaumukh on the second and return to Bhojbasa for the night, completing the return walk to Gangotri on the third. But, a bit more mindful of acclimatisation when with mixed groups, trailhikers prefer to do it in easy stages ; get in some sun and sand on the riverside, and make sure everybody is in good shape for the haul up to Tapovan.
Distance: 9 km Time: 4 hrs Level: Easy-Tough
Gaumukh (3,969 m)
– Himalayan blue goat “Bharal” is found at altitude of 3,000 m & above
– Bharal primarily eats leaves of small shrubs & trees growing on the steep edges of the mountains
– A similar mountain goat named “Ghural” which is brown in colour is found in Benog Hill region of Mussoorie
The first four kilometres upstream from Bhojbasa are surprisingly flat, and though the valley narrows, the path runs smoothly above the river, and is fringed by a grassy meadow. With about a kilometre to go, the terrain turns rocky, and one has to pick one’s way through the rocks and boulders, down to a sandy beach sheltered by enormous piles of granite. Incidently, the beach is a great place to camp. Scour the water’s edge for shards of ice, or follow the broken path along the river’s edge to the very foot of Gaumukh (3,969m), and look up at the Shivling Peak (6543m) almost vertically above. In autumn, the water is a shallow stream of grey-blue, and you could wade out to the middle. In summer, it is a more substantial stream of muddy brown, and one is well advised to keep to the banks.
As one approaches the glacier, the path becomes a bit tentative, and if one wants to make the trip to Tapovan (4,463m), it is best to leave Gaumukh before noon. Despite the shifting nature if the route, the orientation is quite clear, and little piles of stone on the higher rocks regularly marks the trail. Climb up to the northern side of the glacier (the right bank), till you gain its surface. Turning south, cross the glacier towards the slopes on the opposite side of the valley. Snaking through rocks and debris that are its surface, it is hard to remember that one is actually on a major glacier. Once you have reached the southern (left) bank of the river valley, the path is more clearly marked – a steep climb of almost a thousand feet to the meadows at the base of Shivling Peak. This is Tapovan, an exquisitely watered spot from which the fabled peak of Shivling appears to sweep up in a wave of scree, granite and snow.
It is an idyllic camping spot; alternatively, a couple of babas have establishments where you can spread your sleeping bag for the night. TrailHikers also uses this camping site for its treks !
Distance: 9 km Time: 3 hrs Level: Moderate – Easy
Shivling Peak (6,543m) en route Gaumukh
It’s time to trace the trail back. It’s downhill all the way till Gaumukh and the next 4 km almost flat. If you’re feeling fit, walk another 5 km till Chirbasa, to spend a night exloring the banks of the Ganga. If you manage to reach Chirbasa, the next day will be easy as from here, it is a short hop of under 2 hrs to Gangotri, allowing plenty of time for a drive to Uttarkashi, and the dubious charms of civilisation.
Distance: 13 km Time: 4-5 hrs Level: Easy
From Bhojbasa, start early so that you are in Gangotri by noon and then reach Uttarkashi by late evening !
Crossing the glacier again, one can press on to Nandanvan (4,400m) – though only 4 km, it is a path strewn boulders and not so heavily trafficked. You would be well advised to retain a guide for the journey, or for the expedition to Vasuki Tal (6km) at the base of the Vasuki Peak (6792m).
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can do this trek ?
Gaumukh trek is an ideal trek for trekkers who have a good hiking experience & are looking for a trail on a moderate – difficult gradient. Any physically active & healthy person can do this trek.
How to physically prepare for this trek ?
Gaumukh Tapovan trek involves hiking almost 10-12 km daily, so its better if you include jogging or walking in your daily routine at least a month before the trek.
Is this trek suitable for kids ?
Gaumukh trek is recommended for persons aged 15+ years. The trek involves at least 10-12 km of daily walking which can be very strenous for children below 15 years.
What is the best season to do this trek ?
The best season to do Gaumukh Tapovan trek is May to Sept . It is a high altitude trek so its not recommended for extreme winter season when there is too much snow on the upper reaches.
What is the ideal duration for this trek ?
Gaumukh Tapovan trek can be done in 4 nights 5 days from Gangotri. The trek itinerary also includes 1 night stay on arrival at Gangotri and 1 night stay on departure, so the trek requires almost a week if you are coming from Delhi NCR region.