Gaumukh Tapovan: A Journey to the source of River Ganga
“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 an honour.
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.”
Day 1: Reach Dharali
Dharali is the base camp for the Kedartal trek. Around 20 km, before Gangotri, Dharali is surrounded by mountains and deodar forests.
You stay overnight at Dharali but the trek begins at Gangotri the following morning. 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 Bhagirath’s sons. This mythological story elevated the status of River Ganga as a means to purify one’s soul.
- Altitude: 10,055 ft (3,065 m)
- Time taken: 10-12 hours drive from Dehradun to Gangotri
Day 2: Drive from Dharali to Gangotri. Trek from Gangotri to Chirbasa
- Altitude: 10,055 ft (3,065 m) to 11,761 ft (3,585 m)
- Time taken: 1 hour drive. Trek for 6 hours, 9 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Initial 300 m steep ascent followed by a very gradual ascent all the way.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water from Gangotri. You can refill your water bottles from streams on the way.
Start for Gangotri early in the morning We will arrange cabs to take you there from Dharali.
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 ft), 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, always to your right. 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.
Bhagirathi river is to the right of the Chirbasa campsite. The place gets its name from the Chir trees that surround it. You get clear views of the Bhagirathi peaks from Chirbasa. Also visible in the distance is the mouth of the Gaumukh glacier.
Day 3: Chirbasa to Bhojbasa. Acclimatisation walk to Gaumukh
- Altitude: 11,761 ft (3,585 m) to 12,450 ft (3,795 m)
- Time taken: 3 hours, 5 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Initial 100 m ascent to get back on the trail. Very gradual ascent all the way to Bhojbasa
- Water sources: None. Carry 2 litres of water
The valley widens from Chirbasa and offers views of snow-clad peaks. Take the trail from behind the 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 to 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. Around 300 m above Bhojbasa, you get a vantage point. The entire valley ahead of Bhojbasa is visible from here. This is a very beautiful sight. Also visible is a part of the Gaumukh glacier.
You get the first view of Mt Shivling at Bhojbasa. This is an open campsite – you’re far above the tree line now. Bhagirathi river flows right beside the campsite.
You will find igloo-like structures close to the campsite. You have the option of staying in these instead of camping. This requires permission from the Forest Department.
Acclimatisation walk to Gaumukh and back
The valley narrows as you move on the trail to Gaumukh. 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. From here, it’s a gradual ascent for about 2.5 hours all the way to Gaumukh. After 20 minutes of level walk, you reach the first glacial stream crossing. You can now see Mt. Shivling on the right.
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: Bhojbasa to Tapovan via Gaumukh
- Altitude: 12,450 ft (3,795 m) to 14,202 ft (4,329 m)
- Time taken: 7 hours, 9 km
- Trek gradient: Difficult. Gradual ascent for 2.5 hours. 2 hours glacier walk followed by 1 hour of moderate ascent. Final 1.5 hours is a steep ascent.
- Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water. Refill water bottles at Gaumukh.
Reach Gaumukh on the same trail as Day 4.
The trail from Gaumukh to Tapovan is the most difficult part of the trek. It involves climbing glacial moraine and traversing the Gaumukh glacier. You will be traversing steep landslide-prone areas and a glacial stream called Akash-Ganga.
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. Take a break after crossing the stream. You can have lunch here.
Tapovan is a steep climb from here. It will take you about 1.5 hours to reach. Look for a suitable camping spot and camp for the night.
The mountain views from the Tapovan campsite are astonishing. You can see Mt Shivling to the right. Meru is to the right of Shivling. On the left side of Shivling, a little behind, is Sumeru. Further to the left you see Bhagirathi peaks, Thenu and Sudarshan Parbat. If you walk to the ashram that is visible from the campsite, Shivling appears even closer.
Day 5: Explore 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 1.5 km trek from Tapovan to the adjoining peak that connects to Neelatal brings you to a vantage point from where you get great views of Meru. This takes about 2 hours to reach from the campsite. From here, you can either walk on the ridge ahead to reach Neelatal, or walk back on the same trail to Tapovan. Neelatal seldom has any water now. Manage your time such that you’re back at the campsite by 1:30 PM.
