” Gaumukh Tapovan is a trek that I have done twice. Both much earlier, when I was younger. Indiahikes wasn’t yet born. On both occasions, the trek fascinated me for different reasons.
The first time, it was the sight of the Bhagirathi sisters glistening in the moonlight from Bhojbasa. The second time, I was older and I appreciated the trek more. From Tapovan, Mt Shivling rises from its base all the way to its summit. That’s a rare sight — to see a mountain in its entirety. Then the aesthetics of Mt Shivling itself. There are rarely mountains that are as good looking as Mt Shivling. If there was a competition for the best looking summits of India, Mt Shivling would be right there near the top. To see such a beauty from a close range is a honour.
The trek to Gaumukh, the source of the River Ganga, itself is reason enough to do this trek. Gaumukh is a sight on its own. Only when you get close to it do you realise how big and magnificent the glacier is! I am not surprised this is the most often repeated trek by trekkers. Every time you visit, there is something new to take back.”
Whom is this trek meant for?
While Gaumukh is a pilgrim’s trail and fairly moderate, the trail to Tapovan is not a beginner’s cup of tea. You will be negotiating a lot of moraine, boulders and will be walking on a glacier. The steep climb to Tapovan will take a toll on your knees. Hence, this trek demands high-levels of fitness and it is suitable for trekkers who have done a couple of high-altitude treks like Buran Ghati, Roopkund, for example. Anyone above 14 years can go on this trek.
How difficult is the trek?
Gaumukh-Tapovan is classified as a moderate-difficult trek. Day 4 is a gruelling experience because of the glacier walk and the steep climb to Tapovan. It requires high-levels of fitness and endurance to climb to the meadows of Tapovan.
How to prepare for this trek?
To begin with your preparation, jog for a distance of 5 km. Gradually increase your pace till you can cover 5 km in 25-30 minutes. Regularly practicing flexibility exercises is mandatory. Your backpack, however light can become a strain after a while. Make sure that you carry a poncho, backpack cover and wear proper trekking shoes with a good grip.
What are the risks involved?
Gaumukh-Tapovan starts at an altitude of 10,055 feet. You are already in rarefied air and will be covering long distances. ith significant altitude gain there are chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness. To prevent this we recommend that you stay well hydrated and go on a course of Diamox . An average trekking day here covers a distance of 10-13 kms. The trail from Gaumukh to Tapovan is especially tricky. The route on the glacier keeps changing and having an experienced guide here is a must. After the glacier walk is an extremely steep climb up to Tapovan which takes a toll on your legs. Most of the trek has glacial residue of moraines and scree– which is difficult to walk on.
Day 1: Drive from Haridwar to Gangotri
Surrounded by mountains and deodar forests, overlooking the thunderous Bhagirathi river and the thin air- Gangotri makes a stunning setting. Gangotri is known as the source of river Ganga (the actual source being Gaumukh), which is known as Bhagirathi here.
It is said that King Bhagirath prayed to Lord Shiva for salvation of the souls of his 60,000 sons. Shiva obliged and requested Goddess Ganga to release her water, which purified the ashes of Bhagirathi’s sons. This mythological story emboldened the status of River Ganga as means to purify one’s soul.
Day 2: Gangotri to Chirbasa
- Altitude: 10,055 feet to 11,761 feet
- Time taken: 4 hours
- Distance: 8 km
The trail to Chirbasa goes through a Forest Check Post around 2 km from Gangotri bus stand. A trail goes up from the bus stand towards the left side inside the forest. The trail runs on the left side of the market area and one can take multiple trails from inside of the market to connect with the trail. Walk till you reach the Forest Check Post.
This may take around 15-30 minutes, depending on where you start from within Gangotri. From here, spot a striking white peak in the distance. This is Sudarshan Parbat (21,345 feet) looking stunning in the background. It lies in a cluster of many major peaks. After getting the permits checked, proceed on the trail that remains on the left side of the mountain ridge throughout the day. The Bhagirathi River remains below, on your right throughout. There are a few isolated glaciers on the river that are melting rapidly.
