1000 KMs of drive, 50 KMs of trek, 3 people and 5 days…. Is all it took to reach the base of Mount Shivling, Tapovan. The trek has its own set of hardships at a height of 4,463 meters, which includes a river crossing to be done by manually operated trolley, the loose boulders area, where boulders can take you along with deep in the Gaumukh glacier, the wide river crossings to name a few. The actual fun happens when one must do all of this, without a pair of trekking shoes. It takes the adventure to another level altogether. Though not impossible, but difficult… Yes. Well, a lot has already been said by many people about the place, so here is my part of the story:
Day-1 – Reaching Gangotri
It all started on Tuesday evening, 4th of June 2019. We decided to take the route Ghaziabad – Muzaffarnagar – Dehradun – Uttarkashi and reach Gangotri by evening the next day. It was only after crossing Muzaffarnagar, did I realize that my trekking shoes have been left in car back at home, and there is no point going back all the way 2 hours for shoes. The solution came out to get a local pair of shoes with good enough grip from Uttarkashi, which being the hub of all the treks in Uttarakhand. Getting trekking gears from there should not be an issue.
We were right in time and reached Uttarkashi by 7’o clock in the morning. But had to wait for the shops to open to get the shoes. Also, we were supposed to meet our guide in Uttarkashi. Ramesh, our guide was a great help, even before we met him. For Tapovan, one needs to take the permit either online, which usually takes time, or else, can get the permit work done in a day locally at Uttarkashi. We sent all the documents to Ramesh, and he got the permit locally from Uttarkashi, which saved us a lot of time. Also, mostly guides to whom we talked, charge from Uttarkashi to Uttarkashi, a charge of ~ Rs. 1500-2000 per day. In case of Ramesh, he agreed for a charge of Rs. 1500 per day from Gangotri to Gangotri for 3 days along with his food and lodge arrangements. Finally, we started for Gangotri from Uttarkashi by 11 in the morning, just to face a lot of traffic on the way because of the on-going yatra season. Still, we could manage to reach there by evening 4. After taking some rest in the hotel, we decided to go for an acclimatization walk to visit the famous Gangotri temple and Surya kund waterfall, which was a divine in itself.
Day-2 – Gangotri to Bhojbasa
Next day morning, was the start of the trek for us. We did not hire any porter, each of us were carrying our own bags along with tents, sleeping bags and mats, all-in-all weighing around 8-10 Kgs. It being a self-supported trek, we were carrying our own small sized stove, canisters, ready-to-eat meals for the day we were to camp at Tapovan.
Day 1 of the trek was supposed to be from Gangotri to Bhojbasa, the first day campsite, at a distance of 17.30 KMs and an altitude of 3775 mtrs The weather didn’t seem to be fine, there were clouds all around, and we had an indication of rain in the latter half of the day. With all these things in mind, we started from Gangotri. After around 2 KMs, there was the check post, named Gamkhu from where starts the Gangotri National Park. At the check post they check the group permit and number of plastic stuffs one is carrying (including the plastic bottles and chocolate wrappers which are supposed to be carried back), against which a token money of Rs. 150 is deposited completely refundable once you are back with all your plastic waste, a good initiative indeed. Also, an amount of Rs. 200 was deposited per tent.
Mount Sudarshan was clearly visible from the check post, though with mild clouds crowning the peak, adding to the beauty of the stoppage.
The path on the starting day, from Gangotri Chirbasa Bhojbasa, was not a tough one, with altitude gradually increasing with distance, it was easily doable in 7-8 hours. Taking minor stoppages at the two huts on the way, at the check post at Chirbasa, and few more it could be easily done. The only challenge, though, was that at one particular stretch, on the mountain on your left side, there were lots of Bharals, who came to eat grass there, and the area was a loose boulder zone. So, on that stretch, one needs to be very careful while walking, as the boulders might start falling because of Bharals walking on them. It was a complete no stopping zone.
In the last an hour of the trek we encountered rain, and by the time we reached Bhojbasa, we were all drenched. Instead of putting on our camps in the ground, we decided to take shelter in GMVN guest house. The GMVN rooms were already pre-booked by people online. We got our shelter in the camps provided by them, but with proper bedding and blankets, good enough to cut out the chill at night and get a sound sleep. The lodging expenses at GMVN were quite affordable, with Rs. 400 per bed, the food though was a bit expensive there, which is understandable at this height.
Day-3 – Bhojbasa to Tapovan
The far view of Bhagirathi peaks early in the morning, from GMVN guest house, was the one driving factor for us to kick start from Bhojbasa for Tapovan.
The day was supposed to be a challenging one, given the steep climb to reach Tapovan in the last stretch. But before that, the main obstacle was to cross river Bhagirathi, that was supposed to be done in a manually operated trolley. We were lucky enough for there were porters from different group on the other end to pull the trolley for us. It requires all the force and strength to pull the rope for trolley to reach the other end. It approximately took an hour for us to do that one crossing, as at a time only two people along with luggage can do the crossing.