Day 6: Tapovan to Chirbasa
- Altitude: 14,202 ft (4,329 m) to 11,761 ft (3,585 m)
- Time taken: 8 hours, 14 km
- Trek gradient: Difficult. Continuous descent, large sections of which will be on scree upto Gaumukh, followed by level trail to Chirbasa.
- Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water from Tapovan. The only water source is close to Gaumukh.
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. Proceed from here on the same trail back to Chirbasa.
Day 7: Chirbasa to Gangotri. Drive to Dharali
- Altitude: 11,761 ft (3,585 m) to 10,055 ft (3,065 m)
- Time taken: 4-4.5 hours, 9 km. 1 hour drive back to Dharali.
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Gradual descent and level walks on the same route as Day 2.
- Water sources: You can refill your water bottles at streams along the trail.
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 Chirbasa. It’s a very gradual descent, which takes far less time to cover than the ascent.
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.
Cardiovascular endurance – Target 10 km in 60-70 minutes before the start of the trek
On the Gaumukh Tapovan trek, you have to cover an average of 10 km each day. This requires a good amount of endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.
In order to be prepared for a high altitude trek, you should have a combination of distance and speed targets. In case you’re just starting with a regular fitness routine, you can phase out your targets in the following manner –
- Target completing 5 km in 35 minutes when you begin
- Gradually bring up your speed to do 5 km in 30 minutes
- Start increasing the distance you jog to get to 10 km in 70 minutes
Before the start of the trek, get to 10 km in 60 minutes.
Strength – Target 3 sets of squats with 15 in each
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. Start with 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set and work towards reaching the target in 3 weeks.
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.
Here is a guide to help you get fit for 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. Denim/jeans and shorts are not suitable for trekking.
- Three collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Let one of these be a dri-fit t-shirt. It will dry quickly in case you are trekking on a rainy day. A common mistake that trekkers make is not changing their tshirts often enough. Regardless of how cold it is, the body tends to sweat a lot. Trekkers who don’t change to fresh clothes after reaching the campsite fall ill due to wet clothes and are often unable to complete their trek.
- 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, hand sanitiser. Do not carry wet wipes since these are not biodegradable. If you do happen to use wet wipes to clean up after a trek, make sure you bring them back with you. The same holds for used sanitary napkins. Carry a zip lock bag to put used wet tissues and napkins. Bring this ziplock bag back with you to the city and do not dispose wet tissues and sanitary napkins in the mountains.
- 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)
- 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)
- Knee cap, if you are prone to knee injury
- Anti fungal powder
Please email a scan of your ID document (PAN, Aadhar card or Voter ID) to your Ground Coordinator as soon as you have finished registering for the trek. If you submit the Aadhar card or Voter ID scans, please make sure that we get both the side. This is required in advance to get the necessary trekking permissions.
Please carry the below documents. Document two and three need to be downloaded (PDF), filled in, signed and handed over to the trek leader at the base camp.
Here’s a guide to help you pack for the trek –
What you need to know about the trek fee
The trek fee of Rs. 13,450 + 5% GST covers all costs of the trek from Dharali to Dharali.
Here is what the trek fee includes:
- Accommodation – Stay is included from Day 1 to Day 7 (Dharali to Dharali). You will be staying at a hotel in Dharali and camping on all days of the trek (3 per tent).
- Meals – All meals from dinner at Dharali on Day 1 to breakfast at Dharali on Day 8 are included. We provide simple, nutritious vegetarian food on all days of the trek.
- Camping charges – All trekking permits and forest camping charges are included.
- Trekking equipment – You will stay in high quality tents and sleeping bags in all the camps. Our high altitude sleeping bags can withstand temperatures as low as -10 ºC. We provide ice axes, roped, micro spikes, gaiters etc. as required.
- Safety equipment – First aid, medical kit, oxygen cylinders, stretchers etc. will be available at all campsites to deal with emergencies.
- Services of an expert Trek Leader – All our trek leaders are qualified in basic / advanced mountaineering courses.
