Gaumukh Tapovan: What Was Once India's Favourite Trek

Gaumukh Tapovan: What Was Once India's Favourite Trek

Category Thursday Trek Talk On Himalayan Treks

By Swathi Chatrapathy


I want to share with you what once used to be India’s favourite trek. I hate to say it, it is no longer India’s favourite trek.

Yet, it is one of the best treks you will ever do.

It still exists today, and we’re still running it this May and June. Veteran trekkers still sign up for it.

Why did the Gaumukh Tapovan trek fall in popularity?

Can you believe that the new popularity of other treks actually brought the Gaumukh Tapovan trek down from its grace? It’s almost like a new generation movie star replaced an older star. It sounds silly, but that’s what happened to the Gaumukh Tapovan trek. Treks like Roopkund, Rupin Pass and the Hampta Pass gained popularity. And the Gaumukh Tapovan fell in popularity.

As is the mentality of most trekkers, if they find one trek attractive, they just rush towards the new offering. It is a mistake. I don’t know about movie stars but in trekking old is still gold.

Which is why in today’s article I want to talk to you about this legendary trek.

There are 3 big reasons that make Gaumukh Tapovan incomparable to any other trek.

Here, I want to share something candid with you.

I asked our founder, Arjun Majumdar, to tell me more about the trek. He knows the trek well, and he’s seen the rise and fall of this trek. It was his first high altitude trek when he was 8 years old. He went with his parents.

To write about this trek, I asked him to share his thoughts. So he shared a voice note and sent it to me on Whatsapp last night.

Once I listened to it, I thought I should share it with you too. He was talking to me and not to any trekker. So unknown to him he was very candid in the voice note. He talked about what made the trek fall from grace and what trekkers could be missing out.

That’s why I haven’t edited it. It’s just as he sent it to me. Listen to it here. It is about 2 mins long.

Coming back to why the Gaumukh Tapovan trek is one of the best treks you’ll do.

│First, the big summit views

Look, there are summit views and there are ‘big’ summit views. On the Gaumukh Tapovan trek, you don’t just see the best views of Mt Shivling. You see Mt Shivling right from the base to its summit. And if you don’t know about Mt Shivling, it’s one of the most beautiful looking mountains in our country. No wonder the mountain has featured in our gold calendar every year since it was published.

But wait. Not only Mt Shivling, you see the Bhagirathi sisters from top to bottom. Sometimes I feel the Bhagirathi sisters are even grander than Mt Shivling, because the three of them form a massif, which dominates the landscape.

Well, on this trek you see the acclaimed Mt Meru too (trekkers go gaga over Mt Meru thanks to the cult mountaineering movie that came out on it). You see Manda Parbat as well.

No other trek can give you this experience, not even our neighbouring Kedartal trek.

│Second, the Gangotri glacier and Gaumukh experience

First of all, it is difficult to see glaciers on a trek. 90% of our treks do not have glaciers. And then comes this trek. You are standing just below the snout of one of India’s largest glaciers. The snout of the glacier is just not big. It is larger than life.

When the snout calves, ice blocks, each the size of a car, fall on the ground with a sound that overshadows even a thunder’s roar. I hope you are lucky to see such an event.

“The magnitude of Gaumukh is something that trekkers don’t expect,” says Arjun in this video where he takes us through the trek. “The snout of the glacier is so far and wide that it’s hard to take it in at once. And the Bhagirathi river flows out of the snout with so much vigour; it’s one of the few rivers that is so swift right at its source. A chance to see this rare sight has a profound effect on trekkers,” he adds.

Next comes the bigger experience. You actually traverse the entire Gangotri glacier, tiptoeing around crevasses to get to the other side. It is an adventure, not knowing where the next crevasse is.

│Third, the ever-changing scenery of the Gangotri valley

Watch out for the colours on this trek. It changes every hour or so. There are coniferous trees, there’s barren earth, there are sandstone formations and tumbling rock chutes. Every new bend, and you want to know what could be next.

There are other valleys on our treks. But frankly, they lack this amount of variety. Sometimes I feel even if trekkers go to Gaumukh and come back, the trek is worth its weight in gold. But don’t do that. Go all the way to Tapovan.

Because at Tapovan I think most trekkers just leave their body behind. It is only their senses taking in the atmosphere. The big towering Mt Shivling, the Bhagirathi sisters in front, Nandanvan far across, the crevasse filled Gangotri glacier right below. It is too much to digest!

There are very few treks in our country like the Gaumukh Tapovan. No wonder once it was India’s favourite trek. When I think about it, this is a trek that’s been wrongly ignored for many years.

We have opened this trek in May and June, the best months to experience the Gangotri glacier and Tapovan.

Who can do this trek?

Straight off, if you are not fit, don’t do this trek. You don’t have to be experienced to do this trek. Even a first-timer can do it. But you need good fitness to be able to climb up to Tapovan, which is at 14,000 feet.

Additionally, the trek starts at over 10,000 feet, which is a rarity. Most of our treks start at around 7,000 feet. Even before you start the trek, the oxygen is low. As you go higher the oxygen becomes rarer. You need good fitness to tackle this.

This trek is a great adventure, but it needs good preparation. So start your preparation right away.

A video about the Gaumukh Tapovan trek

I think you should watch this video of Arjun taking us through the trek. It was his first trek and he holds it close to his heart. It’s a good video to understand the trek.

Click on the image to view the Video

If you have any questions, drop in a comment below, on our of trek experts will get back to you.

Swathi Chatrapathy

Chief Editor

About the author

Swathi Chatrapathy heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many, Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers.

A TEDx speaker and a frequent guest at other events, Swathi is a much sought after resource for her expertise in digital content.

Before joining Indiahikes, Swathi worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters's in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to bring about a profound impact on a person's mind, body and spirit.