We drive to Uttarkashi- a district in northern Uttarakhand, often referred to as northern Kasi due to its location on the right banks of River Bhagirathi which is popular for its temples dedicated to Rishi Parasurama, Datatryea, Goddess Annapurna Devi, Goddess Kali, and Bhairon. Incidentally there was a time when there were a total of 365 temples in this town. Overnight at Hotel / Guest House / Deluxe Camps.
Gangotri is one of the major 4 Hindu pilgrimages of Uttarakhand with stories of Bhagirath bringing the River Ganga from heavens from this point in earth. The elaborated version is such that Goddess Ganga - the daughter of heaven, took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath's predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries. Lord Shiva received Ganga into his matted locks to minimize the impact of her fall. Not surprisingly, this small town is centered around a temple of the goddess Ganga, which was built by the Gorkha General, Amar Singh Thapa in the early 18th century. The temple is closed on Diwali day every year and is re-opened in May. During this time, the idol of the goddess is kept at Mukhba village, near Harsil. The Source of Ganga, Gomukh is 18km further upstream from Gangotri. The trek to Gomukh is gradual, and several pilgrims undertake the journey to pay homage to the river at its known source. Overnight at Guest House.
After breakfast we start our trek to Cheerbasa. It’s an easy climb and the route is filled with breathtaking sights as the magnificent scenery unfolds itself at every step. We have lunch on the way and reach a small isolated forest of pine at Chirbasa where we camp for the night.
The day starts with a small uphill walk to the main trail and then the trail gets gradual up to Gomukh. It’s about 9km walk and takes about 4-5 hours to reach Bhojbabsa. Bhojbasa has a small temple here which used be full of Birch tree but unfortunately you cannot find it anymore. Nevertheless- the sites around are peaceful as well thrilling as they promise of more to come. Even though we camp right here at Bhojbasa, it is advisable that we take the uphill route and back to acclimatize ourselves to the sudden decrease in oxygen level.
After Gomukh, the trail is not so well defined and is such that one often has to walk over boulder to boulder over the icy glacier. After crossing the moraine and glacier, we finally reach a point where we have left the Gangotri glacier below and take a steep uphill climb to Tapovan from where rises the Shivling Peak (6543m) flanked by Meru (6630m) and Kedar Dome (6808m). You can see the peaks of Bhagirathi & Sudershan from here and there are various other unnamed mountains around. Dinner and overnight stay in tents.
We descend down to Gangotri glacier to traverse around and then traverse along the Gangotri & Chaturangi glaciers. This trek combines the experience of mountain and rock climbing besides boulder hopping and glacier traversing. Break for a quick brunch at the junction of the two glaciers. Further a 1 hour climb takes us to Nandanvan which a small grassy valley of exquisite beauty, literally surrounded by snow peaks – Bhagirathi II, III & I, Kedar-dome, Karchakunda, and Shiblinga.
Today we shall leave the meadow of Nandan Van and get the opportunity to view Bharal (Mountain Goat). While walking through high ridges & Lammergeyer, we arrive at the Vasuki Tal “not so big” glacial lake in the serene surroundings of Chaturangi Bhamak. Left of the lake is Bhagirathi Bhamak, leading to the Bhagirathi group of the peaks. Overnight in Tents
A 6 hour trek to Khara Pathar is definitely worth it as today you get to view one of the only two 7,000 m high mountains-Satapanth of the Gangotri glacier. Dinner and overnight in camps.
Today we walk about 10 Km to reach Sweta Glacier, which disappointingly isn’t the best place to camp as it is quite moraine and full of rocks and boulders but going further on this day is not advisable and one needs the short trek to acclimatize as we keep going higher.
Once we have a spent half of the earlier day acclimatizing we should be now ready to move forward to cross the Sweta glacier. Crossing many boulders you will finally reach the Chatrungi glacier, which basically is a major tributary of the main Gangotri glacier. Chatrungi as a word means four colors and you will see how the moraines over the glacier range from Pink to yellow to brown. With Chandra Prabat at 6728 m towering above us, we get to the Kalindi Bhamak camp, in close vicinity to the Kalindi glacier’s snout. Up ahead lies the Kalindi Khal (5940 m), which is a deep gap between Avalanche Peak (6413 Meters) and Kalindi Peak (6102 Meters).
Climbing the Kalindi Khal is not the easiest of tasks and we suggest making an early move. It is a pity that even though the summit camp for the Kalindi Peak is right below this Pass, we cannot in any condition attempt to climb it as for this expedition one requires not only much experience and a climbing fee but a prior permission from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation as well. However, once on the pass you can make do with a spectacular and almost at reach views of Mt. Kamet (7756 m), Mt. Mana (7272 m), Abi Gamin (7355 m) and Mana Parbat (6797 m). Bonus point when on a clear day you get a view of the Tibetan plateau across the Mana Pass (6728 m); Also seen are the mountains of Gangotri Glacier; Chandra Parbat (6728 m), Vasuki Parbat (6792 m), Bhagirathi Parbat (6512 m).
We leave Raj Parav early morning and trek to Ghastoli via Arwatal. Trail is all through moraine fields of the Arwa Glacier. The army bound and inaccessible Mana Pass on way to Tibet border lies exactly northwards from this Tal. We follow the Arwa stream till we reach down to the river and see the dramatic change in the terrain right before our eyes as the glacial moraines give way to the glacial streams and small patches of vegetation starts to appear as we reach closer to Ghastoli. Ghastoli has a big grass ground which is idle for camping and is a great site for eyes and feet sore and tired of just grey glaciers and moraines.
As we continue our gradual descent downwards, the terrain changes further and the route is now a dirt road which is under contraction and follows the River Saraswati down stream to Mana and Badrinath. If we are lucky, we can hitchhike an army truck as they come often to drop some food supplies at the army camp at Ghastoli and if not it is a good walk until we meet our awaiting vehicles at Mana to drive us to Badrinath for hot lunch and to visit the famous temple there. Badrinath is one of the four dhams of the Hindu devotees and you are sure to get a feel the high of the devotion of the pilgrims that make their way here in hordes. Just above Badrinath is the spectacular conical Mt. Nilkantha (6596 Meters), literally meaning “Blue Throat” one of the 1008 names of Lord Shiva. Later we drive to Joshimath for Overnight stay in a hotel.
Nothing more to do than drive back to Rishikesh, which is the ultimate end of our gratifying and absolutely thrilling trek.