Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Gangotri to Gaumukh trek – Garhwal Himalayas

Those who have had the experience of Char Dham Yatra including Gaumukh in Garhwal Himalayas, will recount the hectic scheduled itineraries involving a lot of traveling by road and some 72 km of trekking. The to and fro Gangoti - Gaumukh trek of 36 kms of one and a half days duration will leave an impact like no other trek in this travel circuit. In May 2006, we began our day as usual at dawn, at Gangotri, haggling with the ‘pittoos’, for taking our backpacks in this trek. The guy who took luggage of three trekkers, for a sum of Rs. 600/-, a young Garhwali boy, appeared to have know of the travel tracks to Gaumukh. Our official guide of the entire circuit, did not accompany us during any of the treks. He did give some tips and told a lot of mythological stories on Char Dhams, when we were in the bus. 

We hit the trail going up through a mud track, for a short cut, instead of a gentle gradient stone steps constructed behind the temple. The chill in the early morning air did create blocking of nose and breathing trough the mouth was the only way to combat it and get more oxygen in the lungs. The first half kilometer was the toughest before we hit the regular stone paved trek route. Our first target was Cheerwasa also called Chidwasa at a distance of 7 km from Gangotri. The landscape so far was barren of any vegetation, only brown hills and dead grass.  The river Bhagirathi, a small stream was flowing in the gorge between two hills and was supposed to keep us company till the very end, right up to its source at Gaumukh. The first sign of Pine trees and Cheer trees gave an indication that Cheerwasa was not very far off.  By this time having done some three hours of trekking, the jacket was tucked away as the sun was beating harsh, the atmosphere was heating up and we were sweating. With the arrival of Cheerwasa, it was a great relief to get a breather. The alpine grandeur at his place is worth remembering, with some of the Himalayan peaks being visible through the Cheer trees.
View from Cheerwasa
We came across a lot of overseas tourists on their return treks from Gaumukh. In this route the overseas tourists outnumber the inland tourists, such is the aura of Gaumukh, the source of river Ganges, throughout the globe. We took a breather at this place in cemented shade constructed for the tourists. The sun beats down very harsh in this region as a result the exposed part of the skin gets a reddish hue.

Our next destination was Bhojwasa, where, there is a gmvnl guest house and also tented accommodations which we will be occupying for the night stay after return from Gaumukh. The trek is some downhill and some uphill, not taxing us very much except the heat which was disturbing. The three make shift bridges over the flowing mountain stream going downhill, which we had to cross, was somewhat challenging. 
Make Shift Bridge
The terrain was becoming gradually vegetation less, full of stones of different sizes and brownish grey hills on sides. We got a glimpse of some wild life in this lifeless place. A pack of Bharals also called Himalayan Blue sheep were visible on mountain slope. Their movement made small pebbles and mud particles roll down the hill slopes. At some places the route was partially blocked. The workers engaged in road repair work quickly got on to the job to clear the path. The Himalayan peak Shivling made a glorious appearance on the right hand side in the back drop of a perfect blue sky. 
Shivling Peak
We completed the 14 km trek by afternoon, to get a look at Bhojwasa dwelling from top. There are three cluster of  guest houses;  green roof topped one,  run by gmvnl, white roof topped one by Lal Baba known as Lal Baba’s ashram and yet another one with gray roof top. The place around was all dead grass and grey colored stones, gravel and dust. 
Bhojwasa View From Top
The appearance of majestic Bhagiarathi massif after some more walk, made us feel that we were  not very far from Gaumukh -  the source of river Bhairathi, more popularly known as Ganges. The terrain was becoming more and more like a lunar landscape as we approached. Only apparent was stones of various sizes. Soon there was no proper track; we were just following the porter. Some places, we had to squeeze between rocks and sometimes walk over make shift narrow track of width about 2’ or so. The landscape looked magnificent, with gigantic Himalayan peak, Bhagirathi looming ahead. 
Trail to Gaumukh
After crossing a makeshift temple without any roofing, we sighted Gaumukh with a very narrow stream of gray colored silted stream emerging from beneath the glacier. The giant Bhagirathi Massif towering above in the backdrop gives it grandeur, to otherwise mundane looking landscape. 
Bhagirathi above and Gaumukh below
A close up of the cave shows the glacier, coated with gray colored dust.

The return trek was 4 km to Bhojwasa for the night stay. The twenty two km trek in a day, so far, will rank as the one I walked maximum in my life, in a single day. The tented accommodation at gmvnl complex was elementary with eight beds in each tent with one electric lamp. The water connection was absent in this area. The tourists, had to manage with the help of stored water. The next morning we had a clear view of a few Himalayan snow peaks from Bhojwasa. 
Snow Peak Enroute
The 14 km trek from Bhojwasa to Gangotri was through a hot sunlit day. We could make it by 2 pm to catch our bus for a trip to Bhatwari for the night halt.

Gaumukh Trail Visual 

Important Info for trekkers:
1)  Presently the number of visitors to Gaumukh is limited. Permits can be obtained from following offices:
a) Chief Wildlife Warden, Dehradun ( tel: 0135-2644691)
b) Director, Gangotri National Park, Uttarkashi (tel: 01374-223693 )
c) At Gangotri, if the quota of 150 persons per day has not been exhausted ).

The fee for Indians is Rs. 150 for first two days and Rs. 50/- for per day per person thereafter. Permit is issued only for the first two days. Additional amount is charged on your way back at the gate of the Gangotri National Park. The fee for foreign national is Rs. 600 for first two days and Rs. 250/- per day per person thereafter. In case of package tours offered by travel companies; they will arrange the permit for you.
2)  The one and half days for trek from Gangotri to Gaumukh is strenuous. If one is planning one’s own itinerary, additional half a day will be worthwhile.
3) One can trek to Tapovan beyond Gaumukh but the gradient at some portion is very steep. The guide is a must.
4) A lot of sun burn will happen in this trek, if it is a sunlit day. The skin will be a few shades darker, after this trek. Full sleeved shirt is better with sunscreen lotion applied to exposed part of the skin
5) The facility at Bhojwasa is very elementary, a few rooms with common toilet facility. The tented accommodation is available adjacent to guest house with clean linen, quilt and blankets.
6) The final two km to Gaumukh is not covered by ponies if one hires one from Gangotri. One has to foot it out.
7) The gradient in this trek route is not killing. One traverses heights ranging from 10,000’ to 11.000’.
8) One has to be cautious on the trek route, at some places, the width of road is narrow.
9) Enough water needs to be carried to avoid dehydration. Better to take a porter who knows the route.
10) Some food along with is handy; in early summer, in mid May one may not find too many eateries on the way.  


  1. Great write up & excellent suggestion.
    Planning a trip this may - 2012.

    1. Deepam wish you a very happy and exciting journey! Keep in touch and after coming back give the feedback on the latest as compared to this blog info.

  2. rhanks for the info. can you please write up about expenses too?

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    Keep Posting such posts further....

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