Gaumukh Tapovan: What Was Once India’s Favourite Trek

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.

Gaumukh Tapovan - Indiahikes - Ashish Bhatt - Mt Shivling
Mt Shivling as seen on the Gaumukh Tapovan trek. Picture by Ashish Bhatt

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.

First light on Mt Meru and Mt Shivling
First rays on Mt Shivling and Mt Meru (behind). Picture by Ashish Manchanda

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.

Gaumukh Tapovan - Indiahikes - Atul Rana - Gangotri Glacier
Minuscule trekkers standing before the mouth of the Gangotri glacier. Picture by Atul Rana

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.

Gaumukh Tapovan - Indiahikes

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.

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

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3 thoughts on “Gaumukh Tapovan: What Was Once India’s Favourite Trek

  1. Undoubtedly this Gaumukh Tapovan trek is one of its kind and ‘ a must do’ trek. I did exploratory trek with Indiahikes in 2013 and still have a vivid memory. In fact I would love to do this trek again, if I can manage.

  2. Swathi, there is a change in the route recently. Earlier we used to reach Gaumukh from Bhojbasa on the left bank, scramble up from the left side of the snout and then traverse the Gangotri glacier. Then came the steep climb Upto Tapovan
    Now you have to cross the river at Bhojbasa on a cradle like pully system and be on the right side of the river till you reach Gaumukh and then clamber up the slope to reach Tapovan

    Of course a fantastic place like you described!
    Best regards
    Dr Kedar Munshi

  3. Great article from Swati as usual! I have one query about this trek……. do you have one around 14th November that is the Deewali time. Normally, everyone has vacation during that time and weather also remains very good. Please let me know the last date for this trek this year.