- Services of an expert Trek Team – The mountain staff on this trek consists of well trained guides, cooks, helpers and porters.
Here is what the trek fee excludes:
- Transport to and from the base camp – We will arrange shared taxis for trekkers to pick you up from Dehradun and drop you back from Dharali. This will cost approx. Rs. 7,000 per 5-6 seater vehicle one way. You will have to share this cost with the other trekkers
- Food during transit to and from the base camp – The trek fee does not include meals purchased during the journey to and from Dharali.
- Backpack offloading charges – If you wish to offload your backpack, there will be an additional charge of Rs. 1,800 + 5% GST. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kgs. Suitcases/strolleys/duffel bags will not be allowed. Please note that last minute offloading will not be possible on this trek.
- Stay at Dehradun on the last day
- Personal expenses of any kind
- Anything apart from 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 login to your account and cancel. Cancellation requests will not be taken over phone or email.
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. Also, if you have opted for a trek insurance, the amount will not be refunded.
The trek fee includes all costs of the trek from the start and to the end of the trek at Dharali.
2. Pick up: Trekkers are picked up from Dehradun railway station at 6.00 am. Usually, trekkers are clubbed together with other participants to make a group. The group travels together to Dharali in shared cabs.
3. Transport: Transport from Dehradun to Dharali and the return can be arranged by us at an extra cost. It will cost Rs.7,000 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 GST 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. 1,800/- plus GST of 5%. Last minute offloading is not allowed. You have to inform us about offloading 6-7 days prior to the start of your trek. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kg. 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.
What are the risks on the Gaumukh Tapovan Trek?
The Gaumukh Tapovan trek is graded moderate-difficult. If you have registered for this trek, then here is some information that you must know in order to have a safe trek. At Indiahikes, we believe that as long as you are well-informed and well-prepared, you can survive easily at high altitudes.
This trek starts at an altitude of 10,055 ft. You are already in rarefied air and will be covering long distances. With significant altitude gain there are chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness. An average trekking day here covers a distance of 10-13 km. 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.
What Indiahikes does to ensure your safety
Our philosophy is simple. We ingrain safety aspects in the people we work with, in the processes that we follow, and in the equipment we carry. All our trek leaders are trained repeatedly on safety issues and protocols. Most issues are resolved with their intervention.
Right from the time you decide to register for the trek till the last day of the trek, these safety procedures will be running in the background. We have listed a few of them below:
1. Fitness criteria before registration
Over years of organising high altitude treks, we have found that safety issues thrive amongst those who are unfit and unprepared for the trek. So we have introduced an eligibility criteria for the Gaumukh Tapovan trek. Anyone who wants to register for the Gaumukh Tapovan trek has to meet the fitness requirements, with the ideal BMI. The BMI and fitness regime will require proof. A high altitude trek is not to be taken casually.
2. Monitoring health on a trek
On the Gaumukh Tapovan trek, your Trek Leader will be monitoring two aspects thrice a day.
- Oxygen Level
- Pulse Rate
Your Blood Pressure levels will be checked once a day.
This will help us ensure that your body is acclimatising as required.
Every trekker will be given a Health Card at the beginning of the trek. The Health Card is issued to monitor the trekker’s daily health, wherein they will be entering details about their health everyday. It also contains details of what symptoms one should look out for and what action should be taken during emergencies. These Health Cards will be collected back at the end of the trek.
3. High Altitude Medical Kit
Your trek leader will be carrying a full-fledged high altitude medical kit. This will include basic medicines and specific medicines catering to altitude sickness – Diamox, Dexamethasone (tablets and injections) and Nifedipine. Your Trek Leader will also be carrying a portable oxygen cylinder throughout the trek. In addition to that, there are oxygen cylinders installed at all high altitude campsites for any emergency situations.
4. High Altitude Trek Equipment
To ensure safe trekking on snowy terrain, Indiahikes will provide you with micro-spikes to attach to your shoes. This will give you good traction on hard snow. To avoid snow from entering your shoes, Indiahikes will provide you with gaiters that you can put on over your shoes. You will have qualified technical guides with you, who will lead the way on difficult terrain.