In around 15 minutes, you will come across the first of many waterfalls and streams that you will see today. The trail mostly has gradual inclines and level walks. Trek for another 20-30 minutes and you will see another stream gushing below a makeshift bridge. After crossing the bridge, the valley opens up and turns right. Feast your eyes on the several snow-capped mountain ranges on the right side of the valley. After 20 minutes, you will see the third major stream on your path. Sudarshan Parbat is now no longer visible. The trail remains consistent for another 45 minutes. Now, the path swirls further towards your right as you cross the third ridge, giving way to a breathtaking view of the valley. Bask in a healthy presence of blue pine and silver birch trees around you.
A consistent hike of 45 minutes will bring you to a boulder zone over one of the snouts coming from Sudarshan Parbat. Cross the boulders and hike up for about 10 minutes to reach a series of dhabas.
Chirbasa is another 15 minutes away under forest cover. A special mention should be given to Himalayan Environmental Trust, who, along with the Forest Department, have been able to successfully implement an afforestation project in this area. As you pass the check post of the Forest Department, take the trail down on your right to reach the camping ground of Chirbasa. Look for a GMVN hut on a level ground next to Bhagirathi River. Camp here for the night. The main reason why one should camp at Chirbasa is that it helps in acclimatisation.
Day 3: Chirbasa to Gaumukh via Bhojbasa
- Altitude: 11,761 feet to 13,021 feet via 12,450 feet
- Time taken: 5 hours
- Distance: 10 km
The valley widens from Chirbasa and offers views of snow-clad peaks. Take the trail from the backside of GMVN hut. The trail connects with the Gaumukh trail, which extends from forest check post. This section will take 5 to 10 minutes. Once connected with the primary trail, you will be able to see the Chirbasa campsite below. There is a minor landslide-prone section within 10 minutes from this point. After this section, the terrain is broken in certain sections but is manageable. Look for the first ridge ahead towards your left in the distance. It takes around 30-45 minutes to reach this ridge and cross the bend.
As you trudge through the silent hills, the Bhagirathi peak looms closer into view. After 20 minutes of gradual ascent, look for a stream on your left. Another 45 minutes of similar gradient will have you reach another landslide-prone area. This area has boulder gradient and a stream crossing your path. Climb up for another five minutes to traverse the second ridge/bend. There are 8-9 landslide-prone bends from here. It takes 20- to 30 minutes to traverse this section. Keep an eye for falling rocks and avoid resting. Move swiftly. After crossing this section, you will see a bridge with a stream flowing below. Bhojbasa, the widest point in the valley, is only 1.5 km from this point. The trek to Bhojbasa is a level walk and very scenic. You reach a vantage point from where you get clear views of Gaumukh.
The valley narrows as you move on the trail to Gaumukh. It is a leisure walk. Take the trail from the GMVN hut going up and connecting with Gaumukh route. It takes 10 minutes till you intercept the primary trail to Gaumukh. Gaumukh is 5 km from Bhojbasa and it takes around two hours to reach Gaumukh. The trail remains level with few gradual inclines. After 20 minutes of level walk, you reach the first glacial stream crossing. You can now see Mt. Shivling on the right.
After 20 minutes, you reach a rock face that you need to cross over. As you cross this bend, you get an unprecedented view of Gaumukh. The trail now becomes boulder moraine, but is manageable.
Another 15 minutes later, you reach the second major stream crossing. Then, 20 minutes of level walk on the defined trail will get you to a level camping ground. Climb up the moraine and walk to the vantage point of Gaumukh, which is 500 metres away from the glacier. There is a small open temple of Lord Shiva here. Pilgrims are refrained from going any further unless they have permission to camp at Tapovan. Proceed from the left side of the moraine ridge and climb up another 20 metres. You now get a great view of the Gaumukh glacier. As you proceed, observe the fragmentation of the glacier and debris from the rock fall over the years.
