Exhilarating trip to Gangotri and Gaumukh – Part II

Next morning (Saturday, Day 02), After heavy breakfast of paranthas et al and buying drinking water bottles, chocolates, medicines etc… we started trekking by 08:00 am… surprisingly, the trek was not very steep. All of us were mesmerized and stunned by the sight of virgin forests, snow clad peaks and excitement to see snowfall and snow all around us at summit, “GAUMUKH”. Slowly our excitement waned as we were not accustomed to walk much leave alone trekking at such an altitude… the trek was very dangerous at places and was very narrow…with Bhagirathi flowing at it’s full glory beneath…

We came across many small pass and nallas on the way… there were wooden logs to cross them… we played with water at one of the nallas… mind you the water was freezing cold.. Difficult to dip our legs or hand…. We tasted the water and it was sweet but very hard… as we were not carrying food with us we got hungry and had to do with few chocos and candies only…



Reached our first stopover at chirbasa… a small man made forest of pine trees… we could see some old dhabas and tea stalls… since 2009… The entire gaumukh trek from gangotri is shacks free… mind you. If you don’t carry anything with you will have to make do with only hard water at flowing nallas on the way… We rested at chirbasa for some 30 minutes and could feel the calf muscles stiffing and body giving up… so we started up again towards the summit….. We soon got tired for want of food… Gaurav was walking at a good speed … Anuj the second best… I and Rakesh were kind of very slow…

Slowly the day began to fad to give way to the darkness and weather too began to act like a nasty villain with freezing cold breezes … drizzle and eventually it started snowing… I realized my jacket was soaking water and would soon wet me… so had to speed up somewhat….soon all of us were out of sight of each other… as we all were trekking at different speed and were focussed to reach bhojwasa… the base camp 5 km before gaumukh.. on way we came across 2 old man in 60’s and 70’s …

we started talking while resting at one place and were besieged to learn that the 2 guys were trekking every year since last 17 years… they patted our back and gave us much needed motivation to pep up energy and start trekking… to utter dismay.. I was trekking slower than the 2 old man. Now, I remember the ad of dabur chyawanprash… 60 saal ke jawan… we were trekking as if there was no end and no sight of even the base camp… leave alone the summit.. I reached one point when there was kind of end of trek … no one at sight ahead or behind… dark…snowing and wild sounds…… I was applying all of my brain to figure out the way ahead… activated my sixth sense and tried to reach the top of the boulders to see the trek ahead .. only to find that I was right and could see the ray of hope in the form of base camp at bhojbasa…Only thing I could think was to reach the camp and look for other mates… the wrist watch clocked 5:30 PM

Laal baba ashram was the first glimpse of the camp from the hillock and GMVN camp and Army base camp was also visible. As I walked in ashram, the old men were already there and ordering hot cuppa (I was surprised to see them as I was though they were way behind)… n… there I saw Anuj appearing from no where and saw gaurav running in from the GMVN camp nearby while it was snowing… we negotiated to book dormitory room … just when rakesh also popped in, covered with snow, feeling cold and tired…. It was not possible to trek towards summit.. So we decided to stopover for night halt and start onwards journey, the next day.

I was not pleased by the dirty linen and quilts at ashram and thought to look at GMVN camp… GMVN charged 400 per bed for the 8 bedded tents at the camp area… all rooms were booked so had no option but to book tents. These tents were the only savior for us now.

Ordered maggi@`50 and hot cuppa… I must tell you.. Maggi  never tasted so good .. Had 2 maggi.. And hot cuppa. And, still feeling hungry… the entire body aching with pain and cold… as if  someone put us in deep freezer… the temperature was below zero degrees (someone said, -5 to -10 degrees). Rested in the camp after dinner by  8:00PM… just then Anuj got one gorkha to massage our aching legs and back… much needed and we also got iodex to relax the stiff muscles… after sometime we slept.. Only to wake up next day (day  3) at 6AM. We wanted to catch some more sleep but had no choice.. Else, we might have to stay one more night in the camp… which we didn’t want.