All our sleeping bags and tents are custom-made for high altitude. If it is cold outside, it will be around 10 degrees warmer inside the tent. The sleeping bags can withstand temperatures up to -10 degree Celsius.
With all these processes and equipment in place, you can be rest assured that you will have a safe trek with Indiahikes.
Nevertheless, you will need to be cautious and report the slightest of symptoms to your trek leader as soon as you feel them.
5. Being hydrated and well nourished on the trek
You need to drink a minimum of 4 litres of water every day during the trek to ensure that you’re well hydrated. De-hydration on a trek can make you lose energy very quickly and intensify the effects of AMS. Your trek leader will brief you about the amount of water that you need to carry with you at the start of each day as well as water sources on the trail.
We provide trekkers with nutritious meals to ensure that they are energized to complete the trail each day. Apart from this, snacks or packed lunch is provided wherever the trail before a meal break is likely to be long. Make sure that you do not skip any meal as this can lead to serious health emergencies on high altitudes.
What you compulsorily need to know if you’re going on the Gaumukh Tapovan trek
Acute Mountain Sickness:
At above 12,000 ft the chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness can be quite high.
Gaumukh and Tapovan are the highest campsites on the trek. Trekkers tend to develop symptoms of altitude sickness at these camps. That said, Gangotri, where the trek begins, is itself at a high altitude, and you ascend close to 1,500 ft each day, which means that you need to take utmost care on all the days of ascent.
Do not proceed to Gaumukh if you have symptoms of altitude sickness. Inform your trek leader about your condition. If the symptoms don’t alleviate it is best to head down to Gangotri.
This risk can be avoided by going on a course of Diamox. Even while on Diamox, the risk of AMS still prevails. While AMS can be treated with rest and medicines for the most part, the symptoms must be recognised before it can go to advanced stages – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
HAPE and HACE are critical conditions that can be fatal within hours.And they can occur without AMS preceding them. So it’s doubly important to recognise any symptoms and nip them in the bud.
Take this specific precaution – Go on a preventive course of Diamox
We strongly advise you to go on a preventive course of Diamox. Diamox is a blood thinner and helps you acclimatise much faster and reduces the chance of AMS by around 80%. Take half a tablet twice a day from one day before your trek.
What to do if you have symptoms of AMS?
If you feel any symptoms of AMS on the trek, you must report to the Trek Leader immediately. Do not wait till the end of the day’s trek. Do not try to handle it yourself either. Our Trek Leaders are well-trained and experienced to handle any cases and they will be the decision makers in any such cases.
Watch the below video to understand the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness. In this video, Arjun Majumdar, the founder of Indiahikes will also tell you the protocol to follow when you see someone showing symptoms of AMS.
Exit points on the Gaumukh Tapovan trek:
The safest point on a trek where a trekker can descend to and rest is considered an Exit Point. If there is an emergency anywhere before Gaumukh, then exit to Gangotri is relatively quick. However, at any point above Gaumukh, the exit becomes complicated, since it’s a long walk to Gangotri, which is the only entrance to the valley.
Gangotri has a government dispensary. For any advanced treatment, Uttarkashi, around 100 km from Gangotri, has the closest hospital.
Why you should personally know about the risks and precautions of high altitude treks
If ever you find yourself alone at high altitude, either while trekking independently or with another organisation, there are some life -saving steps you can take. Firstly, you should be able to recognise symptoms of altitude sickness. So acquaint yourself with the symptoms.
Secondly, there might be instances when you have to administer medicines to yourself or to a fellow trekker. There are three life-saving medicines that we suggest you always carry on you – Diamox, Dexamethasone and Nifedipine.
If you are trekking with Indiahikes, do not administer these to anyone without consulting your Trek Leader. If you are trekking independently then you need to know when exactly to administer these medicines and in what dosage.
Also ensure that you are well hydrated throughout the trek and do not skip any meal.
You can watch the video below to learn about HAPE and HACE and how to tackle them. In the video, Sandhya UC, partner at Indiahikes, explains in detail about High Altitude Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema, what the symptoms are and how to tackle them.