Day 4: Gaumukh to Tapovan
- Altitude: 13,021 feet to 14,202 feet
- Time taken: 3 hours
- Distance: 5 km
The trail from Gaumukh to Tapovan involves climbing glacial moraine and traversing the Gangotri glacier on the right. One needs to traverse steep landslide-prone areas and a glacial stream called Akash-Ganga. One needs the company of an experienced guide from Gaumukh to Tapovan.
The terminal moraine is a combination of hard ice and boulders and can get slippery in certain sections. Even with cairns marking the route, finding it can be tricky since the route goes over an active glacial basin and is always changing. The initial climb till the top of Gaumukh glacier from the left side is a 100 metre ascent. A local guide is highly advisable here. The climb up the 100 metres can take an hour and a half. The route via the terminal moraine takes almost an hour to traverse and reach. After this, you hit a rock face, which you will have to climb to get to Tapovan.
This climb is adjacent to Akash Ganga, which flows vertically down this rock face. Ensure this section is climbed before lunch time to avoid potential rock fall and increase in volume of water coming down Akash Ganga. The climb takes an hour to two, depending upon the conditions. The climb is a steep incline on loose gravel.
After about 100 metres into the climb, look for spots from where you can cross Akash Ganga. If the volume of water is high, then you need to take your shoes off and cross the stream. Otherwise, boulder hopping is also possible. Once the stream is crossed, climb straight up. Remain on the right side of Akash Ganga. After 30-45 minutes, you will reach the vast level ground that has been your destination until now – Tapovan. Look for a suitable camping spot and camp for the night.
Day 5: Rest day at Tapovan
Tapovan is a high-altitude alpine meadow below Mt. Shivling, which dominates the landscape. Tapovan is spread over 2 km in length. Although it’s a vast level ground, not all the land is suitable for camping. The area close to Mt. Shivling is wet during early summer due to melting snow and glacial water. These grounds have been used by many sages to meditate over the centuries. There are many such holy men living permanently at Tapovan.
A short hike from Tapovan to Neelataal is a good option and can be done in an hour. From the left side ridge of Tapovan, climb up a 100 metre rock face and traverse to the other side. As you reach the top of this ridge, you will be able to see a small glacial lake. This is Neelataal. From here, one gets great views of Gangotri glacier, Tapovan campsite, Meru Parvat, Shivling and the Nandanvan side.
Day 6: Tapovan to Bhojbasa
- Altitude: 14,202 feet to 12,450 feet
- Time taken: 5-6 hours
- Distance: 10 km
This stretch back to Gaumukh is 3-4 km and may take 3-5 hours to traverse depending upon the prevalent conditions. Once at Gaumukh, the route back to Bhojbasa is the same and will only take an hour more. Bhojbasa is a windy campsite. It sits next to Bhagirathi River and has scarce vegetation. There are a few forest huts and also a GMVN here. One can also seek accommodation at Nirmal Baba Ashram. There is a small observation facility of weather bureau at Bhojbasa.
Day 7: Bhojbasa to Gangotri
- Altitude:12,450 feet to 10,055 feet
- Time taken: 4-5 hours
- Distance: 13 km
The trek involves a gradual descent and a series of level walks, which can be done swiftly. The trek back to Gangotri is the same trail taken to reach Bhojbasa. The downward trail is very much manageable and can be done easily.
Day 8: Depart for Haridwar
You are expected to reach Haridwar around 7 pm.
Documentation by Vaibhav Chauhan.
The Gaumukh-Tapovan trek is of moderate difficulty. You start at an altitude of 10,055 feet and reach an altitude of 14,202 feet in 3 days. Ideally, you should be only gaining 1000 ft a day. However, the Indian Himalayas climb very quickly. This is called a forced ascent.
For this, you require a good amount of endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. Make sure you are able to jog 5 km in 30 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.
This is another area you should work on. There is a lot of trekking distance that you will cover carrying your backpacks and trekking along with your backpack is not a very easy task. You have to walk on uneven terrain during the trek. There will be boulders and moraines on Gaumukh to Tapovan day. It could be taxing for your legs. For this, strengthening your legs will help. You can do some squats to strengthen them. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.
Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
- Trekking shoes: The trek distance is long and you will have to walk for long distances which need you to have comfortable trekking shoes. You can watch this video to learn to choose the right trekking shoes.
- Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.
- Three Warm Layers: You will be trekking and camping at high altitudes. The Bhojbasa campsite is especially windy. So make sure you have the apt clothes for the climatic conditions. It will be cold at the higher altitudes so make sure you have at least three layers of warm clothes to protect yourself.
- Two trek pants: One pair of pants should suffice for this trek. But you can carry one spare pair in case the first one gets wet. Wear one pair and carry one pair.
- Two collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Again, wear one and carry one.
- Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness.
- Suncap: The sun is more harsh at high altitudes so wear a suncap to protect your face and neck.
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
- Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
- Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.
- Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, medical kit and some light snacks.
- Toiletries (Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste)
- Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons.
- Two water bottles: 1 litre each
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
- Diamox – 10 tablets
- Dexamethasone – one strip
- Nifedipine – 5 tablets
- Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
- Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
- Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
- Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
- Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
- Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
- Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
- Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
- Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
- Gauze – 1 small roll
- Band aid – 10 strips
- Cotton – 1 small roll
- ORS – 10 packets
- Betadine or any antiseptic cream
- Moov spray (aches, & sprains)
Trek fee: Rs 9,750
Service tax at 4.5% is payable on the trek fee
- Accommodation during the trek (camping – 3 per tent)
- All meals – vegetarian
- Trekking permits and forest camping charges
- Trekking equipment (tents, sleeping bags, ice axes, ropes, etc.)
- Safety equipment (first aid, medical kit, oxygen cylinders, stretcher, etc.)
- Services of an expert trek leader (qualified in basic/advanced mountaineering courses)
- Services of an expert trek team (guides, cooks, helpers, porters/mules)
- Transport to and from the base camp (Haridwar to Gangotri and return)
- Food during transit to and from the base camp
- Backpack offloading charges – Rs 1800* plus service tax of 4.5%. Charges for last minute offloading during the trek will be Rs 350 per day plus service tax of 4.5%. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kgs. No suitcases/strolleys/duffel bags will be allowed.
- Stay at Haridwar on the last day
- Personal expenses of any kind
- Anything apart from the inclusions
Terms & Conditions
1. Cancellation: If a trek is called off at the last moment due to a natural calamity/unforseen circumstances (like rains, earthquake, landslides, strike, bandh etc), Indiahikes will issue a trek voucher for the full amount. The voucher can be redeemed for the same trek or another trek in the next one year.
In case, you wish to cancel your trek, please e-mail us at email@example.com. Cancellation requests are not taken over phone.
The cancellation charges are as under:
- Cancellations prior to 30 days from the start of the trek — full refund.
- Cancellation between 30 days and 20 days to the start of the trek — 50% refund.
- Cancellation less than 20 days to the start of the trek — no refund.
Please note: In case of refund, there will be a deduction of 4% (bank charges) from the total fee you have paid.
The trek fee includes all costs of the trek from the start and to the end of the trek at Gangotri
2. Pick up: Trekkers are picked up from Haridwar railway station at 5:00 am. Usually, trekkers are clubbed together with other participants to make a group. The group travels together to Gangotri in shared cabs.
3. Transport: Transport from Haridwar to Gangotri and the return can be arranged by us at an extra cost. It will cost Rs.6,500 per Tata Sumo one way. Participants are expected to share the cost of the cab. The amount is to be paid directly to our transporter. No service tax is applicable on transport cost. Indiahikes only arranges the vehicle pick up and is not responsible for any issues during transport. You can choose to come independently to the base camp.
4. Backpack offloading: Indiahikes expects all trekkers to carry their own backpacks. All common gear will be carried by the support team. If for some reason a trekker is unable to carry his or her backpack, he/she can offload the same by paying an additional charge.
Backpack offloading charge for the entire trek duration is Rs. 1800/-. Partial offloading is not allowed. Charges will vary for last minute on slope offloading. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kgs. No suitcases/strolleys/duffel bags will be allowed.