Once four of us were done crossing the river, the next 4-5 kms was an easy walk on boulders. There was not much of an altitude gain till the point where we can see Gaumukh glacier from a distance.
The horror lied beyond that. It was a steep climb for the remaining 3-4 kms, with the area famous for loose boulders falling from the height anytime.
The cherry on the cake was, to cross river Akash Ganga multiple times at different places. Each crossing was more difficult and breath-taking than the previous one.
It became even more difficult with the pair of shoes I had. The only thing pushing me harder to get there, was the view after reaching to the top, and that kept me going.
It was a continuous steep walk of 2-3 hours to cross that complete area. In the last half an hour, I had almost given up on the struggle, where I required help from fellow trekkers to reach just the last point.
All this pain, drift of energy, exhaustion vanishes the moment you reach the planes. Once I saw Mount Shivling just in front of me, Bhagirathi peaks on my left, with Akash Ganga river flowing just next to me, and Meru peak to my right, it all started making sense. It was a huge ground surrounded with mountains on all the sides. It was the most beautiful and mesmerizing campsite, Tapovan campsite, I have ever witnessed.
After pitching our tents and a few rounds of photoshoot, when hunger did strike, it was time for the ready to eat meals to be cooked on our small stove.
We were lucky enough to witness the sunset, the view of which will remain in our memories for life long.
Day-4 – Tapovan to Gangotri
Luckily, last evening, there were not much of people around, so we had the whole campsite available to us, wherever we wanted to pitch our tents. In the morning on Day 3, after waking up early in the morning, we had the huge sun kissed Mount Shivling right in front of our tent.
Waking up to something like this, always makes your day and you never wish to return to the chaotic life of cities. Alas, after having breakfast, it was time to pack the bags, and leave from there. It was supposed to be a long day, as we had to cover the complete distance from Tapovan to Gangotri all in one go.
We started at 8’o clock in the morning. Going down the steep path, was more challenging than coming up. Though we chose the route via Gaumukh this time, so that we don’t have to do the river crossing multiple times, but only once. That one moment itself was the scariest. The main problem while coming back was always the grip of shoes.
I did have few slides walking down on the slippery route, with pebbles making it more difficult to get grip in the mud. It took 2.5 hours of struggle to reach Gaumukh Glacier. We took a long stopover of half an hour there.
The distance was covered at a faster pace after that, till the point we reached back the Bhagirathi river crossing. We were spellbound by the views enroute.
This time, it was a hard luck, and there was no one to pull the trolley for us on the other side. We did show some courage, got into the trolley and started. After reaching middle of nowhere on the trolley, we started pulling the rope ourselves, till the point, where it got stuck, and we were sitting helpless in the trolley, as it can’t be pulled further by us. Meanwhile, we saw some people at the other end, and had to call out loud for the help. After battling for long, we finally reached Bhojbasa around 1’o clock.
We took a break of an hour there to do with the lunch. Beyond that, there was no major stopping, and we had to walk fast to reach Gangotri, or at least the check post at the earliest, before it got dark. We covered most of the distance in daylight. Regardless of the fact, that I twisted my ankle, stepping on a pebble on the way, the only thing in mind was to get back soon. It was in the last 3 kms, it got pitch dark and we had to put our torch on and reach the check post. After all the verifications done at the Gangotri check post, the distance remaining to our hotel was very less. Once done, we were at our rooms in Gangotri by 9’o clock.
Day-5 – Coming back to Delhi
After finishing off this beautiful yet challenging trek, it was time to head back to home. We started our journey back to Uttarkashi after finishing with breakfast. On the way back, we dint face traffic issue the way on the onwards journey and reached Uttarakhand in around 3.5 hours.
A fellow trekker, Rahul, had an old friend of his, Tilak Soni, a well-known name in Uttarkashi, running his own cafe, The Food Habit. We decided to stop by and had lunch along with some experience sharing with Tilak at his cafe. It is a very beautifully made place, with nice ambience, good food and an admirable host with his own set of books published for Uttarakhand government picturizing the beauty of Uttarakhand.
After bidding adieu to Tilak, it was time to leave for Dehradun, and then to Delhi. It being an end to a long weekend, after crossing Dehradun, we got stuck in a long traffic jam, which ate up almost 2-3 hours of our journey. Even after crossing that, it was more or less the same till the time we reached back Delhi around 1’o clock midnight.
It marked the end of one of the most beautiful treks, one could ever feel and cherish the memories for lifetime. Thanks to our Guide, Ramesh, who was a major help, in finding the routes beyond Gaumukh, and making us reach safe and sound.