I grew up in the Coast Mountains on the Canadian Westcoast, so walking in the mountains seems to be in my soul. I live and breathe mountains and the wilderness that consumes them. So to be walking in the highest mountain range on the planet was absolutely breathtaking. The sheer massive range of the peaks, and the sacred vibration of Shiva and Shakti that radiates through them so powerfully — was so very incredibly blissful. This was a life-long vision that had seemingly come to life, going on a yatra (aka: pilgrimage) to the heart of the mighty Himalayas — the Centre of the Universe. The sweetness of this realization only elevated the feeling of total elation in me.
This was by far the most amazing trek of my life! And one of the most remarkable experiences of this life time. Tapovan — the summit of the trek situated at an astounding 14,640ft — blew my mind. The vibration up there is extraordinarily high and potent – a blessed paradise indeed. Mt. Shivling – soaring at 21,470ft — is downright impressive! This journey to the Maha Shiva mountain has inspired me to return one fine day to trek in the Maha Shakti sanctuary known as Nanda Devi, further on in the Eastern Himalayas.
I am inspired to share what I learned on the trail on a logistical level, and also offer up what made the trek the best it could be for me. I hope you will find this info helpful.
The Trail & Terrain: Gangotri to Bhojbasa is an easy 14km dirt trail – mostly flat and moderate. It takes about five hours with breaks. The elevation gain is 1,185ft. Bhojbasa to Gaumukh is only 4km, and takes about 1.5hrs along an easy and flat dirt trail. The elevation gain is 815ft. Be sure to stop by the Old Shiva Temple, where you will receive a blessing from Nirmal Baba. (I call him “hard core baba” since he lives up here year-round, amid 12 – 14ft of snow in the harsh winters!).
Gaumukh to Tapovan is an additional 6km and at kilometer 20 the trail becomes more challenging, as you traverse over large, sometimes unstable boulders. As my guide said to me when we began this section: “Focus your mind. Maintain your balance.” The final 1.5km is a very steep and challenging slog up a ridge, with countless loose boulders and sand the whole way up. Be vigilant. Take your time – slow and steady all the way. Take lots of breaks. Eat some trail mix and drink some water every time you stop. You will need the energy! This hard work is WELL WORTH IT for the astounding paradise that awaits you on the other side!
Guide regulations: A guide is not required to trek to Gaumukh (18km from Gangotri). However a guide is required to Tapovan (another 6km) due to the somewhat precarious crossing of the Gaumukh glacier. If you don’t organize a guide from Gangotri, you can likely pick one up at base camp one in Bhojbasa, by joining another group. Sometimes there are random guides available for private guiding, but don’t count on this. You could wing it to Tapovan from Gaumukh, but it’s always good to ensure you’re on the correct trail as there are no markers for this not so obvious 6km section. Our recommended guide outfit is Real Adventure Gangotri located in Gangotri Market – see Deepak Rana. He is professional, very knowledgeable about the region and peaks, and has good English — and he’s also very sweet to boot! Guides typically run 1200Rs/day. If you wish to tent, equipment rental is extra (150Rs/day for a tent) and catered meals can also be arranged for a price. Porters run 1000Rs/day. Real Adventure Gangotri offers group treks (minimum 4 people) for 14,000Rs, inclusive (guide, tents, cook, porter).
Permit regulations: The local guide permit fee is 50Rs per day, which you pay. The foreigner permit fee is 600Rs for three days. Additional days are 250Rs each for foreigners. So if you decide to stay in the high alpine for longer, it’s all good. Permits are given out at the office in Gangotri the evening before OR you can take your chances and purchase it at the kilometer 2 check point. Daily permits are limited to 150 trekkers per day, so it’s better to pick it up the evening before. The day I planned to go was maxed out on permits the evening before, but my guide pulled some strings and got me in. (Sometimes it pays to have a guide.) At the check point, they go over your paper work and check your bag to determine how much waste you are going to make based on snack wrappers, etc. Note: you pay a deposit for the waste you will make, and on the way back you show your waste and get your money back. What you pack in, you pack out.
For a few more great tips: PART 2 of 2 – Tips For Trekking: Gangotri to Tapovan via Gaumukh