We cannot stress enough on how important it is for you to communicate any symptom to your Trek Leader. Only then your trek leader will be able to take steps at the right time.
Acute Mountain Sickness
If you’re of the opinion that fit people don’t get AMS, please get rid of that notion right away. AMS can affect anyone without paying heed to their fitness and prior experience at high altitude! Altitude sickness does not distinguish between a first timer and an experienced trekker.
For more detailed information about Acute Mountain Sickness, you can download and study the manual below.
1. What is the style of accommodation in this trek?
Stay in Dharali on Day 1 and Day 7 will be in a guest house, where you will share rooms with fellow trekkers. The stay on all other days will be in tents. Each tent will accommodate three trekkers.
2. Will you provide us with tents and sleeping bags?
Yes, Indiahikes trekkers will be provided with tents and high altitude sleeping bags that can withstand temperatures as low as -10 ºC.
3. What will the temperatures be like during this trek?
Day time temperatures will range from 20-24° C if sunny and 14-15° C if cloudy. Night time temperature will range from 5-7°C, and can drop to -2–3°C at Tapovan
4. Will there be snow on this trek?
Depending on the amount of snowfall that occurs in the preceding winter, you might find snow in May, especially at Tapovan. Snow is unlikely in September.
5. What will we do if it rains?
If it starts raining while you’re trekking, we will continue on the trail as planned. Your poncho should protect you from the rain. Carry a backpack cover for extra protection from rain for your belongings. When it rains at the campsite, we usually get together in the dining tent and play games. The tents that you will be staying in, the dining tent, kitchen and toilet tents are all water proof, so you will stay dry inside.
6. How do we reach Dharali?
Indiahikes will arrange pick – up vehicles/shared cabs from Dehradun railway station at 6.00 am on Day 1. The cost will be Rs.7,000 per vehicle (5-6 seater) and the money is to be paid directly to the driver. It will take you 10-12 hours to reach Dharali.
7. How do we get back after the trek?
Indiahikes will arrange for shared cabs from Dharali to Dehradun on Day 8. This cost is to be borne by the trekkers and is not included in the trek fee.
8. Which are the best seasons for the Gaumukh Tapovan trek?
The best time to do this trek would be from mid May – mid June or September-October.
9. Are backpacks, raincoats and other equipment available for rent from Indiahikes?
Indiahikes does not rent any equipment on this trek. There are several websites that rent out trekking equipment. Make sure you have all your equipment in place before arriving on the trek. You may purchase trekking poles and other equipment from the Indiahikes store.
10. Is this a good trek for a first timer?
The Gaumukh Tapovan trek is not recommended for first timers. There are tricky glacier sections to be crossed in addition to steep climbs. Irrespective of your prior experience, it is essential that you be very fit and well prepared for the trek.
11. If not the Gaumukh Tapovan trek, what is a good alternative trek to do?
Roopkund is a good alternative for this trek. This is also categorized as moderate-difficult and offers a similar level of challenge.
12. Is there an option to offload my backpack on this trek?
Yes, there is an option to offload your backpack. This will cost Rs.1,800 + 5% GST. You would need to inform us via email at least one week prior to the start of trek in case you wish to offload your bags. Last minute offloading on the trail is not allowed since this requires special permission. The offloaded bag should not weigh more than 9 kg. Strolleys, duffel bags, suitcases etc. are not allowed. We suggest you read “5 Tips to make Carrying your Trekking Backpack Easy” before making a decision.
13. Can I take my child along on this trek? What is the age limit?
We recommend the Deoriatal, Kedarkantha and Kuari Pass treks for children. The minimum age requirement for this trek is 12 years. If you wish to bring your child along, make sure s/he meets the age criterion, is physically fit and, preferably, has done a high altitude trek in the past.
14. Who will be with us on the trek from Indiahikes?
An Indiahikes team consisting of a qualified Trek leader, trek guides, porters and cooks will be with you throughout the trek.
