Finally, the day broke out and I woke up with little fever (Another sign of AMS) picked up the water bottle under my folding bed....ahh!!!! the water has turned into ice. Got a warm cup of black tea later and by 7'0 clock, managed to eat few spoons of suzi ka halwa for breakfast and continued towards Gaumukh. I wanted to reach atleast Gaumukh if not beyond. This 4-5 kilometers were tough to cover in fever and little energy left in the body.
Also the strenuous walk has tested the deskbound body to its limits. Legs were quite stiff now and I was moving at tortoise pace. It was the sight of majestic Shivling peak which now emerges from the right of the glacier to give some energy boost. Finally I managed to reach at the snout of the Glacier. A sight to be seen to believe. I have never imagined it that way. Till now, only seen in pictures taken from distance, I imagined it to be some 10-15 feet chunk of ice. But there it was overlooking me from a height of a 10 story building and the mighty Ganges emerging silently under it. With the peaks of Bhagirathi and Shiving on its both sides, it was a God's grand painting.
From here the glacier goes up the hill towards Bhagirathi and take a turn in unending valley. The total length of this glacier is roughly 30 kms long and 2-4 km wide and total area covered is approximately 200 sq. km and is 2 nd largest after Sia-chin.This is at a height of 4225m and not only Gaumukh but glacial system like Rakthvan, Chaturangi, Kirti and many others contribute to this glacierized area. Legends says that earlier the glacier snout was in Gangotri and has a face of a cow, thus the name Gau-mukh. Unfortunately, I was seeing this massive glacier in his last geological stage. It has already been receded by 3 kms in last 2 centuries and with the pace it is melting now it would be gone soon. Global Warming: 1 Nature:0, we humans rock baby.
To reach Tapovan I have to cross the glacier breadth and climb a steep ridge under the feet of Shivling. Though the body was in pretty bad shape due to AMS and fatigue for the uphill journey but I simply do not want to return from here. I have waited for this check in my bucket list from eternity. I rested for a while and pushed down the holy energy bars from patanajali and Gatorade down the throat, they tasted all bitter due to fever.
I was still having the breathlessness and heavy pulse rate even at rest. Took one DIAMOX and decided to continue. Now Crossing the glacier was the trickiest part of entire journey. The glacier was huge and full of surprises. At a simple look over it, doesn't seems like I was standing over a platform of ice. It was all rocks and sand with big boulders of ice peeping in between. With crevasses huge enough to take down a mini truck, slowly and steadily, from rock to rock I moved Southfollowing my guide, Rana. A guide is a must to cross this glacier and with no permanent path, they also use the sense of direction to reach Tapovan. I have told Rana, young chap in early 20s that come what may, just make me reach Tapovan and he was up for the challange and assure me that I will. The route was narrow and when one shows up from other side, We have to wait till he crosses the patch. I was wondering how the porters were managing with around 40kg on their back in such route. It was scary but an amusing walk with virtually no route. The terrain was full of huge crevasses, big boulders, dust, loose gravels and moraines which flow down from high hills and deposit over it. Finally, we crossed the glacier. But then, comes this 1000 ft wall. If glacier was tough it was the daddy of entire trek. A straight climb to the meadows of Tapovan and I can see the people's struggle who were walking down. Their guides were holding their hands and taking them to safe location one by one.
Going up this wall, the already exhausted body was struggling against the gravity and thin air while working beyond his corporate capacity. Lack of oxygen in my blood was making me dizzy. after every 10 steps I have to wait to restore my breadth and energy and let the pain in the legsregulated. I have discovered many new muscles in the calves and thighs now, which were secreting the painful juices and making them swell.
After an hour struggle, I came over The Wall and now was walking on the meadow of Tapovan. I was not expecting such a huge plain at this height. Towering over this meadow in south-west lies the Magnanimous Shivling, blessing the creatures beneath. Akash Ganga was coming like a huge serpent from the right feet of Shivling and going down to Gaumukh intersecting the meadow. This river is the main source of water here and as the winter comes it starts getting dry. More than half was already gone and when around noon the ice melts, the river gets water for few hours. Municipal corporation of nature was active there. Behind Shivling, further west, Mount Meru was declaring his presence. Eastern side was regimented by Bhagirathi group of mountains and in between these mountains lies the mammoth 1000 lanes glacier expressway of Gaumukh.
Walking on this meadow was a cake walk after conquering The Walll. Soon I was at Moni baba ashram consist of 5 small stone huts, had a cup of same black tea and tried soaking the enormous beauty at an altitude of almost 15000 ft. Soon the food was served, khichdi with vegetables floating into it was the only option, but it tasted wonderful and people were consuming it in enormous quantity. Unfortunately, AMS did not let me eat much.
The sun was shining bright and somehow this plateau was not windy like the valley below and I took a quick nap for a while in the sun. There was this small hill right across the Akash Ganga adjoining the Shiviling's base and my cat feet wants to explore the world beneath. I asked my guide what's there? and he said "Neel-Taal", to phir chale, I was excited to see the lake. His jaw dropped,as he has seen me struggling to reach here through-out the day and I was asking to cover few more kilometers and go approx 300 meter high on this small yet erect mountain. Soon we were at site of a high altitude lake called Neel-taal due to its rich blue color but the only thing I saw was dust. It has dried-up just like the Akash Ganga below.