The Gaumukh Tapovan Trek Through The Eyes Of A Photographer

There are photographers and then there are those photographers whose work reflects an unequivocal passion for their craft. Nature lover and mountaineer, Nitish Waila is one such nature and adventure photographer, whose work falls in the latter category. Having been commissioned by Indiahikes to present the Gaumukh Tapovan trek from the perspective of his lens, the talented Nitish tells the Indiahikes trekking community why Gaumukh Tapovan is one of the most beautiful Himalayan treks.

“It so happened that although I was assigned to take photographs of the Gaumukh Tapovan trail, I have also wanted to go there for a long time now. So you could say that it was mutual. I was really looking forward to capturing the Shivling peak up close, which is one of the biggest peaks every mountaineer would like to trek,” says Nitish.

But once Nitish embarked on the trek, he soon discovered that every day of the Gaumukh- Tapovan trek offered something uniquely special that appealed to his photographic senses. “After touching base at Gangotri, we commence the trek on the following day to Chirbasa. What is beautiful about this day is the stark contrast in landscape you get to witness. The entire trail from Gangotri is very dry and I would even go to the extent of saying that it is like the Ladakh of Uttarkhand. But the moment you reach Chirbasa, it is as if some magical tapestry has been unfurled and you find yourself surrounded by these towering chir trees or pine trees which are so glorious and majestic to behold.

“For a moment you wonder whether you have chanced upon a mirage after trekking along the arid landscapes, but the refreshing, distinctive scent of the pine trees makes you realise that the vibrant green canopy before you, is indeed real. I got some great clicks of our tents aglow against the backdrop of the horizon, just after sunset. It is also one of the days where you can just sit beside the river near the campsite and do some soul searching while admiring the understated beauty of the sombre pine trees,” says Nitish

Day 3 of the trek from Chirbasa to Bhojbasa is considerably a short one, spanning all of 5 km and Nitish couldn’t be happier, as the Bhojbasa campsite served him a glimpse of the intimidating mountain peaks, he has a predilection for.

“It is from the Bhojbasa campsite that you get to see Gaumukh for the first time and the Bhagirathi massif above, which is every nature photographer’s delight. What makes it even more surreal is knowing that you ae witnessing and photographing these magnificent peaks at a place of historical importance, where all the rishis of yore used to stay for a year and meditate. It is also famous for the Bhojpatra trees or silver birch trees, the bark of which served as parchment for the first ever recorded edition of the Hindu epics like the Ramayan,” says Nitish.

However, according to Nitish, it is day 4 of the Gaumukh Tapovan trek from Bhojbasa to Tapovan that conjures up views that a photographer’s dreams are made of. He says,“Day 4 is indeed the most beautiful day of the Gaumukh Tapovan trek. I captured most of my images on that day. Just 1 or 2 kms into the trail, you can see Shivling on the right. The trail till Gaumukh is nothing to speak of but once you reach Gaumukh, it is just the best feeling.” You are amazed and intimidated in equal measure because there you are, a human being, the crème of civilization, reduced to a mere ant in the face of this huge glacier; the biggest one in India if I may add. This glacier just seems like it stretches on forever.

“Since we had snowfall the previous night we could see the glacier in its pristine white and icy blue glory, untainted by the murky patches of moraine. We were also treated to a panoramic view of Shivling, Bhagirathi and Gaumukh huddled together. Another spectacular sights are the numerous pools of glacial water bodies originating from Gaumukh being lit up in resplendent shades of turquoise blue and muted emerald by the sun’s rays. The views are aplenty. Even once we reach the Tapovan campsite since you can capture Shivling, Meru and Bhagirathi in a single frame. We were blessed with a full moon which enabled me to click some great night shots of the campsite and the mountains bathed in the luminescent moonlight,” says Nitish.

Even the rest day at Tapovan is certainly worth the stop. “We climbed for 2 hours and reached 14, 800 feet, from where we got an up-close view of the striking Meru Glacier, which is a mountaineer’s dream. Meru has a few hanging glaciers protruding from the main glacier which makes for some very good pictures.  I fulfilled my prime motive as a photographer here by clicking Meru and Shivling together. Even the Niltal lake nearby is a photographer’s spot. Although it was frozen in July, it’s vivid blue colour and picturesque setting made for a great click,” says Nitish.

During the course of Nitish’s assigment, Trek Leader Aashay Surve was able to gauge his unadulterated love for nature and the mountains. “Nature is at the core of Nitish’s soul and that’s reflected in everything, be it in his pictures, the way he talks about the mountains and his demeanour itself. He exercises so much patience and precision when it comes to clicking pictures, so much so that he nearly risked his life towards the end of the trek while trying to capture the perfect picture,” says Aashay. 

Aashay narrates an incident which proves that Nitish is truly an adventure photographer. “While descending from Chirbasa on day 7, we spotted around five groups of blue sheep walking up and down the trail. Blue sheep are the food of snow leopards which roam these parts. That part of the trail is especially dangerous as it is prone to rockfall and on that particular day, stones were clattering downhill on account of the wandering blue sheep,” says Aashay. There was a sheep sitting on a large rock above him and Nitish was waiting for the perfect moment to capture the silhouette of the sheep’s horns against the sky. It was unwise to stay there, but he waited there patiently for a while and just as he clicked the picture, a small stone flew past his neck at tremendous speed. “Even the smallest stones can do a lot of damage in rockfall areas. But Nitish wasn’t perturbed by that, he was just ecstatic that he got the shot,” says Trek Leader Aashay.

For infusing such a genuine love for nature into every frame he clicked, Nitish was given the Spirit of Trekking Award and the ace photographer hopes that his pictures would give people the much needed motive to enrol for this breath-takingly beautiful trek.

“I hope I have managed to weave a beautiful story through my pictures which would prove engaging enough to all the trekkers out there to witness Gaumukh Tapovan first-hand. But I will be remiss not to mention that Gaumukh is a mesmerising trek no matter whether you are a photographer or not. It is one of those treks that really helps you establish a true connection with nature and just bask in the beauty of that unspoken bond,” says Nitish. 

Once you sample the views and the tranquil moments Gaumukh has to offer, you might just be tempted to spend a good part of your year in the mountains thereafter. One would have to experience it to understand what I am talking about. 

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