15. What are washroom/toilet facilities like on the trek?
The guest house at Gangotri will have concrete toilets. On the other days, toilet tents will be set up along each campsite. There will be 2 to 4 of these toilet tents depending on the size of the group. A toilet tent will have a deep pit, where one can answer nature’s call. There will be a mound of soil and a shovel to cover it up. These are dry toilets, where you’ll have to use toilet paper. This is the most hygienic and convenient way to answer nature’s call in the wild. Please use plain toilet paper and refrain from using wet wipes since these are not biodegradable.
16. What kind of food is served on the trek? Should we carry any food?
Indiahikes uses a well planned menu suitable for high altitude treks. Breakfast varies from bread and butter, semia, poha to sandwiches and cornflakes. Lunch mainly comprises of roti or puri with sabzi. Dinner is complete with Dal, rice, roti and dessert. Dry ration of biscuits and chikki will be provided as well. You may carry nuts and dry fruits if necessary.
17. Will there be water sources on the way? Will two litres of water be enough?
Our campsites are pitched near water sources. For your day’s trek, two litres of water should be enough. There are no water sources on the trail on most days of the trek. You will find a couple of streams on the way from Gangotri to Chirbasa (Days 2 and 7) and one water source near Gaumukh on Day 6.
18. Is there mobile network on this trek? Are there any electricity charging points on this trek?
BSNL network will be available at Gangotri. Make sure you inform anxious family members about poor connectivity on the trek. Electricity charging points will be present at the guest house in Dharali. However, its use depends on power supply in Dharali.
19. Do I need special snow shoes on this trek?
You don’t need special snow shoes. A good trekking shoe is sufficient for the trek. We recommend something that is water resistant. When there is snow, we provide micro spikes and gaiters. In case you need to buy new trekking shoes, this video will help you choose the right pair.
20. Why is the trekking pole necessary?
A trekking pole provides stability and balance, and also helps to reduce fatigue. We suggest you watch this video to for a better understanding of why a trekking pole is necessary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=LXezaCVjEao
21. When it gets really cold can I consume alcohol?
Alcohol is dangerous in extreme cold, especially at high altitudes. Contrary to what people believe, alcohol does not make you warmer. Instead it opens your pores making your body colder. Moreover, it dehydrates you very quickly. Hence consumption of alcohol is absolutely prohibited on all Indiahikes treks. Anyone found with alcohol is quickly removed from the trek. Smoking, similarly, is not allowed on Indiahikes treks.
22. How long do we trek every day? What is the distance covered?
Day 1 – You will be picked up from Dehradun railway station at 6.00 am. The drive to Dharali will take 10-12 hours.
Day 2 – One hour drove from Dharali to Gangotri. The 8 km trek from Gangotri to Chirbasa will take you around 4 hours.
Day 3 – Chirbasa to Gaumukh via Bhojbasa is 10 km and will take around 5 hours to complete.
Day 4 – Gaumukh to Tapovan is a 5 km trek which will take about 3 hours.
Day 5 – rest day at Tapovan.
Day 6 – Tapovan to Bhojbasa is 10 km and will take around 6 hours to complete.
Day 7 – Bhojbasa to Gangotri can be covered in 7-8 hours and you will cover 13 km. Drive to Dharali
23. How do I manage the negative temperatures on the trek? Do I need special jackets?
At high altitudes, temperatures are sure to dip into negative at nights.. For these extreme cold temperatures, you need to keep the rule of 3 in mind. The rule of 3 usually takes care of cold that dip to -10°C. It is a simple formula of wearing 3 layers of woolen, inners and lower wear.
Follow this guide:
Wear one thermal and two T-shirts, three layers of woolens (two sweaters and a jacket). For your lowers wear a thermal inner with two layers of track suit. If you are prone to more cold, just add a layer.
The temperatures dip only late in the evening and early mornings. During the day if the sun is out, then you may even be trekking in your T-shirts. Make sure you use your thermal wear only at night and not while trekking.
A woolen cap/balaclava and gloves are a must.
Watch this video for tips on how to stay warm on a high altitude trek.
24. What all do I need to carry on the trek?
Click here to get the list of all the things you need to carry on the trek.