I was amazed to see the frozen water dripping from the water jug from table to the floor. (I missed to take the snap). Got fresh and had breakfast to start onward journey. Rakesh got cold, so decided to stay at camp while 3 of us started enthusiastically…All our enthusiasm started waning during trek under adverse conditions (steep trek and lack of oxygen).. We started filling dizzy but keep walking… reached summit in around 3 hours.

The view to the holy cave from the hill was amazing and many milestone in between keep reminding of the effect of global warming as glacier had shrunken beyond holy cave now.

As we were walking towards the holy cave (GAUMUKH), the oxygen supply was dwindling and I was the first one to give in and stopped just 50 meters from the holy cave. Other 2 went near the holy cave and spent some 20-30 minutes… just in that time, there face skin got black wrinkles like boiled potato skin (lack of oxygen ‘n direct contact of glacial temp). they took few pics, play with snow  ball and came back to me…again took more pics and rushed back… Anuj was eatremely fatigued while treking back.

Rakesh was vomitting badly and had severe head ache due to bad weather and low temperature. At one point we thought of staying back but that would adversely affect our health. So, we decided to head back, albeit at different pace. Decided to wait for each other at regular interval. Treking back was little comfortable. One, we were familiar, by now, with the terrain and treks. Second, treking downhil is comparatively less difficult. 3 of us already trekked 4 KM from bhijbasa to agumukh and back and the 4th one unwell. Slowly and steadily we descended back to gangotri base camp. It was already 8:30 PM., extremely tired. Rented room, dumped the bags and other belongings from the car and shoulders in the room, make calls at home and took rest. Guess what, we were badly hungry, remember we skipped lunch while descending back. With heavy heart we went to the market for dinner.

Next Day, DAY 4,  we went for gangotri mata darshan and started back towards Delhi. I was in a hurry as my wife was coming from US and had to pick her form airport. Unfortunately, weather gods were not very kind to me and we could reach only early morning. My wife called his brother for the transfer.

All in all, it was very satisfying, electrifying trip although, we were either driving or trekking for 5 days in all. This year, too I wanted to to go there, but could not got companion. Anyways, lets see, if I am able to make again next year or so.

12 Comments

  • Hmmmm…. Sarvesh,

    I am feeling shievering while going through your post. The post was very exciting, touching, enthralling and so…so… very well written and i was fully involved or say completely indulged. pic’s were very good.

    Thanks.

    • sarveshji says:

      Thanks Mukesh.

      All 4 of us still get shivering when we think of trekking under adverse climatatic condition. Also because, we were not at all prepared for what we really faced.

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Sarvesh,

    Nice description , pictures are too good.

    I heard that now its not allowed to go till Goumukh, stopping 3 kms before Goumukh cave.

    Btw what is SASE RDC Chandigarh?

    • Sumit Nirmal Kumar says:

      Hi Mahesh,

      It is not that one is not allowed till Gaumukh, Its just too dangerous to be there. You never know when big chunks of ice are there is the flow.
      One can experience the water level at the mouth increasing by as much as 4 feet in mere seconds.
      This being the only reason that even the porters and the guides discourage to go till the mouth
      I have been till about 50 mts till the m,outh and i have witnessed the experience first hand when the water level increased by about 3 ft in about 10 sec.
      You can even go beyond the Gaumukh as well till Tapoban which is about 500-1000Mts above the mouth.
      For the “3 kms ” mark you are taking about, it is the last permanent structure to live. After that it is always 1 day trip as there are no provisions to stay out there.One has to come down to the place to stay for the night.
      It is a once in a lifetime exp and would like every one to have that.
      Happy traveling.

      Sumit Nirmal Kumar

  • sarveshji says:

    Dear Mahesh,

    I also heard the same when we were going.. I guess this is all rumour with no substance.