5. Emergency during trek: In a trek a medical emergency or any other emergency may arise. If for any reason you are sent down from the trek then Indiahikes will make arrangements for your return to the base camp or nearest road head. A staff will accompany you. He may not be a trained personnel.
Evacuation or dealing with emergencies is extremely difficult in the mountains. It is time consuming as well. A normal trek of 2 hours may take 6 hours in an emergency (a sick person is not easy to evacuate). Doctors do not go along with a team. Doctors are not available at the base camp or nearest road head either. Indiahikes trek leaders are trained to administer first aid and know how to deal with issues related to the mountains. However, they are not doctors.
Registering for this trek is an understanding that you have read up on the difficulties of high altitude trekking and understand the risks. You have also understood what AMS, HAPE and HACE are. You have taken efforts to educate yourself and you are in a position to manage your own altitude related emergency.
6. Fitness: A high altitude trek in the Himalayas requires considerable fitness. Your body needs to train itself to process more work with lower levels of oxygen. Cardiovascular training before a trek is critically important. Training must include strength and flexibility workout. We have laid out the eligibility criteria here. Registering for the trek is an understanding that you will undertake the mandated fitness training. Indiahikes has the right to reject candidates who do not meet our eligibility requirement at the base camp.
7. Non-liability: Indiahikes is not responsible for any loss/damage of your gears/equipment or other belongings on the trek.
8. Payment: Payment for the trek can be done online through credit/debit card or net banking. Cheque/draft or cash is not accepted.
9. Drinking and smoking during the trek is strictly prohibited. If found flouting the rules, your participation on the trek will be cancelled with immediate effect.
10. Safety Protocol:
a. While our itineraries are designed to allow for adequate acclimatisation, most treks in Indian Himalayas climb quickly, which is called forced accents. Unavailability of camp sites and the Indian Himalayan terrain are the reason for this. There are chances that you will feel the effects of altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation while on this trek. Please be aware that your trek leader may deem it unsafe for you to continue trekking at any time, and arrange for you to descend to a lower attitude.
b. Our trek leaders will conduct routine health checks at all camps to measure oxygen saturation, pulse and blood pressure. Indiahikes reserves the right to exclude any trekker from climbing higher on the trek without refund if the trekker’s vital readings are below accepted norms for that altitude. These norms are available with Indiahikes trek leaders.
c. This is a high altitude trek with rough, rocky and snowy terrain. It is important that you are a fit and confident walker in mountain terrain, able to manage ascents and descents by yourself within a reasonable time. Indiahikes reserves the right to turn around a trekker if in the opinion of our trek leader they are unable to complete the itinerary without requiring exclusive assistance. Please realistically self-assess your fitness and suitability for this trek before registering.
How to get to the basecamp – Gangotri
Delhi → Haridwar → Gangotri
The Gaumukh-Tapovan trek starts from Gangotri. Gangotri is around 286 km from Haridwar.
From Haridwar, Indiahikes organises transport to Gangotri. We organise the transport at 5.00 am from Haridwar Railway Station on the first day of the trek. The fare of this transport is not included in the fee. It costs Rs.6,500 per cab one way and this fare is shared by 5-6 trekkers. You will have to pay the driver directly. Transport can also be organised from Rishikesh (Tapovan) upon request.
You will reach Gangotri at around 5 pm.
To reach Haridwar
The best way to reach Haridwar is to book the ever reliable Nandadevi Express.
- 12205 Nandadevi Express – 23.50 – 3.55
If you cannot find a train, then take a bus. To stay on the safe side, book buses online in advance. Book such that you have some buffer time to make it to Haridwar on time for the pick-up; buses usually get delayed.
Gangotri→ Haridwar → Delhi
The Gaumukh-Tapovan trek ends at Gangotri. Indiahikes organises this transport for a fare of Rs.6,500 per cab. This is to be shared by 5-6 trekkers and paid to the driver directly. You will reach Haridwar by 6 pm.
If you are travelling further from Haridwar, keep a couple of hours as buffer time in case of delay. Book your further travel from Haridwar post 8 pm. If you are travelling to Delhi, you can choose to go back by Mussoorie Express or Nanda Devi Express.