25. Why is there a rest day in the itinerary? Can I skip this?
The trek from Gaumukh to Tapovan, though short, is a difficult one. It involves an ascent of over 1,000 ft and a 45 minute long glacier walk. The rest day at Tapovan is to help you recover and prepare for the difficult descent. Besides this, Tapovan is a high altitude meadow. You can spend the day exploring the place or making a short excursion to Neelatal or Meru view point, from where you will get great views of the Gangotri glacier, Tapovan campsite, Meru Parvat, Mount Shivling and the Nandanvan side.
26. Is it safe to trek with Indiahikes?
All high altitude treks come with their share of risks. At Indiahikes, we pay utmost importance to safety of trekkers. While we do our bit to ensure a trekker’s life is safe, we also expect any trekker who is enrolling with us to know what could go wrong, and if it does, how to tackle it. Before you go on the trek, make sure you’re thoroughly acquainted with the safety procedures followed on a trek.
27. What are places of interest that I can visit before or after the trek?
After the trek you can spend time exploring tourist attractions at Haridwar. Please note that these are suggestions and Indiahikes does not make any arrangements for the same.
28. Where can I stay if reach Gangotri a few days early or want to stay back after the trek?
Gangotri has lodges and hotels since it is a popular pilgrimage spot. One option you can consider are GMVN lodges. You can find more details here.
How to get to the basecamp – Dharali
Delhi → Dehradun → Dharali
The base camp for the Kedartal trek is Dharali, around 230 km from from Dehradun.
Indiahikes organises transport from Dehradun to Dharali. The pick up is at 6.00 am from Dehradun Railway Station on Day 1. The cab fare is Rs.7,000 per vehicle. This is not included in the trek fee. It is to be shared amongst trekkers and paid directly to the driver.
You will reach Dharali at around 5.00 pm. The trek begins at Gangotri the next morning. Indiahikes will arrange cabs to take trekkers from Dharali to Gangotri.
To reach Dehradun
The best way to reach Dehradun 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. A better option is to reach the previous night by Jan Shatabdi from Delhi.
Dharali → Dehradun → Delhi
Indiahikes organises transport from Dharali to Dehradun. The cab fare from Dharali to Dehradun is Rs.7,000 per vehicle. This is to be shared by trekkers and paid to the driver directly. You will reach Dehradun by 6.00 pm.
If you are travelling further from Dehradun, keep a couple of hours as buffer time in case of delay. Book your further travel from Dehradun post 8.00 pm. If you are travelling to Delhi, you can choose to go back by Mussoorie Express or Nanda Devi Express.
Here’s what trekkers have to say about trekking with Indiahikes
“The trek was awesome. It was what I had expected from it. There were challenges and reward during the entire period which was satisfying. Also, the batch had amazing people that made the trek more enjoyable. The trek leader, Jude, did an amazing job in keeping the group together and looking after everyone. Also, the trek team including the kitchen staff and porters did a wonderful job in providing us with all required amenities and looking after us.” – Ashish Manchanda, batch of May 2016
“It was refreshing. Barren lands and mesmerising peaks around, give a different energy. Barren lands also mean lesser oxygen than jungle treks. However, this trek is not generally for those who wish scenery changes often. I’m one of those who’d like scenery changes. Glacier walk was fun, though.” –
Srujan Akumarthi, batch of May 2016
“I absolutely loved the trek!!! The glacier crossing and climb to Tapovan is an experience in itself. One you have climbed to Tapovan, it feels like you have arrived in heaven (no exaggeration!)! The views of the peaks Mt.Sivling, Meru and Bhagirathi sisters will haunt you for months. One word, Exceptional! On the first campsite,Chirbasa, i was hit with AMS. I was asked to stay back and join the next batch if i got better. I continued my trek with 2nd batch and met the first batch at Tapovan and returned with them.Here are the things that went well: – All campsites offer great views – Technical staff is exceptionally talented and competent. – Awesome desserts. Gajar ka halva and kaddu ka halva were to die for. – As I was down with AMS, I was left behind with one of the technical guides, Sukhdev. He took very good care of me until the next batch of trekkers arrived. – TL Aashay is fun and Sukhdev & rockstar Rahul are sweethearts.” – Sushma Honnappa, batch of May 2016