    SASE RDC is the milestone put by some army team at the gangotri glacier. the glacier has now shrinked more than 500 mtrs from this point and has reached the gaumukh cave.

    There are various warning plates near gaumukh but these were not removed even when the glacier has shrinked further..

    • Mahesh Semwal says:

      In June when I was in Gangotri couple of people said due to global warming problem , trekking till Goumukh is not allowed. Thanks Sarvesh for updates.

  • Sumit Nirmal Kumar says:

    Hi Sarvesh ,

    Nice travelogue. I have been to the place last year. Have been to the mouth and stayed there for 2 days thinking that i might go till Tapoban but was unfortunate.
    But your writing has refreshed the memories for me.
    Thanks man
    Sumit Nirmal Kumar

  • Cesc says:

    Well boy.. you make this trek sound way more difficult than it is… Even though Gaumukh is at 4000m, its certainly not steep or for that matter tiring, in any way (my Perception)… I did the Gaumukh-Tapovan-Neel Tal trek back in 2005. It was my first trek in Indian himalayas and my friend calls it a Perfect beginers trek.. Though i would certainlly agree on the fabulous views one gets the Bhagirathi sisters, the Thalaysagar/Shivling… the Kedar Dome…
    Next year i was back for the Nandanvan-Vasukital trek.. and that was super fun too…

    But in past few years due to tons of accidents and mishaps happening in that area.. its become really difficult to go pass Gaumukh.. lot of hassles and under the table bribes… getting permits.. etc etc…

    For people looking forward to do these treks… please dont get discouraged by any means.. be rest assured that Gangotri-Gaumukh is one of the easiest treks one will ever do in Himalayas…

    happy Trekking guys… Cesc

  • nandanjha says:

    Whoo. It feels like that you are actually going through this faste paced life adventure.

    Big Thanks for taking us on such an exciting ride. I have not trekked and never been to Gangotri and I can imagine how it must be to be in a total new/strange place, with severe cold and not a great place to spend the night. I guess, having friends around might have made the difference.

    Congrats for making it and thanks again for sharing this with us.

  • Sudipta says:

    hi, thanks everybody for your valuable comments. Plz. Let me know shall I complete the trek in one day? Then, when should we start and how much time we can spent there?

  • jeremy lane says:

    Just attempted the trek myself at 53 years old and not in the fittest or healthiest condition. Getting to Gangotri is a fete in itself. The roads are so scary with drops of 1000 metres and landslides a constant fear and the driving of jeeps, buses, lorries, bikes is somewhat crazy to say the least. Then the cows, goats, mules and horses seem to have right of way at any cost. And to go with this the army of Indian workers trying to keep the road open at any cost building walls like you would in your back garden to level the ground to bbq on.

    I got within 2 kms of Bhojbasa and turned back due to my head and mind playing tricks and not the fitness aspect. I was really struggling with altitude, vertigo and fear, I had only got this far due to summit fever. Many hindu,s make the trip with god and for the belief in the what the water from the cows mouth symbolizes, myself was to see the scenery and reach the glazier for personal reasons, and to reach my goal. I saw outstanding scenery all the way for 200 kms from Rishikesh and will find other outstanding sights again but with less danger involved.

    If your not afraid and willing too risk it you will not be disappointed.

    I got within 2 kms of Bhojbasa and turned back due to my head and mind playing tricks and not the fitness aspect. I was really struggling with altitude, vertigo and fear, I had only got this far due to summit fever. Many Hindi,s make the trip with god and for the belief in the what the water from the cows mouth symbolizes, myself was to see the scenery and reach the glazier for personal reasons, and to reach my goal. I saw outstanding scenery all the way for 200 kms from Rishikesh and will find other outstanding sights again but with less danger involved. My advice is Lonely Planet need to alter the trek from easy to moderate for starters as they are the only ones quoting this and if you are fearless then you wont be disappointed

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